Mexican Meatball Soup (Caldo de Albóndigas)

Mexican meatball soup

The Spruce


  • Total: 105 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 75 mins
  • Yield: 8 servings

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.


  • 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 broth (or chicken broth; can be 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 greens (mustard, chard, spinach, or other; chopped)
  • 1 bunch cilantro (chopped)

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this meatball dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for cooking.

Prepare the Meatballs

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the ground meat, rice, salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, and half of the crushed garlic.

    Meat mixture for meatballs.
     The Spruce
  3. 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.

    Prepared meatballs.
     The Spruce
  4. Now make the soup.

Make the Soup

  1. In a large pot, bring the broth to a boil.

    Broth for soup.
     The Spruce
  2. Turn heat down to a slow simmer (where there are hardly any bubbles) and add the meatballs. Simmer gently for 20 minutes.

    Simmering meatballs.
     The Spruce
  3. Add the celery, onion, carrots, the remaining 1 teaspoon cumin, and crushed garlic.

    Seasoning for Mexican meatball soup.
     The Spruce
  4. Simmer for about 45 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and the rice in the meatballs is cooked through.

    Checking meatballs for doneness.
     The Spruce
  5. Add the greens and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

    Greens in Mexican meatball soup.
     The Spruce
  6. Taste the soup and add additional salt, if necessary.

    Tasting Mexican meatball soup.
     The Spruce
  7. Stir in cilantro right before serving.

    Cilantro on Mexican meatball soup.
     The Spruce
  8. 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.

    Caldo de Albóndigas
     The Spruce
  9. Enjoy!

Recipe Variations

  • 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.

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