What Is Matzo?

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What is matzo? Discover everything you need to know about this humble bread, which is most often served on Passover.

As Passover beckons, you’ll see the shelves of your local stores lined with matzo. This bread is known by many names—matzo, matzah, matza. Whatever you call it, matzo is an essential part of celebrating Passover.

What Is Matzo?

Matzo is an unleavened bread made from flour and water. Speed is the name of the game if you’re whipping up a batch of homemade matzo. You have exactly 18 minutes from the moment you add water to flour to mix, roll out and bake the flatbread. After 18 minutes, dough begins to rise, making it unsuitable for eating during Passover.

When Is Matzo Served?

We spoke to Gloria Mezikofsky, a Taste of Home Community Cook, who shared some background on what it means to celebrate Passover. “Passover celebrates the exodus of the Jewish people from slavery under Pharaoh in the land of Egypt to the land of Israel; a new beginning,” she says.

According to the Torah, when the Egyptian pharaoh finally agreed to free the enslaved Jews, they had to leave—fast. With not much time to prepare for their journey, Moses’ people couldn’t afford to wait for dough to rise, and baked their bread unleavened. Today, Jews commemorate their ancestors’ flight to freedom by eating this same unleavened cracker-like flatbread. This is why it’s forbidden for Jews to eat or keep chametz (leavened grain foods) in the home during Passover.

Gloria adds, “Matzo is symbolic of their hurried exodus and a need to leave many treasured items behind. One staple item was flour, and they had occasional access to water.”

Different Types of Matzo

There are different types of matzo products you can pick up at the supermarket.

  • Matzo meal or ground matzo is used to make matzo balls for matzo ball soup, in latkes, tasty matzo meal pancakes and more.
  • Matzo farfel is crumbled matzo. While matzo meal’s texture is similar to breadcrumbs, farfel is essentially a roughly crumbled cracker. It’s fantastic if you’re looking to make a crunchy topping, or used in kugels or brei.
  • Matzo cake meal is used for baking.

What to Make with Matzo

Although matzo is a must for any Passover menu, it’s delicious all year round. There’s a reason my grandma always kept a box tucked away in a cupboard—it’s a fantastic ingredient to add to a variety of dishes. You can use store-bought matzo to make pizzas, top it with cream cheese in lieu of your morning bagel and even make sweets.

Matzo meal makes a tasty addition to falafels, fried chicken or fish cakes as a substitute for breadcrumbs. You can even get creative and use matzo crackers to make nachos or farfel to whip up your favorite stuffing recipe. It’s sure to be a hit!

How to Make Matzo Balls

Gloria was kind enough to share her (amazing!) matzo ball recipe. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to make these ultra-light, fluffy matzo balls.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/4 cup matzo meal
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper, to taste

Directions

Step 1: Beat the eggs

Break out your hand mixer and beat the egg whites until they’re light and airy. Pour the water in with the egg yolks, and whip until you get a foamy texture. Combine the yolk mix with the egg whites, then lightly beat.

Step 2: Add oil and matzo meal

Add the oil, salt and pepper to the egg mixture. Slowly pour in the matzo meal, then mix well.

Step 3: Chill the matzo mix

Once you’ve formed the matzo dough, cover it and let it chill for about half an hour. In the meantime, bring 2 quarts of water to a low boil.

Step 4: Shape and cook

Grease your hands with vegetable oil, then shape the matzo into balls about 1-inch diameter. Carefully drop them into the boiling water and cover. Let the matzo balls simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside until you’re ready to add them to a soup.

Gloria says that these matzo balls can also be frozen. To keep things neat, separate them with freezer paper, then simply reheat in a soup or broth.

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Camille Berry
Part of the third generation in a family of restaurateurs, Camille was born with a passion for cooking and food. She embarked on a career in hospitality where she excelled as a sommelier and wine director. This hospitality experience has given her a wealth of first-hand knowledge about how to pair all manner of drinks with food—plus some serious kitchen skills. These days, she's hung up her wine key in favor of a pen and covers all aspects of food and drink.