What are Matzo Balls?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Matzo balls are a type of dumpling made by mixing matzo meal with egg, oil, and seasonings to taste to form a sticky dough which is molded into balls and cooked in a boiling liquid of choice. These filling dumplings are considered by many to be a form of Jewish comfort food, and they are also commonly served at Passover, since they can be made to conform with the dietary rules of Passover. Many Jewish delis sell matzo balls, and they can also be easily made at home; some people make a big batch and freeze them for reheating.


Before plunging into matzo balls, it may help to know something about matzo meal. Matzo meal is derived from matzo, a type of traditional Jewish flatbread which is made from flour and water. The bread is left unleavened to commemorate the flight of the Jewish people from Egypt, when people were unable to allow their bread to rise before cooking it because they were in such a hurry. Unleavened breads are traditionally eaten during Passover and some Jewish people enjoy eating matzo throughout the year.

Matzo is eaten alone at Passover, but it can also be incorporated into recipes. The most common way to use matzo is to grind it up into a coarse meal which is known as matzo meal. The meal is often included as a binder in various dishes, and it makes up the basis of matzo balls.

To make matzo balls, cooks mix matzo meal, salt, pepper, eggs, and oil to form a sticky dough. Other ingredients may be added as well to taste, like onions, although cooks need to be careful to keep their matzo balls Kosher for Passover. The traditional oil of choice is chicken fat, although cooks can use any sort of available oil if they prefer a less fatty version of this classic Jewish food.

Once the dough has been mixed, the cook hand forms it into balls with wet hands to prevent the dough from sticking. The balls are dropped into boiling water or stock and allowed to cook; they naturally fluff up as they cook, and they tend to be dense unless leaveners like baking powder are added. These leaveners cannot, of course, be used during Passover, as leavened foods are not permitted during this Jewish holiday.

The most classic way to eat matzo balls is in matzo ball soup, in which case the dumplings are served in the chicken broth they are traditionally cooked in. Vegetarians can enjoy a variation cooked in vegetable broth, of course.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I have never much cared for matzo balls on their own but I absolutely love matzo ball soup. The addition of the broth really elevates the dish.

There is a Jewish deli not far from where I live that serves an amazing matzo ball soup. A bowl with half a pastrami sandwich and you are set on food for the day.


Has anyone made their own matzo balls? How difficult are they to make? Have you found the best matzo ball recipe?

I teach a world religions class and we are going to do a unit on the Seder meal this year. I want to have an authentic Seder meal and luckily they are pretty easy to prepare. The only tricky part is the matzo balls. Should I tackle them myself or buy them from the store. Take into consideration that they will be eaten mostly by 7 year olds.


My family has never been particularly religious but we do observe some of the Jewish holidays. My favorite is Passover. Even though this is known as a very somber holiday and the Seder meal is supposed to represent humbleness and sacrifice, I absolutely love Matzo balls and I look forward to Passover just to eat them.

My mom has an amazing matzo ball recipe. Every year she makes matzo balls from scratch and they are to die for. I always beg her to make extras but somehow they seem to get all eaten up every year.

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