Albondigas Soup

Mexican Meatball Stew

As I’ve mentioned before – I love one-pot dishes: entrees that incorporate proteins, starches and vegetables all in one. I’d never made Albóndigas soup in the past, probably because I thought that having to make all the meatballs would be time-consuming. And while it did take a bit of time, the end result was pretty rewarding – you can even enlist loved ones in forming the little round spheres.


The word Albóndigas come form the Arabic al-bunduq, which means hazelnut. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) By extension, these little meatballs are small and round. Though I was pressed for time, I eventually began to relax and really enjoyed the process of forming the meat, rice and spices into small neat shapes.

Once again I had turned to one of my favourite foodblogs on the web – Elise’s Simply Recipes – for this dish. Elise notes that what makes her family’s recipe distinctive is the addition of mint, which we have in our backyard in abundance. This did provide a unique and very enjoyable flavour to the soup.

The soup is hearty and healthy. It utilizes very little fat – just a few tablespoons of olive oil for sauteeing, some ground beef mixed with rice, and a mixture of tomato sauce and vegetables. One could presumably even make the meatballs with ground chicken or turkey. If I were to make this dish over again, though, I’d perhaps make the meatballs with half beef and half pork, perhaps substitute the raw rice with bread, add in a little chopped bacon, and include a little paprika and cumin.

Hearty but Light and Healthy

Albondigas Soup



  • 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) [Note: I followed this guidance, but in the future will use all stock, not half stock/ half water.]
  • 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 lb of string 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 of chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup of chopped parsley
  • 1 raw egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt [I’d add more salt – perhaps 2-3 teaspoons instead of just 1.5]
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • A dash of cayenne (optional)
  • [As I noted above – I would in the future use half pork and half beef; omit the rice and use bread or breadcrumbs; perhaps add in some chopped bacon and more salt; plus a little paprika and cumin.]


  • 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

Procedure [slightly adapted from Elise’s original – my changes in italics.]

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

2) 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.

3) Add the meatballs to the simmering soup, one at a time. Cover and let simmer for 1/2 hour. Add the carrots and green beans – simmer for another 15 minutes. Add the peas during the last 2 minutes. Add a few pinches of oregano and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and a dash of cayenne, to taste.

4) Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro or fresh oregano or both. Serves 6-8.

More photos on Flickr here.

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  • Gloria Lim

    Hi Claudine,

    Your albondigas recipe sounds delicious! I hope I can make it as good as yours!

    Auntie Gloria

    • Auntie Gloria, I think you would probably do a much better job than I can ever hope to achieve… and, it’s not even my recipe! 🙂 Credit really goes to Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes.

  • I just made this for lunch today and followed your suggestions to a tee. The soup turned out fabulous!! So flavourful but still incredibly light.

    • Great! Thanks, Melly! Did you add a bit of bacon as well? 😉

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