Albondigas soup is my ultimate comfort food after a long day of work or on a rainy day. While it is known as a Mexican staple, its origin actually lies in the Middle East (it was later introduced to Mexico by Spanish conquistadors). There are many variations that exist, but what remains constant in each and every one is the addition of cooked rice in the meatballs.
This soup is typically served as the main course with lime wedges, a side of corn tortillas, and a variety of toppings like avocado slices and crushed peppers. If you’re lucky enough to have any leftovers, it makes for a delicious lunch the following day!
Key Ingredients in Albondigas Soup
All of the ingredients can be found at your local grocery store.
Ground beef: I recommend using 90% lean for best results. The meatballs will render fat as they cook, so it’s best to use lean meat, which will yield a clearer soup. You can swap ground beef for chicken or turkey if you like.
Rice: Basmati rice works great and it’s the closest to what is used in Mexico. You can use other rice varieties as well as any leftover rice.
Yukon Gold potatoes: Leaving the skins on ensures that they hold up better during cooking. Don’t use Russet potatoes, as they will fall apart.
Chicken broth: Store-bought works great here, but you can use homemade chicken broth if you have some available.
Aromatics: Using a mirepoix of carrot, celery, and onion will yield a warm and earthy soup base. It’s important to dice them all the same size for even cooking.
How to Make Albondigas Soup
Prepare meatballs. Mix together ground beef, egg, rice, breadcrumbs, and salt, then form into balls using damp hands.
Make the soup base. Cook the aromatics and add chicken broth.
Cook the meatballs. Add the meatballs, potatoes, tomatoes, and oregano to the simmering broth and cook until the meatballs float and are cooked through.
Storage and Make-Ahead Tips
The meatballs can be made ahead of time and frozen. All you need to do is just drop them in the simmering soup straight from the freezer. Keep in mind that they will take longer to cook (about 40 minutes). Leftover soup keeps well in the fridge for up to five days, or frozen for up to three months.
Albondigas Soup Recipe
Meatballs and soup are the perfect cozy pairing.
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 45 minutes to 50 minutes
Makes about 14 cups
Serves 4 to 6
For the soup:
1/4 cup long-grain white rice, preferably basmati rice
1/2 cup water, plus more for rinsing
1 large carrot
1 large stalk celery
1 small white or yellow onion
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes
2 medium roma tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 (32-ounce) cartons chicken broth (about 8 cups)
1 pound lean ground beef (90% lean)
2 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 sprig fresh oregano or 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Dried chiltepin peppers or chopped canned chipotle peppers
Warm corn tortillas
Place 1/4 cup long-grain white rice in a fine-mesh strainer and run under cold water until the water runs mostly clear. Place in a small saucepan, add 1/2 cup water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat down to the lowest setting. Cover and cook until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Transfer the rice to a large bowl and let cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, prepare the following, adding each to the same medium bowl as you complete it: Peel and dice 1 large carrot (about 1 cup). Dice 1 large celery stalk (about 1/2 cup). Dice 1 small white or yellow onion (about 1 cup).
Dice 2 medium Yukon gold potatoes and 2 medium roma tomatoes (no need to peel, about 1 1/2 cups each).
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the carrot mixture and sauté until the onion is translucent but not browned, about 6 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high, add 2 (32-ounce) cartons chicken broth, and bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile, add 1 pound lean ground beef, 2 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs, 1 large egg, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to the bowl of rice and mix until evenly combined. Form the mixture into 12 meatballs: Scoop out scant 1/4-cup portions of the mixture and roll each one with damp hands to form a smooth ball. Place on a plate.
Add the potatoes, tomatoes, meatballs, and 1 fresh oregano sprig or 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano to the simmering broth. Cook, reducing the heat as needed to maintain a simmer, until the meatballs float and are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Serve with avocado slices, lime wedges, dried chiltepin or chopped canned chipotle peppers, and warm corn tortillas.
Rice substitution: You can skip cooking the rice and use 1/2 cup cooked white rice instead. Add to the ground beef mixture.
Storage: Refrigerate leftover soup in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.