kosher kitchen

The great ‘sinkers v floaters’ matzah ball debate


It is time for our annual “sinkers or floaters” great debate. Should our Pesach matzah balls float in the golden chicken soup or should they sink below the surface? This debate has raged through the ages, and comes close in importance to the other great debates of our culture. And now, finally, we have culinary permission to use schmaltz in our matzah balls, since schmaltz has taken off as the newest food fad.

I remember these discussions from my childhood. My American born, maternal grandmother made lighter than air matzah balls that tasted of onions and eggs and seemed to melt in my mouth. My Belarus born, paternal grandmother made sinkers; dense, chewy, flavorful kneidlach, filled with “gribenes,” a hint of schmaltz, and garlic, flavors that stayed in the mouth through dessert!

Every year, new recipes for matzah balls make their ways into our kitchens, and so the great debate rages on with new and classic choices which seem endless. Whatever your pleasure, this tradition is so much a part of Passover that matzah balls are made in different ways all over the world.

Enjoy this holiday and may the great debate continue as we pass on our favorite matzah ball recipes from generation to generation.

Matzah Ball Hints

•Follow the directions carefully. The chilling time and mixing times are there to help create the perfect matzah ball according to the specific recipe.

•Use either wet hands or oiled hands to form the matzah balls. I like to use a bit of vegetable oil as it forms a barrier to keep the boiling water from entering the mixture and breaking it apart. I also use disposable food prep gloves to keep hands clean.

•Make all the matzah balls and place them on a plate. Then put them quickly, one by one, into the water, taking as little time as possible.

•Make sure the water maintains a rolling boil, unless otherwise specified, and be sure to keep the pot tightly covered.

•Don’t make the matzah balls too large, about the size of a walnut is best. They usually double or triple in size as they cook and, the larger they are, the more likely they are to become “sinkers.”

•NEVER peek at cooking matzah balls! They will sink to the bottom of the pot. When the time is up, turn off heat, let the pot sit for about 15 minutes, and then remove the cover.

Simple, Delicious Matzah Balls That (Usually) Float (Pareve) 

Sometimes they sink and sometimes they float. I can’t quite figure why. But my kids love these simple matzah balls.

4 egg yolks, extra-large or jumbo

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. (rounded) grated onion

1 small clove garlic, grated

3-1/2 Tbsp. chicken fat, melted or veg. oil

4 egg whites

1/4 cup club soda at room temperature

1 cup matzah meal

1 tsp. fresh parsley, leaves only, finely minced (optional)

Beat together the egg yolks, onion, garlic, salt, chicken fat or oil and parsley. Add the club soda and mix well. Add the matzah meal, mix completely and set aside. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Scrape into the matzah meal mixture and fold gently. Cover and chill for at 1 to 2 hours. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and using well-oiled hands make walnut-sized balls. Place on a plate and then drop them into the water one by one. Cover and reduce heat to a high simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Turn off heat, leave covered and let cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 10 to 15.

Fluffy Matzah Balls (Pareve)

Adapted from Celebrate Food, Family Shabbos, by Elizabeth Kurtz

4 large eggs

2 Tbsp. canola oil

1 cup matzah meal

1 tsp, kosher salt

1/4 tsp, white pepper

1 tsp. grated onion

1/2 cup seltzer water

Place the eggs in a bowl and whisk well. Add the oil and mix with a fork till blended. Do not overmix or you will get a thick, mayonnaise-like mixture. Add the matzah meal, salt, pepper, and onion. Mix well. Slowly pour in the seltzer and mix gently, Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to 12 hours.

Fill a large pot with water and a generous amount of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Dip your hands in cold water and form about 10 matzah balls, a bit smaller than a ping pong ball. Place gently in the water, cover and simmer until soft, about 30 minutes. Makes 10.

Chewy-Good Matza Balls with Herbs and Spices (Pareve) 

6 extra large eggs

2 tsp. any mixture of dried herbs like parsely, dill, tarragon, garlic powder, etc.

1 Tbsp. grated onion, drained of liquid (more if you like)

Tiny pinch cayenne pepper

1 tsp. (scant) salt

Pinch white pepper

1/4 cup cold seltzer or ice water

1/4 cup vegetable oil or schmaltz, melted and cooled

1-1/2 cups matza meal

Place the eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until lightened and increased in volume, about 2 minutes. Add the oil and mix just until incorporated. Add the herbs, onion and spices and mix well. Add the seltzer and mix gently.

Remove the bowl from the stand and add the matzah meal. Mix with a fork until well-blended. Cover and chill for 1 to 2 hours.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Form walnut-sized matzah balls, place on plate and then add to the water one at a time. Cover and cook for 30 to 40 minutes. Makes 12 to 18.

Hot and Spicy Matzah Balls (Pareve)

These add a lot of zip to a bowl of chicken soup and are also delicious as a side dish with chicken. 

 3/4 cup finely minced onions

2 scallions, green and white parts, minced

1/2 stick pareve margarine

8 pieces regular matzah

1/4 tsp. (more to taste) cayenne pepper

2 jumbo eggs, separated

1/4 cup minced parsley

1/2 cup matza meal

1 clove garlic, finely minced (more to taste)

Salt and pepper to taste

Set a large pot with salted water on the stove to boil. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the margarine. Add the onions and scallions and sauté until wilted and just beginning to brown. Add the garlic, stir and remove from heat. Set aside.

Soak the matzah in water until soft. Drain well and squeeze out the excess water. Stir until an even, pasty consistency. Place the skillet with the onions back on the medium heat and add the matzah, stirring until well blended. Add the egg yolks and stir well. Add the cayenne, parsley, salt and pepper and cook, stirring constantly until the matzah is dry and leaves the sides of the pan when stirred. Turn off the heat.

Beat the egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Fold gently, but completely into the matzah mixture. Pour the matzah meal in a small bowl and set aside. Using a little oil on your hands, roll the matzah mixture into small balls, and roll in the matzah meal. Set aside for 5 minutes and then lower them gently into the simmering water.

Cover and let boil for about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain well. Makes about 24 matzah balls.

My favorite Matzo Balls (Pareve) 

4 jumbo egg yolks

1 tsp. salt

1/4 to 1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp. very finely minced fresh parsley

1 Tbsp. grated onion

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil (or melted chicken fat, if desired)

1/2 tsp. pareve chicken soup mix (optional)

4 jumbo egg whites, beaten stiffly

3/4 cup matzo meal

Beat the egg whites until stiff. Scrape into another bowl and set aside. Beat the egg yolks, salt, parsley, onion, oil, pepper, and soup mix on medium speed, until just light and creamy. Fold the egg whites into the egg mixture. Gradually fold in the matzo meal. Cover and chill for 1-1/2 hours.

Bring a very large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add 1 tsp. Kosher salt to the water.

With well-oiled hands make small balls about 3/4 inch in diameter. Drop them into the boiling water. Cover the pot tightly and boil for 30 to 40 minutes. Don’t peek! Turn off the heat and leave covered for 10 to 15 minutes. Makes about 20.