What is a matzo ball?
Matzo balls, also known as matzah balls, are a traditional Jewish food that can be likened to a Kosher for Passover soup dumpling. In order to be considered kosher for passover, it cannot contain any leavened, grain. The leavened grains are replaces with matzo meal and combined with eggs, water, fat, and any additional herbs or spices you may like.
Baking powder is the secret to really fluffy, light matzo balls. Before you jump on me about baking powder not being kosher for Passover, please read the full post.
For many years, I used Manischewitz matzo ball mix to make my matzo balls. It always cooked up so fluffy and light, and I really couldn’t replicate the texture when making it from scratch. One day, I studied the ingredients, and noticed sodium bicarbonate and monocalcium phosphate– both are the active ingredients in baking powder.
So, I started doing a little research. Turns out, baking powder is key to creating fluffy, light, “floater” style matzo balls. I’ve tried the carbonated water trick (some people say seltzer will help make a lighter matzo ball), but I never noticed a big different in texture. Baking powder makes all the difference.
Curious about how baking powder could be kosher for Passover? Baking powder is mineral based, not grain based, and therefore it does not fall under the banner of “chametz,” the group of foods that are banned for Passover. This issue has been discussed at length on kosher websites across the web. Joan Nathan wrote an article about it for the New York Times in April 2006. In her article, Rabbi Moshe Elefant, executive rabbinic coordinator and chief operating officer of the Orthodox Union’s kosher division, says: “There is nothing wrong about a raised product at Passover per se.” The Orthodox Union is the oldest and most widely accepted certifier of kosher foods.
If the OU doesn’t have a problem with certifying baking powder for Passover, neither do I. There are, in fact, several brands of kosher for Passover baking powder (like this one). Some choose not to use baking powder because they feel it doesn’t jibe with the spirit of the Passover holiday, since it is an artificial, non-grain-based form of leavening. Others have no problem using baking powder, as long as it has a kosher hechsher. No judgement here, every family is different.
Suffice it to say, the choice to use baking powder is a matter of tradition and preference. One thing is for sure, it definitely makes for lighter, fluffier matzo balls. If you’d rather not use it, try my Sinker Matzo Balls recipe– it’s also super yummy, producing tender matzo balls with a lovely texture and the same flavor as these floaters.
Can you freeze matzo balls?
Matzo balls actually freeze well and retain their flavor and texture. Simply place them on a sheet tray in the freezer, then transfer to a freezer safe bag or container once frozen. When ready to use they can be added directly to your soup and reheated, no defrosting necessary.
If you need a good chicken soup recipe to cook matzo balls in, click here.
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Floater Matzo Balls
- 3/4 cup matzo meal
- 1 tsp baking powder, if making for Passover use a Passover-certified kosher baking powder (see notes for details)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp white pepper (optional)
- 3 large eggs
- 3 tbsp melted schmaltz (or substitute grapeseed oil)
- 1 tbsp minced fresh dill (optional)
- 3-4 quarts soup broth or salted water
- In a small mixing bowl, use a fork to mix together the matzo meal, baking powder, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper.
- In another bowl, use another fork to mix together the eggs and schmaltz.
- Pour egg mixture into the dry ingredients, and add the minced dill. Mix all ingredients together with a fork till just combined. Do not overmix.
- Put the bowl of matzo ball mixture into the refrigerator and let it rest for 20-30 minutes.
- There are two ways to cook your matzo balls-- in boiling water or in the soup broth. Cook them in boiling water if you are feeding a large crowd; the matzo balls will soak up some of the broth, which will make for less servings of soup. I prefer to cook them straight in the broth so they soak up the chicken flavor-- you may end up with a little less broth, but your matzo balls will taste amazing. You can always top the soup off with a little canned or boxed chicken broth, or water and bouillon, if you need to.
- Bring your 3-4 quarts of soup broth or salted water to a boil over medium heat.
- While your broth or water is warming, form the chilled matzo ball mixture into 1 inch balls. Don't overwork the mixture when you roll the balls.
- When your broth or water boils, reduce heat and simmer and drop the matzo balls gently into the liquid.
- Cover the pot with a lid and let the balls cook for 30-35 minutes till fluffy and soft. Keep the pot covered-- no peeking till 30 minutes have gone by! If you've followed instructions carefully, the balls should be floating on the surface of the water like billowy clouds of deliciousness.
- Serve two or three matzo balls per bowl with hot chicken soup ladled over them. If you don’t plan on serving the whole pot of soup at one sitting, make sure you remove the matzo balls from the broth and let them come to room temperature before storing them in a separate container. If left to sit in the broth, they'll become mushy.