Mexican Meatball Soup (Caldo de Albóndigas)

Mexican meatball soup

The Spruce


  • 105 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins,
  • Cook: 75 mins
  • Yield: 8 servings
Ratings (37)

Among Mexico’s most widely known and revered comfort foods is caldo de albóndigas, meatball soup, beloved by young and old. Few situations can't be improved and few hearts can't be healed by a bowl of this aromatic, restorative soup.

Meatballs (albóndigas) in Mexico often are made with rice—rather than breadcrumbs—to hold them together. This recipe calls for uncooked white rice.

What You'll Need

  • For the Meatballs:
  • 1 pound ground beef (or a combination of 1/2 beef and 1/2 Mexican chorizo)
  • 1/2 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin (divided)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 cloves garlic (peeled and crushed, divided)
  • ​For the Soup:
  • 3 quarts beef or chicken broth (homemade or from a box/can/jar)
  • 4 celery ribs (including leaves, chopped)
  • 3 medium-sized white onions (cut into quarters)
  • 4 large carrots (peeled and chopped or sliced)
  • 2 cups chopped greens (mustard, chard, spinach, or other)
  • 1 bunch cilantro (chopped)

How to Make It

Prepare the Meatballs

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the ground meat, rice, salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, and half of the crushed garlic.
  2. Using 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of the mixture, form meatballs by rolling it between your hands until it forms a ball. Do this with all of the meat until it is all formed into meatballs.

Make the Soup

  1. In a large pot, bring the broth to a boil. Turn heat down to a slow simmer (where there are hardly any bubbles) and add the meatballs. Simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  1. Add the celery, onion, carrots, the remaining 1 teaspoon cumin, and crushed garlic. Simmer for about 45 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and the rice in the meatballs is cooked through. Add the greens and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.
  2. Taste the soup and add additional salt, if necessary. Stir in cilantro right before serving.
  3. Serve your hot albóndigas soup with flour or corn tortillas, or with crunchy tostadas spread with cream and sprinkled with grated Cotija or other cheese, if you like


  • Like most brothy soups, this recipe can be made even better by a little fresh-squeezed lime juice. Cut Mexican limes into halves or quarters and let each diner squeeze lime into his or her bowl right before eating.

  • If you prefer a tomatoey broth, add a couple cups of peeled, diced/crushed tomatoes (including their juice) to the soup along with the vegetables.

  • Add a little-uncooked pasta (small shapes such orzo, alphabets, or broken-up vermicelli or spaghettini) to the soup at the end, along with the greens. You might need to add a little more broth to the soup if you are including pasta.

  • Don´t hesitate to add a greater variety of vegetables to this soup, if you like. Substitute green peas, cubed potatoes or Mexican summer squash, chopped green beans, or some chopped cabbage for one or two of the large carrots.

Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
Calories 250
Total Fat 7 g
Saturated Fat 3 g
Unsaturated Fat 3 g
Cholesterol 51 mg
Sodium 318 mg
Carbohydrates 26 g
Dietary Fiber 5 g
Protein 21 g
(The nutrition information on our recipes is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. Individual results may vary.)