Fun fact: I’ve been in 3 long-term relationships in my life, and all 3 happened to be with nice Jewish boys. Since cooking is one of my favorite ways to show love to people, I’ve made quite few Jewish dishes, and over the past few years I’ve veganized some of my favorites, including challah and rugelach. This year I wanted to try my hand at vegan matzo balls as my contribution to Passover dinner with my boyfriend Eric’s family.
Next year I’ll plan ahead so I can attempt vegan jackfruit or seitan brisket, kugel and flourless chocolate cake! This time around, I spent all of my time researching how to make matzo balls without the traditional schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) for flavor, and without eggs to bind the dry ingredients.
Now, I almost never run into issues veganizing recipes that call for eggs. Flaxseeds, aquafaba, tofu or fruit purée can be substituted into most dishes with no problem. Matzo balls are tricky, however, because they’re cooked in broth and prone to disintegrate without the protein structure of the eggs.
After lots of research and helpful input from some friends on Instagram, I decided to use a mixture of potato starch and chickpea flour to bind the matzo meal, and it worked like a charm! The egg-free matzo balls are a bit more fragile while cooking and require an extra step to help them firm up, but the recipe is otherwise quite simple and easy!
I’d actually never had matzo ball soup before, so I asked Eric how this recipe stacks up against the real deal. He said these are just slightly more dense and less fluffy, but still tasty! If you have time to cook the balls a day in advance (and refrigerate them separately from the soup), I recommend it, as I noticed the leftover balls held their shape beautifully but were also a bit more tender than on the first day.
In a future iteration I may try the recipe with a commercial egg replacer (such as Just Egg or Follow Your Heart’s VeganEgg) to see if this provides a bit more structure and fluffiness to the finished product, but for now I’m totally happy with how these turned out. Enjoy!
Vegan Matzo Ball Soup
For the Matzo Balls
- 1 cup matzo meal
- 3 tablespoons chickpea flour
- 2 tablespoons potato starch
- ¼ cup water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- black pepper to preference
- ¼ cup neutral oil I use refined coconut oil
- 1 cup hot water
For the Soup
- 4-6 cups vegetable broth or generously salted water
- 6 cups vegan chicken-style broth (such as Better Than Bouillon No-Chicken Broth)
- 1 small white onion chopped
- 4 stalks celery chopped
- 2 medium carrots peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon poultry spice optional
- 1 Bay leaf
For the Matzo Balls
- In a bowl, stir together matzo meal, chickpea flour, baking powder, spices, salt and pepper.
- Whisk together 1/4 cup water and potato starch until dissolved.
- Add starch slurry, oil and hot water to matzo mixture and stir until combined. (Don't worry if the mixture seems too wet at this point.)
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the liquids to fully absorb. Do not skip this step! The mixture will firm up considerably during this time.
- During the last 15 minutes or so of refrigerating your dough, bring 4-6 cups of vegetable broth or generously salted water to a simmer. Depending on the size of your pot, you'll need more or less. You need just enough to submerge your matzo balls. (Note: I prefer to cook the matzo balls in broth separate from the soup they'll be served in, because the starch makes the cooking liquid cloudy. You can cook yours directly in the soup if you don't mind this.)
- Remove chilled dough, then scoop and roll into 1" round balls. (They will expand slightly when cooked.)
- Drop the balls into your broth, and simmer for 25 minutes. Keep an eye on them and make sure the broth stays at a very gentle simmer; the matzo balls are fragile and a rolling boil will agitate them too much.
- Remove the matzo cooked matzo balls with a slotted spoon and allow to cool for about 15 minutes. They will be quite soft initially, but will firm up as they sit exposed to air. You'll add them into your hot soup right before serving. (You can also make these the day before serving and gently reheat them in the soup.)
For the Soup
- You can make this soup ahead of time, or start to prepare it while your matzo ball dough is chilling.
- In a stockpot over medium heat, sauté onion, garlic, celery and carrot for 5-8 minutes until onion is translucent.
- Pour in vegan chicken broth, add poultry spice and Bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for at least 20 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper to preference. Remove Bay leaf before serving.
- Once your matzo balls have cooled and firmed up, add them to the hot soup to reheat for just a few minutes at a very gentle simmer. Ladle into bowls and serve.