Matzo Brei: History and Recipe

Posted by Radical Jew on April 6, 2012
in Food
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Many people believe the first matzo brei was prepared in the Sinai, shortly after we got out of Egypt. This is a myth. We were in too much of a hurry. Although everyone remembers we didn’t have time to leaven our bread, we’ve forgotten our supplies of the unleavened variety were pretty meager, too. That’s why there was so much grousing on the way. An empty belly does not make for convivial traveling.

We ran out of matzo before matzo brei could be invented. And then there was manna. When you’ve got manna, you’re not thinking about matzo. Yes, a few people fooled around with mixing manna and hot water and frying the glop in schmaltz, but these experiments didn’t go very far. Manna, a gift from heaven with no middleman, is quite tasty on its own. Matzo, on the other hand, is  a lot like corrugated cardboard. This  alone inspires culinary invention.

Still, it wasn’t until the course of history delivered us to the land of Ashkenaz that the restless ingenuity of the Jewish people manifested itself in the peculiar delights of matzo brei. Maybe it was the chickens. Eastern Europe is full of chickens. We never saw so many before we arrived. And eggs. There were mountains of eggs. If you’ve heard that Jews felt like they had to walk around Europe softly and on their tiptoes, now you know why. It was the eggs.

So how did it happen that matzo and water and egg and butter found their way into a pan? No one can know. But I think of my father. The man is a crumbler. He always was, and he always will be. He crumbles cookies in milk, crackers in soup and, believe or don’t, matzo in coffee. That’s right. Coffee. If my father can do that, it isn’t hard to imagine some other Jew out there in the world deciding one day to break his matzo in pieces and sprinkle it into an omelet. Things catch on. Improvements are made. Traditions are born.



One medium sized mixing bowl, one skillet, one fork, and maybe a butter knife


Five large eggs,  four Matzos, one half stick of butter, dill weed, salt, and pepper.  Garlic is nice, too, if you like. It couldn’t hurt. And a little milk.


  1. Soak Matzos thoroughly in water, shaking off excess, and then crumble them into a medium sized mixing bowl.
  2. Break eggs over matzo, add a little milk, and mix it all together until your arm is tired.  Add milk.
  3. Melt butter in skillet at high temperature.
  4. Sprinkle three or four pinches of dill weed into the melted butter and stir.
  5. Pour egg and matzo mixture into skillet and stir fry swiftly and with gusto, in the manner of scrambled eggs, adding salt, pepper and garlic to taste.
  6. The Matzo Brie is done when the eggs are done, and if you don’t know when eggs are done, you shouldn’t be in the kitchen in the first place.

This recipe feeds four who eat like birds, three average breakfasters, two hungry people or one zaftig person with an empty pit for a belly.

Alternate version

A delightful Passover frittata, probably Sephardic in origin, can be prepared with just a small variation of the directions. Begin by following steps 1 to 4 above. After pouring the mixture into the skillet, simply lower the heat, smooth the surface of the mixture and cover the skillet. Let one side of your large pancake brown. Estimate the time yourself. What do I look like, a clock? How long it takes depends on your skillet. Also, if the pancake is thin, it will cook more quickly. This is common sense. Use your head. When one side is browned, flip the Matzo Brie over and brown the other side.

That’s all. Try not to break it as you put it in a serving dish. Salt and pepper can be added. Or, for a sweet, breakfast treat, you can use jam, sugar or maple syrup. Slice pizza style.


Originally published in Jewish Magazine, April 2009

Photo:  “Haggadah,” mixed media on copper, Mark Ari


  • Rebekah Ruth says:

    When my mother first came home and was allowed to eat some regular food, she wanted what she called "cracker soup". Scalding water, saltine/or matza, butter, salt and pepper. My gram (her mother) made this for her as a little girl during the depression. Sometimes, they had "coffee soup"…coffee, cream, and the cracker. Your dad and my mother are from the same era.

  • Tainara says:

    I grew up on sweet Matzo Brie. I’ve never tried it with sour cream and applesauce, tguohh on blintzes, yes. Matzo brie, no. Here’s my Aunt Fannie’s recipe, just for you, for a group:5 sheets of matzo1/2 cup milk2 T. sugar1/2 tsp. vanilla1/2 tsp. salt4 beaten eggs1/4 cup butter2 bananas, sliced1/2 cup raisinshold each matzo sheet nder hot running water til softened (not mushy). Break into 1 1/2 inch pieces and place in a bowl. Beat together milk, sugar, vanilla, salt and eggs. Add broken matzo. Melt butter in a skillet and add egg mixture. Stir as you would for scrambled eggs til mixture is set and golden brown. Toss in gently sliced bananas and raisins. Serve warm. My kids like this one with maple syrup too.

    • Radical Jew says:

      Bananas? Raisons? New to me. Sounds more like some kind of Matzo Kugel. But it also sounds deliciious.

    • Viviane says:

      Love this site. And especially Matza Brie .when I was wkniorg in Brooklyn for the Dime Saving Bank of NY (now defunct) on Ave J and Coney Island Ave.,(1974). Most of the employees brought their lunch to work one of the mail ladies, Sylvia, heated her lunch one day. It smelled delicious and I asked her what was it. Matza Brie she replied and then she explained how she made it .she soaked her matza in milk she sauteed onions in butter added the matza then the eggs voila!~ the best I ever had! Try it you’ll love it!I miss that neighborhood Stern’s Bakery was a few doors away they had the most incredible honey cakes. Do you have a recipe for that????

      • Radical Jew says:

        Wow, I remember the Dime. And Stern’s! While my mother didn’t soak the matza in milk–we were always scraping by–she did add milk to the egg and matza mixture before it went into the pan. I do have a recipe for honey cake. I’ll see about posting it. Thanks for putting me back in the neighborhood for a moment.

        • Alex says:

          5 eggs5 matzo1 half roll of smalaiCube smalai. Put in large fry pan.Mash Matzo in big bowl.. Add 1 half cup of water. Mix well let sit. Stir before using.Mix eggs in separate dish. Fry smalai till pan is greasy. Empty smalai into plate.Add matzo and gently cook till kind of crackly. Add eggs.. stirAdd cooked smalai and mix well till all is cooked together.. Eat.. add jam if you want but I love it just the way it is..

      • Nahoua says:

        I watched my fahetr make it a lot, so I took over and make it whenever he and my brother and I are in the mood. I usually use 2 pcs of matzo for every egg-plus 1 more egg if you are in the mood for it dependent on how many ppl are eating. I scramble the eggs in a bowl, then add the moistened matzo to stir around all together first-then add to the pan with melted butter. It turns out a little like a Roesti this way if you break the matzo a lot more, but we love it plus we make so much it rarely has room to break apart in my large pan as it does in the picture above

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