Big Little Recipes

I Can't Stop Snacking on This Matzo Toffee

A Passover dessert that’s too good to eat just during Passover.

March 22, 2022

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or fewer—not including water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (like oil and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Inspired by the column, the Big Little Recipes cookbook is available now.

Decades after she started making it, my mom can’t remember where this recipe came from. Maybe she got it from her mom, or a magazine, or her mom got it from a magazine. Who knows?

There are thousands and thousands of recipes for matzo toffee online. A lot of them look a lot like ours, from the ingredient list to the short-enough-to-fit-on-an-index-card instructions. Even the specifics I can’t make sense of.

Take, for example, “4-6 matzo - unsalted.” Why the range? When four? When five? When six? Who knows?

Many recipes call for just that, “4-6,” no explanation. It’s evidence that this crispy-crunchy Passover favorite comes from the same publication, only to be claimed by innumerable American Jews, like my mom, like me. So it goes with holiday recipes and traditions. They belong to us, but only sort of.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I'm so curious about the origins of matzo toffee and saltine toffee. Was one a riff on the other? Did saltines get subbed in when people didn't have matzo? says matzo came from saltine, but offers absolutely no context.”
— M

Based on the timing and similarities to my mom's index card, it's safe to say that Marcy Goldman's recipe, first published in the mid 1980s in The Montreal Gazette (and later printed in A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking), was the source. As Leah Koenig writes in Tablet, "Goldman’s matzo buttercrunch is among the most popular, and most copied, Passover desserts made by home cooks."

I could have typed up my mom's index card and called it a Big Little Recipe and done. All you need are matzo, of course, and brown sugar, butter, and chocolate (plus toasted pecans if you’re my mom). But I couldn’t help myself.


I switched the unsalted matzo to salted, the unsalted butter to salted, and, yeah, a pinch of flaky salt on top too. Toffee is too sweet for its own good. The salt provides balance, like one kid on a seesaw joined by another. Same reason why I also switched from semisweet chocolate to dark—the darker, the better.

They’re little adjustments that make a big difference, yielding the salty-bitter-sweet combo I crave. What I didn’t change, and wouldn’t dare, was how stupid-easy it is to make. The sort of dessert that you don’t have to stress about if you’re hosting a whole hoopla for Passover.

And even if you’re not celebrating Passover—who doesn’t want another easy dessert?

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Tucker & Me
    Tucker & Me
  • Ruth Arcone
    Ruth Arcone
  • MacGuffin
  • witloof
  • M
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


Tucker &. March 29, 2023
Absolutely amazing! Was the star of the show at our Seder last year. Can’t wait to make and eat it again this year. Renamed matzo crack for sure. Thank you Emm!!
Ruth A. March 28, 2022
They call it matzo crack for a reason.
MacGuffin March 23, 2022
I’m thinking egg matzo would make for a richer base.
witloof March 22, 2022
I have never liked the way it comes out with chocolate chips on top and subbed a cooked fudge frosting. Oh my word.
M March 22, 2022
Sigh. Marcy Goldman’s Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking. Can I put in a link? I’ve read that she got the idea from the similar recipe with saltines. And it’s obviously 4-6 matzah because it’s as many matzah as you need to cover the bottom of your baking sheet(s). I like to use a combo of semi-sweet and white chocolate chips and then swirl them together as they melt.
Emma L. March 23, 2022
Hi M—thank you so much for sharing this. Grateful for the additional insight and have incorporated it into the article/recipe.
M March 23, 2022
Thanks for sating the curiosity, Other M! Looked it up on and it seems the recipe used to be routinely shared in Passover article with the story of how it came to be.
lwinikow March 22, 2022
Sliced almonds strewn over the melted chips makes it fancy!
Maryellen R. March 22, 2022
I remember in my youth, my cousin making a version of this with graham crackers topped with nuts - super yummy. Guess it was the Midwestern Nordic version of the recipe. Can't wait to try this version which has a bit more sophistication.
M March 22, 2022
I'm so curious about the origins of matzo toffee and saltine toffee. Was one a riff on the other? Did saltines get subbed in when people didn't have matzo? says matzo came from saltine, but offers absolutely no context.
MacGuffin March 23, 2022 “In the recipe below—inspired by a Midwest favorite, saltine toffee—we bring out the sweeter side of the admittedly bland cracker (i.e. matzo).“
My guess? If staff didn’t invent it themselves, Midwestern Jews found the recipe for the saltine toffee their neighbors were enjoying and realized it could be adapted for Passover. I make matzo brei during Passover and top it with marinara sauce and cheese; I could probably, prior to frying it, press the wet matzo brei into a pan, top it with sauce and cheese, bake it, and have kosher-for-Passover pizza. You do what you have to in order to make the eight days as painless as possible.