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Albóndigas Soup (Guest Post)

May 15, 2014

Albondigas Soup (Mexican turkey and rice meatball soup)Pin it!

Note from Allison: I stopped introducing each of Paula’s guest posts a long time ago, since she’s written quite a few of them by now. I just wanted to point out that my theory continues to ring true: we make icy granita, and the temperature drops; we plan to share this cozy, comforting, delicious Albóndigas Soup with you, and California finds itself in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave.

(Yesterday it was 99 degrees in Santa Barbara, and today the heat continues… So, yes, this is the last thing we want to eat right now.)

If you live somewhere with rising temperatures and have long since declared Soup Season officially over, just do us a favor and bookmark this recipe for sometime next winter or spring… it’s worth it.

Albóndigas Soup is one of those few Mexican dishes that I’ve rarely come across. Even though I was a fan, I would never see it provided or made anywhere around Los Angeles.

Menudo and pozole are usually the most popular Mexican soups made by family and friends (and most easily found in restaurants). I doubt I’d had albóndigas more than 10 times in my life… until recently.

Albondigas Soup (Mexican turkey and rice meatball soup)Pin it!

Albóndigas are basically meatballs that can be made with ground chicken, pork, beef, turkey, or really any ground meat. (I’ve only had ground turkey albóndigas, though.) The meatballs are packed with spices, mint, and uncooked rice; the rice grains inside the meatballs cook and puff up as they simmer.

Making Albondigas Soup (Mexican turkey and rice meatball soup)

The albóndigas are simmered in a soup that is usually a clear, reddish, tomato-y broth, which also contains chopped zucchini and potatoes. I think I’ve heard of carrots being added, too, but I’ve never actually seen it.

Ingredients for Albondigas Soup (Mexican turkey and rice meatball soup)

I don’t really remember when the idea came to me that I should make albóndigas soup, but I know it’s been at the back of my mind for quite a while, possibly even since before I thought about making pozole! But first, I had to figure out a recipe.

Albondigas Soup (Mexican turkey and rice meatball soup)Pin it!

I looked online and in books for recipes but was not able to find one that I really liked. Some had some pretty unique or specialized ingredients, and were soups I didn’t recognize as the traditional dish. (Like this one, with poblano and ancho chiles, and panko bread crumbs.) I figured I would try to create my own recipe from scratch, using trial and error.

Cooking the tomatoes, garlic, and onion for Albondigas Soup

The first soup wasn’t what I would call a success because I tried blending the onions and tomatoes together, then immediately combined them with the meatballs and chicken broth, without cooking the onions or the tomatoes on their own first. It tasted good, but the broth was too thick and there was something missing from the meatballs.

Ingredients for the Albondigas (meatballs)

Then one of my coworkers told me that she puts minced fresh mint into her meatballs! (One of the) problem(s) solved!

Albondigas Soup (Mexican turkey and rice meatball soup)

Unfortunately, the second soup was not a success either, because I used extra lean turkey from a different store and added too much mint. I liked them, but Allison could tell the turkey was different and she thought the albóndigas were far too minty (I’d used about 3 tablespoons of fresh mint).

The time after that, half of the meatballs fell apart while cooking because I’d forgotten to use an egg.

Albondigas Soup (Mexican turkey and rice meatball soup)Pin it!

Finally, my fourth attempt was a resounding success: the broth wasn’t clear, but the tomatoes, onions, and garlic were all perfectly cooked, the turkey was flavorful, I used just a little mint for a nice, subtle hint of it, and the potatoes and zucchini were awesome additions. (I have a weakness for tender potatoes that have started to disintegrate into soup broth, making the soup feel a little richer and creamier than it would otherwise.)

Albondigas Soup (Mexican turkey and rice meatball soup)

I’m very satisfied with my take on a traditional-ish Albóndigas Soup. Just add the usual Tapatío and fresh lime juice to round out the flavors nicely, and enjoy.

Albondigas Soup (Mexican turkey and rice meatball soup)Pin it!

Print this recipe. (PDF)


Albóndigas Soup

(Serves 5-6)

Active time: 40 minutes; Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes.

Ingredients for the meatballs (makes 15-18):
~ 10-12 oz. ground turkey
~ 1 large egg
~ ½ cup white rice (like jasmine rice)
~ ½ tsp. chile powder
~ ½ tsp. cumin
~ ½ tsp. coriander
~ dash of black pepper
~ ½ tsp. salt
~ 1 Tbsp. fresh mint, finely diced

Ingredients for the broth:
~ 1 Tbsp. olive oil
~ ⅓ onion, diced (by hand or in a food processor)
~ 2 cloves garlic
~ 2 large tomatoes
~ ground cayenne pepper, to taste
~ salt, to taste
~ 1 tsp. dried oregano
~ 1 large russet potato, cut into small, thin slices
~ 4 cups chicken broth
~ 2 cups water
~ 2 small zucchini (or 1 large zucchini), sliced into ¼-inch thick rounds
~ fresh cilantro, to garnish
~ fresh lime juice, to serve
~ hot sauce, to serve

How to make it:

1. In a medium bowl, combine all of the meatball ingredients — the ground turkey, egg, rice, spices, and fresh mint — using either a spoon or your hands. Mix until each ingredient is well incorporated, then set aside.

Potatoes and Zucchini for Albondigas SoupIngredients for the Albondigas (meatballs)

2. Heat oil in a large pot. Add the onions and cook slowly (5-10 minutes), over medium-low heat, stirring often, until they are translucent. Meanwhile use a food processor to pulse the garlic a few times, then add the tomatoes and pulse until the garlic and the tomatoes are finely diced and mixed well. Once the onions have cooked, add the cayenne pepper, salt, and dried oregano, and stir around for a few more seconds of cooking, then pour the tomato garlic mixture into the pot. Stir, bring to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes.

Making Albondigas Soup (Mexican turkey and rice meatball soup)Making Albondigas Soup (Mexican turkey and rice meatball soup)

3. Add the sliced potato to the pot, and give it a stir. Then shape the meatballs: scoop up 2-3 tablespoons of the ground turkey mixture (a golf ball-sized amount), and use your hands to roll it into balls. Gently add the meatballs to the pot. Then pour in the chicken broth and water — be careful to pour the broth in around the edges of the pot: if you pour the stream of liquid directly over the meatballs, they might break apart.

4. Add the sliced zucchini, then cover and simmer for about 35 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through. Serve warm, garnished with fresh cilantro, lime, and hot sauce.

Print this recipe! (PDF)

Albondigas Soup (Mexican turkey and rice meatball soup)Pin it!

Related recipe posts:

Chicken Pozole Turkey Lentil Soup with Kale Crema de Aguacate (Mexican Avocado Soup) Nepali Momos (Steamed Dumplings) with Tomato Chutney
Chicken Pozole Turkey Lentil Soup with Kale Crema de Aguacate (Mexican Avocado Soup) Nepali Momos (Steamed Dumplings) & Tomato Chutney
59 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2014 9:20 am

    so good!

  2. May 15, 2014 9:32 am

    Looks delicious! and I love your dutch oven!

    • May 15, 2014 12:15 pm

      :) This was actually only our second or third time using our new Dutch oven! We got it on sale at Target not too long ago and I have been VERY excited about it.

    • May 15, 2014 12:32 pm

      It was on clearance if I remember correctly. I want to bake bread with it when it’s colder.

  3. May 15, 2014 9:35 am

    Oh wow, this sounds delicious!! My mom always used to incorporate rice into her meatloaf, but I’d never thought to transfer that over to meatballs, too. It’s still cold and rainy where I am, so this soup will be a welcome treat!

    • May 15, 2014 12:33 pm

      Awesome! I’m glad the recipe will be of immediate use to someone!

  4. May 15, 2014 10:08 am

    I love that there’s rice in the albondigas! I would definitely do this with the mexican squash, have you had that one? I loooove it in soup!

  5. May 15, 2014 10:19 am

    Albondigas!!!!!! I’ve been waiting for a colder day to share my mom’s recipe but she literally makes it once a week, regardless of the weather. I love the addition of mint!

    P.S. You two live in SB? I went to college there :)

    • May 15, 2014 12:07 pm

      Yes, we live in SB! I’m a grad student at UCSB, and Paula moved up here from the LA area a few years ago and works downtown.

      • May 15, 2014 12:17 pm

        Go Gauchos! :)

      • May 15, 2014 12:45 pm

        Go Gauchos! (Btw, in my 7 years as a UCSB grad student, I’ve never actually said that to anyone before!)

        I love that your mom makes albondigas once a week, regardless of the weather! Paula and I will be curious to check out that recipe too, once you post it!

  6. May 15, 2014 11:26 am

    haha I think soup is great in any weather! So this looks absolutely delicious.

    • May 15, 2014 12:13 pm

      Haha, yeah you might even be in the majority on that one! I just (usually) cannot handle eating hot food in hot weather (especially with no air conditioning). There’s a great word in Korean, ‘iyeolchiyeol’ that basically means you should eat hot foods when it’s hot out, for health reasons… It’s true it’s sometimes nice to indulge in something super hot & spicy in the summer (and sweat like it’s a workout), but usually I am soooo bad at following that principle.

      • May 15, 2014 1:40 pm

        Ahhh. That makes sense! In Central Asia, they always drink tea in the summer/in the desert in really hot months and it is supposed to cool you down. Interesting:)

    • May 15, 2014 12:42 pm

      I’m always freezing in the break room at work, so this is really good for cold office lunches.

  7. May 15, 2014 12:12 pm

    OMG this looks so good. I love albondigas. Paula, you cook just like i love, but then again, so does Allison (especially your Jewish and Asian cooking, yummmm). I’m moving in! I have a pozole recipe too! I really cannot get enough Mexican food, but Paula seems to be an expert. I can only try. I have a version of a lot of your food, but you seem to have perfected each dish! Que rico. Gracias por compartir la receta! Y las fotos! Increibles. Yo les sigo uds en Pinterest!

  8. May 15, 2014 12:48 pm

    Like Amanda, I adore albondigas (and most Latin American, Mexican and Spanish food!). I’ll try your recipe as soon as our garden starts to flourish, Paula. Have a great day, Allison.

    • May 25, 2014 1:48 pm

      Ah, I’m so jealous, I wish I had a green thumb. Cheers!

  9. May 15, 2014 1:27 pm

    i am a fan of soup, any season or temp!
    we were in Santa Barbara just last week and the weather was on a the cooler side — we were lucky the 3 days we were there the temps were in the 70s.

    • May 15, 2014 3:43 pm

      Lan, that’s awesome you visited Santa Barbara! Next time let me know you’re in town and we can go to the farmer’s market or wine-tasting together :)

      Oh and you weren’t exactly “lucky” that in was in the 70s — it’s ALWAYS supposed to be in the 70s in SB! We are just a bunch of unlucky whiners this week, that’s all… (Plus, climate change.)

      • May 16, 2014 9:44 am

        allison, i thought of dropping you note but it was a very last minute trip for my gpa’s funeral and that one day we wandered to SM was spur of the moment. next time, i promise!

      • May 17, 2014 10:44 am

        Lan, so sorry to hear about your grandfather. And yes, no pressure of course, but if we ever got to hang out (and eat) in person someday, that would be lovely. :)

  10. May 15, 2014 1:58 pm

    Looks absolutely delicious. You might be sweltering through a heatwave but we’re heading into winter here so your post is perfectly timed for our cooler weather. Btw we used to call meatballs made with rice ‘porcupines’ when I was growing up. Haven’t had them in decades. I’m filing this soup under must try soon.

    • May 25, 2014 1:51 pm

      I told you, Allison. I told you it’s not sweltering hot everywhere. (thank you thepaddingtonfoodie!)

  11. May 15, 2014 4:05 pm

    This looks so delicious! It’s going to be a bit cool here the next few days so who knows, maybe i’ll be in need of some warm comfort food!

  12. May 16, 2014 12:34 am

    Cowabunga! (Not sure why that ancient Ninja Turtles saying just sprang from.) These look delicious and just right for us as we slide into winter on this side of the planet. :)

  13. hoytapeo permalink
    May 16, 2014 12:59 am

    So nice!!!

    I will cook it!

  14. May 16, 2014 4:50 am

    This sounds so good. We’re rocking steady temperatures in the mid-50s and a lot of rain (aka the complete opposite of what you’re dealing with over there!), so this is definitely still an option in my kitchen.

  15. May 16, 2014 5:37 am

    What a delicious soup my friend, it looks full of warming and healthy flavours :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  16. May 16, 2014 12:45 pm

    Looks delicious, I love hearty soups, thanks for sharing, pinned:)

  17. May 16, 2014 8:30 pm

    Holy smokes! Unbelievable heat wave down there in SoCal. I have this thing for spicy Mexican food in the heat….I love it! Mexican soups are so fantastic, love posole but albondigas is by far my favorite. Beautiful post, I am convinced we share the same palate. I’m with you on allowing the potatoes disintegrate a bit into the soup, and I really do want to make this over the weekend now.

    • May 25, 2014 1:55 pm

      I know right?! I love the thickness and creaminess disintegrated potatoes give to a soup.

  18. May 18, 2014 4:22 pm

    That’s look so good that I want to try (right tomorrow:)) just a question: will it loose a lot without meatballs (I am vegetarian)?

    • May 22, 2014 10:22 am

      Unfortunately I think the meatballs are the main star of the dish… although the broth is delicious, too — it just wouldn’t be filling enough without something else in there. But if you can come up with your own vegetarian dumplings/meatballs to add into it (e.g., with some type of flour, herbs, and egg) then I think it would still be a lovely dish.

    • May 25, 2014 1:57 pm

      Coming in late to this comment, but I’m really curious if you made a vegetarian version of albondigas. I would think maybe saitan with gelled chia seeds (instead of egg?) and bread crumbs would be a good substitute but I have absolutely no experience with making vegetarian meat substitutes.

  19. May 19, 2014 10:27 pm

    This is a restaurant favorite of mine! Now I’m itching to make it. And I’m with you–disintegrating potatoes are the best.

    • May 25, 2014 1:58 pm

      I’m so glad I’m finding more people who like disintegrating potatoes. Allison is against it, but she humors me (probably thinks I’m weird).

      • May 25, 2014 4:37 pm

        I’m not *against* disintegrating potatoes! I just think potatoes are done before you think they’re done in nearly every potato context, other than crispy breakfast potatoes (which I like to be so crispy they are practically burnt).

  20. May 20, 2014 6:21 am


  21. May 20, 2014 6:53 am

    Made this on Sunday, and though it wasn’t planned, happened to coincide with both me and husband coming down with bad colds. This soup is absolutely delicious in any event, and I’m especially grateful to have such a healthy and comforting meal on hand as we fight off our colds. Thank you SO much for sharing!

    • May 22, 2014 10:24 am

      I’m so glad to hear it! Well, not to hear that you both caught colds, but glad that this soup could help. :) Hope you and your husband feel better soon!

    • May 25, 2014 2:01 pm

      Awesome! I hope you both are feeling better by now and are enjoying the long weekend (if you have a long weekend). I think the best food to have on hand during a cold contain lime and hot sauce.

  22. May 21, 2014 11:26 am

    Looks fantastic! Do you think ground turkey works best or would you look into another type of meat?

    • May 22, 2014 10:25 am

      Thanks! Paula mentioned in the post above the recipe that besides ground turkey, you could also make these meatballs with ground chicken, pork, beef, or really any kind of ground meat.

  23. Steph permalink
    August 17, 2014 2:49 pm

    Love your photos and your blog, thanks for sharing!

I love, love, love reading your comments!

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