Albondigas Soup (Mexican Meatball Soup)
Caldo de Albondigas is a hearty Mexican Meatball Soup made with homemade beef and rice meatballs, potatoes, and fresh vegetables served in a spicy tomato broth. This cozy, mouth-watering soup guarantees to please.
Albondigas Soup is an authentic Mexican soup recipe made with tender beef meatballs, aromatic vegetables, and the most delicious broth. It's warm, filling, and the perfect meal for a cold day.
One of the first times I traveled to Mexico, I had the privilege of trying comida corrida, which is a super affordable, pre-set lunch option that's popular in smaller Mexican restaurants.
It's where I first had, Caldo de Albondigas, or Mexican Meatball Soup. It's also where I first tried Albondigas al Chipotle (Meatballs in Chipotle), another Mexican dish I love.
Immediately, I fell in love with the super tender meatballs served in a rich, flavor-packed broth. I knew it was something I wanted to recreate at home.
To make a truly authentic version of this soup, you need to include raw rice in the meatballs and let everything cook together. The meatballs flavor the broth as they cook and the rice soaks up all that delicious flavor. Plus, it means you don't have to cook the rice separately. I love anything that saves me time.
This soup only gets better with a night or two in the fridge, so don't be afraid to make a double batch. If you love Mexican soups, you will also want to try this Pozole Verde, Chicken Fajita Soup, Chicken Tortilla Soup, or Chicken Birria.
Why You'll Love this Mexican Meatball Soup
- Easy to make: Don't let the ingredient list scare you, this recipe is easy to make and the ingredients are affordable and approachable. Everything is ready in less than 45 minutes.
- Freezes great: Consider making a double batch of this soup to store in the freezer for a future meal. It only gets better as the flavors combine.
- Healthy and nutritious: This soup has it all - lean protein, lots of veggies, and rice. It's a complete, nutritious meal that is great for a family dinner.
What is Albondigas Soup?
Albondigas soup is a traditional Mexican meatball soup made with ground beef and rice meatballs, vegetables, and a rich tomato broth. Albondigas is the Spanish word for meatballs.
This soup is also known as Sopa de Albondigas, Caldo de Albondigas, and Albondigas en Caldo. Normally it is served with warm corn tortillas, cilantro, and lime wedges.
Ingredients and Easy Swaps
- Beef and rice meatballs: To make authentic albondigas soup, you need ground beef, uncooked rice, mint, garlic, and oregano. The uncooked rice serves to bind the meatballs and will cook as the meatballs simmer in the broth. This meatball soup can also be made with ground pork, ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground lamb. Typically white rice is used, you can swap in brown rice but the meatballs may need to simmer longer for the rice to soften.
- Broth: Traditional broth is made with chicken broth (or bouillon), tomatoes, and garlic. I like to add a few jalapenos to mine for some spice, but albondigas soup isn't always spicy. Beef broth can also be used for a stronger beef flavor.
- Vegetables: Traditionally this soup has zucchini, potatoes, carrots, celery, and onions. With that said, many cooks make this with whatever veggies they have on hand so you also may see corn, cabbage, yuca, Mexican squash, chayote, and green beans.
- For serving: Corn tortillas, cilantro, lime, radishes, and sliced jalapenos are the most traditional. Many people scoop up the meatballs into corn tortillas and then dip that back into the broth.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
Here are my top tips and tricks for making the best Mexican Meatball Soup:
- When making the meatballs, use your hands! Sure, this can get a little messy, but it’s a great way of making sure everything is well combined. It also ensures you don't overmix the meatballs, which can make the meatballs tough.
- After adding the meatballs to the pot, don’t stir! I know how tempting it can be to mix in all those delicious flavors, but stirring can potentially break your meatballs, which is less than ideal.
- Cut your veggies into larger chunks, similar to how you would cut them for a stew for a more authentic look and feel. It also helps them not to overcook.
- This recipe is very adaptable! Feel free to take liberties to make this dish your own. Change up your veggies, herbs, or garnishes to suit your flavor preferences and dietary needs.
- Let's talk about the mint! Traditional albondigas soup almost always includes fresh mint. This can be left out but the flavor will be slightly different.
- Traditional Mexican soups and stews usually have very soft vegetables. If you prefer your vegetables to have more crunch, don't cook them for quite as long.
Mexican Meatball Soup is one of those soups that can absolutely stand on its own. However, it can be fun to top it off with a little extra something! To get you started, here are some of my favorite topping ideas for this soup:
- Corn tortillas: Warm up some corn tortillas, scoop up some meatballs, and dip everything back into the broth. So good!
- Crushed tortilla chips. If you like your soups with a little crunch, top your bowls with some crushed tortilla chips or strips just before serving.
- Cilantro. Fresh cilantro is a classic garnish in Mexican cuisine. However, if you aren’t a fan of cilantro, fresh parsley or mint will work well too.
- Radishes. Fresh sliced radishes give this soup a peppery flavor that goes wonderfully with the existing flavor palate.
- Avocado: Add some healthy fat and creaminess with avocado. You could also add sour cream or Greek yogurt, but it isn't a traditional topping.
- Lime juice. A squeeze of lime juice is the perfect way to top off a bowl of meatball soup. The acidity helps to enhance the flavors and brighten up the dish.
- Diced onion. Diced onion adds a terrific crunch to this soup. Either red or white onion will do the trick.
- Spice. Lover of all things spicy? Leave the seeds in the jalapenos or add a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce before serving the dish. This soup is also delicious with chipotles in adobo for a smokier flavor.
How to Store Leftover Mexican Meatball Soup
One of the reasons I LOVE this soup — and all soups, for that matter — is that they are incredibly storage-friendly. Leftover soup is the perfect healthy lunch or dinner option for busy days.
Simply let your soup cool to room temperature, then transfer it to an airtight storage container. Then, you can store this dish in one of two ways:
- In the fridge for up to 3-4 days. Reheat in the microwave or stovetop.
- In the freezer for up to 3 months. Let defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat on the stove or in the microwave.
If you are looking to save time when making this recipe, here are some shortcut ideas:
- Use your favorite store-bought meatballs in place of homemade meatballs. Then add pre-cooked rice (frozen rice works great) to the soup. The flavor will be slightly different but it will still make for a really tasty soup. To get more Mexican flavor, add some chipotles in adobo to the broth and serve the soup with cilantro, sliced jalapenos, avocado, and lime juice.
- Instead of chopping fresh vegetables, make this with a bag of store-bought frozen mixed vegetables. Add them towards the end of cooking so they don't get too mushy. Some grocery stores also sell pre-chopped soup veggies in the produce section.
- Make the broth with Knorr Tomato Chicken Boullion instead of adding both chicken broth and tomato sauce.
- Cut down the cooking time by adding cooked rice to the meatballs instead. Use double the amount of cooked rice when replacing for raw rice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this cozy meatball soup:
How to keep my meatballs from falling apart?
Both the egg and uncooked rice in the meatballs help to keep them from falling apart. As long as you leave your meatballs alone as they cook in the soup (no stirring!), you should be able to avoid having them fall apart.
Can I make this dish in a slow cooker?
Yes! It is actually incredibly easy to cook this soup in a slow cooker. Just add all of your ingredients to your slow cooker as you would in a pot, then cook on low for about 4 hours.
Is this soup healthy?
Yes! Mexican Meatball Soup is loaded with meat, vegetables, and fresh herbs. It’s low in carbs and calories, yet high in protein, fiber, and nutrients. As long as you eat this dish in moderation, it’s a perfectly healthy addition to your diet.
Why are my albondigas hard?
Albondigas are usually hard or tough for two reasons. The first reason is that the meatball mixture was overmixed. Using your hands to mix the meat until just combined is the best way to avoid this. The second reason is that you are compacting the meatballs too much when you form them. Do not press the meat too hard when forming the meatballs.
Albondigas Soup (Mexican Meatball Soup)
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- 1.5 lbs 95% lean ground beef (meatballs)
- 1 egg (meatballs)
- 1 cup yellow onion, minced (meatballs)
- 1/4 cup uncooked white rice (Jasmine, for meatballs)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced (soup)
- 2 tbsp fresh mint, minced (meatballs, optional)
- 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped (meatballs)
- 1 tsp kosher salt (meatballs)
- 1/2 tsp oregano (meatballs)
- 1/2 tsp cumin (meatballs)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper (meatballs)
- 1 tbsp olive oil (soup)
- 1 onion, diced (soup)
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped (soup)
- 2 celery stalks, chopped (soup)
- 2 jalapeno peppers, minced (seeds and veins removed, for soup)
- 1 large potato, chopped (soup)
- 3 tbsp tomato paste (soup)
- 5 cups chicken broth (soup)
- 1 cup canned tomato sauce (soup)
- 1 bay leaf (soup)
- 2 small zucchini, chopped (soup)
- 1 cup corn (fresh or frozen, for soup)
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- Nutritional Information
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
This soup is traditionally made with more rustic cut vegetables. Chop the vegetables into larger chunks if desired.
For a less spicy soup, leave out the jalapenos. For a spicier soup, swap in serrano peppers for the jalapeno peppers.
If you prefer making these meatballs with precooked rice, swap in 1/2 cup of precooked rice for the uncooked rice. Then reduce the simmering time to 20 minutes.
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