13 Surprising Things To Make With Matzo

Matzo was never intended to be a fun food. It wasn't even expected to be tasty. According to Jewish tradition, it was first devised as pure survival rations. In their rush to leave Egypt following their liberation, Jewish refugees had to prepare bread in a hurry, and couldn't spare the time needed for yeasted bread to rise The resulting flat, unleavened bread, now called matzo, became a symbol of Jewish resilience and survival. It remains a critically important element of the Passover seder, a ceremonial meal commemorating the Jewish exodus from Egypt.

But matzo's role in Passover isn't limited to the seder. During the seven or eight days of the Passover holiday, observant Jews restrain from eating anything with leavening, bread, or otherwise – which has made matzo the Passover carb of choice. If you observe the holiday, you're probably going to eat a lot of matzo. Besides traditional treats like matzo ball soup and matzo brei, there are plenty of surprising and tasty recipes devised by creative cooks. These can liven up your Passover menu — and even if you don't celebrate Passover, they're worth a try.

1. Chocolate matzo toffee

Saltine toffee or cracker toffee is a common and beloved item in many holiday gift tins, and it's easy to see why. The homey confection consists of buttery toffee and chocolate poured over a base of saltine crackers. Before it hardens, nuts and other toppings are sprinkled on top for a tasty combo of salty and sweet. The crunchy and creamy textures create a yummy contrast that almost everyone likes. It's also super-easy to make and because it's made to be broken apart into irregular pieces (like a brittle) rather than sliced into identically-shaped pieces, it has a rustic elegance that looks professional no matter who made it.

Even better, it can be easily made Passover-appropriate just by switching out the saltines for sheets of matzo to make matzo crack. Because the sheets are much larger than saltines, you'll need far fewer of them. You also won't have to worry about getting dozens of crackers lined up perfectly to keep the gooey topping from leaking through. If you want to pay homage to the classic Passover macaroons, you can top the chocolate layer with coconut. And if your matzo is unsalted, you might want to add a sprinkle of kosher salt as well.

2. Matzo pizza

For many, Passover is a solemn time of remembrance, and going without bready comfort foods such as doughnuts, pancakes, and pizza is part of the spiritual experience. But honoring past sacrifices doesn't have to mean living miserably. Smart cooks have figured out that matzo makes a more-than-respectable stand-in for bread dough in certain applications.

Passover-friendly pizza is a case in point — if you're a fan of crispy, thin-crust pies, this is a fast and easy way to get your fix. Just top the sheets with a thin layer of marinara sauce and the shredded cheese and toppings of your choice. Bake it right on the rack until the cheese is bubbly. More delicate (or finely cut) toppings such as fresh herbs will probably make the best match for the ultra-thin crust. Big hunks of sausage or wet ingredients, on the other hand, could potentially weigh it down and make it soggy. But feel free to top your pizza any way you like.

3. Matzo monsters

We all know an artistic soul who sees every blank surface as a canvas to be embellished. And for such souls, matzo is a perfect medium for culinary artistry. To them, its very plainness – not to mention its vague resemblance to a sheet of cardboard – just seems to scream 'Decorate me!"

If your muse is calling you to do something visually creative with your matzo, a fun project, especially if you have children you want to feed and entertain, is to make matzo monsters. Don't worry, this won't involve building life-like three-dimensional creatures out of the stuff — though if you're so inspired, you should definitely go for it! Instead, all you need are matzo, some colored candy melts, white chocolate, and dark chocolate. Break the sheets into snack-sized rectangles – since monsters aren't regularly shaped, the pieces don't have to be all the same size. Dip one end of each piece into melted candy melts. Then paint two (or more) eyes onto the candy-covered part with white chocolate. To form the pupil of the eye and make your monsters look alive, use a toothpick to apply a dot of melted dark chocolate in the middle of each eye.

4. Matzo fried chicken

Matzo meal is a Passover kitchen staple for many families, serving as a convenient stand-in for breadcrumbs and even flour in holiday baking. But you don't have to limit its uses to traditional preparations such as matzo balls (delicious as they are). To liven up your Passover menu, consider using it in place of breadcrumbs in some of your favorites from other culinary traditions. For instance, try it in fried chicken. 

To make matzo fried chicken, you'll need two types of matzo meal: regular and a more finely ground cake meal. The finely ground cake meal serves as the flour and the bottom layer of your breading. You'll then coat the chicken in an egg and milk mixture with the seasonings of your choice. For the outer layer, the regular matzo meal will provide a crispy crunch. You can sprinkle the battered chicken with your favorite herbs and seasonings before oil-frying it to a warm, golden brown. 

5. Matzo lasagna

Just as matzo makes a great stand-in for pizza dough in matzo pizza, it also works as a convenient, Passover-friendly substitute for another flat carb: lasagna. This is especially convenient for pasta lovers since noodles are among the foods forbidden during Passover. While yeast isn't added to pasta dough, the fact that it's composed of grains exposed to water for a prolonged period means it's technically considered a leavened dough.

Making matzo lasagna is pretty much like making regular lasagna, except that you swap out the past for matzo sheets. Some recipes call for the sheets to be briefly soaked in water before layering. You'll layer these sheets as you would with typical lasagna noodles with ricotta, mozzarella, and your favorite marinara sauce. Bake the dish until it's browned and bubbling. Don't expect it to have the exact same mouthfeel and texture as lasagna – but it will still be a cheesy, saucy delight in its own right.

6. Matzo crack s'mores

If you're looking for a non-traditional Passover dessert that will stop your dinner guests in their tracks, look no further. Matzo crack s'mores start with the already decadent treat of matzo crack – crisp, buttery toffee baked on top of matzo sheets and topped with chocolate. Then it turns the glamour level up to 11 by sandwiching pieces of it around toasted marshmallows.  It offers a combination of crunchy, melty, and chewy textures. These, combined with the rich flavors of toffee, chocolate, and melted marshmallows, offer a festive and dramatic experience. It's even tempting and different enough to win over even your pickiest relatives who always turn down dessert.

To make your treats truly exceptional, you might want to take the extra time to make homemade marshmallows. Made with plain gelatin, sweetening, and flavoring, they don't require as much work as you may think. But the bragging rights will be far greater – and the marshmallows a whole lot tastier, especially since you can use the flavoring of your choice. (If you're keeping kosher, be sure to use kosher gelatin.) Toast your finished marshmallows to your preferred degree of doneness with a kitchen torch before assembling your s'mores.

7. Matzo nachos

If you dearly miss all your favorite crunchy, grainy snacks during Passover, there's no need for despair – matzo can make a respectable stand-in for a lot of them. For instance, it can stand it nicely for tortilla chips in a plate of nachos, a.k.a. "machos." It's worth noting here that there's some debate over whether corn (and thus corn-based treats such as tortilla chips) are appropriate Passover fare.

To make matzo nachos, first get your matzo good and crisp by spreading it with melted butter, salt, and pepper and toasting it in the oven until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and switch the oven setting from bake to broil. Top the pieces with meltable cheese such as cheddar, and return to the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with homemade pico de gallo (chopped tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, salt, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime) or the salsa of your choice. If you like, you can add beans to the nachos along with the cheese and top them with sour cream.

8. Matzo granola

The last thing most of us want to do on a busy weekday morning is put a lot of thought into what's for breakfast. On some days, it takes all the wits we can muster just to turn on the coffee maker and pour a bowl of cereal. But if you're observing Passover, even these simple routines can become fraught. Oats and barley, common ingredients in many breakfast cereals, are on the no-go list. So what's a busy person to do?

An easy and fun solution to your breakfast woes is matzo granola. In this simple preparation, crumbled matzo replaces the standard rolled oats normally used in granola.  Just mix the crumbled pieces, chopped nuts, and coconut flakes with a syrup made from brown sugar, honey, olive oil, and spices. Bake on a sheet pan at medium heat, stirring every ten minutes, until the granola is golden brown. Cool, break apart, and mix with the dried fruit of your choice. Don't bake the fruit with the granola or it will burn and toughen up. This mixture is crunchy, tasty, and endlessly adaptable – feel free to switch up your choice of nuts, fruits, and spices as your cravings dictate.

9. Matzo mac and cheese

Here's a fun and easy dish to try if pasta is in regular rotation on your dinner menu. In this cheesy casserole, matzo takes the place of macaroni suspended in a rich, cheesy sauce. But we'll be honest. Nobody's going to mistake this treat for actual macaroni and cheese, since there's no way a sheet of matzo could ever resemble a piece of elbow macaroni, nor fully replicate the texture of cooked pasta.

Still, for cheese lovers, this Passover-friendly "mac and cheese" is a wonderful comfort food. This is also a great way to use already broken matzo sheets. You might need to crumble up a few more to fill a casserole dish. Then, whip up your favorite melty cheese sauce and layer it with the bits of matzo. Bake it up until it's bubbling and brown and you'll have a cheesy and satisfying meal. You can also make it your own by adding sauteed vegetables (such as onions or green chiles) or additional seasonings if you like.

10. Matzo breakfast sandwich

A classic matzo preparation is matzo brei – pieces of moistened matzo mixed with beaten egg and scrambled.  It's easy to make and for some, a go-to comfort food. But like many simple things, with a little imagination, it can be elevated into something completely new and different. For instance, instead of thinking of the humble scramble as a finished dish, consider it the starting point for a completely new one: the matzo brei breakfast sandwich. 

In this preparation, you start with standard matzo brei ingredients, but with the moistened and drained matzo pieces a bit smaller than usual. Instead of scrambling the mixture, cook it into pancakes (a bit like making a frittata). Top a pancake with a smear of seasoned ricotta cheese, some sauteed kale, and a poached or fried egg, then top with another pancake to make a sandwich. This rich egg-on-egg dish is not only a refreshing change-up of a classic, but it's substantial enough to keep you going until lunchtime.

11. Matzo fattoush salad

If croutons are your favorite part of any tossed salad, you've probably tried – or at least heard of – fattoush. It's a juicy, crunchy Middle Eastern salad consisting of chopped seasonal vegetables and fried or toasted pieces of torn pita bread. Originally devised as a way for cooks to make use of day-old bread and scraps too small for other uses, it has become a beloved dish in its own right.

Pita, of course, is not an option during Passover. But you can still get your crouton fix by making matzo fattoush. Basically, all you need to do is make a tossed green salad with plenty of varied vegetables, such as tomatoes and cucumbers. Then mix in your choice of fresh herbs, such as chopped mint. Toss the salad with a vinaigrette along with pieces of broken matzo.  For a non-traditional but fun touch, brush the matzo with olive oil and sprinkle with everything bagel seasoning before breaking it into pieces and adding it to your salad.

12. Matzo truffles

The crunchiness of matzo makes it a useful accent in a number of preparations, including many where you wouldn't expect to find it. One great example is chocolate truffles with crumbled matzo bits added. These crunchy bits offer a pleasant textural contrast to the expected creamy chocolate base. The matzo serves the same function as chopped nuts – the truffles will be fine without it, but far more interesting with it.

To make the truffles, heat cream, butter, and chocolate together to form a ganache (the fudgy base for the truffles). Then, add the crumbled matzo and chill until the mixture hardens. Use a melon ball to scoop out round truffles. Sprinkle with kosher salt. If you want to make your Passover truffles extra festive, make a glaze of sweet kosher wine (such as Manischewitz) and powdered sugar. Drizzle the pretty pink glaze over the truffles, and wait for it to harden before serving.

13. Matzo icebox cake

Icebox cakes are favorites of busy home cooks because they're really easy to make and almost always look great when served. All you really have to do is layer a few basic ingredients, including store-bought cookies, chill, and serve to thunderous applause. The filling – usually a simple mix of flavored whipped cream – softens the cookies to a cake-like consistency. As a result, the finished dessert looks and tastes like it requires a lot more time and skill than it actually did. And because icebox cakes can be done ahead, they're super convenient for entertaining.

And by using matzo, you can make a Passover-appropriate icebox cake sure to please even those who are thoroughly sick of matzo with every meal. This chocolate matzo layer cake is a festive cross between a traditional icebox cake and a tiramisu. In the cake, sheets of matzo are dipped in coffee and layered with a creamy filling of melted chocolate folded into whipped cream. The filling hardens up to become a firm mousse as the cake chills, while the cracker-like sheets become soft and cakey. The coffee adds a bit of sophistication and keeps the cake from becoming too sweet.