Easy Albondigas Soup

(Mexican Meatball Soup)

Albondigas Soup, a beloved gem of Mexican cuisine, embodies the essence of comfort and nourishment. This classic dish combines the simplicity of meatballs with a rich, flavorful broth. With its origins rooted in Mexican tradition, Albondigas Soup has not only become a staple in households across the country but has also ventured into international kitchens.

At the heart of this dish are the tender meatballs, a combination of lean ground beef and the bold flavors of Mexican chorizo, bound together with an aromatic blend of garlic, rice, mint, and spices.

In this article, we will dive into the fascinating history of Albondigas Soup. We’ll also explore the significance of the key ingredients and walk you through the step-by-step process of creating this soup at home.

So, whether you’re looking to try a taste of Mexico or seeking the ultimate comfort food, Albondigas Soup is here to enchant your taste buds and soothe your soul.

The History of Albondigas Soup

Albondigas Soup is deeply entwined with the history and heritage of Mexico. Its origins date back centuries, and its cultural significance continues to thrive within Mexican communities and beyond.

This hearty soup traces its roots to the rich culinary tapestry of Spanish, Moorish, and Indigenous Mexican influences. The word “albondigas” itself is derived from the Arabic word “al-bunduq,” meaning “hazelnut” or “small round object,” a fitting description for the delectable meatballs that grace this soup.

Over the years, Albondigas Soup has evolved, adapting to the available ingredients and regional preferences. While the fundamental components of meatballs have remained constant, the types of meat, the seasonings, and the choice of vegetables have all experienced variation. This adaptability is a testament to the versatility and enduring appeal of this dish.

Ingredients and Their Significance

Meatballs:

  • Lean Ground Beef (1/2 pound): Lean ground beef forms the foundation of the meatballs. Its relatively low-fat content ensures a tender texture and meaty flavor without excessive grease.
  • Mexican Chorizo (1/2 pound): Mexican chorizo, a highly seasoned sausage, infuses the meatballs with its robust, spicy, and smoky character. It contributes depth and complexity to the overall taste.
  • Egg (1 large): The egg acts as a binder, holding the meatball mixture together while adding a subtle richness and moisture.
  • Garlic (2 cloves, minced): Garlic provides a pungent, aromatic note that enhances the savory qualities of the meatballs.
  • Cooked White Rice (1/2 cup): White rice adds softness and lightness to the meatballs, keeping them tender and moist during cooking.
  • Mint Leaves (1/4 cup, chopped): Mint’s bright, fresh flavor cuts through the richness of the meat, providing a delightful contrast that balances the dish.
  • Kosher Salt (1 teaspoon): Salt is a fundamental seasoning that enhances the overall taste of the meatballs.
  • Ground Cumin (1/2 teaspoon): Cumin brings an earthy warmth to the meatballs, a hallmark flavor in many Mexican dishes.
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper (1/4 teaspoon): Black pepper lends a subtle kick and complexity to the meatballs.

Soup:

  • Olive Oil (1 tablespoon): Olive oil is the foundation for sautéing vegetables and adds a mild, fruity undertone.
  • Celery (3 stalks, sliced): Celery contributes a mild, earthy note, providing a pleasant background to the soup’s flavor.
  • Carrots (3 large, peeled and sliced): Carrots add a natural sweetness and vibrant color to the soup.
  • Onion (1 medium, diced): Onions serve as a flavor base, offering a sweet and savory foundation.
  • Tomato Paste (3 tablespoons): Tomato paste intensifies the tomato flavor in the broth, adding a rich depth.
  • Dried Oregano (1 teaspoon): Oregano imparts a fragrant herbal note to the soup, enhancing its complexity.
  • Ground Cumin (1/2 teaspoon): Like in the meatballs, cumin in the soup deepens the overall flavor profile.
  • Beef Broth (8 cups): The choice of beef broth infuses the soup with a hearty, meaty essence. Chicken or vegetable broth can be substituted for variation.
  • Zucchini (8 ounces, cut): Zucchini introduce a fresh, crisp element to the soup and provide a splash of color.
  • Potato (1 large, diced): Potatoes offer a starchy component, adding body and helping thicken the broth.
  • Cilantro (1/2 cup, chopped): Cilantro, a classic Mexican herb, provides a vibrant, herbaceous finishing touch.

The combination of these ingredients weaves a tapestry of flavors. The meatballs bring a savory, spicy, and smoky depth, while the vegetables add a touch of sweetness and freshness.

Preparing the Meatballs for Albondigas Soup

plate of raw meatballs with raw rice

Crafting the perfect Albondigas Soup starts with the art of making the meatballs. These really are the heart of the dish. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you create mouthwatering meatballs:

  1. Choose Quality Meat: Begin by selecting lean ground beef of good quality. Look for meat with a moderate fat content to keep the meatballs tender and flavorful.
  2. Combine Ingredients: In a large bowl, combine the lean ground beef, Mexican chorizo, minced garlic, cooked white rice, chopped mint leaves, kosher salt, ground cumin, and freshly ground black pepper. The mixture should be combined. Avoid overmixing to prevent tough meatballs.
  3. Mix with Care: Gently mix the ingredients with your hands. The key is to evenly distribute all the components throughout the meat without overworking it. This ensures the meatballs stay tender and moist when cooked.
  4. Shape the Meatballs: Using your hands or a small cookie scoop, shape the mixture into approximately 24 meatballs. A heaping tablespoon of the mixture for each meatball is a good measure. Roll them gently between your palms to create uniform, round shapes.
  5. Chill if Needed: If the mixture feels too sticky to work with, you can briefly chill it in the refrigerator for about 15-30 minutes. This will make shaping the meatballs easier.

The care taken in choosing quality meat and gently mixing the ingredients guarantees meatballs that are tender, well-seasoned, and full of flavor. These savory spheres are ready to be gently placed into the simmering pot of flavorful broth, creating a satisfying and heartwarming bowl of Albondigas Soup.

Crafting the Flavorful Broth

3 stages of albondigas soup in Dutch oven

The heart of Albondigas Soup is its savory and aromatic broth, and crafting this flavorful base is a key step in the soup-making process. The tomato-based broth, infused with a blend of spices, is the canvas on which the meatballs and vegetables paint their flavors. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Sautéing the Vegetables: To begin, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot. Add sliced celery, peeled and sliced carrots, and diced onions. Season with a teaspoon of salt. Sautéing these vegetables until they soften is crucial as it enhances their natural sweetness, adding depth to the broth.
  2. Introducing Tomato Paste: Once the vegetables are tender, introduce tomato paste to the pot. This concentrated tomato flavor adds richness and a hint of acidity to the soup, giving it a robust, red hue.
  3. Herbs and Spices: The aromatic duo of dried oregano and ground cumin is then added, infusing the broth with earthy, herbal notes. These seasonings are pivotal in creating a complex and well-balanced flavor profile.
  4. Choice of Broth: The type of broth used—whether beef, chicken, or vegetable—plays a vital role in shaping the soup’s taste. Beef broth offers a hearty and meaty essence that complements the meatballs. Chicken broth, on the other hand, provides a milder flavor, allowing the meatballs and vegetables to shine. Vegetable broth offers a plant-based alternative with a lighter character. The choice of broth allows for versatility in the soup’s flavor, catering to various dietary preferences.

The careful combination of these ingredients results in a tomato-based broth that is not only visually appealing but also rich, savory, and filled with layers of flavor. It serves as the perfect backdrop to showcase the star of the dish, the tender meatballs, and the colorful array of vegetables that follow.

Assembling the Albondigas Soup

Assembling Albondigas Soup with each ingredient playing a specific role in creating a melody of flavors. Here’s how to put it all together:

  1. Sautéing the Vegetables: Begin by heating a large pot with olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced celery, peeled and sliced carrots, and diced onions. Season with a teaspoon of salt. Sauté the vegetables until they become tender. This step is essential as it allows the vegetables to release their natural sweetness, contributing depth to the soup’s flavor.
  2. Creating the Flavorful Base: Once the vegetables are soft, add the tomato paste, dried oregano, and ground cumin. Stir well to ensure that the tomato paste coats all the vegetables. This step adds layers of complexity and deepens the overall flavor of the soup.
  3. Incorporating the Broth: Pour in the beef broth (or your preferred choice of broth) and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow it to simmer, covered, while you move on to the next steps.

Adding the Meat

  1. Adding the Meatballs: Carefully drop each meatball into the simmering broth one by one. Evenly distribute the meatballs to ensure they cook uniformly. The meatballs will soak up the flavors of the broth and release their delicious juices, enhancing the overall taste of the soup. Cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes to allow the meatballs to cook through.
  2. Introducing Zucchini and Potatoes: After the initial 15 minutes, add the zucchini and diced potatoes to the pot. These vegetables bring freshness and texture to the soup. Cover the pot again and cook for an additional 15 minutes. This ensures that the zucchini remains crisp, and the potatoes become tender, absorbing the flavors of the broth.
  3. Finishing Touch: To complete the assembly, add a half cup of chopped cilantro and mix it into the soup. Cilantro provides a burst of freshness.

The meatballs, vegetables, and broth blend together to form this flavorful Albondigas Soup that is simply delicious.

Cooking and Seasoning Albondigas Soup

bowl of albondigas soup with a small yellow bowl of cilantro on side

Simmering is the secret to perfecting Albondigas Soup. Thus, allowing all the flavors to blend, the meatballs to become tender, and the vegetables to reach their ideal texture. During 15-minute intervals, the soup undergoes a magical transformation.

The initial simmering allows the meatballs to release their savory flavor into the broth. The second phase of simmering ensures the zucchini retains its crunch while the potatoes soften.

Seasoning is a crucial part of this process. After the final 15 minutes of cooking, it’s time to taste and adjust. Season with additional salt, if needed, to bring out the full flavor of the soup.

The cilantro added at this stage simply elevates the entire dish. The balance of salt and cilantro is the finishing touch that turns a pot of Albondigas Soup, into a delight for your taste buds.

Serving Suggestions

bowl of albondigas soup in a white soup bowl

Albondigas Soup is a versatile dish. Here are some serving suggestions to enhance your Albondigas Soup experience:

  • Garnishes: Top your bowl with a squeeze of fresh lime juice for a zesty kick. You can also sprinkle some chopped fresh cilantro.
  • Side Dishes: Warm, crusty bread or tortillas make great companions to this soup. They’re perfect for sopping up the flavorful broth. A side of Mexican rice or a simple salad can complete the meal.
  • Customization: Serve with a variety of condiments like hot sauce or diced avocado for those who enjoy a spicier or creamier touch.

The best way to enjoy Albondigas Soup is to savor each spoonful, letting the savory meatballs, tender vegetables, and aromatic broth meld on your palate.

Variations and Dietary Considerations

Albondigas Soup is highly adaptable, making it suitable for a variety of dietary preferences and restrictions. Here are some common variations:

  • Vegetarian Albondigas: For a meatless version, substitute the beef and chorizo with plant-based alternatives like textured vegetable protein or a mix of mushrooms and beans. The rest of the ingredients remain the same, creating a flavorful vegetarian soup.
  • Gluten-Free Option: To make Albondigas Soup gluten-free, use certified gluten-free breadcrumbs or cooked rice instead of regular breadcrumbs in the meatballs. Ensure that all other ingredients, including the broth and seasonings, are also gluten-free.
  • Leaner Meat: If you prefer a lighter version, opt for leaner meats such as ground turkey or chicken to reduce the fat content while maintaining a delicious taste.
  • Spice Level: Adjust the spiciness to your liking by choosing a milder or spicier chorizo or by adding hot sauce or chili flakes.
  • Dairy-Free: Skip garnishes like cheese or sour cream for a dairy-free option, or substitute with dairy-free alternatives.

By making these adaptations, Albondigas Soup can accommodate various dietary needs and flavor preferences, ensuring that everyone can enjoy this Mexican classic in their own unique way.

Conclusion

In the realm of Mexican cuisine, Albondigas Soup stands as a timeless testament to comfort and culinary mastery. This article has delved into the origins and evolution of this beloved dish, highlighted the significance of its ingredients, and provided a step-by-step guide to crafting it in your kitchen.

The heartwarming combination of savory meatballs, flavorful broth, and tender vegetables is a delight to the senses and a testament to the rich traditions that shape Mexican cooking.

Albondigas Soup is more than a meal; it’s a warm embrace, a flavorful journey, and a reminder of the enduring allure of comfort food.

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Happy cooking and bon appétit!

albondigas soup in a white bowl with lemon wedges

Easy Albondigas Soup (Meatball Soup)

homemadefoodfromscratch
Our Easy Albondigas Soup is the result of carefully crafting a rich tomato-based broth, followed by a showcase of tender meatballs and colorful vegetables.
Prep Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 8

Equipment

  • 1 stockpot

Ingredients
  

Meatballs

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 pound Mexican chorizo remove casing
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup white rice
  • 1/4 cup tightly packed mint leaves chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon bouillon

For the Soup

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 celery stalks sliced into 1/2-inch thickness
  • 3 large carrots peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch thickness
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 8 cups beef broth or chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 large potato diced into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 large zucchini diced into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Instructions
 

Meatballs

  • Add all the ingredients for the meatballs to a large bowl, including rice. Mix together with your hands until just combined. Try not to overwork the meat.
  • Roll the mixture into 24 meatballs and set aside. (About the size of a small cookie scoop) form with hands.

Soup

  • Heat a large Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, celery, carrots, onions. Stir and cook until the onions have softened.
  • Add the tomato paste, dried oregano, cumin and all seasoning. Mix together until the tomato paste has fully coated all of the vegetables.
  • Add the broth and stir to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low.
  • Carefully drop the meatballs into the pot one by one. Bring the soup back to a simmer, then cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  • Add the zucchini and cabbage last. Cover and cook for until potatoes are tender. About 15 minutes.
  • Add the cilantro. Taste. Add season if necessary.

Notes

Nutrition
Calories: 273kcal, Carbohydrates: 11g, Protein: 18g, Fat: 16g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 80mg, Sodium: 317mg, Potassium: 549mg, Fiber: 1g, Vitamin A: 1100IU, Vitamin C: 5.5mg, Calcium: 46mg, Iron: 3.5mg
Keyword albondigas soup, easy albondigas soup

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