Matzo brei could be my favorite part of Passover. (Notice that the word is “brei” not brie – this is not French cheese.) “Brei” is Yiddish for fried. It’s literally “fried matzo.”
My version is from the Eastern European (Ashkenazic) Jewish tradition. We make it for breakfast or brunch, as the Passover equivalent of pancakes or French toast. While it may take a bit more time to prepare than a typical weekday breakfast, this dish is perfect for a weekend treat.
Basic matzo brei is incredibly easy to make and requires only 5 ingredients: matzo, water, eggs, milk, butter or an equivalent (oil or margarine) for frying.
How to prepare the perfect matzo brei? That’s simple too. It’s perfect if it’s just the way you like it.
At the Passover Seder, the youngest child present asks 4 traditional questions that set up a discussion of the meaning of the Seder and the Passover holiday.
Like the seder, matzo brei making starts with 4 questions. Answer them and you’ll have the roadmap to perfection. (I’d call it Nirvana, but we’re talking Jewish food here, not Buddhist mysticism.)
- Do you want your matzo brei to be dry (crisp) or wet?
- Do you want your matzo brei to be sweet or savory?
- Do you want to go plain or fancy on your flavorings?
- What do you have on hand to use for flavorings?
Before we get to the specifics – beware that matzo brei lovers are typically quite definitive about their tastes. I like sweet, while my mom prefers savory. Mine has to be dry – not soaked very long so it holds its shape. In contrast, my beloved goes for a texture I’d describe as “medium wet.”
My advice. Don’t try negotiating your way to compromise perfection. Instead, make individual “to order” batches or let every one make their own and you’ll all be much happier.
Tips for Making the Perfect Matzo Brei
- Multiple batches – The easiest way to make enough for a crowd is to set up your mise en place and work one batch at a time. Put the pans of water and egg next to the frying pan or griddle and do 2 sheets of matzo at a time.
- Toppings – Why not set up a toppings bar? That way, each person chooses their own toppings and you don’t fuss over who gets what.
- Sweet vs. Savory – By making one batch at a time, you can easily add vanilla or salt and pepper to a single batch. That way, you can satisfy both sweet and savory lovers.
A perfect Passover breakfast or brunch. This version is sweet, but you can easily make it savory. Make as many servings as you have eaters and customize to your heart's content.
- 2 sheets Matzo, broken into pieces
- 1-2 Eggs, lightly beaten with a bit of milk or water
- 2 tablespoons Butter, margarine, or oil
- 1 dash Vanilla (optional) for sweet version
- Toppings - sweet or savory
Set up the pie plates of water and egg/milk next to the griddle or pan. If you like your matzo brei soft and even almost like scrambled eggs with matzo, use 2 eggs. The minimum for crisp, dry matzo brei is 1 egg per 2 sheets of matzo. Soak the matzo in the water for a few minutes - more than 1, but nowhere near 5 minutes. If necessary, gently turn the pieces over in the water, but it’s easier to use enough water that you do not have to do that.
Lift them out of the water, and tip the pieces to drain off most of the water, and put the matzo into the egg/milk or water mixture. (To the egg mixture, if you're using them, add the optional vanilla for sweet or salt and pepper for savory.) I lift the matzo pieces out of the water with my hands and gently brush off the extra water. How long you leave the matzo in the water determines how soft the matzo brei will be and how much egg mixture the pieces will soak up.
When you put the matzo in the egg mixture, melt the butter/margarine or heat the oil in the griddle or pan. Again, the matzo soaks for a short time to absorb the liquid. How much you want it to absorb is your choice - the more egg mixture and the longer the soaking time, the softer the matzo brei. I let mine soak only about 1 or 2 minutes.
After the matzo pieces have soaked up egg mixture on both sides (turning if necessary), place them in a single layer on the griddle or pan if you want crispy matzo brei. If you like your matzo brei soft, you can pile it onto the griddle or pan. You can add any excess egg mixture while the matzo brei is frying - either sparingly on top of each piece as you put it in, or less carefully added so that it spreads out in on the griddle or pan. When you add the flavorings depends on what they are. For example, salt and pepper or vanilla will go in the egg mixture or be sprinkled on as the matzo brei cooks. By contrast, cinnamon and sugar or maple syrup are generally added after the matzo brei is done.
Fry until one side browned, then turn over and brown the other side.
If you want to check out specific variations on the matzo brei theme, consider these:
- Lemon Ricotta Matzo Brei from NoRecipes
- Baked Matzo Brei with Dried Fruit from MangoTomato
- Savory Matzo Brei with Onions from Hank Shaw at SimplyRecipes
My dream matzo brei is crispy, with maple syrup, cinnamon and sugar, and fresh fruit. What’s yours?