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What Are Albondigas?
Albondigas are small meatballs. In Spanish cuisine, albondigas are often served as an appetizer with tomato sauce. They’re also a comfort-food staple in Mexican cooking. Sopa de albóndigas, a traditional Mexican soup, features albondigas floating in a flavorful broth filled with vegetables and garnished with fresh herbs.
How to Make Albondigas Soup
Here’s how to make albondigas soup at home, step by step:
- Prepare meatballs. Unlike Italian- and American-style meatballs, which are typically held together by breadcrumbs, albondigas are bound by rice, making them gluten-free. Albondigas are typically flavored with chopped fresh mint leaves.
- Make the soup. Albondigas soup features a tomato broth, similar to the base of chicken tortilla soup, that can be made with beef, vegetable, or chicken stock and diced fresh or canned tomatoes—or even tomato sauce.
- Cook the meatballs in the soup. Reduce the soup to a simmer and cook the meatballs directly in the soup—the albondigas will flavor the broth, and vice versa. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro and a wedge of lime.
Traditional Mexican Sopa de Albóndigas Recipe
Prep Time30 min
Total Time1 hr 30 min
Cook Time1 hr
For the meatballs:
- 3 pounds lean ground beef (or ground turkey)
- ½ cup uncooked white rice (or ¼ cup cooked rice)
- ⅓ cup finely chopped mint leaves
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large egg
For the soup:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced ½-inch thick
- 3 celery stalks, sliced ½-inch thick
- 1 large russet potato, diced into 1-inch cubes
- Salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 plum tomatoes, diced
- 8 cups homemade or low-sodium beef broth (or vegetable or chicken broth)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ pound green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 medium zucchini, sliced ½-inch thick
- Fresh cilantro, to serve (optional)
- Sliced jalapeño, chopped, to serve (optional)
- Lime wedges or freshly squeezed lime juice, to serve (optional)
- Warm tortillas, to serve (optional)
- In a large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients and mix until fully incorporated. Roll into 1-inch balls, arranging in a single layer on a baking sheet.
- In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, sauté onion, carrots, celery, and potato in olive oil. Add diced tomatoes, and let caramelize. Then add stock, garlic, bay leaves, dried oregano, and cumin. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer.
- Add the meatballs and continue to simmer until cooked through, about 20–40 minutes (less if using cooked rice). Add green beans and zucchini during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Serve with cilantro, jalapeño slices, lime wedges, and tortillas.
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