Jews have a lot of feelings about matzah balls: floaters or sinkers, seltzer or schmaltz. I love discussing with chefs and bubbes alike about how to make the best version of this iconic Jewish food.
There are some Jewish cooks who think homemade matzah balls aren’t real unless you make them from scratch. And I’ve met others who’ve apologized for the fact that they use — almost whispered out of embarrassment — the box.
I am here to say loud and proud: Boxed matzah ball mix is actually the best. And I am far from the only one who thinks so — I’ve met countless chefs who agree. But it’s my grandfather, Edward (Grandpa Eddie) Sarna of blessed memory, who inspired my confidence in the blue box of mix. A food chemist by profession, my grandfather often declared there were just some things science had perfected: boxed brownie mix, onion soup mix, and matzah ball mix.
My preferred mix is Streit’s, although I’ve had matzah ball success with the Manischewitz kind, too. The reason why Streit’s box of mix is so perfect is that it already contains some seasoning, a little fat, and one of the crucial ingredients to a light matzah ball: baking powder. All you need to do is add eggs (2 large ones) and fat (1/4 cup vegetable oil) and you have perfect, fluffy floaters every time.
Instead of 1/4 cup vegetable oil, I like to add half vegetable oil and half chicken fat (schmaltz), which I think adds to the flavor, but this step isn’t necessary if you prefer not to use schmaltz. I also like adding a handful of chopped fresh dill to the mix.
If the more dense sinkers are your jam, you might want to forgo the box and opt for the scratch-made kind instead. Some people also find that the box can be too salty, so if you are sensitive to salt, you may want to stay away. Or at least don’t add any additional salt, because no one wants balls that are too salty, right?
Don’t let anyone frown upon your love of the blue box mix, and no need to whisper your secret in shame. Life is complicated, matzah balls don’t need to be. Go box, or go home.