Ahh, matzoh ball soup. Bubbie’s specialty, and guaranteed to cure what ails you. It’s the Jewish form of penicillin. Got a cold? Upset stomach? Sad about something? Bubbie’s on her way over with soup. For many, it’s a Friday night Shabbat staple. For others, it’s regular comfort food oncold winter nights, or in the middle of a bad cold or flu. And for some, it comes out twice a year at the holidays.
We hover somewhere between option 2 and 3. We don’t often make it outside the holidays, but if we do, it’s because its about a thousand degrees below zero outside and at least one of us is sick. However, I’m sharing this now because Passover is just around the corner, which means we’re prepping our semi-annual soupfest. Seriously, our seder usually consists of 20+ people per night, times two nights. That’s a lot of soup (and a lot of matzoh balls. More on them here.)
Traditionally, matzoh ball soup is made from chicken. In other words, it’s chicken soup…but with “bubbie magic” weaved into it. Knowing my bubbie, it was probably the schmultz.
My husband is the holiday soup guy around here. His chicken soup rivaled that of any bubbie on the block, and it has always been the tradition that he makes matzoh ball soup at the holidays. And every single one of us looks forward to it. It’s one of the biggest highlights of the night.
So, how do you veganize that? How do you get that “old world’ flavor of traditional chicken matzoh ball soup without the chicken? Well, it turns out you don’t really need the chicken to make great soup. Hubby took his classic chicken soup recipe and pumped up the veggies for even more flavor, and played around with different types of vegetable bases, powders and bouillons to add the richness this soup needs. His secret to amazing soup that tastes like the old days? McCormick Gourmet all-vegetable chicken-flavored bouillon cubes. They are fantastic. Deep, salty, rich “chicken-soup-like” flavor, but from plants. And while these little cubes of goodness are readily available at most grocery chains, don’t fret if you can’t find it – any good vegetable or faux chicken bouillon will do.
This soup (like Bubbie’s original version), is amazing when made a day or two ahead and allowed to sit in the fridge so all the flavors can party and amp it up. Also, it means less work for you the day of the Seder! If you do make it ahead, just remove it from the fridge and scrape off any top layer of fat that may have separated, then pour it back into a pot and reheat slowly on low heat for about 20 minutes before serving.
I like my matzoh ball soup with tons of carrots, so we always save those and add them back into the soup. But if you’re a fan of clear soup, strain out the veggies at the end and save them for a pot pie! Like this homestyle “chicken” pot pie on my website.
Vegan Matzoh Ball Soup
3 large onions, cut in quarters
2 x 5 lb bags of carrots, peeled and roughly cut
2 bunches of celery, tops and bottoms removed, roughly chopped
4 parsnips, peeled and roughly cut
2 whole bulbs of garlic, peeled and each clove slightly smashed
2 bunches each of fresh flat leaf parsley and dill, stems trimmed, wrapped in cheesecloth and tied with butcher’s twine
2 cubes Vegan chicken bouillon or bouillon paste
In a very large stock pot, add onions, carrots, celery, parsnips and garlic and toss to combine.
Fill pot with water until vegetables are just about submerged. Add fresh herb pouch and press to submerge it in the water.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1.5 hours. At the 1 hour mark, add 2 bouillon cubes or spoons of paste and simmer for 30 minutes.
Check broth and adjust for taste, adding another cube or spoon of paste if needed. Adjust salt and pepper at this time as well. Simmer another 10 minutes.
Strain, reserving soup into another large pot, and save vegetables for a kick-A** pot pie!
Reheat soup on low heat for 20 minutes before serving.