First off, let’s establish right away that I am – and always have been a “sinkers” girl. Chewy, dense, sink-to-the-bottom-of-the-bowl matzoh balls have always been my jam. I’m not even sure I know how to make a “floater” matzoh ball. (Okay, I probably do, but we won’t dwell on that.) They aren’t true matzoh balls to me.
Matzoh balls are one of the greatest pain-in-the-neck dishes to make. It’s not that they are particularly hard to make, its just that our family is so crazy for them that we make about 150 or so at a time, hence the pain-in-the-neck part. We only make them twice a year though, (Passover and Rosh Hashanah) so it’s totally worth it.
I remember our first Passover after going vegan. The whole “vegan” thing was new to us and we were still figuring our way through this. There weren’t nearly as many vegan alternatives in stores, and we hadn’t discovered many of the vegan hacks yet that we’ve become so accustomed to using. In particular, I hadn’t yet figured out all the different ways to replace eggs as a binder, and was completely stumped on how to replace them in a matzoh ball. So we didn’t have matzoh balls or soup that year. And it was a pretty sad night for us. After the Seder plates were cleared and last of the Haggadah were packed away for next year, we vowed to spend the next six months figuring out just how to veganize this very important part of our heritage.
In our pre-vegan days, I was the matzoh ball queen, slinging out these perfect spheres of salty, chewy deliciousness by the dozens. My husband – he’s the soup guy. His chicken soup rivaled that of any bubbie on the block. Together, we were the holiday A-Team. And this newly-vegan team wasn’t going down without a fight.
First we tackled the soup. 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. Our secret to amazing soup that tastes like the old days? McCormick Gourmet all-vegetable chicken-flavored bouillon cubes. For the complete vegan “chicken” soup recipe, click here.
Now, down to the matzoh balls. I’m not sure exactly how this happened, but the rollin’ and slingin’ tradition of matzoh ball making is now my husband’s task. He took it upon himself one year to research vegan matzoh ball methods and to test all of them. He rolled, boiled and baked his way through many vegan variations, while I sat back and played the taste-tester game. It was a fun switch from how things usually go in our kitchen!
He got close on flavor, but always fell apart on consistency. Seems we couldn’t crack the secret to keeping the balls in shape once they were cooked or reheated in soup. Until one day, while conducting more internet research he stumbled upon the key: potato starch. It’s the perfect binder to replace eggs, it doesn’t impart any weird flavor (it has no flavor at all), and it’s super easy to find at your local grocery store. And the ultimate vegan matzoh balls were born!
Dense, chewy, salty and delicious, just like bubbie would make, but without the schmaltz!
This recipe yields approximately 35-40 matzoh balls. I’ve scaled down the original recipe (which yields approx 150 balls).
Vegan Matzoh Balls
4.5 cups matzo meal
1 cup + 2 tbsp vegetable oil
4.5 cups water
1 scant cup potato starch
2 ¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ – ½ tsp ground black pepper
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate for 60 minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.
Using a 2” ice cream scoop, scoop out dough and roll into balls. Gently place matzoh balls into boiling water and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, remove cooked matzoh balls from water and cool on counter completely. Refrigerate until served.
To serve, add to soup 20 minutes before serving and allow them to warm gently as the soup does.