My Favorite Chicken Soup with 3 Matzo Ball Recipes

This is the way I make chicken soup for my family. The recipe produces a rich, flavorful broth that is just right for serving with matzo balls (or egg noodles, or rice, or veggies). I’ve linked to three of my favorite matzo ball recipes below. It can be used as a simple chicken stock base, which can then be dressed up into soup. Or, you can use the broth in different recipes that call for the addition of stock. It is My Favorite Chicken Soup… aka, Jewish Penicillin, the soup that can cure anything.

Let me start by saying that everybody has their own way of making chicken soup. Making stock is a simple concept and recipes abound, along with opinions on which way is the best way. I don’t pretend that one is better than another. This way just happens to be my family’s favorite. Feel free to dress it up the way you like it– add a parsnip for sweetness, half an onion or thyme for a rustic flavor, or garlic for depth. Use your imagination, or your bubbe’s favorite ingredients. Play around till the flavor is right for you!

On its own, chicken soup is gluten free and very healthy– a great source of protein, with healing qualities. It helps to clear your sinuses and warm you from the inside. From the basic soup recipe, a starch of your choice can be added– rice, egg noodles, kreplach, or veggies like squash, zucchini, and potatoes.

During Passover, matzo balls are the traditional and kosher starch of choice for the holiday (they also happen to be my favorite choice year-round). When it comes to matzo balls, everybody has their own way of doing things. Some like their matzo balls light as a feather (floaters), whiles others prefer them with a more dense, thick texture (sinkers). Both are delicious in their own way. Then, there are always opinions on which herbs and spices to add to the mix, and which oil to use for binding the matzo. Oh, the options!

My method for making matzo balls is pretty simple. I used to use Manischewitz mix, which I still think is a great option, but I’ve learned over the years that it’s just as easy– and cheaper– to make your own from scratch. Making your own mix allows you more control over the flavor and texture of the matzo balls. I use a few spices, fresh dill, and melted schmaltz to bind the batter (you can use oil if chicken fat freaks out your cardiologist– but I love the flavor of schmaltz). Once in a while I change things up, depending on what texture or flavor I’m going for.

To check out my matzo ball recipes, click the links below. I’ve also included my Gluten Free matzo ball recipe for those who can’t stomach the matzo; it’s potato based, and really delish.

“Floater” Matzo Balls

“Sinker” Matzo Balls

Gluten Free Potato Knaidelach 

Of course, if you’re not a matzo ball fan, feel free to make this soup into something completely original by adding your favorite ingredients. The possibilities are endless!

And if you are a fan of matzo balls, comment me and let me know what your favorite type is. Are you a floater, or a sinker?

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My Favorite Chicken Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, 3-4 lbs.
  • 6 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 6 celery stalks, peeled and sliced (including leaves)
  • 1 brown (yellow) onion, skin on, rinsed and sliced in two halves
  • Handful of fresh parsley
  • Handful of fresh dill
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 3 whole cloves (optional- I add more because I like a strong clove flavor)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp saffron threads (optional-- adds a rich yellow color to the broth)
Total Time: 2 Hours
Servings: 3-3 1/2 quarts of soup broth
Kosher Key: Meat
  • Place the chicken into a large stock pot. Cover with 4 quarts of water.
  • Bring water to a boil over medium high heat. Let the chicken boil for 10-15 minutes, skimming the foam and particles that rise to the surface of the water periodically, till most of the foam is gone.
  • Replenish the liquid that was removed during scumming with hot water (it's usually around 1-2 cups). Do a final skimming to remove any leftover foam. Add the carrots, celery, onion, parsley, dill, peppercorns, and cloves to the pot. Add 1 tbsp kosher salt to the water (if you're salt sensitive or using a kosher salted bird, salt less). Bring back to a simmer.
  • Put the lid on the pot and vent it. Reduce heat to medium low so the soup is slowly simmering (not boiling- a rolling boil will make the stock cloudy, a slow simmer should do it. Let the soup cook for 90 minutes.
  • After 90 minutes of cooking, when the chicken is tender, turn off the heat. Use a pair of tongs to carefully pull the chicken from the broth. Put it on a plate. Taste the chicken broth and season with additional salt, if desired. Allow the chicken and the broth to cool.
  • Carefully strain the broth into another pot through a mesh strainer. Reserve the carrots and celery for later, if you wish; discard the spices, herbs, and onion halves.
  • When the soup is completely cool, you can skim the fat from the top of the broth if you want to-- it will come off in a gel-like layer. I actually don't like to skim the fat, especially for holidays; a few droplets on the surface make the broth silky and give it flavor. At this point, you can add a little water to the broth to stretch the soup to feed more people. Diluting the soup can be helpful if feeding a large crowd-- but don't dilute it too much, or you'll lose the rich broth flavor! If you add water to the broth, don't skim any fat off the top of the soup, you'll need it to make the broth taste rich. Personally, I prefer not to dilute the broth at all if I can help it-- I'd much rather make an extra pot of soup if there are more mouths to feed!
  • If you are adding the saffron for color, crush the threads into powder, then stir them into the broth. This can be a particularly helpful trick if you've stretched the broth by adding water-- it will give some color back to the broth.
  • Pull the meat from the chicken in small pieces. You can add this back into the soup broth to make chicken soup, if you wish, or save it for another purpose.
  • If you are cooking something in your broth, like matzo balls or kreplach, bring the broth to a boil and cook them in the broth before adding back in the reserved vegetables or chicken pieces. Do a final tasting and adjust seasoning, adding more salt to taste if desired.
  • Add the cooked vegetables and/or chicken pieces at the very end, for the last 1-2 minutes of cooking, till warmed through.
  • Serve hot. Sometimes I add a little more chopped fresh dill to the broth before serving. I love dill.

Comments (113)Post a Comment

  1. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Help, every year I need to find a great vegetarian ‘mock chicken’ soup for our family vegetarian. The rest of the years easy because I use Knorr veggie cubes, salty and good, but I can never find the right combination of vegetbles and tricks for a really good soup base. Any suggestions much appreciated!

    1. Great question, Jackie. You can try using chicken consomme powder, available at most kosher grocery stores and in the kosher aisle of many major grocery chains. Even though it’s called chicken consomme, it contains no chicken– it’s a vegetarian product (pareve). It will give you the same sort of flavor as the Knorr cubes. Lipton makes one that is kosher for Passover, here’s the link: link to allinkosher.com

      Incidentally, my friend gave me a terrific vegetarian soup option for the Seder that uses the chicken powder, here’s the link: link to theshiksa.com It’s not a regular chicken soup, but it does get a great flavor from the creative mixture of veggies and the savory flavor of the chicken powder. Good luck!

    2. You can make a very rich vegetable broth by roasting your vegetables in the oven first before cooking them in a stock pot with water and herbs/spices. I’ve used a mix of carrots, onions, parsnips and mushrooms.
      The broth is hearty and flavorful and can serve as a base for many soups.

  2. lovely soup recipe. I am surprised you didn’t offer a no added fat recipe of floater matzo balls made with seltzer. I now only make these, because they are far healthier (1 pt on WW) and taste better. 1/2 c. matzo meal, 1 tsp salt (or to taste), 2 large eggs plus 1 egg white, 2 Tbsp seltzer. Mix, let sit for 20 mins, then cook as usual….delish!!

    1. Hey Merle! I’ve tried adding seltzer to the mix but never noticed a big result in texture, however I’ve never tried the exact proportions you’re suggesting (I’ve always added a little oil/fat to the mix, never totally replaced it with seltzer). I’ll give it a try, and maybe I’ll even add it to the menu! Thanks for the recommendation.

  3. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Find a copy of Molly Katzen’s book Still life with a Menu. In it is a recipe for Not-Chicken Soup that makes wonderful matzo ball soup. It is kosher for Passover too. Her recipes are so good and you can usually count on the whole family liking them as well.

  4. This looks SO incredible! Judging by the look alone I suspect this is world famous – and I’m sure the taste is out of this world! My mother-in-law makes the best matzo balls in chicken soup. I’d better not let her see my comments here or I’ll be cut off from her matzo balls/chicken soup forever…!

    Thank you for posting!

  5. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I like using either the Manischewitz mix or the Streit’s mix, I made matzo’s from scratch once but I guess I messed up, they came out like stones and did not fluff up like they are supposed to, but then I am a guy and goyum to boot, LOL

    1. My mother used to make matzo balls that you could use as a hockey puck. The reason they will be hard and drop like a stone is because you have made too many for the size of the pot you are using. Actually, I kinda like the hard ones. I guess it’s what you were raised with.

  6. I vote for the FLOAT.
    Regarding scratch vs. boxed mix, both Manischewitz and Streit’s are very good. In the past, I have not found mixing ingredients from scratch to result in a better matzoh ball.
    But since everything can be improved…I really look forward to trying your FLOATER recipe Tori!
    Lori Lynn

  7. My chicken soup with matzoh balls is “famous” among our family and friends.It’s not too different than yours,but here’s a tip.To “stretch” soup,I add a kosher brand of canned broth.I favor the green and orange trimmed can that has been around forever.As to matzoh balls,we like them so light that you have to keep the lid on the pot to keep them from floating away!

  8. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Hi Shiksa – I have found that one of the critical paths to making great chicken stock is to NEVER let the liquid come to a boil. Cut the heat down to low as soon as you see activity in the liquid. Boiling causes cloudiness, and just keeping on low simmer makes a great, clear stock. Perhaps this a tenet of Asian cooking, but still applicable. Just saying. I’m making your matzoh balls tomorrow night! – Larry

  9. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I must pass this one on to hubs. He loves chicken soup and it is one of the few (okay maybe only) things he makes. This is a great tutorial on how to do it right. So he’s getting it in his email. Lol!

  10. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Hi Shiksa,
    I’m new to your site and think it is wonderful. As you are interested in the history of food, I am wondering if you know about Westfallian matza balls. My German Oma made them from whole matzah, soaked and crumbled and mixed with caramelized onions and eggs. I never knew anyone that made our Matzah balls except for those family and friends that I grew up with in Washington Heights. Then I saw them posted on Baroness Tapuzina’s site! She says that they were also made on the Germanic side of Italy. Anyway, although I simply can’t make them taste like my Oma’s or my mother’s, I still make them every year. It wouldn’t be Pesach without them.

  11. Hi Tori, I enjoy reading your blog and especially enjoy using your recipes. No one made chicken soup as good as my late mother in law Elizabeth. She added a cubanelle pepper, a tomato, a veal bone or “sugar bone”, and turkey necks to the usual ingredients. I like to add a bouquet garnis on the top with resh parley cut from the root (which I add to the soup…sweeter than parsnip) and fresh dill. After the vegetables and herbs are removed, I create “soup from soup” where I blend the veggies and a bit of chicken broth to create a puree and add some curry to make a new soup. I put it in the freezer for another time!
    L’shana tova to you and your family!
    Janet-Lee in Toronto

    1. Dear Janet-Lee, I have been wanting to make chicken soup amd became curious about the “sugar” bones you referred to and wanted to know specifics if you don’t mind sharing!
      Thanks, Joshua

  12. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I always thought that my matzo ball soup was pretty good until I tried yours. My husband found your website on facebook and I decided to try it. It is amazing. Rich and flavorful. Thank you so much! I like floaters. I prefer my matzoh balls to be very light. The key is not to handle them too much while forming the balls. A few seconds to roll them and drop into boiling water.

  13. This is almost exactly the same chicken soup recipe my grandmother brought when she immigrated from Europe. I was raised on it and have been making it myself for over 50 years. In fact, I think I’ll make it tomorrow.
    PS: It’s also good for diabetics and anyone wishing to lose weight.

  14. Oh, thank you! I got the chicken and onion and matzoh meal and then obdessed on whether or not to cut up the chicken or keep it whole. Yout site is so helpful, comments too.

  15. Love your site. Since dark meat has so much more flavor for soup, I use thighs and necks for soup and put in some white meat at the end to just cook thru for adding to the soup. I also add a tomato for color, sometimes sweet potato, and the onion skinks a must! It is weird how much richer a darker soup tastes.
    Love the cheesecloth. I put the chicken in one cheescltoh baf for easy draining, and the veggies in another cheesecloth bag so I can squeeze out the liquid which makes the soup so flavorful.

    Rona S

  16. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hello Shiksa, Ur chicksoup looks great, I want to make it but lazy girl as I am, I wonder if it would’nt be just as good if I did put the pot in the oven on low heat for a few hours? What do u think? Thank you for ur beautiful and happy blog.

  17. Hi, Tori,
    I will add matzoh balls/carrots/celery and bits of cooked chicken to the broth for my Seder, but I am wondering if this recipe will comfortably serve 9-10 people. If not,I don’t want to make another whole recipe but am wondering what I can do without compromising the flavor by adding water or canned broth. I will be using a 12 quart stock pot so should have room for additional ingredients, but would appreciate your advice on how to make it go a bit further. Also, is it possible to make the broth ahead, freeze, and defrost for the Seder meal?
    I love your website, have used many of your recipes, and I appreciate your responses to my questions (sometimes not so smart!) Thanks, Tori!

    1. No silly questions here Marcia! A 12 quart pot is very big. I would say use two small/medium chickens (2-3 lbs. each) in the pot and double the veggies so your stock is nice and rich. Be aware that when you cook the matzo balls, they soak up a lot of the broth… perhaps you can cook the matzo balls separately, then add them to the soup? I like the flavor of cooking them in broth, but you can also cook them in well salted water. Or, you can make a separate smaller pot of broth (with a few leg quarters) just for cooking the matzo balls. I have done that for a larger crowd and it works well. I think that even if you cook the matzo balls directly in the soup broth, a 12 quart stock pot should make plenty of soup for 9-10 people (make walnut-sized balls that will expand as they cook, not those huge enormous balls). As for freezing, yes, you can absolutely freeze the broth and defrost for the Seder. You can also cook the matzo balls ahead of time and freeze them. Let them come to room temp, freeze them on a baking sheet evenly spaced (not touching). When they are frozen, remove them from the sheet and place them in a sealed plastic freezer bag till the Seder. Once the soup has defrosted, you can put the matzo balls into the soup and defrost them directly in there. I prefer to make the matzo balls fresh, but the soup itself will taste absolutely fine after freezing and defrosting. Hope that helps!

  18. Wow, can’t thank you enough for your quick response!! I am so glad that I can freeze the soup; the more I can prepare ahead of time, the better I feel. My matzoh balls are already in the freezer (made your floater recipe!), so I will defrost them in the soup once that has defrosted. I will use your suggestions for the soup, using 2 smaller chickens and doubling the veggies. Will I be doubling the seasoning as well? And I am assuming I should fill the stock pot with as much water as I can, not just use the 4 quarts you say in the original recipe.

    1. Yes, you should double the seasoning and fill the pot with as much liquid as possible. You might want to go easy with the cloves, I like the flavor it adds but some don’t– so this would be the one spice I’d be careful about doubling. Also salt with care, start with 1 1/2 tbsp and add more to taste as the broth develops. You can always add more salt to taste, but it’s hard to “unsalt” a soup once it’s been oversalted.

  19. Good soup recipe. I have a tip to make it an easier recipe. I put the chicken in a turkey stuffing bag or wrap it in cheesecloth. Easy to tak out. I also put the veggies in a cheesecloth bag. When the soup is done, lift out the bags, let soup drain from bags, unwrap bags and put back what you want to keep in the soup. No need to strain, only take fat off top after soup is chilled.

  20. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Can I just say that I love your blog? It’s so great to find a blog that has yummy traditional Jewish/Israeli recipes!
    Also it’s cool how similar your chicken soup is to my mum’s :)

  21. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    we are not Jewish but we attended a talk on Passover – the most delicious typical food was served including the chicken soup – and crumbed chicken – Will try your soup, do you have a crumbed chicken recipe (they were breast) and a (for my own purposes – a sour cream cheese cake?) Thanks for care you have taken (step-by-step photos and explanations) it all helps.
    p.s. and any other recipe that you think is yummy!

  22. Once again, you bring memories of my childhood from ex Yugoslavia, Bosnia, and my grandmother’s cuisine.
    This is the type of soup most women cook in Bosnia. I miss it so much. Thank you.

  23. I thought I was the only person who grinds matzo to make matzo balls. I add kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, schmaltz, egg, chopped Italian parsley,chopped chives and broth to the mixture. They always float and have much more flavor than any box mix.

  24. Hello Tori

    I am trying to cure my mother in law from cold, and while searching for chicken soup I found Your recipe.

    I even manage to buy fowl (which is getting very hard in London).

    The questions are as follow:
    – I left the chicken, and run to the shop for missing celery. By the time I came back it was already boiling, so I didn’t collect all that foam. Will that affect taste a lot?
    – Is cooking for 90min mandatory? Will cooking longer affect the result? I read somewhere that if using fowl, it is better to cook for longer. Could you please advise?
    – Have no idea where to get matzo meal. Can I just use pasta?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Rafal. The foam isn’t a huge deal, it may just leave your broth looking slightly cloudy. It shouldn’t affect the flavor. In my experience the longer it cooks the better it tastes; 90 minutes is ideal on a low simmer. That said, don’t let it go much longer than 90 minutes or you’ll end up with chicken meat that is so soft it dissolves. Yes, you can use pasta/egg noodles instead of matzo balls if you prefer. Enjoy!

    2. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
      @Tori

      Than you for Your reply.
      Soup came out fantastic. Mother in law was very pleased.

      I simply never tired matzo before (never heard of it before), but will try it next time, as I love trying new stuff while cooking.

      I’m looking forward to check more of your recipes.

    1. Emmie, it depends on if you’re serving the soup as a starter or as an entree. A good rule of thumb per person is: 1 cup of soup as an appetizer, 2 cups soup as an entree– which, for 150 people, would be about 9 1/2 gallons of soup for an entree, and about 19 gallons of soup for a main. I rounded up, which will leave you with a little extra. That’s always a good thing when feeding a crowd. :)

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