Jake Cohen’s roasted chicken matzo ball soup

If you want good soup, you need good stock. This recipe will revive your soul during any physical or mental ailment.
Jake Cohen's roasted chicken matzo ball soup (Photo: Matt Taylor-Gross)

If you want good soup, you need good stock. I roast a combo of chicken and vegetables to start building up flavor, as well as avoid any scum or cloudiness that forms from simmering raw chicken. 

The main thing to remember is that you’re looking to transfer every bit of flavor into the water. That means the stock is done when all the solids are flavorless, which is why we don’t save any of them (though I do love to snack on the mushy carrots for some reason). 

Feel free to add in any other vegetable scraps you have saved up from the week, and you can supplement the chicken with any carcasses saved from breaking down a whole bird (I stockpile them in the freezer) or even use exclusively chicken bones if you can get them from your butcher. 

I’ve included some of my favorite flavor combos below this recipe to inspire whatever soup journey you’re looking to take!

Chicken stock

Prep15 minutes
Cook Time2 hours 50 minutes
Yield3 quarts of stock


  • 3 lbs chicken wings, legs, or drumsticks
  • 1 lb carrots, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces parsnips, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 4 celery stalks, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 2 medium yellow onions, skins on, ends trimmed, and quartered
  • 2 tbsp  olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 16 cups water
  • 2 tsp  black peppercorns
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 3 sprigs dill
  • 3 fresh or dried bay leaves

Optional flavors of love to add with the chicken and vegetables before roasting:

  • 2 bulbs fennel, quartered
  • 1 medium  rutabaga, cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 (3-inch) knob fresh ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch scallions, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • 1-2 fresh chiles, halved

Optional flavors of love to add with the herbs and water:

  • Any other herbs you love/have
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp hawaij, baharat, or ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp saffron threads
  • 4 whole dried black Persian limes
  • 2 preserved lemons, halved


  • Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  • On a sheet pan, combine the chicken, carrots, parsnips, celery, and onions. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with 2 heavy pinches of salt, then toss to coat. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until the chicken and vegetables are golden.
  • Transfer the roasted chicken and vegetables to a large stockpot along with the water, peppercorns, thyme, parsley, dill, and bay leaves. If you’re using any of the optional “Flavors of Love,” now is the time to add the fennel, rutabaga, ginger, scallions, garlic, and fresh chiles with the chicken and vegetables before roasting. For the additional herbs and spices (coriander seeds, hawaij, baharat, ground turmeric, saffron threads, dried black Persian limes, and preserved lemons), add them to the pot now.
  • Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a low simmer, for 2 hours.
  • Remove from the heat and, using a ladle, skim off any fat from the top of the liquid and discard. Strain the stock into another pot or large bowl, discarding all of the solids. Use immediately to make Jewish Penicillin, or let cool and store in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Jewish Penicillin

There is no physical or mental ailment that doesn’t leave me desperate for a bowl to revive my body and soul. 

If you’ve already made your stock, then the hard part is done. Now we’re just fortifying that stock with more chicken, carrots, celery, and parsnips to create a flavor-packed broth. 

Unlike in the stock, we’re simmering them until just cooked, which is why these become the tender, flavorful chunks of meat and vegetables that will get ladled into your bowl. Finally, don’t skimp on the dill, as my mother has always preached that the dill makes it!

Jewish Penicillin (chicken soup)

Prep20 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Yield10 people


  • 2 ½ lbs (4 medium) whole chicken legs
  • 1 tbsp  olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 4 celery stalks, sliced on an angle ¼ inch thick
  • 3 medium parsnips, peeled and diced
  • ¼ cup minced fresh dill
  • ¼ cup minced fresh parsley leaves and stems


  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.
  • Place the chicken legs on the prepared sheet pan, drizzle with the olive oil, and season with 2 heavy pinches each of salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, until lightly golden.
  • Meanwhile, in a large pot or dutch oven, combine the chicken stock and water and bring to a light simmer. Once roasted, add the chicken legs to the pot and simmer until cooked through and tender, 20 minutes more.
  • Transfer the chicken to a clean sheet pan to cool slightly. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, use two forks to shred the meat and discard the skin and bones. Set the meat aside.
  • While the chicken cools, add the carrots, celery, and parsnips to the pot and simmer until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  • Once shredded, stir the chicken into the soup along with the dill and parsley. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, then serve.

The Mix-Ins

Everyone loves my balls! This is a more customizable version of my famous recipe because I want you to feel comfortable playing with your food. 

First off, you don’t have to buy matzo meal. I make it all the time by throwing my extra matzo sheets into the food processor, and the texture often comes out even better this way. 

Then, I’m giving you permission to experiment with your fat and herbs. Schmaltz is the golden standard, but if you don’t want to make it or can’t find any, there are so many alternatives. I tend to gravitate toward duck fat, but any oil will work. 

And don’t sleep on infused oils (not that kind of infused), whether it’s the leftover oil from roasting vegetables, making a savory dish, or even a store-bought garlic or chili oil, for an extra layer of flavor. 

I even adjusted the seltzer amount to ensure your mixture is easy to roll no matter what fat you choose, but if you’re looking for more of a sinker vibe, just omit the seltzer altogether. 

As for the herbs, whatever green you’re choosing, lean into it. I had Shabbat with Joan Nathan (iconic name drop) and she made her matzo balls by simmering them with an entire bunch of dill in the pot, a technique I loved! 

After you’ve used enough herbs for the balls and your soup, throw the rest of the bunch in the pot for extra flavor when simmering your balls. Joan knows best!

Jake’s fluffy balls

Prep20 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Chilling/resting time1 hour 15 minutes
Yield14 matzo balls


  • 2 cups matzo meal
  • ½ cup fat, such as melted schmaltz, melted duck fat, or any neutral oil
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh herbs, such as dill, chives, parsley, tarragon, or cilantro
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 6 large eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup seltzer water


  • In a large bowl, stir together the matzo meal, fat, herbs, salt, and eggs until smooth. Gently stir in the seltzer until incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Scoop the chilled matzo mixture into ¼-cup balls, using wet hands to roll them until smooth. You should have about 14 matzo balls.
  • Gently add the matzo balls, one at a time, to the boiling water. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until fluffy and tender, about 1 hour.
  • Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes, then keep warm until the soup is ready.

Learn more about how Jake Cohen is reviving Jewish cooking, from Instagram to your kitchen.

Subscribe to This Week Unpacked

Each week we bring you a wrap-up of all the best stories from Unpacked. Stay in the know and feel smarter about all things Jewish.