Recipe for Albondigas (Mexican Soup)

This is a recipe that’s been handed down in my family and adapted for family life. My grandfather, the chef of the house, would take the time to make meatballs, as the standard Albondigas is a meatball soup, but over the years I’ve fallen out of using that method. It is a different experience to have moist meatballs with broth, but this recipe maintains all the flavour without all of the fuss.

This recipe is my version of a traditional family chicken soup: perfect for a cold! It’s also a celebration soup; it’s on the back burner at most family gatherings or parties, ready for anyone to scoop up a bowl with a few corn chips and some guacamole on top. It’s truly a delicious, healthy dish that emits amazing aromas all day.

I serve this soup over rice for my kids, draining a fair bit of broth, but loading meat and veg onto the top. They love guacamole, and the promise of a few corn chips for dipping. My son especially likes shredded cheese on top, and my daughter likes soured cream. My husband and I prefer a nice deep bowl with a handful of corn chips crushed on top, a handful of shredded cheese and dollop of guac. The cheese gets gooey and gorgeous, and the corn chips soften, adding an almost enchilada flavour that’s divine.

This post includes my coveted guacamole recipe as well, so make sure you have a couple of ripe avocados on hand (or more), and a bag of salted corn chips for dipping. You can make this soup as thick or as brothy as you like, and it gets better as it simmers. It freezes well, if you make a big batch, and can be stored for quick dinners another day. If you’re only making this for a grown-up crowd, add plenty of chilli to kick up the heat – it won’t disappoint.

Mexican albondigas soup.jpg

You’ll need:

  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1-1.5lb ground/minced beef
  • 1 TB minced garlic
  • 1 cup chopped white onion (I use frozen)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • ½ tsp (or more) chilli powder or chilli flake (optional)
  • 1 tsp or 1 cube beef stock concentrate
  • 1 cup shredded/grated carrot (about one medium carrot)
  • 1 can chic peas/garbanzo beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 can chopped tomato (optional, but don’t use crushed – you want chunks of tomato)
  • 1-2 cups topped, tailed and halved green beans (I use frozen in a pinch)
  • 1-2 cups chopped coriander/cilantro with stalks (usually one good sized bunch)
  • ½-1 cup chopped red pepper
  • 2 med ripe avocados
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon (or more) garlic powder or fresh garlic
  • ½ teaspoon cumin or smoked paprika or both
  • Salt to taste
  • Corn chips, rice or tortillas for dipping (optional)

The method:

This recipe begins, like all great dishes, with garlic, onion and beef mingling in the pot, browning together with a bit of oil. The best method is stirring infrequently, allowing the beef to brown while the onions soften. I’m usually a “full-wack” cook, so I start out on a high heat and break up the beef with a wooden spoon.

After a couple of minutes, there should be a liquid forming from the beef and onion. Add your dry spices and mix into the beef as you continue to break the beef into small pieces for browning. Once it’s pretty well broken up, leave it sit on that high heat to give great colour and flavour. Don’t worry if the spices start to stick a little to the bottom, it’s all flavour that will come off with the addition of water.

Once your dry spices are in and the beef is browned nicely, add the beef stock concentrate and a splash of water, and mix in the beef.

Add drained, rinsed chick peas, shredded carrot, red peppers and tomato. I usually chop as I’m cooking, so the chick peas and tomato are easy to throw in first, then chopped carrots and peppers once they’re finished. If these go in after the water, it’s not going to change the flavour.

Add enough water to thoroughly cover the mixture and bring to a boil. I usually add the water after the chick peas and tomato have had a chance to fry off a bit. If the mixture is getting too dry, reduce the heat or add a splash of water at any time.

Add chopped coriander, reduce heat to med-low and allow to lightly boil for at least twenty minutes. This soup can simmer away for hours, but it’ll be ready in thirty minutes if you keep the lid on. Be sure to save some of the coriander leaf for your guacamole.

This may sound odd, but a dollop of fresh guacamole is delicious with this soup. If you’ve never added a cool topping to stew, you’re missing out. I love guacamole, and keep it pretty simple to let the avocado speak for itself, but some swear by adding a little Greek yogurt or soured cream and salsa to theirs, and it’s still delicious. This is my method, and I only add yogurt or soured cream if the avocado isn’t quite ripe, because it adds creaminess.

Mash 2 medium avocados in a bowl with a fork with lime juice, dry or fresh garlic and cumin and/or smoked paprika. Once the avocado is mostly smooth, add salt and give it a taste. You may find another sprinkle of any of these flavours as needed to taste, but try not to overdo it and mask the avocado. Sparingly add more lime juice, because it can overpower with citrus.

homemade guacamole

I rip up a small handful of coriander leaves left from the soup, avoiding stalks for this fresh side dish, and mix the leaves into the guacamole for a final smashy stir. I like my guac with bits of avocado, but you can smash until it’s completely smooth if you prefer. Best to taste test with a corn chip so you don’t go overboard with the salt.

If you’re feeding a crowd, amp up the quantities and I guarantee the guacamole will be gone by the end of the night. I usually put a tower of bowls, pile of spoons, a bowl of shredded cheese with the chips and guacamole beside the pot of soup at a party and let folks serve themselves. My kids will happily eat the soup over rice (drain the broth a bit), and my son likes smashing the chick peas in his bowl. It’s another fabulous, veggie-packed meal they scoff without hesitation. And if you’re sick of chicken soup, give this one a go … it’s sure to clear your head!

Mummy in a Tutu
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3 thoughts on “Recipe for Albondigas (Mexican Soup)

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