Joan Nathan's Chosen Matzo Ball Soup

March 14, 2013

Test Kitchen-Approved

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

Serves: 6
Prep time: 3 hrs 30 min
Cook time: 2 hrs 45 min


For the soup

  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds)
  • 2 large onions (whole, unpeeled)
  • 4 parsnips
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 6 carrots
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 6 tablespoons snipped dill, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

For the matzo balls

  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) or vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons chicken stock
  • 1 cup matzo meal
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, dill, or cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
In This Recipe


For the soup

  1. Put the chicken and enough water to cover by two inches (about 4 quarts) in a large pot and bring the water to a boil. Skim off the froth as it rises to the top.
  2. Add the onions, parsnips, celery, carrots, parsley, 4 tablespoons of the dill, and the salt and pepper. Half-cover and simmer for at least an hour and up to 2 hours, adjusting the seasoning to taste.
  3. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours or overnight so the liquid solidifies. When the fat rises to the top, skim it off and reserve for the matzo balls.

For the matzo balls

  1. Using a spoon, gently mix the eggs, schmaltz, stock, matzo meal, nutmeg, ginger, and parsley, dill, or cilantro in a large bowl. Season with salt and 2 to 3 grinds of pepper. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least an hour or overnight.
  2. To shape and cook the matzo balls, bring a wide, deep pot of lightly salted water to a boil. With wet hands, take some of the mix and mold it into the size and shape of a golf ball. Gently drop it into the boiling water, repeating until all the mix is used.
  3. Cover the pan, reducing heat 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 readiness, remove one with a slotted spoon and cut in half. The matzo ball should be the same color and texture throughout.
  4. Strain the soup. Set aside the chicken for chicken salad and discard the vegetables. Just before serving, reheat the soup. Spoon a matzo ball into each bowl, pour soup over each matzo ball, and sprinkle with the remaining snipped dill.

More Great Recipes:
Soup|Jewish|Celery|Cilantro|Dill|Parsley|Parsnip|Nutmeg|Carrot|Passover|Rosh Hashanah|Dinner

Reviews (15) Questions (0)

15 Reviews

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?
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.
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?
Author Comment
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!
Author Comment
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!!
rapearson March 21, 2013
Do you use the chicken for anything afterwards?
Author Comment
Joan N. March 21, 2013
Chicken salad!