Albondigas Soup (or Caldo de Albondigas) is a delicious soup with fresh vegetables, rich broth, and incredible juicy meatballs. This recipe is a slight spin on the classic Mexican dish, perfect for sharing with friends on Cinco de Mayo. 

Two bowls of Albondigas soup in wooden bowls with a red napkin to the side and fresh parsley

Albondigas soup and I have had a strong relationship dating back to circa 2000. 

I first discovered it at a local Mexican food restaurant in my sleepy little hometown and was instantly obsessed.

I took my obsession to college with me, where my albondigas soup radar found me THE BEST albondigas soup at one of the cafeterias at University of Arizona. 

To say I was a frequenter of the vat of incredible albondigas soup is an understatement.

It was SO greasy, SO meaty, SO filling and satisfying. 

With a side of puffy cinnamon and sugar sopapillas to balance the salty soup, I was in heaven. What could possibly be better?

Suffice it to say, we’re here celebrating the glory of authentic Mexican meatball soup.

Woman holding a big wooden bowl of Mexican Meatball Soup

My version of classic albondigas soup is a slight variation on some of the traditional versions, and I have included plenty of ways you can customize it.

What is Albondigas Soup?: 

Albondigas Soup is a traditional Mexican meatball soup with herbed meatballs typically made out of ground beef. The tender meatballs are cooked in a flavorful broth with fresh veggies, and sometimes rice. 

The fresh herbs in the meatballs really sets the experience apart. It may seem strange, for instance, to add fresh chopped mint to homemade meatballs, but I assure you, it just works! The mint can be replaced with chopped cilantro, though I much prefer the mint version, myself.

“Albondigas” is the Spanish word for meatballs, so Albondigas Soup translates literally to meatball soup.

The meatballs in this traditional Mexican soup contain uncooked white rice. As the rice meatballs slowly cook, the rice inside expands and cooks through so that the meatballs are nice and soft. 

To speed up the cooking process, I omit the rice from the meatballs so that the soup doesn’t have to be stewed for a long period of time. Of course cooking it longer is always an option, but this recipe comes together relatively quickly.

What Type of Meat Should I Use For Albondigas Soup?:

Traditional albondigas soup is made with ground beef, or sometimes ground pork or sausage or a combo thereof.

I have made both a ground beef version and gone the ground turkey route. 

When I use ground turkey, I add a couple tablespoons of avocado oil or olive oil to ensure there is enough fat content for the meatballs to taste rich, hold together and be nice and flavorful.

Choose your favorite ground meat for meatballs and get to meatballin’! 

Bowl of albondigas soup with a golden spoon, ready to eat.

Let’s discuss the simple ingredients for Mexican meatball soup.

Ingredients for Albondigas Soup:

Ingredients for Mexican Meatballs: Ground beef, gluten-free all-purpose flour, egg, fresh mint, fresh parsley, chili powder, garlic powder, ground ginger (optional) and ground cinnamon (optional).

This combination of ingredients makes amazing flavorful meatballs with the absolute best texture!

Soup Ingredients: Onion, garlic, carrots, celery, zucchini, chicken broth (or beef broth), tomato sauce, salt, and black pepper.

The soup turns out so rich and flavorful with the beefy meatballs and the fresh vegetables and simple soup base are a great compliment.

These fresh ingredients are so lovely and make for a delicious comforting soup! You can find the ingredients for this hearty soup at any grocery store.

Recipe Adaptations:

  • This recipe is gluten-free, but you can omit the flour for a low-carb or keto. 
  • Add 1 to 2 cups of chopped green beans
  • Replace the gluten-free flour with regular all-purpose flour or 1 cup of panko breadcrumbs. 
  • For the traditional version, add 1/3 cup of uncooked rice to the meatball mixture and cook the soup for 1 hour or longer.
  • Replace the fresh mint with fresh cilantro if you’d like. 
  • Add any fresh vegetables you like such as cauliflower, broccoli, fresh tomatoes, etc.
  • Add ½ cup of dry rice to the soup pot if you love rice in your albondigas soup. If you do add rice, you will need to cook the soup for at least 45 minutes.
  • If you cook the soup for longer than 15 minutes, add the zucchini 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve the soup. This ensures the zucchini doesn’t get too soggy or overcooked. 
  • Now that we’re familiar with the ingredients list for albondigas soup, let’s make it!
  • Use Mexican squash instead of zucchini if you can find it.
  • Replace the lean ground beef with ground turkey or ground chicken and add 2 tablespoons of avocado oil to the meatball mixture if you do so. 
  • For spicy meatballs, chop up 2 to 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and add them to the meatball mixture.

The light broth has delicious flavor! Big bowls of this simple Mexican meatball soup recipe are a great way of enjoying so much flavor. Even those who aren’t typically into soup will love the tender beef meatballs in the flavorful tomato broth.

Now that we’re familiar with the ingredients for Mexican albondigas soup, let’s make it!

How to Make Albondigas Soup:

Prepare the Meatballs:

Transfer the ingredients for the meatballs to a large mixing bowl and use your hands to mix everything together until well-combined. I usually mix everything but the herbs together, then mix in the herbs.

This will be mushy and sticky, but you’ll survive it, I promise. 

Meatball ingredients in a bowl, ready to be mixed up.
Fresh herbs on top of meatball mixture, to be mixed in.

As an alternative, you can prepare the meatballs in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. 

Form 12 to 20 meatballs out of the meat mixture, depending on the size meatballs you like.

Raw meatballs on a plate.

Heat a large skillet (I use a 12-inch cast iron skillet) over medium heat with 1 to 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. Allow the skillet to heat up for a few minutes so that it becomes sizzling hot.

Place meatballs on the hot surface of the skillet and brown for 2 to 4 minutes, or until a golden brown crust forms.

Meatballs searing on a skillet to be browned.

Carefully flip and cook another 2 to 4 minutes, or until your meatballs have browned on two sides.

Set meatballs aside until you’re ready to add them to the soup.

Make the Soup:

Heat avocado oil (or cooking oil of choice) in a large thick-bottomed pot such as a Dutch oven. Add the onion to the large pot and sauté, stirring occasionally until the onion begins to soften, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the chopped carrots and celery and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. 

Onions, carrots, and celery sautéing in a large pot.

Transfer the browned meatballs to the stock pot, then add in the remaining ingredients for the soup.

Meatballs on top of veggies in a soup pot.
Pouring broth into the soup pot with the other ingredients.

Cover the pot and bring soup to a full boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle boil and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes or until the meatballs have cooked through. The exact cooking time may vary depending on the size of the meatballs.

Big pot of albondigas soup, ready to serve.

Meatballs are considered fully cooked once they have reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’d like, you can insert a meat thermometer into the center of a meatball to verify the temperature.

If you’re cooking the soup slowly at a gentle simmer, wait until about 15 to 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve the soup to add the chopped zucchini. This ensures the zucchini doesn’t become overcooked or soggy.

Serve albondigas soup with white rice, Mexican rice, warm corn tortillas, lime wedges, a dollop of sour cream, or any side dishes you enjoy for a complete meal.

Albóndigas soup is even more flavorful the next day (and the 3-4 days following preparation).

For this reason, I see no problem with making this albondigas soup recipe ahead of time, or using it as meal prep. 

How to Store Albondigas Soup:

Store leftover albondigas soup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

Freeze leftover soup in freezer bags for up to 3 months. 

It will surely be a family favorite! 

Two large wooden bowls of meatball soup with a red napkin to the side and fresh parsley.

If you love preparing recipes in your crock pot or slow cooker, feel free to cook it on High heat for 4 hours or Low heat for 8 to 10 hours. Add the zucchini toward the end of the cooking process so that it doesn’t get soggy.

Love Mexican food? Also try these reader favorites.

More Mexican Favorites:

Enjoy big bowls of this delicious Albóndigas soup any time of year!

Woman holding a big wooden bowl of Mexican Meatball Soup

Albondigas Soup

4.66 from 29 votes
Mexican albondigas soup with gluten-free meatballs is an incredibly flavorful meal, perfect for changing up your weeknight routine!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the Meatballs:

For the Soup:

  • 1 Tbsp avocado oil or olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 2 carrots peeled and chopped
  • 1 large stalk celery chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 medium zucchini squash chopped
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth**
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce***
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley chopped
  • ½ tsp sea salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp black pepper to taste

Instructions

Prepare the Meatballs:

  • Transfer the ingredients for the meatballs to a large mixing bowl and use your hands to mix everything together until well-combined. This will be mushy and sticky, but you’ll survive it, I promise.
  • As an alternative, you can prepare the meatballs in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
  • Form 12 to 20 meatballs out of the meat mixture, depending on the size meatballs you like.
  • Heat a large skillet (I use a 12-inch cast iron skillet) over medium heat with 1 to 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. Allow the skillet to heat up for a few minutes so that it becomes sizzling hot.
  • Place meatballs on the hot surface of the skillet and brown for 2 to 4 minutes, or until a golden brown crust forms. Carefully flip and cook another 2 to 4 minutes, or until your meatballs have browned on two sides. Set meatballs aside until you’re ready to add them to the soup.

Make the Soup:

  • Heat avocado oil (or cooking oil of choice) in a large thick-bottomed pot such as a Dutch oven. Add the onion to the large pot and sauté, stirring occasionally until the onion begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chopped carrots and celery and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Transfer the browned meatballs to the stock pot, then add in the remaining ingredients for the soup.
  • Cover the pot and bring soup to a full boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle boil and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes or until the meatballs have cooked through. The exact cooking time may vary depending on the size of the meatballs.
  • Meatballs are considered fully cooked once they have reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’d like, you can insert a meat thermometer into the center of a meatball to verify the temperature.
  • If you’re cooking the soup slowly at a gentle simmer, wait until about 15 to 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve the soup to add the chopped zucchini. This ensures the zucchini doesn’t become overcooked or soggy.
  • Serve albondigas soup with white rice, Mexican rice, warm corn tortillas, lime wedges, a dollop of sour cream, or any side dishes you enjoy for a complete meal.

Notes

*Use gluten-free all-purpose flour, regular all-purpose flour, or ½ cup of panko bread crumbs. For a paleo version, use ½ cup of almond flour.
**You can also use chicken stock or beef stock.
***Or 4 tablespoons tomato paste
I originally shared this recipe in May of 2016. If you'd like the original recipe (which is very slightly different from this version), you can send me an email and I'll send it to you 🙂

Nutrition

Serving: 1of 4 · Calories: 302kcal · Carbohydrates: 8g · Protein: 27g · Fat: 17g · Fiber: 3g · Sugar: 5g
Author: Julia
Course: Main Dishes, Soups, Stews, & Chilies
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: albondigas soup, gluten free meatballs, meatball soup, Mexican albondigas soup, Mexican soup recipe, turkey
Did You Make This Recipe?I want to see it! Tag @the.roasted.root on social media!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission off items you purchase at no additional cost to you.

Julia Mueller
Meet the Author

Julia Mueller

Julia Mueller is a recipe developer, cookbook author, and founder of The Roasted Root. She has authored three bestselling cookbooks, – Paleo Power Powers, Delicious Probiotic Drinks, and The Quintessential Kale Cookbook. Her recipes have been featured in several national publications such as BuzzFeed, Self, Tasty, Country Living, Brit.co, etc.

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Questions and Reviews

  1. #ballshot lol! Only you could get away with that on a food blog. 😉

    I’ve never even heard of albondigas soup but I can’t definitely see the appeal. The herbed balls steal the show. Would you hate me if I veganized this recipe and made it with bean balls? I know that might be a total insult but you’ve got me craving a bowl for realz.

  2. I’ve never heard of this soup before, but I love meatballs…and I love soup with zucchini in it. Therefore, this soup must be awesome. I might just have to try making it especially since I have both zucchini…annnnddd just a few more of my meatballs left in the freezer. Sounds like a win to me

  3. this looks great! do you have any suggestions for replacing the tomato sauce due to a tomato allergy.

    1. Hi there! You can omit the tomato sauce…the flavor of the soup doesn’t turn out overly tomato-y, so I don’t think you’ll miss it at all. 🙂 Enjoy!

  4. You’ve made laugh out loud a few times, Julia, and now I have Free Fallin’ in my head with your great lyrics. 🙂 I’ve never had albondigas and I have no idea why! Wish I had a big bowl of it for my Cinco de Mayo — I better get cookin’!

  5. Give me ALL the albondigas! I have actually never heard of this soup but now I MUST have it. It looks so good and sounds so filling!

  6. Very nice soup. I would like to try this with my wife and kids. I think they will be excited about it !
    Thank you Julia.

  7. Clearly I am not very educated on appopriate Cinco de Mayo cuisine, you’re killing it over here! Meanwhile, we had nachos… 🙂

  8. I’m making this now (mainly because I had a pound of ground turkey and this recipe made me remember it). Used dried mint leaves (because they’re what I have) and Mexican oregano in the meatballs. Also added about a cup of cooked brown Jasmine rice to the meatballs and rolled them small (under an inch in diameter). Looking real good. I have 6 cups of homemade chicken stock thawing on a burner and will start tossing in the veggies soon. As I was cooking the meatballs there was a knock on my door. It was a neighbor who handed me a heavy bag filled with fresh squash from her garden. I was going to text my wife to bring home some squash on her way home from work. Don’t you just love serendipity? 🙂

    1. Haha! What impeccable timing your neighbor has! Sounds like the whole recipe is coming together swimmingly. I’m loving the rice and Mexican oregano additions to the meatballs – sounds like they’re going to turn out fabulously! I hope you and your family enjoy the soup and thanks so much for the note! Have a great weekend, Don!

  9. It was ready when she got home. I tasted it and decided it needed a little extra something so I added a tablespoon of Comino, another of dried mint and a couple of tablespoons of (gluten free) soy sauce. It was a huge hit. Thank you for pushing our “new food” button. 🙂 This one is a keeper.

  10. Hi Can this be cooked in a crock pot using frozen meatballs and if so how long in the crockpot and on high or low?
    Thanks

    1. Hi Loretta! I have never tested the recipe using frozen meatballs, but I assume it would work! I would try 4 hours on high. 😀 Enjoy!

  11. Hi there, wanted to confirm the 2 Tablespoons of Avocado Oil actually go in the Meatball mixture, and an additional 3 Tablespoons of the same are used for frying them? Then Olive Oil is used to saute the veggies for the Soup? Thanks!

    1. Hi there! That’s correct! If you’re using beef or a fattier cut of meat, you can omit the oil in the meatballs. Turkey just turns out try without a little bit of fat love 🙂 You can also use the same type of oil (either avocado or olive) for the whole recipe. Hope you enjoy!

  12. Will be trying this tonight with the turkey. I also went to U of A and loved the Mexican food at the student union. Go wildcats!!!