Albondigas Soup is a traditional Mexican Meatball Soup filled with nutritious vegetables, fresh herbs, and meatballs (albondigas) made from ground meat, fresh herbs, cooked rice, and garlic. One of my most cherished childhood recipes, you will love this easy, delicious, and comforting soup.
Mexican Meatball Soup
Albondigas Soup, or Caldo de Albondigas, is a traditional Mexican meatball Soup made of a comforting and nourishing broth and hearty herb-filled meatballs. My connection to this Mexican meatball soup runs all the way back to my grade school years as my favorite nanny (a woman I spent more time with than my own mom) would make this albondigas soup at least once a month. As with most things in life, I did not appreciate it back then. Fortunately, it’s never too late. Now, this hearty, yet healthy, comfort food is one of my family’s favorite recipes.
What is Albondigas?
Albondigas means “meatball” in Spanish. Usually made with ground beef and cooked rice as the binding agent, authentic albondigas soup recipes come packed full of delicious juicy meatballs.
There are two main parts to this albondigas soup recipe – first, you have the soup base, and second, the meatballs.
Let’s start with the soup base before discussing the albondigas.
Albondigas Soup Ingredients
- Roma tomatoes
- Garlic cloves
- Olive oil
- Salt and Pepper
- Yellow onions
- Russet Potatoes
- Low-sodium chicken broth (or water)
- Lime juice
Note- I made my own roasted tomato and caramelized onion base to add to the broth. While this step is super easy, it does add some extra time. If you don’t have that kind of time on your hands, don’t worry, canned tomatoes will accomplish the same thing.
In addition to blended roasted tomatoes and caramelized onions, you’ll also find onions, carrots, celery, and potato as part of the base.
How to Make Albondigas Soup
- Roast the tomatoes and caramelize the onion: In this recipe, we’re roasting approximately 8 Roma tomatoes and 5 whole cloves of garlic tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper. The roasting adds a beautiful, complex flavor that I love having in soups and pasta (assuming I have the time). At the same time that the tomatoes are roasting, chop up an onion and slowly caramelize it in a medium pot over medium heat, stirring frequently. The tomatoes take approximately 40 minutes, while the onions take approximately 25 minutes.
- Blend the tomatoes and onion: Pulse the tomatoes, garlic, and onion in a blender or food processor 5-10 times. While you want them to be blended, you do not want them to be fully pureed.
- Prepare the soup base: Grab a large soup pot (at least 9 quarts) and cook the vegetables – onion, carrots, celery, potato – over medium heat until they start to sweat and soften. These vegetables, known as the mirepoix, are the vegetable base, and although seemingly humble, play an integral role in the overall flavor of the broth.
- Add the homemade tomato sauce and broth: You’ll add the blended tomato sauce and broth to the vegetables and mix well. You can use whatever broth you prefer (chicken stock, veggie broth, beef broth, bone broth, or water). Depending on which broth is added, season generously with salt, to taste.
- Tip – If you didn’t make your own tomato sauce… substitute with 1 (15-ounce) can of crushed tomatoes and 1 (15-ounce) can of tomato sauce.
- Simmer and make some meatballs. Bring the soup and broth to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Allow the soup to simmer for at least 15-20 minutes before adding the meatballs.
The meatballs (“Albondigas”) are a huge part of what makes this soup so special. Unlike many meatball recipes that are mixed with breadcrumbs and dried herbs, these albondigas are mixed with rice and loads of fresh herbs.
You’ll need the following ingredients,
- Ground meat – I used a mix of ground beef and ground turkey
- Yellow onion
- Long-grain white rice
- Fresh parsley
- Fresh mint
- Fresh cilantro
- Salt and Pepper
- Cayenne (optional)
The mint is the star in these meatballs. If you think you’ve added enough mint, you probably haven’t. Add a little bit more.
Feel free to use whatever ground meat is your favorite. For example, when I originally published this recipe I made the meatballs with lean ground turkey. I have also made them with a meat mixture of ground chorizo and ground beef. In other words, mix and match or just use your favorite.
These albondigas are gluten-free and dairy-free.
How to freeze albondigas
Prepare your meatballs and transfer them to a tray lined with parchment paper, leaving a little space between each meatball. Transfer the tray to the freezer. Allow the albondigas to freeze completely. Remove the tray and transfer the frozen meatballs to a freezer-safe bag or storage container until ready to use. Best if used within 4 months.
How to make Albondigas
- Prepare the meatballs: As with all meatball recipes, you need to mix together all the ingredients. Some people like to mix the rice with the ground meat first, but I suggest simply adding everything to a large bowl and using your hands to get in there and mix it all together.
- Shape the meatballs: To ensure that the meatballs will each start cooking at approximately the same time, I like to shape them first and transfer them to a large baking sheet. If you find that you want to make the meatballs ahead of time or make extra, this is an easy way to get a head start on this recipe by freezing a large batch and cooking later. To shape the meatballs, roll approximately 2-3 tablespoons between the palms of your hands into a nice round ball. If it gets too sticky, wet your palms with a bit of water.
- Cook the meatballs: Cooking Mexican albondigas is literally the easiest thing you will ever do. Simply drop each meatball into the pot of soup and allow them to simmer, covered, for approximately 25 minutes. Remember- don’t stir your meatballs until after they’ve had time to cook! When they’re first added to the broth they’re still very delicate.
Can you make albondigas soup in the slow cooker?
I have never made this recipe in the slow cooker (or Instant Pot). It is certainly possible. If I were to try, I would cook the soup and vegetables until softened, around 3-4 hours on high. Then I would add the meatballs and continue to cook on high until they are cooked through (at least an additional 1-2 hours).
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- The rice: you will need one cup of cooked rice to mix in with the meatballs. You’ll notice in the recipe instructions that I suggested adding rice that is cooked to al dente. To get your rice to cook approximately halfway, wash and rinse three-quarters of a cup of long-grain white rice and add to a pot covered with approximately 3 cups of water. Boil and reduce to a simmer. Check rice every 5 minutes. You know it’s done when it starts to soften but is still slightly undercooked. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- The vegetables: Here we’re adding onion, carrots, celery, and potato. However, feel free to add all of your favorite vegetables. For example, bell pepper, zucchini, peas, green beans, and cabbage are all great additions.
- The meatballs: As I mentioned above, make sure you add plenty of fresh herbs. The mix of the savory tomato broth with the mint and cilantro-filled meatballs is simply the best thing ever. Also, you will want to really dice the onion that you plan to add to the meatballs. A smaller dice always makes for easier rolling.
- The tomato base: Easily substitute the tomato base with a couple of cans of diced tomatoes. You may still caramelize the onions and blend the canned tomatoes with the onion, or skip the onions, too. If you do decide to skip roasting the tomatoes and garlic and do not caramelize the onions, I recommend cooking 1 more small onion with the vegetables in addition to 4 cloves of minced garlic.
- The herbs: The majority of the herbs will go directly into the meatballs, so I don’t recommend skimping (even if it seems like a lot!) Mint is especially important, with cilantro coming in second. Trust me, the cooling freshness from the herbs really brings it all together.
- Use a large pot: This recipe needs a large pot or Dutch oven. At least 8-10 quarts or bigger. If you know that you don’t own a pot that large, simply cut the recipe in half.
How to freeze albondigas soup
Allow the soup to cool in the refrigerator completely before transferring it to freezer-friendly containers or double-bag in freezer-friendly zip-lock bags. Remove most of the air, leaving just a small amount of space to allow the liquid to expand as it freezes.
To reheat, allow the frozen soup to thaw in the fridge overnight. Transfer to a pot and cook until heated through.
Leftovers are best enjoyed within 4-5 days, thoroughly reheating each time.
What to serve with Albondigas?
If you’re anything like me, you probably love to garnish the heck out of your soup. Yes? Here’s what you’ll find dumped on top of mine-
- Lime wedges
- Sliced avocado
- Shredded cheese
- Sour cream
- Hot sauce
- Crumbled tortilla chips
And then, of course, let’s not forget the Margaritas!
More Fantastic Soup Recipes,
Have you tried making this Caldo de Albondigas?
Tell me about it in the comments below! I always love to hear your thoughts. And tag me #theforkedspoon on Instagram if you’ve made any of my recipes, I always love to see what you’re cooking in the kitchen.
Albondigas Soup (Mexican Meatball Soup)
- 8 Roma tomatoes - halved lengthwise
- 5 cloves garlic - minced
- 3 tablespoon olive oil - divided
- 3 teaspoon salt - divided
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 2 large yellow onions - chopped
- 6 large carrots - chopped
- 4 celery - chopped
- 2 russet potatoes - chopped
- 10 cups low sodium chicken broth - or water
- ½ cup fresh cilantro - chopped
- 1 lime - juiced
For the Meatballs:
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 1 small yellow onion - finely chopped
- 1 cup white rice - cooked to al dente
- 4 cloves garlic - minced
- ⅓ cup fresh parsley - finely chopped
- ½ cup fresh mint - chopped, packed
- ⅓ cup fresh cilantro - chopped
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne - optional
- 3 large eggs - beaten
- Roast the tomatoes. Start by roasting the tomatoes and garlic. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice each tomato in half lengthwise and spread out across the prepared baking sheets in a single layer. Add the garlic. Drizzle with approximately 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for approximately 35-45 minutes. Once the tomatoes have finished cooking, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool.
- Caramelize the onion. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add one of the chopped onions to the pot and mix well to combine. Allow the onion to cook for approximately 25 minutes, or until they are fragrant, mushy and golden brown. Stir often.
- Blend the tomatoes and onion. Add the roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic, their juices, and the caramelized onions to the bowl of a large high-speed blender or food processor. Pulse until blended, but not completely pureed (imagine the consistency of canned tomato sauce, but perhaps a little thicker). Set aside.
- Prepare the meatballs. In a large mixing bowl, use your hands to thoroughly combine the ground meat with the minced onion, garlic, al dente rice, fresh herbs, salt, pepper, cayenne (optional), and eggs. Set aside.
- Prepare the soup base. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Add the remaining chopped onion, and cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until starting to soften. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Add the carrots and celery, mixing well to combine. Cook for an additional 5-7 minutes, stirring often. Add the potatoes, and continue to cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.
- Add the homemade tomato sauce and broth. Add the blended garlic tomato sauce to the vegetables and mix well to combine. Allow the tomato sauce to cook with the onions for 3-4 minutes before adding the low-sodium chicken broth (or water) to the pot. Increase heat to high and cover. Bring to a boil before reducing heat to low. Simmer for approximately 15 minutes while you roll the meatballs.
- Make the Meatballs. Use your hands to form meatballs of approximately equal size. If the mixture starts to stick to your hands, dampen your palms with a little water.
- Cook the meatballs. Gently add the meatballs to the simmering soup, one at a time, adding more stock to the pot, if necessary, but taking care not to overflow your pot. Cover and simmer over low heat for approximately 30 minutes.
- Garnish and serve. After the meatballs have finished cooking, stir in the fresh chopped cilantro and lime juice. Enjoy!
- To get your rice to cook approximately halfway (al dente), wash and rinse three-quarters of a cup of long-grain white rice and add to a pot covered with approximately 3 cups of water. Boil and reduce to a simmer. Check rice every 5 minutes. You know it’s done when it’s starting to soften, but still undercooked. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- I added onion, carrots, celery, and potato. Feel free to add all your favorite vegetables, however, including bell pepper, zucchini, peas, and cabbage.
- Really dice the onion that you plan to add to the meatballs. A smaller dice always makes for easier shaping.
- Easily substitute the tomato base with a couple of cans of diced tomatoes. You may still caramelize the onions and blend them with the canned tomatoes, or skip the onions, too. If you do decide to skip roasting the tomatoes and garlic and do not caramelize the onions, I recommend cooking 1 additional small onion with the vegetables plus 4 cloves of minced garlic.
- Most of the herbs will go directly into the meatballs, and though it may seem like a lot, I don’t recommend skimping. Mint is especially important, with cilantro coming is second.
- Use your favorite ground meat for the meatballs – ground turkey, ground chicken, ground beef, ground pork, etc.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)