Nana’s Albondigas

This albondigas soup is a family recipe that’s very near and dear to my heart. It’s based on my grandma’s recipe that was served at her restaurant, Lupita’s La Jolla, many years ago. Although it’s a very traditional dish, my mom and I have tweaked it through the years to make it our own. There’s just nothing like a bowl of this comforting and flavorful soup.

Packed with plenty of vegetables, this dish also features the most tender beef and rice meatballs. Soaking the rice overnight is a family secret that results in fluffy, pillowy albondigas. Adding a variety of herbs, especially fresh mint, and a squeeze of lime juice gives it a unique depth of flavor. The best part? This hearty soup comes together in just over an hour but tastes like it took all day to cook. 

Here’s a video on exactly how I make it. Hope you love it!

What You'll Need:

+ 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

+ ½ medium yellow onion, roughly chopped

+ 1 medium tomato, diced

+ 1 heart celery, stalks cut into bite-sized pieces (reserve leaves)

+ 3 cloves garlic, minced

+ 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

+ ¼ teaspoons cumin

+ 1 tablespoon dried oregano, divided, plus more for garnish

+ 64 ounces beef broth

+ 3 carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

+ 2 zucchini squash, cut into bite-sized pieces

+ 1 chayote, cut into bite-sized pieces

+ 1 potato, cut into bite-sized pieces

+ ¼ cups long grain white rice, soaked in water overnight

+ 1 pound ground beef (ground turkey or ground chicken would also work)

+ 2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped

+ 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

+ 1 tablespoon garlic salt

+ ¼ teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper (optional)

+ 1 large egg

+ 2 sprigs fresh mint

+ Juice of 1 lime

+ Fresh oregano, for garnish


1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, tomato, celery leaves, garlic, salt, cumin, and 1 ½ teaspoons oregano. Sauté until onions are translucent and mixture is fragrant, about 3 minutes.

2. Add broth and bring to a boil. Add carrots, zucchini, chayote, potato, and celery stalks, then cover and bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook until fork-tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. The broth should simmer, but shouldn’t return to a boil.

4. Meanwhile, strain soaked rice. In a large mixing bowl add ground beef, remaining 1½ teaspoons oregano, chopped mint, flour, garlic salt, pepper, and egg. Mix well until combined.

5. Scoop mixture using a small spoon or small ice cream scoop, then roll mixture into small golf ball-sized meatballs and set aside. This should yield about 20 meatballs.

6. Uncover the simmering pot and gently drop in the meatballs one by one. Bring back up to a boil, add sprigs of mint, cover, and reduce heat to medium simmer for approximately 8 to 10 minutes until meatballs begin to float.

7. Reduce heat to a low simmer, covered, for approximately 20 minutes or until the meatballs and rice grains are cooked.

8. Once meatballs and rice are cooked, remove mint using tongs, then add freshly squeezed lime juice and salt to taste. Serve immediately and garnish with fresh mint and fresh oregano.

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