Albondigas Soup (Mexican Meatball Soup)

Soup and StewMexican and Tex MexGluten-FreeMeatballs

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

Photography Credit: 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.

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 complained to a Mexican chef 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 (Mexican Meatball Soup) Recipe

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  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6-8

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 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 3 quarts of chicken stock or beef stock OR water OR a mixture of both (we usually use half stock half water as the meatballs will create their own stock)
  • 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 lb of green beans, strings and ends removed, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1/3 cup of raw white rice
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/4 cup (loosely packed) chopped fresh spearmint leaves
  • 1/4 cup (loosely packed) chopped parsley
  • 1 raw 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 Tbsp fresh chopped oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Method

1 Make the soup base with onion, garlic, broth, tomato sauce, carrots and green beans: 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 broth mixture 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.

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.

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.

Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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170 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Stephano

    I used both lean ground pork and beef. I make a double batch and freeze half. I also use both mint and cilantro, each half measurements so as to not over power the rest of the soup. One of my family favorites.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Mary

    It was delicious! I will definitely make it more often. It reminded me of what I had as a child growing up. My mom made the best and this was very close to hers!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Fran

    Delicious! I just made the albóndigas for dinner, and am so glad I did. Even the little picky eaters ate them and requested to make them again when we run out! The yerba buena really makes them tastes like my grandmother’s caldo de albóndigas, which tugged at heart big time. The flavor was on point. I just added a little extra rice to the broth to have more to scoop up.
    Thank you for sharing

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Christie

    This was def. Not what I ate growing up in my Hispanic home. One- the soup, juice, was basically like tomatoes soup, and there was too much mint in the meatballs themselves. I used your exact measurements and to me with my personal experience.. this failed all expectations.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Stephanie

    Hi Elise,
    I remember having meatball soup as a child. I was wondering about adding rice to the soup instead of potatoes. How much is suggested and when should it be added?
    Thanks for the recipe!

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