This classic Albondigas soup is full of zesty Mexican flavors and features juicy meatballs, potatoes, and carrots in a light and refreshing broth.
When the temperature takes a downturn, soups and stews become a weekly staple.
Our family has a few favorites up our sleeve, including a potato soup, broccoli cheese soup and a classic chicken soup. We throw some albondigas into the mix when we feel like something a little more cozy.
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What are albondigas
Albondigas is the Spanish word for meatballs. Thus, albondigas soup is a meatball soup.
It is widely eaten in Mexico and features beef and rice meatballs in a tomato-based broth. It also contains various spices, vegetables, and herbs.
This soup is a staple in my kitchen, especially during the cooler months. My carnivore-heavy family loves it too, because it is hearty and satisfying. Here are some reasons why you’ll love this recipe-
- It’s healthy. When made with low-fat beef, albondigas is one of the healthiest soups you can make. Like hot and sour soup or a Tuscan bean soup, there is no cream or dairy in it, yet it’s super flavorful and naturally hearty.
- It’s a one-pot meal. You only need one large pot to make everything so clean up is a breeze.
- Takes less than 30 minutes to make. These may look like it takes a lot of time to prepare and cook. But with all the prep work needed for this dish, the soup pot takes care of all the hard work (use the extra time to make some pupusas or arepas to enjoy with it!).
- Versatile. We sometimes make the meatballs on their own (especially as a fun filling for meatball subs) or make a double batch and freeze one of them.
- Full of delicious Mexican spices. If you love our classic Mexican soup or Taco soup, add this to your rotation!
For such a fancy looking dish, you’ll love the basic ingredient list. Everything can be found at any grocery store or supermarket. Here is what you’ll need:
- Ground beef. I prefer using only beef for my meatballs, but you can use a mixture of beef and pork. As mentioned earlier, lean ground beef works very well for this soup, as the mixture includes rice and eggs which helps keep them juicy and moist.
- Rice. Use white long-grain al dente cooked rice.
- Garlic. I add two cloves of garlic to the meatball mixture. You can add more or less depending on how much garlic you love in your food.
- Herbs. I use parsley and mint for this recipe. While the authentic albondigas recipe does contain mint, you can skip it if you don’t like it. Using dried mint is an option, too.
- Egg. This is the binding agent for the meatballs.
- Paprika. A must for that lovely smoky flavor.
For the soup.
- Broth. Both homemade and store-bought beef broth will work.
- Onion. Sautéed onions deepen the flavor of the broth.
- Olive oil. You need a tablespoon of olive oil or any other neutral cooking oil to sauté the onions.
- Tomatoes. Crushed tomatoes make the broth for albondigas soup more flavorful and give it an appetizing red color.
- Carrots, potatoes, and peas. This is the vegetable combination I prefer using for my Mexican meatball soup.
How to make albondigas soup
Step 1- Prepare the meatball mixture: In a mixing bowl, combine ground beef with rice, minced garlic, chopped parsley and mint, and paprika. Add salt and pepper to taste. Crack an egg into the meat mixture and mix until fully combined.
Step 2- Form the meatballs: Portion out uniform meatballs using an ice cream scoop. Wet your hands if the meat is sticking to them, and perfect the shape of the meatballs.
Step 3- Make the soup: Heat oil in a soup pot. Add diced onions into the pot and cook until softened. Add crushed tomatoes to the sauteed onions and mix. Pour the beef broth into the soup pot and bring it to a boil. Add cubed potatoes and carrots into the broth, followed by the green peas. Let the soup cook for around 8 minutes.
Step 4- Combine everything: Carefully drop the meatballs into the boiling soup and cook for an additional 15 minutes.
Tips to make the best recipe
- Omit the eggs. If you are allergic to eggs or don’t have them at home at the moment, use an egg substitute instead.
- Don’t skip the herbs. If you don’t have fresh herbs, it is better to use dried herbs instead rather than skip them altogether.
- Don’t cut the potatoes too big. Large chunks of potatoes may take longer to cook than the meatballs. Also, larger pieces are prone to becoming grainy when stored away to enjoy later.
- Amp up the starches. Add rice not only to the meat mixture but also to the broth to make this soup heartier. We do this with our stuffed pepper soup and it makes it so much more satisfying.
Use different meat. Instead of ground beef, use other lean meats, including lamb, pork, turkey, or chicken. If you choose to use poultry, opt for a minimum of 85/15 (lean to fat content).
Switch the grains. While rice is preferred, couscous, arborio rice, or quinoa will work just as well, and provide that deliciously chewy texture. I’ve even had success using steel cut oats.
Lower the carbs. For a low carb dinner idea, replace the rice with cauliflower rice. You will need to increase the eggs by one to compensate for the texture.
To store. Once albondigas cool, transfer them into an airtight container and store the soup in the fridge for up to 5 days.
To freeze. You can freeze the soup for up to 6 months. I recommend removing the potatoes from the soup before freezing it. The potatoes may become grainy and mushy when you thaw the soup.
To reheat. Reheat soup on the stovetop on medium-low heat or in the microwave at 30-second intervals.
Recommended tools to make this recipe
- Soup pot/stock pot. A must when cooking a fabulous soup like this one- saucepans just don’t cut it!
- Mixing bowl. To prep the ingredients to form the meatballs.
- Chef’s knife. A must for any kitchen, especially when working with so many root vegetables.
More hearty soups and stews to try
- White chicken chili
- Stuffed pepper soup
- Oxtail stew
- Seafood soup
- Ground turkey soup
- Turkey noodle soup
- Pickle soup
Frequently asked questions
Albondigas is popular both in Spain and Mexico. While this soup is referred to as ‘Mexican soul food,’ it actually has a Spanish origin.
These originated in Spain in the 6th century under the influence of Islamic culture. The dish then traveled from Spain to Mexico and other countries in Latin America.
These meatballs may turn out tough even if you use the right meat. They may turn out hard if you have over-mixed the dough mixture or if you have packed them too tightly.
For the meatballs
- 1 1/4 lbs ground beef
- 1/4 cup cooked rice
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon parsley chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon mint leaves chopped
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 large egg beaten
For the soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 1/4 cups beef broth
- 1 lb canned tomatoes crushed
- 3 medium carrots peeled and chopped
- 3 small potatoes chopped
- 3/4 cup peas fresh or frozen
- Combine ground beef, rice, garlic, parsley, mint, paprika, salt and pepper. Add beaten egg and stir by hand until just combined.
- Form balls from the mixture and place on a plate.
- Heat oil in a pot and add onions. Cook until softened. Add crushed tomatoes and soup into the pot and bring to a boil. Add vegetables and cook for 8 more minutes.
- Carefully drop meatballs into the pot and cook for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if needed and serve with lime wedges.
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