Chicken Matzo Ball Soup: A Passover Favorite


I’m not exactly sure why we begin each Passover meal with gefilte fish followed by chicken soup with matzo balls but I have been to enough Sedars to know that this is the unofficial beginning to a long and hearty repast. I love chicken soup year-round and especially when I am feeling the least bit low or sniffly. I am such a chicken soup lover that I always have a quart of this magical potion ready for any emergency stocked in my freezer. Every person who makes it has their own special touch, whether it’s the herbs, vegetables or how they make their matzo balls.

For Passover, however, I like to make my soup up a two or three days ahead to let the flavors mingle. Some of my friends insist on making it a month ahead and freezing it. That works well if you are just going to serve the broth and not the chicken and vegetables. I have made my share of chicken soup recipes. I find that this one, featured in my book Seriously Simple, is my current standby. This recipe gives you a head start because you begin with a good quality store-bought broth which immediately gives the chicken flavoring a headstart.. (Make sure to look for “Kosher for Passover” on the label.)

Skinless bone-in chicken breasts add more chicken flavor. (The bones help to enrich and slightly thicken the soup). The sweet carrot and parsnip flavor are accented by the onion-flavored chopped leeks. For a slight twist, I add tiny cherry or grape tomatoes 0along with chopped fresh mint.

This chicken soup cooks slowly on the stove until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are just tender. The chicken is cut up and returned to the soup awaiting its final pairing with the herbed matzo ball. If you prefer a lighter soup, strain out all the vegetables and chicken and just serve the broth with the matzo balls. (Use the reserved chicken to make chicken salad.

Matzo balls can really get a conversation started. There are those who love floaters and others who love sinkers. I think it has to do with ones early taste memories. I am a light matzo ball appreciator so you will find that these matzo balls are fluffy and floatable. What are my secrets? I use seltzer water to lighten them and I use schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) to enhance the flavor. Chopped fresh parsley and chives add both flavor and color to the pale beige dumpling. You can make up the matzo balls in the morning and keep them at room temperature in a little water until warming them in the chicken soup.


Help is on the Way:


  • Since the chicken soup begins with chicken broth that usually has some salt in it, salt the soup at the end of cooking
  • Schmaltz can be found in the frozen meat section of many supermarkets. You will also find it at kosher meat markets. Make sure to melt it before using.
  • Use Kosher for Passover oil if you can’t find schmaltz.
  • To lighten the matzo balls even further, separate the eggs andwhip up the egg whites separately. Fold the whites into the matzo ball mixture


Quick Chicken Vegetable Soup with Herbed Matzo Balls


Serves 6 to 8


2 medium whole chicken breasts, halved, skin removed, bone in

8 cups chicken broth

6 cups water

3 medium leeks, light green and white part cleaned, finely chopped

4 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick

2 ribs of celery, sliced 1/2 inch thick

2 parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick

2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped

4 cherry tomatoes, halved

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, for garnish


Matzo Balls

1/4 cup rendered chicken fat (schmaltz) or vegetable oil

4 large eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup matzo meal

2 tablespoons fresh parsley plucked and finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup seltzer water, any sparkling water


  1. Place the chicken breast, stock and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Skim the soup. Add the onions, carrots, celery, parsnip, mint and tomatoes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 1/2 hour or until the chicken is cooked and the vegetables are just tender. Skim periodically. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


  1. Remove the chicken breasts from the soup and cool slightly. With your hands remove the meat from the bones, making sure to discard any bone or cartilage; tear the chicken into bite-sized pieces and return to the soup. Cover the soup and refrigerate.


  1. To make the matzo balls, blend schmaltz or oil and eggs together with a whisk. Add the matzo meal, chopped herbs and salt to the egg mixture and stir together mixing well. Add the seltzer water and blend well. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for half an hour for the mixture to thicken enough to make the matzo balls.


  1. Bring enough water in a large wide pot to come up 3/4 of the way to a boil on medium-high heat. Make the balls by rolling them very lightly into 1 1/2-inch balls. (The more you roll them, the tougher and heavier they will become.) Reduce the flame and drop the balls into the barely simmering water. Cover the pot and cook about 25 to 30 minutes or until cooked through.


  1. When ready to serve, remove the soup from the refrigerator and carefully remove any fat layer from the soup. Reheat the soup on medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add the matzo balls at the last minute just until heated through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Serve in large bowls and garnish with parsley.


Advance Preparation: The soup may be made completely ahead up to 3 days ahead, covered and refrigerated. The matzo balls can be made up to 4 hours ahead, covered and left at room temperature.


E-Cookbook Sale!

NOTE: This deal is no longer available. However, you can still purchase this book here:

For this month only, Chronicle Books is having a sale on Diane’s book, “Seriously Simple Parties.” You can get a copy of the E-Book for only 2 dollars! Be sure to check it out, as it contains a ton of great recipes for all of your summer get-togethers!


Here are some of the details on the book:

From the author of Seriously Simple (more than 70,000 sold) comes another collection of enticing recipes and useful tips that will help make throwing a party just as much fun as attending one. Using straightforward ingredients, minimized prep time, and streamlined cooking techniques, hosts can serve festive meals with ease. Sample menus—organized seasonally for a variety of groups and occasions—and mix-and-match recipes for every course allow cooks of every skill level to make merry year-round. With great advice on everything from stocking a party pantry to setting an elegant table, plus vivid photos that will entice party planners into the kitchen, this book gives everyone a reason to celebrate.

Here’s what people have to say about this book:

“The PARTIES book is absolutely one of her best.  I’ve made nearly every one of the recipes, and as always, the ingredients are “seriously simple,” fresh and totally enticing, but more importantly for busy people, her instructions are clear, concise, and easy to follow.” –C.W.

“This book had so many great but easy recipes. Guest went crazy over food prepared for the brunch and wanted the recipes. This is a great book to give you easy but fancy and delicious meals. Highly recommend this book for those that like to entertain.”–J.N.


Passover Recipes – Sweet Treat on the Seder Plate

Every year Jews from around the world congregate to celebrate Passover with a Seder. The evening begins with the reading of the Haggadah, which tells the story of how the enslaved Jews escaped Egypt. Along with the four cups of wine, the table is adorned with a Seder plate that includes a number of symbolic items. There are bitter herbs to commemorate the bitterness of their enslavement in Egypt, a roasted shank bone to remember the lamb offering, and spring herbs that are dipped into salt water to remind us of the tears that were shed. But what gets most of the attention on the Seder plate is the sweet charoset.

Charoset is a symbol of the mortar that the Jewish slaves used. It is one dish that kids and adults alike look forward to each year for its sweet nutty goodness. Charoset is a sweet relish of fruit and nuts that is bound together with honey and a bit of Passover wine. It has many different spellings and just as many versions, depending upon the country where you live.

Ashkenazi (eastern European) Jews make a simple apple and nut mix. Sephardic Jews (Spanish, Asian and African) enjoy their charoset with roasted mixed nuts and dried fruit, and it is often cooked. It looks like fruit compote with nuts. Jews from other countries add chilies, spices and even chestnuts.

For the Seriously Simple recipe, click here.