Where can I find great chicken matzo ball soup in SF?

The answer is that you can’t. I’ve been on the lookout for matzo ball soup since I moved to the Bay Area 5 years ago, and have yet to find any that’s truly great – or even good, really (disagree? Tell me in the comments!).

The good news is that making it yourself is really easy! Since I’ve been asked this question a lot recently (maybe it’s because everyone’s sick/I often tweet about Jewish food?), I decided this was the perfect excuse to make my great grandmother’s famous matzo ball soup recipe for the first time, and IT IS SO GOOD OH MY GOD.

Plus, it lasts for days, and gets better over time! I’ve been eating mine all week, and plan on making a new pot this weekend.

Here’s the recipe. I’ve altered it so that if you’re broke/don’t have time to shop at more than one market, you can buy everything at Safeway (my mom believes kosher chickens make the broth sweeter, but I swear mine is better – sorry, mom – and I used a goyim).

Shopping list:

one whole chicken
one large carrot
bunch of celery
one turnip
one parsnip
one whole onion
bunch of dill (stems cut off)
1 tbs salt
1 tbs sugar
pepper to taste
one bay leaf

matzo balls:

2 boxes of ready-made matzo ball mix (i recommend MANISCHEWITZ) (shh, it tastes the same as scratch)
vegetable oil
4 eggs


OSEM brand mini croutons (“soup mandel”) THESE ARE NECESSARY, TRUST.


Heat up some water in a very large pot. The larger the pot, the more soup you have. Make sure that you only fill it up 3/4ths of the way. I put too much water in my pot and ended up turning off the pilot light three times because it kept bubbling over.

Wash the chicken. The insides will plop out. Throw them away, then forget that ever happened.

Put the chicken in the pot.

Add everything else to the pot, cut up however you want it in your soup. I like to chop the onions more finely than the other veggies because they make the broth sweeter.

Set the heat to low and simmer everything for 120 minutes. At about 90 minutes, check on the chicken and start pulling it apart into pieces with a fork (this part is fun).

While that’s going on:

make matzo balls according to directions.

The hardest part about this recipe is that, even after 2 hours, you can’t eat it yet!! I recommend making the soup after you’ve already eaten dinner, so you’re not tempted. I know, I know, IT SMELLS SO GOOD, but If you try the broth before you put it in the fridge all night it’ll taste oily.

Go ahead and eat a matzo ball or two though, I won’t tell. Also feel free to shovel copious amounts of mini mandel into your mouth.

Restrain yourself from pouring a bowl, and separate the broth from the chicken and veggies (you can store those with the matzo balls if you want). Put everything in the fridge.

Go to bed, after making your roommate hide the mini mandel so you don’t finish it all.

In the morning, you get to scrape all of the fat off the top of your soup. This is both satisfying AND disgusting. Now you’re ready to eat!

Heat up as much soup as you want in a pot, but throw in the matzo balls/chicken/veggies before you turn on the stove. Serve with plenty of mandel, if there’s any left (that shit’s seriously addictive).

Gloat to all of your friends and family about your amazing homemade soup (you don’t have to say you used matzo ball mix, YOU PUT IN A LOT OF WORK!) and rejoice as it gets more delicious every day. Also, share some with them.

Photo: Katie Baker

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