Meatballs in Guajillo Sauce Sandwiches {Torta de Albondigas en Salsa Guajillo}

These turkey meatballs in a sauce that marries tomatillos and guajillo chiles are perfect stuffed into crusty bread for a satisfying lunch or dinner.

It doesn't matter whether you call them polpettes (Italian), koftas (Middle Eastern), keftedes (Greek), k├Âttbullars (Swedish), bola bola (Filipino), or albondigas (Mexican), meatballs in nearly all their incarnations, are among one of my favorite foods. 

Cooked in marinara or swimming in broth like minestra maritata (Italian wedding soup) or sopa de albondigas (Mexican meatball soup), meatballs can be an appetizer, starter or main course depending on size and preparation. 

Today, I'm sharing a recipe I adapted from James Beard award-winning Mexican chef and tv personality, Pati Jinich: turkey meatballs in guajillo sauce. I've tweaked it a bit for my taste and instead of serving over rice as Pati does, I've stuffed the meatballs into a Mexican roll called a birote. Birotes are a small baguette shaped, crusty on the outside, soft on the inside, slightly salty French-style bread that is native to the Mexican state of Jalisco. 

You can also use bolillos which are a little smaller but similar in shape to birotes, less crusty on the outside but still soft and tender on the inside and without the saltiness of birotes. Bolillos are more readily available in Mexican markets and bakeries here in the U.S. If you can't find either of them near you, a traditional french baguette will do just fine. 

Meatballs in Guajillo Sauce Sandwiches 

{Torta de Albondigas en Salsa Guajillo}
adapted from a Pati Jinich recipe
Serves 6


For the sauce:
8 guajillo chiles, stems removed and deseeded
2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed and fruit rinsed to remove sticky residue
2 tablespoons avocado oil (or other neutral oil), divided use
½ white onion, rough chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup chicken stock

For the meatballs:
2 pounds ground turkey
½ cup plain bread crumbs
1 egg, slightly beatedn
½ white onion, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ -1 cup chicken stock, if needed

For the sandwiches:
6 birotes, bolillos or sandwich sized baguettes
queso fresco, crumbled
⅓ cup rough chopped cilantro, optional


Heat a griddle or large cast iron skillet on medium heat. Toast the chiles for 1 minute on each side. Add the chiles along with the tomatillos to a sauce pan. Cover with water by 2 inches and bring to a boil then lower to simmer for 5 minutes or until the tomatillos have changed from a bright green to a dull olive. Remove fruit and chiles to a blender jar with ½ cup of the simmering liquid. Set aside.

Grind the thyme and oregano with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder. Add to the blender along with the sea salt.

Warm one tablespoon oil in a stock pot or dutch oven. Add the rough chopped onions and garlic cloves. Stir-fry until just starting to get color. Remove them to the blender jar with the chiles and tomatillos. Blend on high for 2-3 minutes (high-powered blender or 3-5 minutes if using a normal blender) until mixture is completely smooth. 

Add the rest of the oil to the stock pot/dutch oven over medium-high heat and once oil is hot, pour in the sauce and fry, stirring for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and bring to a soft boil. Lower heat to medium-low, cover and simmer while you form the meatballs.

In a large bowl, add all the ingredients for the meatballs – except for the chicken stock – and gently mix to incorporate. Form into 18 meatballs, placing them on a sheet pan until they are all formed. Add them to the dutch oven, making sure they all are in contact with some sauce. Add more chicken stock if needed. Partially cover and allow to simmer for 35-40 minutes or until the internal temperature of a meatball measures 165 degrees Fahrenheit; halfway through cooking, stir meatballs to bring the ones from the bottom to the top.

To serve, slit the bread down the top length-wise. Smear some of the guajillo sauce inside the bread then stuff three meatballs inside. Top with more sauce, queso and cilantro, to taste. 

Until next time, friends … ¡Buen Provecho!
xo, ani