Albondigas Soup, aka Mexican Meatball Soup or Sopa de Albóndigas is the perfect all-in-one meal that delivers BIG on both flavor and satisfaction. This soup features a delicious broth, lots of veggies, and tender pork meatballs with tons of flavor. Everyone at the table will love this one.
Albóndigas soup, aka Mexican meatball soup, is the ultimate Sunday night dinner. Three things we love about this soup recipe: requires little prep time, has BIG flavor, and is an all-in-one meal. A brief simmer infuses the broth with flavor, cooks the meatballs, and gets your appetite grumbling.
The light tomatoey broth is flavored with onion, garlic, tomato paste, oregano and cumin. Then tender pork meatballs (albóndigas), featuring tons of fresh herbs, are cooked right in the simmering soup. Mixed with dry white rice, the albóndigas come out tender and moist. *chefs kiss, these are incredible!
What is Albóndigas Soup?
Albóndigas is the mexican work for meatballs. Most often, albóndigas refers to the popular Mexican and Spanish dish featuring spicy meatball in a tomato sauce. The meatballs often consist of a both beef and pork, and traditionally feature rice, which keeps them nice and tender. Some recipes use bread instead of rice, but I love the texture rice adds.
Albóndigas soup (sopade albóndigas or sopa de albóndigas) is a beef-broth soup featuring chopped vegetables and tender meatballs.
Albóndigas Soup Ingredients
Albóndigas (Meatball) Ingredients
- Ground pork: Depending on how fatty your pork is, you may need to skim some grease off the top of the soup before serving. We use 85% lean ground pork for this soup.
- Rice: dry long-grain rice is added to the meat mixture and is a traditional way to bind meatballs in the Mexican cuisine. The rice cooks and plumps up inside the meatballs, adding texture and helping to bind them together.
- Herbs: fresh mint and parsley add loads of fresh flavor while dried Mexican oregano adds floral herbiness. You can find Mexican oregano online or at your local Mexican market.
- Garlic: fresh is always best! You’ll need two large cloves.
- Egg: an egg is used to bind the pork meatball mixture together.
- Olive Oil: used to sauté the vegetables! You can also use avocado oil or vegetable oil.
- Aromatics: white onion, garlic and carrot lay the foundational flavor for this soup.
- Tomato paste: some recipes use canned tomato sauce instead. You can add a small can of tomato sauce to this soup if you want it less brothy and more tomato-based.
- Dried oregano: preferably dried Mexican oregano, I get mine at my local Mexican market. If you don’t have Mexican oregano you can use marjoram or regular dried oregano.
- Cumin: ground cumin is the only spice you need for this recipe and is important for building a flavorful broth.
- Broth: low-sodium beef broth or chicken broth can be used. Beef is classic.
- Canned tomatoes: you’ll need one small can of diced tomatoes. Add the tomatoes and their juices.
- Zucchini: chunks of zucchini are added towards the end of cooking and bulk up the soup nicely.
- Cilantro: if you don’t like cilantro, you can substitute with parsley
How to Make Albóndigas Soup
1. Prep the meatballs by combining the pork, rice, herbs, garlic, and egg. Form into 1-inch meatballs and arrange on a baking sheet.
2. Move on to making the soup. Cook the onion in oil until it’s starting to soften. Add the tomato paste, garlic, oregano and cumin.
3. Cook to bloom the spices and slightly caramelize the tomato paste.
4. Stir in the carrots.
5. Add the water, broth and tomatoes.
6. Add the meatballs and simmer, covered, until cooked through.
7. Add the zucchini and simmer until tender. Off heat, stir in the cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Mexican Meatball Soup Tips
- Use lean ground meat. We recommend using ground pork, but ground beef or turkey will also work. It’s best to use a lean ground meat for this soup, otherwise you may need to skim grease off the surface before serving.
Use a moderately lean ground meat like 85%, avoid anything super lean such as 97%.
- Use fresh herbs. Between the meatballs and the soup, this recipe uses three different types of fresh herbs. That may seem like a lot, but they each add something different to the soup.
If you want to cut back on an herb, skip the parsley in the meatballs and replace it with some cilantro (we’re also adding cilantro to the soup). And if you’re not a cilantro fan, use parsley in the soup instead.
Be sure to store any leftover herbs properly so you don’t waste them!
- Use Mexican oregano. It may seem unnecessary, but Mexican oregano has a very different flavor than mediterranean oregano. “Regular” or mediterranean oregano has a slight minty undertone whereas Mexican oregano is more earthy and cirtusy. Marjoram is a closer substitute for Mexican oregano than “regular” oregano is.
I get Mexican oregano at my local Mexican market, but you can also find it on Amazon. Then again, if all you have is “regular” oregano, go ahead and use that. It certainly won’t make or break this recipe.
Make Ahead, Storage and Freezing
To make this soup ahead of time, follow the recipe instructions through step 4 then remove the soup from heat and allow it to cool completely before storing in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, bring the soup to a simmer, add the zucchini and follow the remaining recipe instructions.
Albóndigas soup can be made up to 2 day ahead of time.
Store leftover Albóndigas Soup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. For longer storage, freeze the soup for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating and enjoying.
Substitutions & Variations
- Use lean ground beef or ground turkey in place of the pork.
- Use a combination of ground beef, pork, and/or turkey.
- Add chorizo to the meatballs.
- Add green beans or peas instead of (or in addition to) the zucchini.
- Use chopped green cabbage instead of the zucchini.
- For a more tomato-y broth, decrease the tomato paste and add some tomato sauce.
- Serve with toasted corn tortillas to tortilla chips.
- Make the meatballs without rice and use 2 pieces of sandwich bread instead.
More Mexican Soup Recipes to Try
Our Mexican Chicken Soup is steeped with flavor from chicken thighs, jalapeno, garlic and oregano. It’s a quick weeknight meal that taste anything but quick!
This Chicken Pozole Verde will blow your mind with its thick and silky broth, tender chicken and bites of hominy. It’s a must-make!
Carne en su Jugó literally translates to “beef in its own juices” and it’s one of those dishes that doesn’t look like much—but don’t underestimate this one! it’s ultra-savory and is a great alternative to classic chili.
Since the soup has a lot going on, we recommend keeping the toppings pretty simple. Cilantro, avocado and sliced jalapeño is all you need.
Yes, you can use turkey meatballs. If you do, make sure you make the meatballs with fairly fatty turkey (since most ground turkey is sold very lean).
Yes—because the meatballs are made with rice instead of bread or breadcrumbs, albondigas soup is gluten free!
Albóndigas Soup Recipe
- 1 pound 85% lean ground pork
- ⅓ cup dry long grain white rice
- ¼ cup chopped fresh mint*
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano, marjoram or regular oregano
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large egg
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large white onion, diced (2 cups)
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano, marjoram or regular oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 large carrots, cut into ½-inch slices
- 8 cups low-sodium beef or chicken broth
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
- 1 zucchini, cut into ¾–1-inch chunks
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Optional toppings: avocado, jalapeño, lime
- Combine 1 pound pork, ⅓ cup rice, ¼ cup mint, ¼ cup parsley, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 2 minced cloves garlic, 1 egg, 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.
- Using moist hands, form into 1-inch meatballs, about 1 tablespoon each. Transfer to a sheet pan and set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium. Add 1 diced onion and cook until starting to soften, about 5 minutes; season with ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
- Add 3 tablespoons tomato paste, 2 minced cloves garlic, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, and 1 teaspoon cumin; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until a fond forms on bottom of pot.
- Add 3 sliced carrots then deglaze pot with 2 cups water, scraping up browned bits. Add 8 cups broth and 1 can diced tomatoes; bring to a boil over high heat then reduce to medium and simmer 5 minutes.
- Gently drop meatballs into soup, one at a time, then cover and let simmer 20 minutes.
- Gently stir in 1 zucchini cut into chunks and continue to cook, covered, until meatballs are cooked through, rice in meatballs is tender, and zucchini is fork-tender, 5–10 minutes more.
- Off heat, stir in ½ cup chopped cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with lime wedges and any desired toppings.