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.
How to Make Vegan Matzo Balls
- Whisk together the dry ingredients in a bowl. Separately, whisk together the wet ingredients.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine.
- Chill this mixture for at least 1 hour. The matzo meal needs time to absorb all the liquids, and the mixture will thicken considerably during this time! Please don’t skip this step, or the texture of the matzo balls won’t be correct.
- Form the matzo balls. Since there is no egg binding these matzo balls, I find it works better if you keep them on the smaller side (about 1 1/2 tablespoons each). I like to use a cookie scoop to get nice consistent sizing. Keep in mind that the matzo balls do expand to almost 2x their original size when cooked.
- Simmer the matzo balls in generously salted water or broth. Again, because these do not contain egg as a binder, they are more fragile than traditional matzo balls. It’s important to keep them at a very gentle simmer (almost poaching them), because a full rolling boil will agitate them too much and cause them to disintegrate in the broth.
- After the matzo balls are done simmering, scoop them out and place them on a tray or plate. Allow them to cool for about 15 minutes. They will start out a bit soft but will firm up as they sit, which will make them hold together much better when served in the soup. During this time you can have the rest of the soup cooking!
How to Make the Matzo Ball Soup
Matzo balls aside, the actual soup base is very similar to a classic chicken soup, with the addition of some fresh dill for a traditional flavor. All you’ll need are:
- Mirepoix: Onion, garlic, celery, and carrots provide a well-rounded aromatic base for the soup.
- Chicken-style veggie broth: This will lend a richer and more savory flavor so it tastes more reminiscent of a classic matzo ball soup. You can use regular vegetable broth if needed, but it will have a bit of a sweeter flavor.
- Bay leaf and poultry spice: Poultry spice is a blend of many different dried herbs. If you want a more simple soup base, feel free to only add the bay leaf.
- Fresh dill: This is traditionally added to the soup and adds a unique, fresh flavor.
Can I cook the matzo balls directly in the soup?
Yes, you can technically simmer the matzo balls directly in the soup, but it will make the soup cloudy and starchy, so I personally don’t recommend it. I prefer to cook the matzo balls separately in their own pot of generously salted water or broth to maintain the clarity of the chicken soup.
Can I use an egg replacer like Just Egg?
I actually tested this last year. I followed a traditional matzo ball recipe and simply substituted in Just Egg for the real eggs. It was a disaster for me; the matzo balls completely disintegrated when I simmered them. It might be possible if the dry ingredient measured are re-worked, but personally I’m not too optimistic.
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
- 4-6 cups generously salted water or vegetable broth to simmer the matzo balls
For the Matzo Ball Soup
- 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
- fresh springs of dill
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 and oil 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: We are cooking the matzo balls separately from the soup they'll be served in, because the starch makes the cooking liquid cloudy.)
- Remove chilled dough, then scoop and roll into 1" round balls. (They will expand quite a bit 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 — we are almost just poaching them. The matzo balls are fragile and a rolling boil will agitate them too much, causing them to fall apart or come out rough and shaggy.
- Remove the cooked matzo balls to a plate or tray with a slotted spoon. Allow them 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, celery and carrot for 3-5, minutes until onion is translucent. Add garlic and sauté for an additional minute.
- Pour in vegan chicken broth, add optional 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, garnish with fresh dill, and serve.