Cold days get me thinking about childhood comfort food: Albondigas!

Growing up in a home where food was at the center of most family functions, I have a lot of memories associated with food.

Christmas: tamales. Easter: honey baked ham with fresh from scratch biscuits. Thanksgiving: two turkeys - one roasted in the oven, the other in the barbecue. Cold days was albondigas (Mexican meatball soup) or pozolé, Mexican hot chocolate with fresh birotes for dunking (also known as bolillos, a crusty savory bread much like french bread). Nighttime warm-me-ups were Mexican rice pudding with lots of cinnamon and Borden's condensed milk. All of us girls had our favorite birthday food as well. Mine was the same as my Auntie Syl's: my dad's homemade meat lovers lasagna. My other sisters favs ranged from beef stew to hoagies to carne asada to carnitas.

And there is just so much more that will just need to wait for another post.

So, on to today's food memory: albondigas! There was nothing like coming home from school on a cold wintery day to the smell of the mint-scented soup filling up the house. Mom and Dad made it but with slight variations - no measuring after all - and each palate is different. But it was always good eats no matter who made it.

For the last several weeks, I've been taking my youngest sister, who is currently without a vehicle, to work in the mornings. Inevitably we get to talking about food as she's a foodie as well and, I'm discovering, becoming quite the cook. She recently rang my dad up and asked him how to make albondigas. She relayed the recipe to me last Saturday as I drove her to work and I've been thinking about it this entire time. Must have some!

My soup is a bit different from my dad's. I've had it out at a restaurant in Oldtown San Diego and loved it so my recipe is a little bit of dad and a little bit of what I remember from Oldtown Mexican Cafe. Dad doesn't add tomatoes and the veggies are just the potatoes and carrots. He also prefers dried mint to fresh (mint is what gives albondigas its distinctive flavor) and I believe he uses more oregano than I did.

I love Dad's soup. It's completely authentic, yummy, and made with so much love. Mine is a little different but in my opinion, gives Pop's a run for his money. Of course, I would never say that to him!


1 celery stalk, finely chopped
½ onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can Mexican stewed tomatoes (can use regular if you can't find Mexican style)
Olive oil
2 quarts water
4 tablespoons Knorr Chicken bouillon
tablespoon California chile powder (can sub New Mexico but not plain chile powder mix)
2 pounds ground beef
⅔ cups uncooked long-grain white rice
tablespoons chopped fresh mint
tablespoons dried oregano
tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon ground cumin
teaspoon ground black pepper
2 eggs
5 cups cubed potatoes
2 large carrots, sliced (about 1/2" thick)
2 large zucchini, sliced (about 1/2" thick)
Lime wedges
Fresh chopped cilantro for garnish
Corn tortillas, for serving

Heat up a stockpot. Pour olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot. Add onions, celery, and garlic. Stir to sweat not brown. Add tomatoes (including liquid). Use the back of a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Add bouillon and chili powder. Simmer. After 5 min, taste and add more bouillon to taste (I find 4 tablespoons to be enough but sometimes I'll add an additional teaspoon).

While broth is simmering, place the meat into a large bowl. Add rice, mint, oregano, parsley, cumin, black pepper, and eggs. Using your hands, gently incorporate all the ingredients. Try not to overwork so you don't toughen up the meat by compacting it too much. Roll about 2 tablespoons of the meat in your hands to form a meatball (should be no bigger than a golf ball); 2 pounds of meat yielded 26 meatballs.

Once all the meatballs are formed, slowly drop them into the simmering broth; cover the pot.

Next, peel and cube the potatoes. My family usually uses russets. I happened to have Yukons so that's what I used this time. Don't cube them too small. You want them to be about 1½-inches or so; set aside.

Peel and slice the carrots; set aside. 

After the meatballs have simmered for about 25 minutes, add the potatoes and carrots. Continue to simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Then add the zucchini and simmer for 10 more minutes or until the vegetables are fork-tender but still firm.

Serve hot, adding a squeeze of lime and garnish (optional) with fresh chopped cilantro. Have a stack of warm corn tortillas on the side to dunk into the broth. 


  1. I love albondigas but have only had restaurant versions of it. Now that you've posted a recipe, I will definitely have to give it a try.

  2. So simple to make and so delicious! I decided to make too cuz Fresh & Easy had the ground beef really cheap! Let me know how it comes out. :)

  3. This is delicious! But is 2lbs of meat a misprint? I use 1lb and it made 28 meatballs.

    1. Hello! Nope, not a misprint. I don't play golf so maybe golf-ball size is the wrong example. I use a 2-ounce food scoop to form the balls. That results in about 26 meatballs.


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