Matzo Ball Soup

matzo ball soup 1

Matzo ball soup is best made by a Jewish grandmother and I am neither of those, so what’s up?

Well, this recipe comes from Sara Bradley a two time Top Chef runner-up and Chopped National Champion. She’s also proprietor of Freight House restaurant and a Jewish mother. She created this recipe with her mother, so it ticks all the boxes. Simply stated it is the best matzo ball soup I have ever tasted.

Fair warning. This is a detailed and lengthy recipe, but if you have never tasted real matzo ball soup it is well worth the effort. It is not technically difficult, but it does use ingredients you don’t find at your everyday grocery. It called for several ingredients I had never used and one that was pure un-obtain-ium.

Follow the ingredient list and use mail order sources to get those you cannot find locally. Only then will you not wonder what it would taste like if…

Let’s make Matzo Ball Soup!

Step 1 – Brine and Roast the Chicken

brined roasted chicken

The brining process is critical to finish with the delicious roast chicken you see above. Print

Brined, Roasted Chicken

Chicken thighs and seasoning

  • Author: Tim
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 60
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 1x


  • 68 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 TBL fennel seeds
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 TBL dried ground mustard
  • 2 TBL vegetable oil


  1. In a large pot, toast the fennel seeds then add the salt, sugar,water and bay leaves. Simmer for 5 minutes, then let it cool completely
  2. Immerse the chicken thighs in the brine and let it rest covered until it completely cools, then refrigerate overnight
  3. Pat the thighs dry, slice the skin with a knife and rub with the ground mustard and vegetable oil
  4. Place on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan and roast @ 325 for 25-35 minutes or until internal temperature in the thickest thigh reaches 165 degrees
  5. Remove from the oven and let them cool
  6. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin and pick the meat from the bones
  7. Reserve the meat, bones and all the juices for making the chili broth at the end


Do not substitute chicken breast for thighs, it will leave out a lot of flavor.

Step 2 – Make the Mushroom Broth


Mushroom Broth

Chicken stock with mushrooms and kombu

  • Author: Tim
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 70
  • Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4 quarts 1x


  • 2 TBL szechuan peppercorns
  • (1) 2 inch piece of fresh ginger – peeled and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic – peeled and smashed
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1/2 head celery – chopped
  • 2 large black garlic cloves – peeled and smashed
  • 4 quarts home-made chicken stock
  • 510 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • (1) 4 x 4 piece of kombu – edible kelp
  • Kosher salt – to taste


  1. In a large pot, lightly toast the peppercorns until aromatic
  2. Add the chicken stock, ginger, garlic, onion, celery and black garlic
  3. Simmer for 30 minutes, then add the shiitake mushrooms and kombu, turn off the heat, cover and let it steep for 30 more minutes
  4. Season with kosher salt. Start with 1 tablespoon, stir, taste and add more if necessary. Don’t be surprised or scared of the amount of salt it will take
  5. Strain and reserve the broth for the finished soup


  1. I hope you make your own home-made chicken stock which will have a huge impact on the flavor.
  2. Please use the kombu because it adds a tremendous umami flavor to the finished broth

Step 3 – Make the Matzo Balls

The trick to a good matzo ball is to not over-mix and do not let the mix set around too long after it is made. Set a timer for 20 minutes, then roll the balls. Do not over-roll or compress the matzo balls. Just enough to have them stick together.

mixed matzo meal
Mixed Matzo Meal

matzo balls ready to cook

Rolled matzo balls. Golf ball size will look too small, but don’t kid yourself, these will double in size! Print

Matzo Balls

Seasoned matzo meal with eggs and schmaltz

  • Author: Tim
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 12-15 1x


  • 2 cups plain matzo meal
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground fennel seed
  • 1 TBL kosher salt
  • 1 TBL + 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 6 whole eggs
  • 6 TBL schmaltz
  • 24 oz club soda


  1. Mix all of your dry ingredients in one bowl
  2. Mix your eggs and oil in another bowl
  3. Gently stir the wet into the dry. Mix until just coming together. Do not overmix
  4. Fold in the club soda. Let it sit for 20 minutes. While it is resting begin cooking your chili broth
  5. Roll the balls immediately after resting the “dough” for the 20 minutes
  6. Do not over-work them or compress them. Roll just enough to round them out the size of a golf ball. They will double in size after cooking!


Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat and rarely found on a grocery shelf. In fact where I live I call it unobtanium. I also didn’t find a suitable, readily available resource. So I substituted duck fat which is available on the shelf of my large, nearby grocer.

Final Step – Making Chili Broth, Cooking the Matzo Balls and Finishing the Soup

cooking the matzo balls in chili broth

Cooking the matzo balls in chili broth as they begin to swell. Print

Matzo Ball Soup with Mushroom Broth

Matzo balls in mushroom broth with chicken

  • Author: Tim
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 60
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Yield: 8-10 servings 1x


  • 6 quarts water
  • 1 TBL piri piri seasoning
  • 34 stalks celery – cut into large pieces on the bias
  • 1 yellow onion – skinned and quartered
  • 3 carrots – peeled and cut into large pieces on the bias
  • 12 heads of small bok choy – use the smallest leaves
  • 6 shiitake mushrooms – sliced 1/4″ thick


  1. Heat the mushroom broth while making the chili broth and cooking the matzo balls with veggies
  2. For the chili broth: In a very large pot, large enough for the matzo balls to double in size, simmer the piri piri, celery, onion and carrot for about 5-10 minutes. They should not be tender yet
  3. Bring to a boil and add the matzo balls one by one
  4. Simmer the matzo balls for 20 minutes covered. It is important to make sure the broth is moving and that the heat isn’t too low
  5. Add the mushrooms, the reserved chicken thighs with bones and juices during the last 5 minutes of cooking
  6. Turn off the heat, add the bok choy, cover and let the matzo balls rest in the broth for 15-20 minutes
  7. Serving: Carefully scoop out 1-2 balls per serving in a large soup or pasta bowl and add veggies and meat strained from the chili broth.
  8. Pour the hot mushroom broth over the matzo balls and garnish with a piece or two of the bok choy


  1. I substituted large portobello mushroom caps for the shiitakes because I wanted thicker, meatier mushrooms
  2. Don’t substitute for the piri piri seasoning – it is amazing!