Albondigas, the Ultimate Comfort Soup

Albondigas…doesn’t it sound majestic? What is an albondiga? Albondigas originated in Spain and means a spicy tomato meatball soup. In my book albondiga soup is the ultimate comfort food.

I love soup and this one has a special memory attached to it. The unique balance of fresh herbs, tomato broth, and unique spices gives this recipe its delicate flavor. When my grandmother made this soup I remember staring at the vibrant red specks of the safflower in the broth and wondered what they were. We had a lot of soup growing up and my grandmother and mother always made sure it was kid friendly. Beautiful bowls of homemade salsa always graced the table and adults took the liberty of adding spice to their individual bowl of albondiga soup.

My fondest memory is that of my grandmother rolling out the miniature and perfectly sized meatballs. I always wondered how she managed to make every meatball the exact same size and with such ease. Kids think of the quirkiest things.

The essence of the spice in this soup comes from an exotic trio of fresh cilantro, crushed coriander, and whole safflower petals. When I make this soup I am flooded with memories of being in my grandmother’s kitchen and being that little kid again.

Albondigas (Mexican Meatball Soup)

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


1 lb ground beef
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon peppercorns, crushed
2 tablespoons masa harina
1 cup onions, diced and divided
¼ cup long grained rice, divided
7 cups water
32 ounces chicken broth
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 roma tomatoes, diced
3 large tomatoes, roasted and blended
2 small russet potatoes, cubed
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
¼ teaspoon coriander, crushed
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
¼ teaspoon whole safflower


In a large mixing bowl combine ground beef with garlic powder, salt, crushed peppercorns, 2 tablespoons of onions, masa harina, and 1/8 cup of rice. Mix all ingredients together and roll out about 36-40 1-inch meatballs.

Arrange three tomatoes on a baking sheet. Place your oven rack as close to the broiler as possible. Broil the tomatoes for about 20 minutes until softened, turning over after 10 minutes. If the skin has blackened remove it. In a blender or food processor, puree the tomatoes until smooth. Set aside.

In a large pot boil water, chicken broth, and minced garlic. Lower heat to medium and carefully add meatballs to the liquid. Cook meatballs for about 10-15 minutes or until the meatballs float to the surface and lower heat to simmer.

In a medium skillet sauté the remaining onions and diced roma tomatoes in olive oil.

To the pot of broth add the sautéed onions, tomatoes, fresh tomato sauce, remaining rice, potatoes, carrots, celery, coriander, cilantro, and safflower.

Cook over medium heat for an additional 30 minutes. Ladle soup with about 5 albondigas per bowl. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, lime wedges, and serve with warn corn tortillas. If you would like your soup spicy add a spoonful of your favorite homemade salsa.

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Photography by Jeanine Thurston

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  1. This looks great! Albondigas is one of my favorite soups!

  2. I made albóndigas recently, and after reading your recipe, I’m ready to make it again before our weather turns too warm to enjoy it.
    Where do you get whole safflower? What taste does it contribute?


    • Kathleen: We buy it at the Mexican grocery store, but I’ve also seen it at Cost Plus World Market and on Amazon. Safflower is mainly used as a colorant and tastes bittersweet and sharp so very little is required.

  3. Your dishes look yum … loved the presentation of the food ! good work
    you can view some of my dishes on ! i would be really happy if you follow it 🙂

  4. I guess every country has something similar. In Ecuador we have “caldo de albondigas” too. Our soup is made with ox tails that have been softned for hours, giving us its delicious broth (base of this soup), Vegetables are added such as yuca, carrots, corn, platano (green plantains), cabagge, & lots of love. The albondigas are made by mixing ground beef and grated platano (green plantains), to this mixture you add seasonings, a good home made sofrito, half of lemon juice and blend together to make the meatballs. Add them to the soup and you got a delicious soup. I will make this recipe. It looks delicious and I JUST LOVE SOUPS!

    • Patricia: WOW! Your description of your albondigas from Ecuador sound soooo mouth watering! YUM! I hope you have this recipe written down somewhere – would LOVE to try it sometime.

  5. Just wanted to say thank you! I made albondigas today and it was incredible. I haven’t had it since I left Arizona years ago and this totally made my day. Question though… How would you store the leftovers? Is it OK to leave the meatballs in the broth?


    • Hi Jerry, I’m so happy to hear you made our recipe. YAY! You can absolutely leave meatballs in the broth. We do it ALL the time. This soup makes great leftovers!!! Thanks for commenting and letting us know you loved the recipe.

  6. I have made this soup so many times and all without a recipe. The next time I make I will write it all and would not mind sending it to you. It is delicious. I have not done your Albondigas soup, it has been very warm lately…but this weekend, I will do it!

  7. Oh, this looks heavenly! Thanks for posting.

  8. yes, the ultimate comfort food…a yummy recipe, thanks for sharing!!


  9. Making this as we speak to get ahead of rain that is coming in, but noticed that peppercorns is spelled wrong. -“In a large mixing bowl combine ground beef with garlic powder, salt, crushed peppecorns…” that would be bad for the book. 🙂

    • Thanks for the FYI! That would be bad for the book 😉 I’ll edit post soon and double check our recipe for cookbook. The entire recipe will actually be different in the cookbook. It’s been tested, edited, and simplified to be more like our grandma used to make. Please report back to us and feel free to share your pics on our Facebook wall. Gracias amiga! Stay warm and dry!

  10. Hi. Wondering if I could use beef broth instead if chicken??

    • I think so, but since the meat used is already beef, we like using chicken, since it’s not as salty as the beef broth version. Remember, our recipes are a good start to your own personal creation…enjoy y buen provecho!

  11. I am in fact pleased to glance at this web site posts which includes lots of helpful facts, thanks for providing these kinds of information.

    • You are welcome Cliff…we hope you keep coming back. Don’t forget to sign up on our site with your email to receive weekly post updates as they happen.

  12. After receiving your cookbook this was the first thing I made, just last night. I love albondigas soup and this is one of the best I have made. I look forward to trying many more recipes.

  13. I love albondigas and remember my grandma cooking them along with flour tortillas on her wood stove. My mother also makes them and both grandma and mom always used fresh mint as the herb. They always had a patch growing out the kitchen door, as I do today. I love this with warm tortillas and salsa. When friends or family are under the weather I take a quart mason jar filled with the meatball soup and some tortillas and it is always welcomed. I love all your recipes and will be trying the peach empanadas later today with fresh peaches off the tree. My mom made tons of these for her large family several times a year.

  14. Albondigas is my favorite soup. When I was little, my Grandpa took me aside and taught me how to make it. Boy could he cook! He told me of his secret ingredient and I swear by it. I add a raisin to the center of each meatball. It gives the meatball a certain tangyness that I just love and receive many compliments on it. I don’t use safflower and I’m not familiar with the flavor, so I don’t know how well the flavor would blend with the raisin, but I do know the raisin makes the meatball. I also use beef broth instead of chicken and it tastes great.
    I’ll put it this way, I just made a 5 gallon pot of albondigas and the entire pot was gone withing 24 hours. My kids invited their friends over for some and my brother-in-law drove over an hour to come have some. It’s that good. Problem is, I don’t use a recipe. I just add stuff until it smells/tastes right. I was never taught took with recipes. I know that sounds odd, but things never come out right when I follow a strict code.

  15. I’m making this tomorrow but I cannot find Safflower for sale locally, do you think Saffron would be an acceptable substitute?

    • Hi Carissa, safflower is usually very inexpensive compared to Saffron. We have made it with both and this recipe tastes great either way. I think you will agree. Enjoy 😉

  16. Pingback: The 10 Best Global Meatball Recipes... EVER

  17. This sounds good, I’m actually making a pot of albondigas as I type this. I always add rice to my meatballs, its awesome and much more filling.

  18. Just learning to cook mexican food.Love you videos and your website

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