Is matzo ball gluten-free?

Matzo balls are a traditional Jewish dumpling made with matzo meal, eggs, oil or schmaltz (rendered chicken fat), and seasonings. They are a staple food during Passover, when eating foods made with leavened grains (like regular flour) is forbidden. With the rising popularity of gluten-free diets in recent years, many people wonder if traditional matzo balls are gluten-free.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an autoimmune response that damages the small intestine. This can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, headache, and more. The only treatment is following a strict lifelong gluten-free diet by avoiding all foods and products containing gluten.

Are matzo balls gluten-free?

Traditional matzo balls made with matzo meal are not gluten-free. Matzo is made by baking unleavened bread that uses one of the gluten-containing grains. Most matzo today is made with wheat flour. Even whole wheat matzo labeled “gluten-free” is not safe for people with celiac disease, due to cross-contamination risks during processing.

Some brands sell alternative gluten-free matzo made with oat, spelt, or other gluten-free flours. However, most traditional matzo balls found in Jewish delis or made from family recipes use regular wheat-based matzo meal. These traditional matzo balls contain gluten and are unsafe for people avoiding gluten.

Risk of cross-contamination

Even if made with gluten-free ingredients, matzo balls cooked in a shared kitchen have a high risk of gluten cross-contamination. Boiling and cooking matzo balls in a shared pot of water or broth, and handling them with utensils also used for gluten-containing dishes can transfer traces of gluten.

For people with celiac disease, sensitivity levels are so high that just 20 parts per million of gluten can cause issues. This tiny amount can easily get into “gluten-free” matzo balls during preparation and cooking if kitchen tools and surfaces aren’t thoroughly cleaned first.

Ingredients to avoid

Aside from regular matzo meal, some other common matzo ball ingredients also contain gluten:

  • Regular wheat flour – Used to help bind and thicken the matzo ball mixture
  • Breadcrumbs – Often made with wheat-based bread
  • Beer – Most contain gluten from barley or wheat

Substituting gluten-free options for all ingredients is necessary to make gluten-free matzo balls.

Gluten-free matzo ball options

There are a few different ways to make gluten-free matzo balls:

Gluten-free matzo meal

Replacing regular matzo meal with certified gluten-free matzo is the most direct substitution. Some brands like Yehuda or Streit’s sell gluten-free matzo made with oats or spelt. Grinding this into matzo meal to use is safest.

However, be aware that gluten-free oat matzo is not safe for people with celiac disease, due to avenin protein in oats. Opt for quinoa, spelt, or other gluten-free grains instead.

Gluten-free breadcrumbs or flour

Substitute matzo meal with fine gluten-free breadcrumbs or flour like brown rice flour, chickpea flour, quinoa flour, almond flour, etc. Combining several alternative gluten-free flours creates a closer texture and binding effect to traditional matzo meal.

Ground gluten-free crackers

Use plain gluten-free crackers made with corn, rice, or other gluten-free grains. Grind into fine crumbs to substitute for matzo meal. Saltine and matzo crackers have similar simple flavor profiles.

Other tips for gluten-free matzo balls

Here are some other tips for gluten-free matzo balls:

– Use certified gluten-free chicken stock or broth to boil matzo balls
– Cook gluten-free matzo balls in fresh water or broth, rather than reused cooking liquid
– Use separate, thoroughly cleaned kitchen tools and cookware only for gluten-free dishes
– Add extra binding ingredients like eggs, potato starch, xanthan gum
– Keep gluten-free matzo balls small, around 1 inch diameter, to help hold shape
– Chill matzo ball mixture thoroughly before boiling, to help binds and firms up the dumplings

Gluten-free matzo ball recipe

This recipe uses gluten-free breadcrumbs and flours to create tasty and fluffy gluten-free matzo balls:


  • 1/2 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup sweet rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup rendered schmaltz or avocado oil
  • 1/4 cup seltzer water


  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together breadcrumbs, rice flour, potato starch, xanthan gum, salt, and pepper.
  2. In a small bowl beat the eggs. Stir in schmaltz or oil, then seltzer water.
  3. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients and stir to combine into a thick, dense batter.
  4. Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  5. Bring a large pot of salted water or gluten-free chicken broth to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.
  6. Using wet hands, form chilled batter into 1-inch balls. Drop carefully into simmering liquid.
  7. Cook for 20-30 minutes until cooked through and puffed up. Drain matzo balls and serve.

For fluffier gluten-free matzo balls, separate eggs and beat whites to soft peaks before folding into batter.

Are store-bought matzo balls gluten-free?

It’s unlikely most commercially prepared matzo balls are gluten-free. Even brands labeling their matzo balls “gluten-free” can still pose a risk depending on manufacturing processes. Cross-contamination is a high concern in facilities also processing gluten-containing foods.

Checking with the manufacturer directly and asking about gluten-free certification, dedicated equipment for gluten-free lines, and testing protocols can provide more assurance. But for people highly sensitive, homemade gluten-free matzo balls are still the safest choice.

Purchasing certified gluten-free matzo balls

More gluten-free versions of traditional Jewish foods like matzo balls are appearing in stores and online. There are certified gluten-free frozen matzo ball options that ship nationwide from brands like:

  • Osem
  • Rokeach
  • Season
  • Golden Recipe

These eliminate the hassle of making matzo balls from scratch and lower cross-contamination risks. But always double check ingredients and manufacturing details before purchasing.

Are matzo balls dairy free?

Traditional matzo balls typically contain milk or eggs, making them non-vegan. Using water or egg substitutes instead allows making dairy-free matzo balls. Skipping chicken fat (schmaltz) for vegetable oil or butter also makes them dairy-free.

Many brands of boxed matzo ball mix contain milk powder or whey as well. So be sure to read ingredients carefully and look for vegan-certified matzo ball mixes specifically.

Matzo ball nutrition facts

Here is the nutrition breakdown for a traditional 1-inch matzo ball made with wheat-based matzo meal (36g):

Nutrient Amount
Calories 71
Carbohydrates 11g
Fiber 0.7g
Protein 2g
Fat 2g
Cholesterol 35mg

Gluten-free matzo balls will have similar amounts of calories, fat, and protein. Values can vary slightly depending on specific ingredients used.

Are matzo balls Keto?

The high carb and low fat content mean traditional matzo balls are not Keto-friendly. However, there are various recipes for Keto matzo balls made with lower carb almond flour, flax meal, and other ingredients. Replacing matzo meal with roughly mashed cauliflower also creates a low carb batter. These modifications can allow enjoying matzo balls on a Keto diet.

Matzo ball soup

Matzo balls are famously served floating in chicken soup. This Jewish penicillin is comforting and perfect for Passover or anytime. To make the soup gluten-free:

– Use homemade or certified gluten-free chicken stock
– Add carrot, celery, onion, and cook gluten-free rice or quinoa
– Season with garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, dill
– Float individual gluten-free matzo balls in the soup and serve hot

Are matzo balls pescatarian?

Traditional matzo balls made with chicken fat are not pescatarian. However, vegetable oil or olive oil can easily be substituted to make matzo balls without any animal ingredients except eggs. So vegetarian matzo balls are possible depending on recipes and ingredients.

Passover rules for matzo balls

As a leavened food, regular wheat flour matzo balls are not kosher for Passover. Only matzo balls made with certified Passover matzo meal, free from leavening agents, conform to the holiday’s strict dietary rules.

Consulting a rabbi about preparation of Passover matzo balls following Ashkenazi or Sephardic traditions can help ensure they observe all kosher guidelines. This includes not mixing matzo balls for Passover with chametz equipment.

How to make matzo balls without eggs?

The binding and structure eggs provide can make eggless matzo balls more challenging. But vegan matzo balls are possible using:

  • Flax or chia eggs – Whisk 1 tablespoon seed meal with 3 tablespoons water, let sit 5 minutes to gel
  • Applesauce or mashed banana
  • Aquafaba (chickpea liquid) or vegetable broth
  • Yogurt, tofu or vegan cream cheese
  • Vegetable oil

Adding extra starch from potato starch or tapioca flour also helps bind the batter. Refrigerating the mix for an hour allows it to firm up before boiling.


For people avoiding gluten, traditional matzo balls made with wheat-based matzo meal are not safe. However, swapping in gluten-free grains or starches lets you modify recipes for gluten-free matzo balls. With some adjustments, people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance can find ways to enjoy this classic Jewish food. Just be sure to confirm all ingredients are gluten-free and take care to avoid cross-contamination when cooking. Making your own gluten-free matzo balls using dedicated cookware gives you the most control over the process. With the right homemade recipe or certified gluten-free product, you can safely enjoy the delicious, time-honored tradition of matzo balls.

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