How to Make Albondigas Soup for a Satisfying Winter Meal

A bowl of albondigas (meatball) soup set on a colorful dish towel

What's better than a bowl of steaming hot soup on a cold winter's day? This Mexican-inspired spicy meatball soup will warm you up while it fills you up. Here's how to make albondigas soup on the stove top or in a slow-cooker.

Albondigas soup recipe for the stove top or slow-cooker

Soup is my favorite lunch during the winter. Usually I serve warm homemade bread with soup, but this spicy meatball soup is perfect with warm flour tortillas if you have some. It's true comfort food!

Albondigas soup is basically a Mexican meatball soup. I've sometimes heard these meatballs referred to as porcupine meatballs because the rice in the meatballs reminded someone somewhere of porcupine quills. However, the name Albondigas simply means "meatball soup."

If you prefer, start with frozen meatballs instead of making them from scratch. Although they won't contain the traditional rice, your albondigas soup will still be tasty and delicious!

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The meatballs are simmered in the broth so it's a one-pot meal, but if you prefer to use your slow cooker, you'll find out how to convert this to a slow-cooker recipe further down in the post.

Start by making the meatballs

The ingredients for the meatballs

To make the meatballs, combine one pound of ground beef, 1/3 cup of uncooked rice, one teaspoon of salt and one raw egg. 

Squish it all together with your hands, then form into meatballs.

A woman's hand squishing the ingredients for this spicy Mexican soup.

Bring three quarts of chicken broth (or use a combination of broth and water) to a simmer and gently add the meatballs. 

Simmer for about 20 minutes. About halfway through, the meatballs will rise to the top of the broth.

Albondigas soup, or Mexican meatball soup, is made with meatballs, vegetables and spicy Mexican seasonings.

The rest of the ingredients...

While the meatballs are simmering, peel and chop celery, garlic, onions and carrots.

Celery, onions, garlic and carrots

When the meatballs have simmered for 20 minutes, add the chopped vegetables to the broth and meatballs.

Chopped vegetables in a glass bowl.

Add a can of diced tomatoes (or a jar of home-canned tomatoes) and the spices - everything except the spinach - and continue simmering for another hour and 15 minutes.

Then add the spinach and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

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How to serve albondigas soup

Ladle the hot soup into bowls, and provide sour cream, shredded cheese, guacamole, and/or cilantro to top the bowls.

Serve with warm flour tortillas or homemade bread. Warm, homemade bread goes with anything!

A pot of albondigas soup.

Albondigas Soup Recipe


1 lb ground beef
1/3 cup uncooked rice
1 tsp salt
1 egg
3 quarts chicken stock, or part stock/part water
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
3 onions, cut into quarters
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 can of diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp cumin
A dash of cayenne (optional)
1 tsp dried oregano
Fresh spinach or other greens
Cilantro for garnish if desired


1. Mix ground beef with rice, salt and the raw egg. Form into meatballs.

2. Bring broth to a boil in a large pot. Turn down to a slow simmer and gently add meatballs. Simmer gently for 20 minutes.

3. While the meatballs are simmering, peel and chop the vegetables.  

4. Add the remaining ingredients except spinach. Simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until rice in meatballs is cooked through. Add spinach or other greens and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

Serve hot with fresh flour tortillas, and with toppings such as sour cream, shredded cheese, guacamole and/or cilantro.

To make albondigas soup in a slow-cooker

Add the meatballs and all other ingredients except spinach to the broth in your slow-cooker. I use this large Crock-pot with plenty of room for a big batch of soup. 

Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. 

Add spinach or other greens and cook for another 15 minutes. 

Some adventurous substitutions

For a fun twist, try the following:

  • Add a small zucchini, chopped, when adding the carrots and other vegetables. 
  • Substitute kale or other greens for the spinach. 
  • Use frozen meatballs for faster preparation.

Bowl of albondigas soup topped with shredded cheese and sour cream.

Looking for more soup recipes? You'll enjoy these too:

Ham and Bean Soup
Broccoli and Cheddar Soup
French Onion Soup

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A bowl of albondigas soup set on a colorful dish towel


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