Joan Nathan's Chosen Matzo Ball Soup

February 28, 2022
9 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Cook time 2 hours 45 minutes
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

The ultimate chicken soup, just like your Jewish mother used to make. —Joan Nathan

Test Kitchen Notes

There's nothing more comforting than a delicious, hot bowl of savory matzo ball soup. This Ashkenazi Jewish dish is traditionally served during Passover or Rosh Hashanah, but of course you can enjoy it any time of the year. Using schmaltz (chicken fat) is how the soup is classically prepared and lends unbelievable flavor, and we highly suggest always having some handy, but vegetable oil is a good substitute. There are, of course, tons of variations and family traditions surrounding how matzo ball soup is made. In this recipe, the soup is also infused with nutmeg and ginger, and you can use whatever fresh herbs you prefer. A whole chicken flavors the stock, and after it's cooked through for hours in boiling water, set it aside to make chicken salads, or shred it up for some chicken tacos. And if you have a big enough pot or want to double up, it's always a great idea to have extra chicken stock in the fridge.

Making the matzo balls couldn't be easier—simply mix the ingredients in a bowl, stick the mixture in the fridge until it's cold, then shape them and simmer them in salted water. This recipe does take a bit of planning since you have to chill both the stock and the matzo mixture, but you can easily make both ahead, and the rest of the prep comes together in minutes. You'll be reaching for this recipe every time the seasons change, and it'll be your go-to whenever you feel a cold coming on. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • Soup:
  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds)
  • 2 large onions
  • 6 carrots
  • 4 parsnips
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 6 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup snipped dill
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Matzo Balls & Assembly:
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup matzo meal
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, dill, or cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons snipped dill
  1. Soup:
  2. In a large pot, place the chicken and pour in enough water to cover by about 2 inches (about 4 quarts of water). Bring to a boil. Skim off the froth as it rises to the top.
  3. Add the onions, carrots, parsnips, celery, parsley, dill, salt, and pepper. Partially cover the pot and simmer for at least 1 hour and up to 2, adjusting the seasoning to taste.
  4. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours or up to overnight so the liquid solidifies. When the fat rises to the top, skim it off and reserve for the matzo balls.
  1. Matzo Balls & Assembly:
  2. In a large bowl, using a spoon, gently mix the eggs, matzo meal, stock, schmaltz, parsley, salt, ginger, pepper, and nutmeg. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
  3. Bring a wide, deep pot of lightly salted water to a boil. With wet hands, mold the matzo mixture into the size and shape of a golf ball. Gently drop into the boiling water, repeating until all the matzo mixture is used.
  4. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low, and bring to a lively simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes for al dente matzo balls, or closer to 45 for lighter matzo balls. To test their doneness, remove one with a slotted spoon and cut in half. The matzo ball should be the same color and texture throughout.
  5. Strain the soup. Set aside the chicken for another use; discard the vegetables. Just before serving, reheat the soup. Spoon a matzo ball into each bowl, pour the soup over each matzo ball, and sprinkle with the dill.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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    Jade St Hodge
  • Ellen Francis
    Ellen Francis
  • walkie74
  • sunflourbaking
  • rapearson

31 Reviews

Harry March 25, 2023
4-5lbs chicken bones makes a beautiful soup and then just dump the bones. A lot cheaper
and just follow the excellent recipe.
abigailxrose April 11, 2022
I’m having 15 people over for Passover… do I need to triple the recipe ?
Jade S. April 17, 2019
Is there a matzo meal alternative that you can suggest? It's a hard one to get in my area however I do live in Middle Eastern/Mediterranean area of Australia so it might be available under another name?
Pam April 17, 2019
I think - but I'm not positive - that matzoh meal is just ground up Matzo crackers. Can you get Matzo crackers?
Can you order from

Pam March 21, 2019
I'm a method or intuitive cook, not a recipe cook. I read recipes for ideas, then decide what to add, subtract, etc, and just toss it in as it makes sense to me. Who needs a recipe for something as simple as chicken broth or stock? I've been making chicken soup for decades, basically just throwing together chicken scraps and carcasses, celery, onion, carrot, and some parsley and/or dill, perhaps bay leaf and thyme, simmering till it seems done. My husband's grandmother said that I made excellent matzo balls soup, and coming from her, it meant a lot! THAT BEING SAID, last year the in-laws got their whole Passover dinner from Whole Foods, which apparently used your recipes. It was without a doubt THE BEST MATZO BALL SOUP I have ever had, by far. WHAT MAGIC WAS IN THAT SOUP? I have had a terrible sore throat and cough the last few days and about run through my stash of frozen chicken soup, so I just bought 5 lbs of chicken legs and 2.5 lbs of backs (both were half the price per pound of a whole chicken). So.......I actually looked up your recipe. Nothing different in there other than the parsnips. Parsnips? OMG, that is something I don't keep on hand. Months ago I had to make a medieval dish for something and parsnips were one of he ingredients. It was awful, and I never want to see (much less smell or eat) a parsnip or turnip again. Now what? My soup has everything else in it, happily simmering away. I do need to go out, but I surely don't want to buy parsnips, much less peel them and add them to the soup.......Does anyone have an opinion of whether the parsnips are really necessary or not?
drbabs March 30, 2019
They add sweetness, but you could totally skip them.
Pam April 17, 2019
I skipped them, and I have my usual rich golden chicken stock jelling in the fridge.
JudiAU December 13, 2020
Next time, add a parsnip. They add a mysterious and glorious complexity to chicken soup. It is a strong flavor and I never add more than half to chicken with vegetable soup when served. But, it really does add something as does a small turnip. I make stock always and there are volumes to written about how it improves a simple dish. But when you want this type of soup when the soup is soup, not stock, do it.
Devorah D. January 14, 2021
Hi there! I did the same for years when making Chicken Stock. Then an Israeli friend told me that I should also throw in some parsnip. It made a huge difference and wasn't obnoxious or overpowering. I also throw a few cloves in there.
VeraP June 18, 2023
Both my mother and grandmother always added a parsley root (two whole roots per a pot of soup). It makes a big difference in the taste of chicken soup.
VeraP June 18, 2023
Also, I found that adding dill at the beginning of cooking soup adds bitterness. I always add fresh dill at the end, it preserves the aroma of dill.
Valerie June 17, 2015
Well, I would have squeezed a lemon into the broth so it would draw the goodness from the bones. Also, I would add a tablespoon or two of Keen's dry mustard to give it a little heat and three whole cloves stuck into the onion so they don't get lost. Speaking of cloves, we need at least five or six cloves of garlic. The matzo balls should have the eggs separated and whip the whites to fold in... ah... now that's a light and fluffy matzo ball. Enjoy on a cold winter's night.
Pam March 21, 2019
for light and fluffy matzo balls, I use club soda rather than the water usually called for. Since this calls for chicken soup, I'm a little torn about the club soda......I'd rather have the extra chicken soup flavor rather than the fluffy, so I'll try whipping the whites.
Ellen F. April 9, 2014
How about an all-veggie Matzoh Ball Soup? This one is really worth giving a try---and no one will miss the chicken!!
Valerie June 17, 2015
Matzo balls are made with schmaltz (chicken fat) and chicken soup is used for the liquid. Can't make a "genuine" matzo ball without the star ingredients, ergo vegie-style is something else.
Pam April 17, 2019
I always scrape off the fat from the top of my chilled chicken stock, and unless I have some chicken livers handy, I just toss the schmaltz. But next time I'll replace the oil in the matzoh balls with the schmaltz! And I can cook them directly in the chicken soup instead of separately in water.

Veggie is definitely something else, but it could be worth trying anyway!
Pam April 17, 2019
Kind of like NYC Pizza is the only "real" pizza, and Pizza Hut and Dominos etc don't even come close - but when they're the only pizza available they can be ok.
mudd May 4, 2019
Please don’t cook the matzo balls directly in the soup! You will have wall paper paste soup. Cook them in the water first.
Micki April 7, 2014
I need to make 12 servings of soup. Do I double each of the ingredients?
Pam March 21, 2019
sure, why not? Leftovers are always good! If you don't want more soup, use i our cooking. Put it in time or potato iseadof water :)
walkie74 October 24, 2013
This was pretty good. I'll have to add this one to my rotation of chicken soups--pho and American style, among others. :)
bobbie M. March 30, 2013
why do you recommend not cooking the matzo balls in the soup?
Joan N. April 3, 2013
Two reasons: The matzo balls can absorb a lot of the soup, changing their texture. But more important, they may break up and leave some debris in the broth.
sunflourbaking March 22, 2013
Do you make your matzo balls in advance, and if so, how do you store them? I take them from the pot of boiling water and put them directly into the stock. I've always wondered if this was a good or bad idea!
Joan N. March 22, 2013
If you make them far in advance and need to store them long term, I put the cooked matzo balls on a parchment-lined jelly roll pan and freeze them. Then put them in a baggy and just before serving put them in the soup. Some people make their matzo balls and the soup at the same time and just put the cooked mazto balls in the soup. I don't recommend cooking them in the soup.
sunflourbaking March 22, 2013
Thank you for your quick response, Joan! It's such an honor to be in contact with a living legend. I've been carting around your cookbooks since my college days (in the mid 70's) as you, along with my mother, helped guide my through my Jewish culinary roots. Happy Pesach to you and your family!!
Pam April 17, 2019
It's not a bad idea; they can be put in the stock whenever convenient. AND they can be cooked in the stock instead of in plain water, for some additional chicken flavor. When I make a dozen or so matzo balls I often eat half of them myself that night - and I usually freeze extras as Joan suggested, so they're available at any time :)
rapearson March 21, 2013
Do you use the chicken for anything afterwards?
Joan N. March 21, 2013
Chicken salad!
Pam April 17, 2019
Chicken sandwiches. Chicken curry. Chicken anything!
Devorah D. January 14, 2021
I use the chicken to cook for my pups because it's kinda ugly and they don't care. I use a couple of poached chicken breasts for the final soup.