Albondigas Soup

Albondigas Soup (Mexican Meatball Soup) is a classic Mexican Soup that’s about to become a family favorite!

Albondigas Soup is a traditional Mexican soup made with juicy, herb and rice infused meatballs (albondigas), and loaded with veggies:  carrots, potatoes, celery, and chayote all simmered in a bold, aromatic tomato broth – and of course toppings!  This Albondigas Soup recipe is hearty, warm, comforting and customizable with your favorite veggies. Albondigas Soup is make ahead friendly (tips and tricks included!) stores and reheats beautifully, is freezer friendly irresistibly delicious!

top view of spicy Albondigas Soup in a white bowl

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albondigas Soup RECIPE

Mexican Soups have a special place in my heart: Chicken Tortilla Soup, Mexican Chicken Corn Chowder, Chicken Fajita and Rice SoupCheesy Taco SoupWhite Chicken Chili, Salsa Verde Chicken Tortilla Soup and Caldo de Pollo – some of the best soups you will ever taste!  But you know what makes Mexican soup even better?  Meatballs! – AKA Albondigas Soup! 

If you aren’t familiar with Albondigas Soup, I’m excited to make the introduction because this soup is epic – loaded with everything delicious and then some. It tastes fresh due to the aromatic broth and veggies yet comforting due to the potatoes and meatballs and just plain fabulous due to the layers of flavor and texture all over. Patrick was swooning over this Albondigas Soup recipe and I hope you will be too!  

a spoon scooping up a meatball in authentic  Albondigas Soup

WHAT IS albondigas Soup?

Albondigas is the Spanish word for meatballs, so Albondigas Soup simply means Meatball Soup – but this isn’t just any meatball soup.  This soup will make you want to face plant into the broth and not come up until every meatball disappears.  Here’s what makes this Albondigas Soup recipe so divine:   

  • THE MEATBALLS.  The unique meatballs in traditional Albondigas Soup are the juicy, plump, delectable, flavor exploding star.  They are loaded with both ground beef and pork, tons of fresh herbs such as mint, cilantro, parsley and oregano, aromatic onions and garlic and finally rice is used as the binding agent.  Can we say texture, flavor and YUM?!  The meatballs are made extra delicious – and extra easy -by cooking directly in the broth so they soak up even more flavor.
  • THE BROTH.  The tomato broth creates a soup that is both light yet hearty at the same time.  The broth is a hypnotic blend of beef broth, fire roasted diced tomatoes, green chiles, sautéed onions and garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika.  Its subtle soothing warmth will warm you from the inside out.
  • THE VEGGIES.  The vegetables in Albondigas Soup are customizable.  You can go as simple as potatoes and carrots but my favorite combination is carrots, celery, potatoes and chayote.  The tender veggies with the juicy meatballs create a symphony of textures you won’t be able to get enough of!
  • THE RICE.  Rice is not only added to the albondigas, but often added to the soup as well elevating this meatball soup with yet another layer of satisfying al dente texture.

Now just think of the meatballs, the broth, the veggies and the rice combined into one bowl – and drool a little. 

Albondigas Soup Recipe INGREDIENTS

There are a lot of ingredients listed for this Albondigas Soup recipe due to both the soup and the meatballs – but keep in mind while the soup does require sauteing a few veggies, the rest is dump and simmer; and all of the meatball ingredients are dump and roll – so please don’t be scared away!

THE SOUP

  • Long grain white rice: you’ll want to use long grain white rice as opposed to brown rice otherwise it will not cook in the same time as the meatballs. You also don’t want to use short grain rice or it will cook in too short of a time.
  • Oil:  olive oil but any cooking oil such as avocado oil works great.
  • Onion: you will need one small yellow onion for the Albondigas Soup recipe – half for the soup and half for the meatballs. 
  • Jalapeno: jalapeno adds a pop of flavor and a little kick but does not make this Albondigas Soup overly spicy, in my opinion. I would omit the jalapeno if you want to make sure this soup is very kid friendly and then add cayenne to taste or to individual servings. On the other hand, if you know you LOVE heat, then consider using 2 jalapeno peppers or even a serrano pepper.  You may also use canned diced jalapeno peppers to taste.
  • Carrots:  chop the carrots into 1/2-inch thick slices.  I cut the small ends of my carrots even thicker because they are so narrow.
  • Celery:  chop the celery into 1/2-inch thick slices so they don’t become too soft. 
  • Potatoes:  I use Yukon gold potatoes chopped into 1-inch chunks for their buttery flavor. Yukon potatoes are also hard to overcook and never taste mealy. You may also use red potatoes or any other waxy potato but don’t use russet potatoes because they are more likely to fall apart. 
  • Chayote: is also known as mirliton squash of Mexican origin AKA the most delicious squash you have never heard of – you will LOVE it!  They are pear or avocado in shape with a green skin.  When cooked, chayote taste like a baby squash with a hint of sweet corn.  I was able to easily find chayote at my local Sprouts (specialty produce store), so if you don’t spot them right away, make sure you ask someone before you give up. When buying chayote, choose firm, unblemished vegetables – the harder the better.  If you can’t find chayote, you may substitute with zucchini.
  • Garlic: I use 4 garlic cloves but you can use more or less depending on your garlic love.
  • Green chiles:  use one 4 oz. can mild diced green chiles.  They are not spicy, just add tangy flavor, just take care you get the MILD vs HOT. 
  • Fire roasted diced tomatoes:  the tomatoes and their juices add a tangy, slightly sweet and smoky flavor.  Fire roasted tomatoes are very common and can be located with the other canned tomatoes at your grocery store.  If you can’t find them, then you may substitute with regular diced tomatoes.
  • Beef broth:  use low sodium beef broth so we can control the salt otherwise your Albondigas Soup will be too salty.
  • Seasonings:  chili powder, ground cumin, dried oregano, ground coriander, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. It creates a dynamic, satisfying broth you will want to slurp with a straw.
top view of spicy  Albondigas Soup recipe being served out of a white Dutch oven

THE MEATBALLS

  • Beef: I recommend lean ground beef because it is fatty enough to taste juicy and lean enough to not make your soup greasy.
  • Ground Pork:  is sublime when combined with beef.  I recognize it can be inconvenient, however, to use half beef and half pork, so you may substitute the pork with beef.
  • Rice:  serves as a binder in the meatballs instead of breadcrumbs. The recipe calls for par-boiling the rice before adding to the meatballs otherwise if you use cooked rice, the meatballs will be mushy; if you use uncooked rice, the meatballs will overcook by the time the rice is al dente. 
  • Onion:  use the other half of the yellow onion not used in the soup and make sure to dice it fine so you don’t end up with raw onion in your meatballs.
  • Garlic:  3 finely minced garlic cloves.
  • Egg:  one large egg will do the trick.
  • Herbs:  give these albondigas their distinctive alluring flavor.  Chopped cilantro, mint, parsley and oregano.  You may also use dried parsley and oregano – but fresh is always best!
  • Seasonings: chili powder, ground cumin, salt, pepper to round out the flavor profile.  If a meatball doesn’t have salt and pepper it will taste bland no matter how many other ingredients you add to it.

Is Albondigas Soup gluten free?

Yes!  Rice is gluten free and is used in place of breadcrumbs in the meatballs. The rest of the Albondigas Soup recipe ingredients are gluten free. 

CAN I USE STORE BOUGHT MEATBALLS?

Like I mentioned previously, a huge part of what makes Albondigas Soup, Albondigas Soup are the unique meatballs made with rice and herbs so I HIGHLY encourage you to make these meatballs from scratch or the soup will not taste like it was intended.  You may use store-bought meatballs, but just keep that in mind.  

two hands holding a bowl of best  Albondigas Soup

Also, store bought meatballs won’t necessarily save you any time because you whip up your meatballs while your soup is simmering – and nothing beats tender, juicy, homemade meatballs cooked from scratch in flavorful broth.

CAN I USE TURKEY MEATBALLS?

You may make your meatballs from ground beef, pork, lamb, turkey or chicken.  Just keep in mind the higher the fat content, the juicier the meatballs. I also like to add a little beef bouillon to my turkey or chicken when I am substituting them for beef. The bouillon adds a rewarding beefy flavor. If using bouillon, you will want to reduce the amount of salt in the meatballs.

How to Make Albondigas Soup

Parboil Rice.  Boil rice for 6 minutes. Take this time to chop your veggies for the soup.  Note we are parboiling the rice, it will not be completely tender.

Sauté Veggies.  Cook onions, jalapenos, carrots, celery, potatoes, garlic and all seasoning to enhance their flavor and expedite the cooking process.

showing how to make Albondigas Soup by adding seasonings to veggies
showing how to make Albondigas Soup by cooking vegetables

Simmer.  Add tomatoes, green chiles and broth then bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer for 20-25 minutes while you make the meatballs.

showing how to make Albondigas Soup by adding green chiles and tomatoes to veggies

Meatballs.  Add egg to a large bowl and whisk.  Add 1 cup parboiled rice and all remaining meatball ingredients and mix well.  Shape 1 tablespoon-size meatballs and place on a parchment lined baking sheet; about 40-45 meatballs.

showing how to make meatballs for Albondigas Soup by adding hamburger, pork, onions, rice, garlic, cilantro, mint, oregano and parsley to a bowl
showing how to make meatballs for Albondigas Soup by mixing ingredients together in a bowl
showing how to make meatballs for Albondigas Soup by forming meatballs and placing them on a baking sheet

Simmer meatballs in soup.  Add uncooked meatballs, remaining rice, and chopped chayote to the soup.   Bring to a boil then reduce to a gentle simmer for an additional 12-15 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through and rice is tender.

showing how to make Albondigas Soup by adding meatballs to soup to simmer

Toppings!   Ladle Albondigas Soup into bowls and top with desired toppings.

WHAT SIZE MEATBALLS ARE BEST?

For this Albondigas Soup recipe, I like 1 tablespoon round meatballs. This size is large enough so you can sink your teeth into a juicy meatball and they don’t just get lost in the soup. They are also large enough so they are hard to overcook and remain super tender. You can make mini meatballs if you prefer, just take into consideration they will require less cooking time so plan accordingly.

a ladle scooping up  Albondigas Soup with cabbage

What Toppings for Albondigas Soup?

Let’s be honest, some of the best part of Mexican soups are the toppings!  This Albondigas Soup doesn’t need much, but it is delicious with the addition of:

  • Lime Juice:  awakens the flavors of the entire soup with a bright pop of citrus.
  • Sour cream:  adds a wonderful creaminess and refreshing tanginess.  You may also use fat free sour cream or Greek yogurt.  
  • Cilantro:  adds a fresh, zesty flair. 
  • Avocado:  chopped or sliced avocados add a wonderful creaminess.  I prefer chopped so I can get a bite of avocado in every spoonful.  
  • Pico de gallo:  a spoonful of  pico de gallo isn’t necessary but adds a depth of freshness I love, otherwise fresh chopped tomatoes are fab. 
  • Hot sauce:  to customize the heat of your Albondigas Soup.
a bowl of  Albondigas Soup with toppings:  avocado, cilantro, our cream

Albondigas Soup TIPS AND TRICKS

  • Use a large pot. This Albondigas Soup recipe makes a large quantity so make sure to use a large pot otherwise you will need to half the recipe. You can also scale down the recipe if you don’t have a large family and don’t want leftovers.  If you do love leftovers (raising my hand high), then you will love this Albondigas Soup for an easy lunch or dinner!
  • Customize vegetables. I love the combo of veggies in this Albondigas Soup recipe- but there’s a lot of flexibility!  Other delicious vegetable options include green beans, bell peppers, zucchini, corn, peas, and cabbage.  Just be aware of veggie cooking times – for example, green beans take longer to cook than peas and cabbage which just takes minutes.
  • Parboil rice for the juiciest meatballs.   If don’t parboil the rice then you will have to cook the meatballs longer in order to soften the rice which results in overcooked, dry, falling apart meatballs; OR if you cook the meatballs just until cooked through the rice will still be crunchy.  So, please parboil the rice and everyone wins!
  • Wet hands to make meatballs. If your hands get too sticky when making meatballs, you can either dampen your palms or lightly spray them with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Uniform meatballs.  I suggest using a scooper to roll your meatballs so they are a uniform size and cook evenly.  This also saves tons of time!
  • Don’t stir meatballs.  The raw meatballs can easily break apart if stirred after they are first added so wait until they have simmered for at least five minutes before gently stirring.  If they break apart though it’s not the end of the world – they still taste delicious -just are no longer meatballs 😉. 

WHAT SHOULD I SERVE WITH Albondigas Soup?

Albondigas Soup is a meal in one that is perfectly delicious with crusty bread, a big green salad, fruit salad, chips and salsa and churros!

WHAT CAN I PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME?

This Albondigas Soup is very simple but it does require chopping the veggies and making the meatballs.  Fortunately, you can do both in advance!

  • Vegetables:  The Veggies can all be chopped ahead of time. Chop your onions, garlic, carrots, celery and chayote and store in airtight containers in the refrigerator. You may also chop your potatoes but they will need to be kept submerged in water in the refrigerator so they don’t turn brown.
  • Assemble Meatballs:  You can completely assemble the meatballs according to directions.  To store, line uncooked meatballs on parchment paper and tightly wrap with foil or plastic wrap.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours until ready to use then simply drop uncooked meatballs directly into the soup.
  • Brown meatballs.  Although not required in the recipe, you may also brown the meatballs up to two days before making Albondigas Soup.  This comes in handy when you want to prep ahead but can’t make the soup right away.   To brown meatballs, transfer them to a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake at 450 degrees F for 8-10 minutes or until browned.  Store albondigas in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.   Browned meatballs will require less cooking time in the soup, so check them for doneness after simmering for 8 minutes.  You may also freeze the meatballs.  Instructions to follow.
showing how to serve  Albondigas Soup with an up close view of soup in a ladle

Can I Freeze the Meatballs?

Absolutely! You can brown the albondigas, freeze, then drop the frozen meatballs directly into your Albondigas Soup.

  • Bake meatballs on a rimmed baking sheet at 450 degrees F for 8-10 minutes or until browned. 
  • Let meatballs cool to room temperature.
  • Place entire baking tray with the meatballs in the freezer. You will want to make sure the meatballs are not touching so they don’t freezer together.  If your freezer can’t accommodate your baking tray then use a small tray and freeze in batches.  Freeze for 1-2 hours until solid.
  • Transfer meatballs to a freezer safe bag or container.
  • Label meatballs and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • When ready to use, add frozen meatballs directly to the simmering soup and simmer 10 minutes before adding the rice.

CAN I MAKE Albondigas Soup AHEAD OF TIME?

Absolutely!  As with all soups, Albondigas Soup tastes even better the next day so feel free to make it ahead of time for lunches or dinners. The rice and vegetables will absorb some of the broth, so you’ll want to add some additional water to thin to desired consistency.

top view of spicy Albondigas Soup with a spoon

HOW DO I REHEAT Albondigas Soup?

  • Stove: You can reheat large batches of Albondigas Soup on the stove over medium low heat, stirring gently until warmed through. Add additional water or broth as needed to reach desired consistency. 
  • Microwave: For smaller batches or individual servings, you can reheat Albondigas Soup in the microwave. Transfer soup to a microwave-safe dish, cover with a microwave-safe lid or paper towel.  Microwave for 2 minutes, stir, then continue to microwave for 30-second intervals, if needed.  Stir in additional broth or water to reach desired consistency. 

HOW LONG IS Albondigas Soup GOOD FOR?

Albondigas Soup should be stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator.  When properly stored, it is good for 3-5 days.

CAN I FREEZE Albondigas Soup?

Yes and no. Potatoes can become grainy and chayote can become mushy which is off-putting to some people but others don’t seem to have a problem with it.  If you don’t mind their texture or want to omit or remove these veggies, then freeze on!

To Freeze Albondigas Soup:

  1. Cool: Allow soup to cool completely before freezing to preserve the integrity of the ingredients and so it doesn’t linger in the “danger zone” temperature for too long.
  2. Package:  Transfer soup to a freezer safe container or smaller containers. 
  3. Freeze. Freeze for up to 3 months.
  4. Defrost/Reheat. When ready to use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator then reheat on the stove or microwave per instructions.

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up close of a spoon scooping up a meatball of  Albondigas Soup

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Albondigas Soup

Albondigas Soup (Mexican Meatball Soup) is a traditional Mexican soup made with juicy, herb and rice infused meatballs (albondigas), and loaded with veggies: carrots, potatoes, celery, and chayote all simmered in a bold, aromatic tomato broth – and of course toppings! This Albondigas Soup recipe is hearty, warm, comforting and customizable with your favorite veggies. Albondigas Soup is make ahead friendly (tips and tricks included!) stores and reheats beautifully, is freezer friendly irresistibly delicious!
Servings: 6 -8 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients

SOUP

  • 1 cup long-grain white rice, uncooked divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 small yellow onion chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper minced
  • 2 medium carrots sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 2 stalks celery sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 2 small Yukon gold potatoes chopped into 1-inch chunks
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tsp EACH dried oregano, ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp EACH smoked paprika, salt, pepper
  • 2 15 oz. cans fire roasted tomatoes with juices
  • 1 4 oz. can mild diced green chiles
  • 8 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1 chayote, peeled, cored chopped into 1/2” cubes (may sub ½ zucchini)

MEATBALLS

  • 8 oz. lean ground beef
  • 8 oz. ground pork may sub lean ground beef
  • rice from above in directions
  • 1/2 small yellow onion minced
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano OR ½ teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 tsp EACH chili powder, ground cumin, salt, pepper

TOPPINGS (pick your favs!)

  • Avocados
  • Tomatoes
  • cilantro
  • sour cream
  • lime juice
  • hot sauce

Instructions

  • Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a Dutch oven. Add rice and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally for 6 minutes. Take this time to chop your veggies for the soup. Drain rice and rinse thoroughly in cold water (we are parboiling the rice; it will not be completely tender). Set aside.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and jalapenos and cook 3 minutes. Add carrots, celery, potatoes and all seasonings. Cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, green chiles and broth.
  • Cover pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a low simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes while you make the meatballs.
  • Meatballs: Add egg to a large bowl and whisk. Add 1 cup parboiled rice and all remaining meatball ingredients and mix well. Shape 1 tablespoon-size meatballs and place on a parchment lined baking sheet; about 40-45 meatballs.
  • Add meatballs, remaining parboiled rice, and chopped chayote to the soup. Add 1-2 cups water if desired for a less chunky soup. Bring to a boil then reduce to a gentle simmer for an additional 12-15 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through and rice is tender – don’t stir meatballs for at least 5 minutes or they’ll break apart.
  • Ladle into bowls and top with desired toppings.

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53 Comments

  1. Kimberly says

    I made this yesterday on a rainy day and it was the perfect meal – warm, just the right amount of spice, and full of texture and flavor! My daughter and I both had leftovers for lunch today and probably will again tomorrow. The meatballs are SO good!

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Kimberly for the glowing review! I love hearing how much you and your family loved this soup. The meatballs would also be good with enchilada sauce and rice!

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