What Are Matzo Balls?

Matzo balls, or matzah balls, are not only one of the cornerstones of Jewish cuisine, they're also one of the fundamental components of one of Judaism's greatest culinary contributions to the world at large, matzo ball soup. But what are these big balls of starch, anyway?

As you might have guessed, the primary component of matzo ball soup is matzo, finely ground into a flour-like powder called matzo meal. Each family usually has its own recipe, but they all contain eggs, water, and fat (traditionally chicken fat, or schmaltz) in addition to the matzo, but oil or margarine can be used in place of the fat. Butter or dairy aren't traditional ingredients because it's not kosher to mix dairy with meat.

The matzo ball mixture is incredibly sticky, so it's important to keep your hands wet when forming the balls. They can be large or small, depending on your preference, and can be dropped directly into boiling chicken soup; they'll swell up and cook within about 20 minutes.

Matzo balls are essentially traditional dumplings, and can turn a simple bowl of chicken soup into a hearty, filling meal. Here's a great recipe.