Matzo Showdown: Manischewitz vs. Yehuda vs. Streit's
The Winner: Yehuda
"How do you judge what good matzo tastes like?" I asked Max the other day. He answered: "I don't think taste enters into it much. It's matzo. You eat it because you have to. I don't even have a brand loyalty. My family usually just got what was at Waldbaum's."
But then he perked up. "Wait, maybe one of them does taste better than the others. Let's find out!" So we set up a blind tasting to see if one matzo brand was different from all other matzo brands.
We tried three major nationally available brands: Manischewitz (produced in New Jersey), Yehuda (imported from Jerusalem, Israel), and Streit's (made in Manhattan's Lower East Side). All three brands produce multiple types of matzo, but we tasted only their plain kosher for Passover version available during the Passover season.
What Should Matzo Taste Like?
There is a certain comfort to be taken in the absolute blandness of matzo—kosher for Passover matzo is made with only water and wheat flour, with not even a grain of salt to add a hint of flavor. (Many consider matzo to be nothing more than an excuse to eat butter). But we all agree that matzo should not be entirely flavorless. Aside from the slight sweetness of the wheat itself, the best matzos carry a bit of char and smokiness.
Texturewise, they should be dry and crisp, but not so dry as to suck all of the moisture from your mouth as you chew.
Despite only having two ingredients, we were surprised by how much variation there is in the flavor and texture of matzo from brand to brand, though even the best matzo is still pretty bland on its own, and the worst would still work just fine as a vehicle for some good charoset. Oddly, price was inversely proportional to distance from production; The Yehuda, produced on the other side of the globe was the cheapest at $2/pound, while the Streit's, made in our own backyard, sold for $3.49/pound.
#1: Yehuda ($2/pound)
"This is like the Neapolitan pizza of matzo," said Max, in reference to its deep charring. Nearly every taster singled this brand—the only one imported from Israel—as their favorite, likening its flavor and texture to the crust of good bread. Good, saltless bread, that is. Texturewise, it was also the lightest and crispest of the bunch.
Yehuda proudly claims to be the "#1 Rated Matzo" by the San Francisco Chronicle. We are inclined to agree. Cheapest and tastiest = win.
#2: Streit's ($3.49/pound)
When you get a piece from the edges, Streit's can be quite flavorful, with a nice amount of char and a light crispness. However, most of the cracker is paler with a decidedly blander flavor. "Slightly dense, and it loses crunch quickly," commented one taster.
#3: Manischewitz ($2.99/pound)
Some tasters like the familar blandness of Manischewitz (at least one taster who picked it as their favorite identified it by name, claiming it as the brand they grew up on), but most people were turned off by its "factory-tasting" uniformity. The most evenly golden brown of the bunch, it lacked the charred edges and bubbles that add interest to the flavor. It was also the thickest of the bunch, which took away from its light crispness.
Our Tasting Methodology: All taste tests are conducted completely blind and without discussion. Tasters taste samples in random order. For example, taster A may taste sample 1 first, while taster B will taste sample 6 first. This is to prevent palate fatigue from unfairly giving any one sample an advantage. Tasters are asked to fill out tasting sheets ranking the samples for various criteria that vary from sample to sample. All data is tabulated and results are calculated with no editorial input in order to give us the most impartial representation of actual results possible.