Albondigas Soup (Mexican Meatball Soup)

Classic Mexican soup made with meatballs (albondigas), green beens, onions, and chicken stock. A family favorite.

Albondigas Soup
Elise Bauer

Albondigas soup is a traditional Mexican meatball soup ("albondigas" means "meatballs" in Spanish) that my mother has cooked for our family for more than 50 years.

It is our version of comfort food.

Video: How to Make Mexican Meatball Soup

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Mexican Meatball Soup

A simple soup base is made with sautéed onions, garlic, broth, and tomatoes. Into the bubbling soup you drop meatballs made with ground beef or ground turkey and rice.

The meat creates its own additional broth for the soup. Carrots, green beans, and peas are also usually added to the soup.

What makes the flavor of albondigas soup distinctive is the chopped mint in the meatballs. I once remarked to a Mexican chef friend of mine about the lack of mint in his cookbook's albondigas soup recipe, and he looked at me with surprise and said, "my mother puts mint in her albondigas!"

You can, of course, skip the mint, substitute with a little fresh oregano or some cilantro, but to me, the soup's not the same without it. You can also vary the vegetables added, depending on what you have on hand and what's in season.

Albondigas Soup
Elise Bauer

Albondigas Soup (Mexican Meatball Soup)

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Total Time 65 mins
Servings 6 to 8 servings

If fresh mint is not available, you can use a couple teaspoons of dried mint from herbal mint tea.

You can vary the vegetables depending on what you have on hand. Spring peas in their pods instead of shucked peas, for example. Or you could add some chopped fresh zucchini or corn.

My mother often puts a couple extra tablespoons of chopped fresh mint directly into the soup.

Feel free to substitute ground turkey for the ground beef, we do it often.

Use spearmint or Mexican yerba buena for the mint in this soup (not peppermint).

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 quarts chicken stock or beef stock
  • 1 quart water
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 pound green beans, strings and ends removed, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1/3 cup raw white rice
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/4 cup (loosely packed) chopped fresh spearmint leaves
  • 1/4 cup (loosely packed) chopped parsley
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • A dash of cayenne (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cup of frozen or fresh peas
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, crumbled or 1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Method

  1. Make the soup base:

    Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed pot (5-qt) over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a minute more. Add stock, water, and tomato sauce. Bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer. Add carrots and string beans.

  2. Prepare the meatballs:

    Mix rice into meat, adding mint leaves and parsley, salt and pepper. Mix in raw egg. Form mixture into 1-inch meatballs.

    albondigas-soup-method-1
    Elise Bauer
  3. Add meatballs to soup, let simmer, add peas:

    Gently add the meatballs to the simmering soup, one at a time. Cover and let simmer for 1/2 hour.

    albondigas-soup-method-2
    Elise Bauer

    Add the peas towards the end of the 1/2 hour. Add a few pinches of oregano and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and a dash of cayenne, to taste.

  4. Serve:

    Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

    Albondigas Soup
    Elise Bauer