Mexican Meatball Soup (Caldo de Albóndigas)

Mexican meatball soup

The Spruce


Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 75 mins
Total: 105 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Yield: 8 bowls
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
243 Calories
11g Fat
13g Carbs
22g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 243
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g 14%
Saturated Fat 4g 21%
Cholesterol 50mg 17%
Sodium 1700mg 74%
Total Carbohydrate 13g 5%
Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 22g
Vitamin C 14mg 72%
Calcium 141mg 11%
Iron 4mg 20%
Potassium 686mg 15%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Caldo de albóndigas (meatball soup) is among Mexico’s most widely known and revered comfort foods. This aromatic and restorative soup is filled with fresh flavors from vegetables, has depth in its flavor thanks to the chicken broth, and is filling and chunky thanks to beautiful beef meatballs, which are hearty and thick thanks to the long-grain rice used in making them.

This wholesome meal works for lunch or dinner, or as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon pick-me-up. Serve the soup with tortillas or crunchy tostadas with cream and sprinkled, grated Cotija or other queso fresco. You can also make it in bigger batches to freeze in individual containers and have at hand for a quick and delicious meal.


  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 1/2 cup uncooked long-grain white rice

  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided

  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed, divided

  • 3 quarts beef broth

  • 4 celery ribs, including leaves, chopped

  • 4 large carrots, peeled and chopped or sliced

  • 3 medium white onions, cut into quarters

  • 2 cups chopped greens (e.g., mustard, chard, spinach, or similar)

  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Steps to Make It

Make 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 1/2 tablespoons of the mixture at a time, form meatballs by rolling it between your hands until it forms a ball. Do this with all of the meat until you have used all the beef mixture.

    Prepared meatballs.
     The Spruce
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and reserve on the side.

Prepare the Soup

  1. Add the broth to a large pot and bring it to a boil.

    Broth for soup.
     The Spruce
  2. Turn heat down to a slow simmer in which there are hardly any bubbles. Add the meatballs and carefully stir the broth to assure there are no meatballs sticking together. Simmer gently for 20 minutes.

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

    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 of your choice and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

    Greens in Mexican meatball soup.
     The Spruce
  6. Taste the soup for salt, and add any if needed.

    Tasting Mexican meatball soup.
     The Spruce
  7. Stir in cilantro right before you are ready to serve.

    Cilantro on Mexican meatball soup.
     The Spruce
  8. Serve the albóndigas soup hot.

    Caldo de Albóndigas
     The Spruce

Recipe Variations

Here are a few suggestions for true Mexican variations of this soup:

  • Use a combination of half ground beef and half Mexican chorizo for the meatballs.
  • Switch from beef broth to chicken broth.
  • 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 diners squeeze lime into their bowls right before eating.
  • If you prefer a tomatoey broth, add to the soup 2 cups of peeled, diced or crushed tomatoes (with the juice) along with the vegetables.
  • Add uncooked pasta (orzo, alphabets, or broken-up vermicelli or spaghettini) to the soup when you're adding the greens. You might need to add about 1 extra cup of broth to the soup if you are including pasta.
  • Don't hesitate to add a greater variety of vegetables to this soup. Use green peas, cubed potatoes, Mexican summer squash, chopped green beans, or some chopped cabbage instead or in addition to one or two of the large carrots. There is no wrong way to alter this soup, but do adjust the salt if you're adding more veggies and check the liquid level to add more broth as needed.

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