A Take on Albondigas, a Mexican Soup Recipe

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Heather says:

This is my family’s version of the spicy Mexican meatball soup, often called Albondigas. The recipe came from my mother, who grew up in Tucson, Arizona. I think she got it from her sister or her mother. I don’t know for sure. The faded index card with cursive writing in the green tin is long gone. I don’t know how authentic it is, but I do know that we love it, and it was always best when my aunt would visit with her suitcase of fresh tortillas that we could not get in Charleston, SC.

The meatballs are a little tedious to make, but if you crank the radio or bribe your kids, partner, or friend into assisting, it goes quickly.

Warning: if you don’t like cilantro, albondigas is not the soup for you.

When I first started making this recipe for albondigas, I used to bring the soup to a rolling boil and drop in the meatballs, but this made the soup  a little greasy. Baking the meatballs first completely fixed the problem.

2022 update – Now, I sometimes don’t care. I have four teenagers who often bring over their friends. I have a kitchen packed with people. There won’t be any leftovers. (I wish there would be leftovers to worry about.) When this happens, I crank up the stove and drop the meatballs in. It’s a party. A little fat is fine. I’m just happy these kids like to be here.

As with many meals, this one is even better the next day. The meatballs absorb more of the broth’s flavor, and there’s no prep time for leftovers.

Double or triple this recipe. It freezes very well and goes well with margaritas (virgin, if alcohol isn’t your thing). This is a meal people frequently request for the potlucks I attend. (Potlucks sound lame, but they fit the budget).

My family's version of the spicy Mexican meatball soup often called Albondigas is a meal often requested from me.

Albondigas Meatball Ingredients:

  • 2lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 small can diced green chilies
  • 1/2 bunch green onions – chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic – minced or pressed
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro – chopped
  • 1/4 cup rice
  • 1 egg
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Tabasco or Cholula to taste

Albondigas Meatball Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Combine all ingredients by hand and roll into 1″ meatballs, bake on a cookie sheet for 10 – 12 minutes. Place on a paper towel to absorb grease. Set aside.

Albondigas Broth Ingredients:

  • 1 qt water
  • 1 qt beef stock (or substitute an equivalent amount of beef broth, base or bouillon)
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 small can diced green chilies
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes (feel free to use fresh, in season)
  • 1/2 bunch green onions -chopped
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro – chopped
  • 1/4 cup rice
  • salt/pepper/hot sauce to taste

Albondigas Broth Instructions

Bring water, beef base, garlic, chilies, and tomatoes to a roiling boil. Add meatballs and rice. Reduce the heat and simmer until the rice is soft. Add cilantro, and green onions, and season to taste, simmering for an additional 10 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Longer is better, but I usually can’t wait.

Serve hot with fresh, warm flour tortillas.

If you like Mexican style cooking you should try these recipes:

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13 thoughts on “A Take on Albondigas, a Mexican Soup Recipe”

  1. This is one of my favorite soups from my childhood. When my first step-father taught my mom how to cook, it was all Mexican food. 🙂 I like the way you do the meatballs so the soup isn't so greasy. Traditionally you wrap the meatballs, with the rice and let it stew in.. but its just a greasy mess that I don't mess with it. I'll have to try it your way.. or you'll have to feed me some of yours! 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing your recipe, it seems there a many variations to this recipe. I learned from my mom also, but mine is pretty basic: beef broth, cans of diced tomatoes, meatballs with rice, I add sliced zuccini then once in soup bowl, top off with some fresh squeezed lemon and chopped cilantro. Yum. In my house there are no left-overs.

  2. If you have a slew of meatballs to make I have a little tip for you.

    Press out your meat mixture on a sheet of waxed paper. Make it a rectangle that is 1 inch thick. Using a long knife, cut the slab into 1 inch squares — grid fashion.

    Now your meat is in even portions. You can grab a portion and roll OR don't bother to roll. Just place on your cookie sheet and bake. They will look a little square but once in the soup, no one seems to notice.

  3. Your recipe sounds great! Just wondering, though, if you are using uncooked rice, and then baking the meatballs rather than cooking them in the broth, does the rice get cooked enough?? I’m not sure what went wrong, but the last time I made Albondigas Soup the usual way, simmering the meatballs in the broth, the rice took FOREVER to cook. I’ve been thinking of trying Minute Rice instead. I just want my next batch of soup to have a nice, clear broth, and meatballs that aren’t overcooked trying to get the rice done. I appreciate any tips you might have!!

    • If you don’t like cilantro simply omit it. My mom added dried mint which she would grind between the palms of her hands into the meatball mixture; this added a unique flavor. Kathy, I also simmer my meatballs till rice is done, no browning in a pan. To get a nice clear broth I remove meatballs and strain using a seive or a cheese cloth lined colander and skim off the fat, then cook the veggies in broth till done and place meatballs back in soup. Good luck!


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