Albondigas Soup

Albondigas Mexican Meatball Soup
The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Total: 80 mins
Servings: 10 servings

Albondigas soup is surprisingly easy to make and a delicious one-pot family meal. Albondigas is Spanish for "meatball," and this is a popular Mexican soup that's often a family recipe passed down through generations. This recipe includes the most common traditional ingredients and it's easy to customize with whatever is in your kitchen. It takes just an hour to cook and the meatballs can be prepared ahead of time, so it is worthy of weeknight dinners.

The requirements for this soup are meatballs and broth and it often includes carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, and garlic. These meatballs use a combination of ground beef and spicy pork sausage with a few simple seasonings. The rice cooks along with the meatballs and makes the soup a little heartier. Chicken broth is a favorite, though you can use beef or vegetable broth, or any combination you like. Canned tomatoes and the same seasonings found in the meatballs are also used in the broth to make it a little easier.

This colorful soup is a balanced meal on its own. You can top it with anything you like; sliced avocados, torn cilantro leaves, and a squeeze of lime juice give it a fresh and healthy finishing touch.

Ingredients

  • For the Meatballs:
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck
  • 1/2 pound spicy pork sausage
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Optional: 1/3 cup uncooked white rice
  • For the Soup:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion (chopped)
  • 2 medium carrots (sliced)
  • 2 stalks celery (sliced)
  • 1 or 2 potatoes (gold or red; cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 (16-ounce) can diced tomatoes (with juices)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 quarts chicken broth (low-sodium; or beef broth)
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Garnish: fresh cilantro, sliced avocado, lime wedges

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Albondigas Mexican Meatball Soup
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios 
  2. In a large bowl, combine the meatball ingredients with your hands or a fork. Do not overmix.

    Meatball Mix for Mexican Meatball Soup
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios 
  3. Form the mixture into small meatballs about 1 inch in diameter (1 ounce, or 26 to 30 grams). You should have around 45 to 50 meatballs. Place them on a baking sheet and set aside.

    Meatballs for Mexican Meatball Soup
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios 
  4. In a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, celery, carrots, and potatoes. Cook for 5 minutes, until slightly softened, stirring occasionally.

    Sauteeing Vegetable for Mexican Meatball Soup
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  5. Add the garlic, tomatoes, oregano, and cumin. Cook and stir for 3 minutes.

    Cooking Mexican Meatball Soup
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  6. Add the broth and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low.

    Cooking Mexican Meatball Soup
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios 
  7. Carefully add the meatballs to the broth, one at a time. Maintain a low simmer and cook for 45 to 50 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through and the rice is tender. Do not stir for 20 minutes to avoid breaking the meatballs. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    Mexican Meatball (Albondingas) Soup
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  8. Ladle the soup into serving bowls—about 4 to 5 meatballs per person. Garnish with fresh cilantro, avocado slices, lime wedges for squeezing, and any other toppings.

    Mexican Meatball (Albondigas) Soup
     The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

Tips

  • The meatballs can be made up to 8 hours in advance. Refrigerate them until ready to use.
  • There's no need to brown the meatballs first unless you prefer a crispier exterior. Don't cook them too long or you risk overcooked meat and undercooked rice.
  • To test for doneness, remove a meatball from the soup. The safe interior temperature for pork and beef is 160 F using an instant-read thermometer (165 F for poultry). The rice should be tender to the bite.
  • Wait to cut the avocado until you're ready to serve. To prevent the flesh from turning brown, squeeze a little lime juice on the slices.
  • This recipe can be made in a slow cooker. Cook on low for about 4 hours, and check the meatballs for doneness.
  • Refrigerate leftovers in an air-tight container for up to 4 days.
  • The soup can be frozen for up to a month. Let it chill in the refrigerator first and thaw overnight for the best results.

Recipe Variations

  • Make the meatballs with any ground meat—including turkey or chicken—or combination you prefer.
  • Add various herbs and spices to the meatballs and broth. Fresh mint and parsley are commonly added to the meatballs along with the oregano and cumin. Coriander, chili powder, and paprika can spice up the broth. You can also add fresh cilantro to the broth but do so in the last few minutes of cooking because it doesn't stand up to prolonged heat.
  • Rice is a common addition in the broth. Add about 1/3 cup uncooked white rice to the broth while waiting for it to boil.
  • For extra spice, add chopped jalapeño peppers or a 4-ounce can of green chiles.
  • Substitute any of the vegetables; corn, green beans, peas, and zucchini are all excellent options. Many others (fresh or frozen) will work just as well.
  • Use fire-roasted canned tomatoes or tomatoes with green chiles for extra flavor.
  • The garnish options are numerous. Set them on the table in separate bowls so everyone can finish the soup to their liking. Try traditional toppings like sliced sweet peppers or hot chili peppers, fresh diced tomatoes, your favorite hot sauce, or crumbled queso fresco. For a Tex-Mex twist, sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, and a Mexican cheese blend are good choices.

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