Eat Well w/WWW: Gluten Free Matzo Balls & Chicken(less) Soup: A New Passover Tradition

The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thanks, mom!
I grew up on matzo balls… delicate light-as-a-feather, melt-in-your mouth, home-made-from-scratch matzo balls. My grandmother made them, along with her Mimi cookies, whenever we were sick. We didn’t have them at Passover because we didn’t celebrate any Jewish holidays when I was young. The only remnants of Jewish heritage remaining in our family were certain foods and an occasional Yiddish expression. I have no idea when our branch of my father’s family separated from its religious heritage. Nor do I know why. I have always guessed that it was because of the rampant anti-Semitism pervasive in the early 1900’s in Chicago. My grandmother spun elaborate tales to support her insistence that we weren’t Jewish, but she continued to make the best matzo balls on earth. Later, after she died, we found the truth of our background and met relatives who had kept their religion. Recently, one of our long lost cousins, now living in Israel, contacted us through this blog and has filled in the holes, even finding proof that my great-grandfather, Mimi’s father, was buried in a Jewish cemetery.

When I married Larry, I was eager to discover my Jewish roots and wanted to cook for him the ethnic foods that he had growing up. Mimi’s matzo ball recipe was the only Jewish recipe I had, so I combed the newspaper at Passover and other Jewish holidays in search of good recipes to cook. The first year of our marriage, I surprised Larry by cooking honey cake at Rosh Hashanah thinking it was a traditional food he had eaten all his life. To this day we still laugh about it since he had never heard of it before I served it to him!

I don’t think my grandmother made her chicken soup from scratch and if she did, I never got the recipe, so for years I was on a mission to find the best and most authentic Jewish chicken soup, the real “penicillin.” I discovered it one Passover in the newspaper, and, until I became a vegetarian, it was a staple in our home.

I think homemade chicken soup is the one dish I have missed most as a vegetarian. So, in honor of Passover, I decided that I would try to come up with a vegetable soup that would come as close as possible to the real thing. I took the original recipe, omitted the chickens, added a few more vegetables, and, to make up for the loss of umami provided by the chickens, I added nutritional yeast. The resulting soup is delicious! It really matches both the goodness and flavor of the original chicken soup recipe. And it only takes two hours instead of five—a huge bonus. I have included here the original recipe and my adaptation. (For those of you who haven’t ever tried matzo ball soup, you don’t have to be Jewish to love it).

Chicken Soup for Matzo Balls
2 lbs carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 lbs parsnips, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 lbs celery, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 onions, peeled and cut in half
2 large free range, grass fed chickens
2 T kosher salt, to taste
1 bunch dill
3 bay leaves
2 T whole black peppers

Place vegetables on bottom of large pot:
Place fowls on top of vegetables. Fill with water to cover. Cook on high heat. Bring to a rolling boil. Then lower the heat to a slow simmer. Skim off the fat and foam from the top. Repeat frequently for the next 4-5 hours. When the chicken is falling off the bone, the bones are soft, and the soup tastes flavorful, add salt, dill, bay leaves, and peppers. Turn off the flame and let soup sit for at least 30 minutes. Strain off the vegetables and chicken and serve as a broth for matzo ball soup.

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And…here is my new (100% vegetarian) soup for matzo balls:

Wendy’s Chicken(less) soup
2 lbs carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 lbs parsnips, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 lbs celery, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 onions, peeled and cut in half
2 lbs whole leeks, cleaned well and cut into chunks
1 bunch parsley
optional: 3 or 4 fennel stalks
1-2 T kosher salt, to taste
1 bunch dill
3 bay leaves
2 T whole black peppers
¼ cup nutritional yeast

Scrub carrots and parsnips well. Cut in half lengthwise. Cut celery in half lengthwise. Peel onions and cut in half. Split leaks lengthwise and wash in a tub of water, separating out the leaves to check for sand. Cut washed leeks into large chunks.

Put all vegetables in a large soup pot:
Cover with water. Bring to a boil. Turn down and simmer for 1 hour. Add salt, pepper, dill, and bay leaves. Cook for another ½ hour. Turn off the flame and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain off vegetables and put soup back into the pot.
Add a little bit of the hot soup to the nutritional yeast and stir the yeast into the soup.
Correct seasonings (you can add more nutritional yeast, too). Serve with matzo balls:

Matzo balls, being made from ground up matzo crackers, are off limits for the gluten free amongst us and I was determined this year to come up with a recipe that would fulfill David’s, Rachel’s and my yearning for them. I decided to use quinoa flakes to replace the matzo since they have a similar consistency to the traditional matzo meal and I used carbonated water (seltzer) instead of water which a lot of cooks use to keep matzo balls light. These balls turned out as light as a feather, rivaling Mimi’s in volume and airiness. They taste delicious and the consistency and flavor differ only slightly from the original. Both Larry and I gave them an A + and I can highly recommend this recipe. I am so excited to make them for the rest of the family!! There’s nutmeg in Mimi’s recipe so I added it to the quinoa balls, but I promise, not enough to get you high!

Traditional Matzo balls (with Nutmeg)
4 eggs, beaten
½ cup water
1/3 cup oil or chicken fat rendered with onion (schmaltz)
1 cup matzo meal
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste

Mix eggs and water together. Add oil or rendered fat, then add matzo meal, salt and pepper. Mix well and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Oil your hands and make balls the size of golf balls by gently tossing the batter back and forth between your hands. Drop into boiling water. When all balls are floating, turn water down to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. When done, use slotted spoon to transfer the balls to soup. Makes about 18 matzo balls.

And here is my new gluten free recipe:

Wendy’s Gluten-Free Quinoa Matzo Balls (with nutmeg of course!)
2 eggs, beaten
4 T canola or olive oil (you can cook some very finely chopped onion in the oil until browned to add more flavor if you want to)
¼ cup chicken(less) soup or seltzer water
1 cup quinoa flakes, not packed
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
pepper to taste

Beat eggs. Add water or soup and oil:
Mix xanthan gum with quinoa flakes and add to liquid ingredients:
Add salt, pepper and nutmeg:
Mix well. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. (For extra flavor, add a cut up onion, some celery, and a couple of bay leaves.) Oil your hands and form balls (about golf ball size) by tossing back and forth between your palms, being careful not to press hard.
Drop into boiling water:
When the balls rise to the surface of the water, turn down to a simmer:
Cook for 30 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and place in bowls with hot soup. Makes 9 large quinoa-matzo* balls.
Enjoy and Happy Pesach!


*quinoatzo -GGC


thedalyn | 9:11 AM

Nutritional yeast does work well in this instance, but I've actually found that I prefer chickpea miso in chickenless soup. You should give it a try if you can find some...

Sydney | 10:51 AM

Rebecca and Wendy - you guys could DEFINITELY write a Quinoa cook book!

The Mommy Therapy | 1:04 PM

I feel healthier just for having read the recipe. Yum!

thanks for sharing.

Anonymous | 2:35 PM

Yay!! I love when you guys do Jewish recipes. This might be a perfect addition to my meatless, reform seder. :)

Anonymous | 6:04 PM

SUCH a great story! So much heritage. I'm not missing the sadness of the story, but just the fact that it's been told is beautiful.

NodToStyle | 8:16 PM

finally! i had vegetarian matzo ball soup at a campus seder several years back and have been in search of a recipe since, can't wait to try it!

Anonymous | 1:24 PM

What a great matzoh ball recipewith quinoa! And.. explicit direction with outstanding photos! I started searching low carb matzoh ball recipes and OMG, there was this one using pork rinds! What an insult to ethnic matzoh balls (and their People). Yours sound and look great, and I'm sure they'll taste great too!

Anonymous | 5:03 PM

I just found this amazing Gluten Free Passover cookbook on iTunes from The recipes look great for all the time!

Anonymous | 5:04 PM

Check out this amazing Gluten Free Passover cookbook I found on iTunes through