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Classically Comforting Chicken Soup with Matzoh Balls

April 1, 2012

Food fads come and go. Of course they do, that’s why they’re called fads, for goodness sake. But chicken soup? That’s a classic that’s not going anywhere!. It’s like a rock! It may be a liquid but you know what I mean, and I think you do. Enough said? Say no more!

This is, more or less, my Mom’s basic recipe from way back. I add more of all the vegetables.

Up the veggie count, up the flavor

No skin, less fat

My Mom’s a fan of including parsley root in the soup pot which is not always so easy to locate but adds a a very nice aromatic sweetness.

tie up herbs with kitchen twine for easy removal

My mom and sister are from the school of restraint… they believe in straining the soup when it’s done and cooled and then serving the broth clear with a little slice of carrot and some fine noodles (I also like small bow ties or orzo or another delicate pasta shape) or a matzoh ball (or 2). I don’t want to say goodbye to all those lovely vegetables (never can say goodbye, oh no no) so my M.O. is to slice up the carrots, celery, and keep bits of onion and turnip in the soup as well as chunky or shredded chicken, in addition to said matzoh balls. For Passover, we omit noodles and keep the matzoh balls.

Now for the matzoh balls.

I use seltzer water and oil to make the matzoh ball mixture. Debates have occurred over the relative merits of using oil or water or both. People also like using a little chicken broth instead of water. I’m a centrist and use either oil & water or oil & soup.

Admittedly, it’s always a bit of an adventure to see if I’ll achieve the desired fluffy state. If anyone has a fool-proof method for achieving said fluffiness, please advise. But please don’t tell me to buy the mix… don’t want to do it.

Very simple ingredients

The first time I made my matzoh balls flecked with minced parsley, there was a hushed silence around the table. “What is this?” my Dad wanted to know, poking suspiciously at the little matzoh ball culprit. “They’re Springtime Matzoh Balls!” I enthusiastically replied.

Springtime matzoh balls waiting to jump into hot water

This water is seriously hot!

Since then, of course, matzoh balls have appeared on the scene with all kinds of added ingredients – a pinch of ground ginger or nutmeg, chopped fresh dill, to name a few. But I come from a family of purists and this messing with the straight-on version was considered just another example of one of my little quirks. Are you sure I wasn’t adopted, Mom? Oh well, I like to keep everyone on their toes.

My mom approves


Soup Ingredients:

1 3-pound chicken, cut up
10 c. cold water
1 large onion, half cut in 2, and the remaining half chopped (you can also add the white part of a leek, sliced)
3 carrots, cut in thirds
2 stalks celery, cut in thirds (add 2-3 leafy tops, if you have them)
1 parsnip, cut in half
1 parsley root (optional)
1 small turnip, peeled and cut in half
3 cloves garlic, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 bunch Italian parsley
1/2 bunch dill
salt & pepper


Place chicken in large pot or Dutch oven. Add the water. Add a little more to cover if you need to. Bring to a boil.

Lower heat to a gentle simmer. With a large slotted spoon, skim off any scum that may rise to the top (scram! you scum you!).

Add onions, carrots, celery, turnip, parsnip, parsley root (if you’ve got it) and garlic.

Using kitchen twine, tie parsley and dill together leaving a short length to tie around pot handle (don’t let that string anywhere near your heat source, please!). This will make it much easier to fish all those herbs out later.

Cook for 1-1 1/2  hours. When chicken is fully cooked after an hour, and you want to cook the soup longer to get it more flavorful, take the larger chicken pieces out so they don’t overcook along with a little soup to keep it moist. If you like some chicken in your soup like I do, you’ll put it back in once the soup is ready.

Remove soup from heat. Remove bouquet garni onto a shallow bowl or pie plate. Squeeze the very limp bouquet between 2 large spoons to get every bit of soup to return to pot.

Add salt and pepper. I don’t add lots of salt but this soup will take more salt than you think.

Let soup cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. Remove the fat that has hardened on top (see note below).

bb tip:

To skim fat, refrigerate soup overnight. When the soup is gelled by the next day, it’s far easier to skim. Simply take a large spoon and skim just under surface to remove all the congealed fat that’s magically risen to the top for you! What to do with the fat? I do what my Mom always directs: Put it in a plastic bag, knot the bag and throw it away. The fat is not good for the disposal or the kitchen pipes, not to mention our pipes!


Skinless chicken will yield a far less fatty soup. Leaving skin on yields more flavor, of course, but also more fat (even if you skim most of it).

Some people add  1/2-1 t. turmeric to ramp up the “golden chicken soup” look.

Chicken soup is ALWAYS better a few days after it’s made.

It’s easier to cut most of the veggies in large pieces first. After everything’s done and cooled, I remove what I don’t want (parsnip, some onion, celery tops) and slice up what I do want – diced turnip, sliced carrot and celery – and return to pot.

My mom adds 1/2 a boullion cube to soup pot in lieu of salt, but I don’t usually do that. Adding a teaspoon of Better -Than-Boullion in N0-Chicken or Vegetarian  would work if you want to flavor stock further.

Cut or shred the larger pieces of chicken and return to soup OR save chicken for chicken salad. The bones with bits of chicken can be reserved for, as Julia Child used to say, “a private meal.”

Don’t put soup in fridge while it’s still warm and don’t leave it out all night. Not good.

Matzoh Balls

from Faye Levy’s Low-Fat Jewish Cookbook. Thank you, Faye.

1/4 c. packed fresh parsley leaves
2 large eggs
2 T. canola oil
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. matzoh meal
2 T. plain sparkling water (OR 2 T. chicken soup)

Chop parsley in food processor or chop finely by hand. Set aside.

Lightly beat eggs with salt and oil.

Add matzoh meal and beat until well-blended.

Beat in water (or broth), and then chopped parsley.

Cover bowl and place in fridge for 20 minutes.

Bring about 2 quarts salted water to a boil in a large saucepan.

With a small bowl of cold water beside you, wet hands and quickly roll about a teaspoon of the matzoh ball mixture between your palms into a ball and place on a plate.

Reduce boiling water to a simmer and using a rubber spatula, carefully slide balls one at a time into the water. Cover and gently simmer for 30 minutes.

Cover and keep warm until ready to serve. If preparing a day or two ahead, store matzoh balls in saucepan with some of the cooking liquid to cover and a little soup added for flavor. Reheat gently.

Makes about 6 servings, recipe can be easily doubled.

Hey, how'd YOU get into the matzoh balls??


From → Poultry, Soup

  1. Jean permalink

    Judy, I’ve often wondered if there is a “better” chicken soup recipe than the ones I’ve been using for years. It looks to me like you have just given me one. I’ve never used parsley root or turnip, and never used parley leaves in my matzo balls. I’ll take your recipe to San Francisco for my daughter’s seder.
    Happy Passover and Much Love, Jean

    • Wow, Jean – that’s a true compliment! That’s why I’m doing this… to share what I do and hear about what others are doing. Have a beautiful trip and hope the soup turns out great!

  2. Lynn permalink

    Judy – YUM! I’ll be at my daughter’s home in Denver for Pesach, and will be cooking with her this year. She always makes the soup – with lots of veggies like you, but uses a matzoh ball mix (I’m afraid I’m to blame for that). Your encouragement to go from scratch this year is most welcome. I’ll let you know how we do.


    Lynn (Michael too)

    • Have a beautiful Pesach and thank you! Late-breaking news- I’m about to update the post to tell readers to place matzoh ball mixture in fridge for 20 minutes only. A friend e-mailed me this morning telling me the mixture changes if left in too long. Remember this can be a bit of a gamble, but go ahead and take the leap, you are a wise woman now! Also, don’t over-mix and don’t over-handle when you’re making the balls. And let me know!

  3. Mrs G Johnson aka Ms G permalink

    This is very nice and is good for my three boys thank you

  4. Robert permalink


    You asked about fluffiness and a secret how to. It’s all in the timing and temperature. You must rest the ball mixture in the fridge for 20 minutes before rolling the balls and cooking. Leaving the batter rest for one hour will not work, gets too mushy and can fall apart if the water boils too hard. The reason I rest the batter is that all of the matzoh meal crumbs will hydrate but not fall apart. The hydration is the fluffiness. I agree with the carbonated water as well. I use Perrier which has the highest level of carbonation. I don’t know if that makes a difference but it makes me happy to drink over ice while I cook the balls and clean up. Ooh la la, works well with a Manishewitz spritzer too.

    I use the never to be talked about ingredient in mine – shush now, I put in melted chicken fat (shmatlz) from the skimming the soup instead of oil. It is Kosher, traditional, delicious, and a once a year treat that I don’t talk about. It is really good though, and recycles a to be thrown away product. I figure you’re only eating one or two balls once or twice a year, there isn’t that much in it. For those who are really scared of the cholesterol, stick to vegetable oil.

    The other thing that can screw up matzoh balls is not thorough cooking the first time. The catering hall used to have a tendency to undercook food, or just sear food so that when reheated it wouldn’t over cook. This led to matzoh balls which had a mealy, dry texture inside. I forced the cook to rest the dough and cook them for 40 minutes on the first go around and everyone commented how much better they were using the same recipe with no change other than the cooking method.

    My grandmother used to make very hard matzoh balls, like golf balls. I loved them but never learned how to do them like that. I mean when you ate one of them you really knew you ate something substantial. You had to have the MBBM in your constitution (Matzoh Ball Busting Mechanism) or you were done for. I remember my dad using a knife and fork to cut his golf ball er Matzoh Ball up before he added gobs of ketchup to his soup. My grandmother also added a small amount of the largest butter beans / Lima Beans to her chicken soup. Delicious.

    Parsley is lovely in the balls, I too am a fiend for dill in there. I have family that isn’t as crazy about it as me so I will sometimes just avoid the whole thing. Still Dill for me is an herb whose smell alone makes my mouth water. One other thing I do is about 20 – 25 minutes before I serve the soup I cut up small ½ moon slices of celery and cook them in the reheating soup to serve with the carrot and parsnip. I love leaving them with just a touch of texture to them, the totally cooked out celery from making the soup doesn’t have enough texture for me so I use some fresh.

    Thanks for the recipes and Happy Passover to you, Novio and your family.


    P.S. I saw a cooking show on Matzoh balls just after sending this to you and the cook added additional egg, cut the oil in half and refrigerated the dough overnight. I haven’t tried this but she claims it makes the dough consistent and smooth, and can get done one day ahead which is a perk. Weird because when I rested the dough for a long time I found the balls fell apart almost like spaetzle when cooked.

    • Wow Robbie- thanks for taking the time to post this reply- your suggestions will be on my to-do list next time I feel a matzoh ball urge come on. Also, your matzoh ball sinker story made me laugh, they may taste good (and I have veered that way myself – not intentionally) but it’s clear we both go for the floaters! J

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