Mexican albondigas is a hearty meatball soup with tender garden veggies. Make this recipe for a delicious cold weather comfort food meal!
The star of this recipe is albondigas, the Spanish word for meatballs in English. Originally created by sixth-century Spaniards and they were on to something good, because nothing says comfort like this warm, flavorful dish!
Another soup recipe with a real punch of flavor that you should make time for is Caldo de Res, a Mexican vegetable beef soup. The flavors and textures are completely different than those in this meatball soup.
What’s in Mexican albondigas?
I have a fantastic flavor weapon in these meatballs and it’s ground chicharron, better know here in the States and fried pork rinds.
Aside from plump, juicy meatballs, the meatball soup is packed with fresh garden vegetables and rich, aromatic stock. The combination of chiles and Mexican oregano add wonderful authentic flavor to the soup.
Ingredient notes and substitutions
For the meatballs
- Ground meat – While you could use frozen or premade, I always make mine from scratch. They come together quickly and are really what makes this dish so special.
I use a combination of ground pork and 85% lean ground beef. If you prefer, use just one of those meats, or any other ground meat.
- Long Grain Rice – After soaking the rice in boiling water for a few minutes, it plays double duty by bulking up the heartiness of the meatballs and helping the meat hold its shape.
- Mint Leaves – These are the essential herbs to give this recipe an authentic flavor. I can’t imagine Mexican albondigas without it. If you don’t have fresh mint, you can use dried; just cut the amount down to ⅓ of the fresh amount.
- Eggs, onions, garlic, and seasonings – You’ll be processing these into a paste. This mixture serves to season and also to bind the meat together.
- Chicharron – Here in the U.S., these are better known as fried pork rinds. You’ll be reducing these to crumbs to add flavor and more moisture to the meatballs than breadcrumbs would. Chicharron is available in the snack chip aisle of most grocery stores.
- Tomato, onion, and garlic – These will be blended smooth and then fried, serving as the seasoning base for the stock.
- Veggies – You can use different vegetables if you’d like, and depending upon the time of year, you may want to try some other types. I use potatoes, carrots, and zucchini, which are usually available any time of the year.
- Broth – You cannot have meatball soup without the broth. Either chicken or beef stock or broth will work well for this dish. You could even use vegetable if that’s all you have on hand.
- Cilantro, oregano and mint – These are added to the pot and simmered in to add authentic flavor to the Mexican albondigas soup.
- Jalapeños – You’ll leave the stems on these chiles when preparing them and simply make one long slit from top to bottom in each pepper.
The chiles are simmered in for their flavor and heat. If you prefer a milder flavor, try using only one chile, use a milder chile like Anaheim, or omit completely.
Video: Making the meatball soup
After forming the meatballs, you’ll get the broth simmering. The veggies will be added at different times to account for the different cooking times they have.
To see the recipe in action from start to finish, watch the video located in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Make the meatballs:
- Prepare the rice and crush the chicharron and set them aside.
- Blend everything else, (except the meat) into a paste.
- Mix all ingredients together.
- Shape into balls. This will make about 18 meatballs.
- Blend the tomatoes, onions, and garlic until they form a smooth paste then fry the mixture in a little oil before adding the broth.
- Simmer the veggies in the broth and seasoning mixture for a few minutes.
Because they require different cooking times, be sure to add the veggies in the order shown in the recipe card. Firmer veggies like carrots need to go into the pot before the softer ones like zucchini.
- Add the meatballs and herbs, then simmer for about 20 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through.
Tips and variations
- Mexican albondigas is hearty and filling enough to stand as a meal on its own, but is wonderful served with a side of bread, a cactus salad, or tortilla chips. For dessert, make some apple empanadas or churros with chocolate sauce!
- This Mexican soup recipe makes great leftovers. Store any leftovers in the fridge and use them up within a week. Simply reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave until it’s warmed through.
- It’s important that the meatball soup reach a temperature of 165°F to kill any bacteria that may have grown in the meat.
- And since we’re talking about soups, you’ll want to try Roasted Chile and Potato Soup or Shrimp Posole Verde
About meatballs and meatball soup
Did you know?
Nobody knows for sure where the first meatball was made. The oldest written recipes come from the Ancient Romans who made meatballs out of Peacock and rabbit among other meats.
Nearly every culture has its own version of the meatball. In Spanish they’re called Albondigas, the Dutch have bitterballen and Greek soutzoukakia, to name a few.
Meatballs were created to dress up tougher and cheaper cuts of meat. The meatball was a true peasant’s dish, but was also a good way to use up stale bread. Oh, how far they’ve come!
Being a nut about meatballs myself, I have plenty of recipes for them here on Kevin is Cooking! Another soup recipe that everyone goes crazy for is my Italian meatball soup.
This post, originally published on Kevin is Cooking Feb. 9, 2021, was last updated with new content on Oct. 21, 2021.
Mexican Albondigas Meatball Soup + Video
- 2 tbsp long grain rice
- 6 oz ground pork See Note 1
- 6 oz lean ground sirloin
- 1 large egg
- 3 mint leaves
- 1/2 tsp Mexican oregano or regular oregano
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 medium white onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup ground chicharron (fried pork rinds)
- 1/2 lb tomatoes rough chop
- 1/2 medium white onion rough chop
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 7 cups beef broth or stock
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 cups russet potato 1 peeled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 3 medium carrots peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 large zucchini peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 jalapeños leave stem on and make a slit from stem to bottom on each
- 1/4 cup cilantro chopped
- 2 tbsp mint leaves chopped
- Add rice to small bowl, cover with boiling water and allow to soak for 20 minutes. Drain water and set aside.
- Add ground meats to a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
- To bowl of food processor, add egg, mint leaves, oregano, salt, pepper, cumin, onion and garlic. Process until smooth. Add to bowl of ground meat along with soaked drained rice and ground pork rinds. Blend thoroughly with spatula or your hands. Shape mixture into 18 meatballs and set aside on a platter.
- To bowl of food processor, add rough chopped tomatoes, onion and garlic; process until smooth. Set large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until hot, then add the oil. Add blended tomato mixture to pot and cook for 5 minutes. Add broth and salt, and bring to a simmer. Cook 5 more minutes.
- Add the potatoes and carrots and cook another 8 minutes. Add the uncooked meatballs, zucchini, jalapeno, cilantro and mint. Cook covered over low heat for 20 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through and potatoes are fork tender.
- A combination of 6 oz. each ground pork and lean ground beef may be used, or 12 oz. of one ground meat, if preferred.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.