Jewish Penicillin

by Mara @ What's For Dinner? on January 24, 2011

in chicken/turkey, family recipe

There is one thing and one thing ONLY that can make a cold go away quickly.

It can’t be purchased at any normal store, nor is it a quick fix… but I promise. It works.

It’s something that goes back generations, and I can guarantee you that most Jewish women have a pot that’s specifically designed to make their “penicillin”.

This, my friends, is Jewish Penicillin… a.k.a. chicken soup. Preferably with matzo balls. Definitely with chunks of carrot and stewed chicken.


The recipe is pretty standard, and varies from family to family. Adam grew up eating chicken soup with rice. I grew up with chicken soup with egg noodles and/or matzo balls and/or rice. The constant was the rich-tasting broth, the sweet carrots, and shredded chicken.

When Adam told me he had a cold, I knew I had to do one thing: make chicken soup.

Jewish Penicillin a.k.a. Chicken Soup


  • 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 5-6 carrots, cut into chunks
  • 3 stalks celery with leaves, cut into chunks
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • water to cover


Place all the ingredients in a large pot over medium heat. When the liquid comes to a simmer, reduce the heat so it’s barely bubbling. Skim the “muck” off the top of the pot, and periodically skim the fat off the broth. Do not let the broth boil. Place a colander in another pot or bowl, and drain the broth. Once cooled, shred the stewed chicken and separate out the carrots. Serve with matzo balls (recipe below), a handful of chicken and some carrots. Add a sprinkle of dill and enjoy!

Matzo Balls



  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 4 Tb. oil
  • 4 Tb. ice cold water
  • 1 c. matzo meal
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper


Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well. After mixing refrigerate for one hour covered in the refrigerator.

Fill a large pot with 8 cups of water and one teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. The matza balls will expand in the pot as they cook, so choose a large pot to allow for expansion. After the water comes to a boil, reduce the flame to low. Take the mixture out from the refrigerator and in your hand gently make the balls. Make sure that your hands are wet before proceeding to make the balls. Slowly add the newly formed balls to the hot water.

Cook for thirty minutes, then turn off fire, but keep the pot covered and let it cool for another ten minutes. Add to the broth a few minutes before serving.



The best part (besides the soup of course) about making matzo ball soup is the leftovers. The chicken and carrots are kept separate from the broth, and the matzo balls are kept separate from those. So the leftovers ROCK. One of my favorite lunches growing up was a bag of stewed chicken with a tiny cup of mayo for dipping. And the best breakfast ever? Butter-fried matzo balls (not the ones from the soup) with cottage cheese and apricot preserves.
Try it. Seriously.


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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Melissa (MelissaLikesToEat) January 24, 2011 at 9:00 PM

That looks like it could make any ailment go away. :)
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Lisa@ Dishes of Mrs. Fish January 24, 2011 at 9:10 PM

This would make anybody feel better!
Lisa@ Dishes of Mrs. Fish´s last blog post ..The One With Our Favorite Chili


Amy @ What Jew Wanna Eat January 24, 2011 at 9:20 PM

Yum! I have never tried butter fried matzah balls. Sounds delish!
Amy @ What Jew Wanna Eat´s last blog post ..Tzimmes and Brisket


Mara @ What's For Dinner? January 24, 2011 at 9:28 PM

Ok, you have to do it. Like, go to a deli and buy a couple if you have to… fry them in butter, then toss them in apricot preserves, and top with sour cream or cottage cheese. SO GOOD!


Amy @ What Jew Wanna Eat January 24, 2011 at 9:48 PM

I already have some matzah meal in my closet just begging to be used- I will try it this weekend!
Amy @ What Jew Wanna Eat´s last blog post ..Tzimmes and Brisket


Rebecca January 24, 2011 at 9:54 PM

No celery? No parsnip? No celery seed? No allspice?


Mara @ What's For Dinner? January 24, 2011 at 10:01 PM

AH! There was celery in it! I’ll change the recipe now, thanks for the reminder! No parsnip (makes it too sweet for me)… and my family didn’t use the other stuff!


Rebecca January 24, 2011 at 10:04 PM

My mom didn’t use parsnip, celery seed, allspice, or peppercorns, but I do. I don’t usually cook my soup with dill, but I like a little served on top.


Mara @ What's For Dinner? January 24, 2011 at 10:08 PM

Yup…dill goes on top :) It’s just not the same without it!


Christina January 24, 2011 at 10:56 PM

I’m so so so excited! This is on the TO MAKE list!
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Christin@purplebirdblog January 25, 2011 at 12:25 AM

Matzo ball soup is so freakin’ awesome. I haven’t had and in a month of Sundays, and I feel deprived!
Christin@purplebirdblog´s last blog post ..Brown Rice Farina


Lauren January 25, 2011 at 5:51 AM

My MIL makes this all the time! And of course, she always sprinkles the fresh dill on top, just like yours.
Lauren´s last blog post ..Early Sunday Ramblings


Roz January 25, 2011 at 2:29 PM

Butter fried matzo balls??? OOOH!!!! Bet those are GOOOD!!!
This recipe looks so good, thanks for sharing. Have a good day.
Roz´s last blog post ..New beginnings…


Biz January 25, 2011 at 2:44 PM

I first had that soup at that Jewish deli you and your husband went to – Siegelman’s, although the matzo ball was the size of a softball! I like your smaller ones.

Thanks for your virtual hugs yesterday!! I knew you of all people would know what we are going through.
Biz´s last blog post ..Wow – thank you!


Rivki Locker January 25, 2011 at 10:33 PM

I just LOVE the title of this post. So true! Chicken soup heals all ills! I make it every Friday night and eat at least 2 bowls of it till it’s used up (which usually happens too quickly!).
Rivki Locker´s last blog post ..A Formula for Frozen Vegetables


Tracy @ Commit to Fit January 26, 2011 at 4:24 PM

This couldn’t have come at a better time, I have been nursing a cold for a week. This shall by my lunch tomorrow :)
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VeggieGirl January 26, 2011 at 6:29 PM

You and my mom are the best with this stuff :D
VeggieGirl´s last blog post ..Mission- NYE in NYC – Part 4


Heide M. April 16, 2013 at 9:07 PM

Can’t wait to try this recipe.


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