By Meg A. Parsont
Matzo brei (rhymes with try!) is a popular Passover dish of Ashkenazi Jewish origin made from matzo pieces fried with eggs. For those who are observing Passover, it’s a satisfying alternative to the pancakes, French toast, and other breakfast and brunch goodies that are off-limits during the holiday. As a matter of fact, it’s such a popular dish, Barney Greengrass on Amsterdam Avenue serves it year-round.
While it’s a relatively simple dish made with two main ingredients—egg and matzo—there’s an age-old debate surrounding matzo brei. There are two opposing camps: those who prefer it sweet and those who are savory purists. I checked in with Gary Greengrass, the third-generation owner of Barney Greengrass, for his insights into this highly controversial issue.
According to Gary, they have been serving the same traditional recipe for years. “We’re a little bit savory,” he told me. “No onions, though,” he added firmly. “We stick to our roots.” When I asked him for any tips on cooking matzoh brei, he said, “Without giving away our recipe, some people soak it in a little bit of water, some soak it in a little bit of milk.” Interesting food for thought.
The West Side Rag doesn’t dare take sides in the sweet vs savory debate! In the spirit of sharing holiday traditions and recipes, we’re happy to present a recipe for each style of matzo brei.
Sweet Pancake-Style Matzo Brei
Recipe by Meg A. Parsont
This recipe will satisfy those with a sweet tooth, but because it’s made primarily with egg whites, low-fat milk, and the option to use whole wheat matzo, it can be rationalized as a slightly healthy option!
4 regular or whole wheat matzos
6 large eggs: 4 egg whites, 2 whole eggs
Splash of milk (I use 1%)
1 generous capful of vanilla extract
A healthy sprinkle of cinnamon
Salt to taste
To serve: fresh berries, jam, sour cream, or maple syrup
Makes 2 large pancakes. When served whole, feeds 2 hungry people; can also be be cut into sections to serve more.
- Break matzos into quarters and soak in hot water in a large bowl for 3-4 minutes until soggy.
- Meanwhile, combine eggs, egg whites, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.
- Squeeze out the water from the pre-soaked matzos and break into small pieces (approximately 1 inch).
- Place matzo pieces in bowl with eggs, egg whites, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and salt, and mix thoroughly.
- Divide mixture into 2 8” non-stick skillets coated with cooking spray and a bit of butter if desired. (Be sure to retain a bit of the egg mixture for the final step.) Note: If the plan is to serve to more than 2 people, use just one large skillet.
- Cook like pancakes and when golden brown on first side, flip and add in the leftover egg mixture.
- Serve with topping(s) of your choice.
Mama’s Savory Matzo Brei with Onion and Black Pepper
Recipe by Lenore Michaels
This recipe was originated by my friend Lenore’s maternal grandmother, Ray Wagner, who Lenore called “Mama.” According to Lenore, Ray wasn’t the best cook but she had a few superlative specialties: blintzes, fried salami and eggs, and matzo brei.
1 matzo per person
1 egg per matzo
½ medium-sized onion per matzo, roughly chopped or grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter or olive oil
To serve: ketchup, siracha, or chili paste optional
- Crumble dry matzo into bite-sized pieces. Put in large bowl, cover with water, and push the matzo down to make sure it gets wet.
- Using hands to hold down matzo, drain the water, leaving the matzo damp but not soaking wet.
- Beat eggs in a separate bowl. Add eggs, chopped/grated onion, salt, and pepper to the bowl of matzo. Mix well.
- Heat butter or oil in a large non-stick skillet (the bigger the better—do not overcrowd). Add matzo mixture and let cook, stirring/flipping with spatula every 3 minutes or so until the eggs are cooked and the matzo edges start to crisp. This will take longer than you think! Add a bit more salt and a lot of ground black pepper to taste.
- Dish onto plates and eat while it’s hot! Ketchup, siracha, or chili paste on the side are optional.
Forget the brei, is anybody in the UWS making P’tcha anymore? Anyone? Oy vey!
what is it please
Nobody makes P’tcha (known as Gala by Hungarian Jews) in Manhattan anymore. 2nd Ave deli was the last holdout, and they stopped making it forever during the pandemic. I go to Lee Avenue in Williamsburg and get my 76 year old mother P’tcha from a few different places, her favorite is the one from Greenfeld’s.
You should update Wikipedia with this info. They think Miami is only place to get it.
Where in this super-marketed era when meat is packaged to avoid any appearance that it came from an actual animal can one find the calf’s feet that are the essential ingredient in p’tcha? (And how does a guy named Frigosi know about it anyway? There’s a story here….) 😀
In 1922 when running for Congress, Fiorello LaGuardia was accused of antisemitism by his Jewish opponent. LaGuardia, whose mother was Jewish, challenged his opponent to refute these charges in a debate on one condition: that it be held in Yiddish, which LaGuardia spoke fluenly. His opponent did not know Yiddish so he backed out and LaGuardia was easily elected. My point…dont be too hasty to judge by a last name…
My mother used to make it and I absolutely loved it!!!
Not butter OR olive oil. CHICKEN FAT!!!!
Love this! Not a matzo brei fan, but appreciate the article and the recipes. Maybe I’ll try it again, who knows!
Mouth watering! Looking forward to the variations readers will recommend too. Questions for Meg: what is your preferred use for the extra yolks? And the sweetness is just from the milk and cinnamon and vanilla (and the toppings)? no sugar or honey?
I don’t add the cinnamon or vanilla. And I use all the eggs. Also you can’t really make matzo Brei with whole wheat Matzo because it won’t absorb the water or the eggs.
I use Yehuda brand, and it works nicely.
I personally don’t find any additional sweetener necessary, especially with toppings like jam or maple syrup. Since I’m watching my cholesterol, I limit my consumption of egg yolks, so I have to admit I don’t use the extras.
Looking forward to having both! Maybe Jeff will take a moment to share his invention: Bananah Matzah Brei served with Maple syrup.
My father, who emigrated to the US from a shtetl in Poland, always cooked matza brie with the jam so that it would be warm right out of the pan. It was plain delicious! Of course we see the same debate with latkes. In my family we topped them with applesauce and sugar. Others use sour cream. De gustibus non disputandum est.
I vote applesauce, no sugar, for latkes.
I think I’ll try the cooking with jam. Thank you!
Eastsider, here, but big fan of WSR. Love matzoh brei forever, on the sweet side. My fave version:
Break up matzoh first, let soak in water (like the idea of adding milk) a few minutes, press/squeeze out excess water.
Break/mix eggs in a bowl with a little milk. Add eggs to big pan, add matzoh (plain) and mix gently. I prefer a bit more egg than 1/1 in the pan. Cook over medium or whatever to your preference of done-ness, flipping as needed . I also prefer slightly more well done than soft. I keep seasoning minimal – nothing or a tiny bit of salt or pepper. Though I love cinnamon with matzoh brei, I keep it mixed richly in sugar for serving to taste.
Serve with apple sauce, cinnamon sugar, jam of choice on the side.
However, I deeply love grilled/browned onions, so I may give the onion version here a try!
I bugged my favorite local east side diner about keeping matzoh brei on their menu past Passover for so long that it’s now on year round. Find it at Gracie’s on 2nd (just moved one block to 85th St.) !24/7!
Best with bits of apple and cinnamon in the mixture, make a big pancake and some maple syrup when it’s finished. Hot cup of coffee yum!
End of debate.
Oh yum – just when i was craving a bagel and counting the days of Passover – this is SUPER
It’s such a delight to see articles and updates from Meg Parsont – so glad she’s on your staff