Savory Herbed Matzoh Kleis

Matzoh Balls Made from Whole Matzoh

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Yield: About



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I saw once more...the soup with dreamily swimming dumplings — and my soul melted like the notes of an enamoured nightingale.


Homey dumplings have been a hallmark of German cuisine ever since the Middle Ages, and the Yiddish words knaidl (a variant of knoedl) and kleis (which began as klosse) reveal their German ancestry. Jewish cooks in Central and Eastern Europe incorporated dumplings into their repertoire, fashioning them from bread, rolls, flour, and potatoes.

And for Passover they made fluffy balls out of matzoh. I have found that the Alsatian, German, and Czech matzoh ball recipes, often called kleis, created from soaked pieces of whole matzoh, are frequently more imaginatively and assertively flavored than the familiar variety made of matzoh meal. And I love the way the matzoh pieces seem to inhale the seasonings far more lustily than matzoh meal does.

In my rendition, generous lacings of fresh herbs and lemon zest, along with a delicate, traditional ground-almond thickener, make for kleis that are vibrant yet gossamer-light.

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  • 6 whole plain matzohs
  • 2 cups chicken or beef broth, preferably homemade, or good-quality low-sodium canned
  • ½ pound onions, finely chopped (2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons mild olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 3 large eggs
  • About 3 tablespoons ground blanched almonds or matzoh meal, plus additional, if desired, for dredging kleis
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 recipe Classic Chicken Soup


  1. Break the matzohs into small pieces in a large bowl. Heat the broth until it is very hot and pour it over the matzoh. Set aside to allow the matzoh to drink up the broth.
  2. In a large skillet, sauté the onions in the oil over medium heat, stirring, until soft and translucent, 7–10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2–3 minutes. Stir in the parsley, chives, dill, and lemon zest. Add the soaked matzoh and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes dry and pastelike. Return it to the bowl and let cool until you can handle it.
  3. Your fingers will do the best job mixing this, but if you’re really averse to using them, try a potato masher, ricer, or just a heavy fork. Knead and mash the matzoh pieces until you have a fairly smooth, homogeneous mixture.
  4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the ground almonds or matzoh meal, and season well with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow the mixture to absorb all the seasoning and liquid.
  5. Bring 4 quarts of water and tablespoons salt to a boil in a large wide pot.
  6. Place a bowl of cold water and a large platter or tray near you as you work. Now try rolling a little batter into a walnut- or olive-size ball. It should be somewhat sticky, but fairly easy to roll into very soft balls, with hands moistened with the cold water as needed. If the batter is too soft to roll, or the balls don’t hold their shape on the platter, add just enough ground almonds or matzoh meal to achieve the right consistency. (Too much will make the kleis heavy, as will packing them too densely into a ball. A light touch is essential. Eventually you’ll know quite easily when they feel just right.)
  7. If you’d like the kleis to look more finished, without homey, ragged edges (it’s a slight tradeoff— they won’t be quite as light), spread additional ground almonds or matzoh meal on a sheet of wax paper or a plate, and very lightly dredge the rolled balls in it. Put the finished balls on the platter or tray, and continue making the kleis until all the batter is used up.
  8. When all the kleis are rolled and the water is boiling furiously, turn the heat down to a gentle boil. Quickly and carefully slide the balls in, one by one, nudging them in with a spoon or your finger, and cover the pot tightly. Don’t crowd the pot—if necessary, prepare the matzoh balls in two batches or use two pots. Temperature is important here: If the water is boiling with too much force, the matzoh balls may break up or disintegrate into thick sludge. If the water is not hot enough, the protein won’t coagulate and the hapless balls will also fall apart. Aim to keep the water, as the French say, “smiling”—perhaps even “laughing softly,” the bubbles breaking slowly and gently on the surface of the water. (You can best check the water temperature if the pot lid is glass; otherwise, listen for sounds of rapid boiling, but don’t lift the lid.)
  9. Simmer over low heat for 30–40 minutes, without removing the lid. (They will cook by direct heat as well as by steam, which makes them puff and swell, and peeking will dissipate some of that steam.) Take out a dumpling and cut it in half. It should be tender, fluffy, and completely cooked through. If it isn’t, continue cooking until the kleis test done.
  10. Remove them gently with a skimmer or large slotted spoon—they are too fragile to pour out into a colander. Add them to the soup and simmer slowly until piping hot. Ladle the kleis and steaming soup into warmed shallow bowls and serve immediately. Or cover the drained kleis with some broth and set aside until you are ready to heat them.