If you’re like most Americans, your knowledge of the Spanish language is limited to a few years (if you’re lucky) in high school. Maybe you’ve still got those como te llamas? and mucho gustos memorized – but beyond that, it’s likely most vocabulary you once knew has been lost to the sands of time. But if you love food, you may have encountered one great Spanish word on the menu from time to time – and if you’re like me, you made sure to commit it to memory: albondigas! It means meatballs – and it’s worth ordering pretty much anytime you find it on a menu in any form.
I’ve often seen albondigas on the menu at Spanish Tapas restaurants where the meatballs arrive in a tomato sauce; in this recipe, I’ll introduce you to a super simple recipe for Albondigas soup, which is traditionally considered Mexican food. In fact, this soup recipe shows just how far the Spanish empire reached into the world – and how the Arabic-speaking world influenced them before that!
Read on to learn about the history of albondigas, plus how to make a simple albondigas soup recipe that’s also keto-friendly.
Table of Contents
The History of Albondigas
Albondigas likely comes from the Arabic word al-bunduq, which means “hazelnut.” Now that I’ve said it, can’t you see how meatballs kinda look like hazelnuts?!
Between the 6th and 13th centuries, trade, commerce, and immigration between North Africa (part of the Arab world) and Spain was exceptionally common. This means that dishes were transferred between the two cultures, including Albondigas. Yes, it’s likely that this Mexican soup has roots in the Middle East and North Africa!
Once al-bunduq or albondigas was introduced into Spain, it was inevitable that it would be transferred to North America when Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 14th century and immigration followed through the 18th century. Albondigas were assimilated into Mexican culture; now it’s considered a quintessential Mexican dish and some call it “Mexican soul food.” (Source)
(Actually, it’s not “soul food” – that is an entirely different branch of cuisine that dates back to the centuries of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and is most represented in Southern dishes from the United States. If you want to learn about the history of soul food, this article is a great resource.)
Making Keto-Friendly Albondigas
Making albondigas is wonderfully easy! Unlike the Spaniards who would make their meatballs from more ‘game’ meats like peacock, pheasant, or rabbit (though there are also historic records of using chicken and pork), we’re going to use ground beef and ground chorizo.
(Sidebar: There are two main types of chorizo – Spanish and Mexican. I often describe the difference as “grey” (Spanish) or “red” (Mexican) though obviously the difference is primarily due to the meat processing and spices used. This recipe uses Mexican chorizo, which is the one I can usually find in the grocery store here.)
To make the meatballs in this keto albondigas soup recipe, you’ll combine the meat with additional spices – cumin, garlic powder, and oregano, to be specific. The roughly 1.25 pounds of meat make about 30-35 one-inch meatballs. Once your meatballs are ready, pan fry them until they’re completely brown. Then bake them for 15 minutes at 350°F.
While the meatballs are baking, it’s time to make your broth. First, take the grease from the meatballs and add that to your pot – no need to waste that delicious flavor, and fat is a good thing in a keto diet! Add the chopped tomato, pepper, garlic, and half the onion to the pot with some water and bring them to a simmer. After roughly 15 minutes when the tomatoes get loose in their skins), blend it all together with an immersion blender.
While that’s on simmer, you can also work on the other veggies in this recipe: chop and cook your celery, carrots, and the other half of the onion in a pan until they become soft. After that, it’s time to add everything to the pot: bring the meatballs out of the oven, plus add the celery, carrot, and onion. Also add broth, more cumin, and salt and pepper to taste.
Once you’ve let this mixture simmer for another 10-15 minutes, it’s ready to serve. You can top with sour cream (or keto-friendly plain Greek yogurt) and cilantro (if you’re a cilantro person). ¡Buen provecho!
Keto Albondigas (Mexican Meatball) Soup Recipe
- 1 pound Ground Beef
- 3 ounces Ground Chorizo
- 1 teaspoon Cumin
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- ½ teaspoon Oregano, dried
- 4 cups Beef Stock
- 3 Serrano Peppers, chopped (swap in Jalapeños for medium heat or Anaheim peppers for mild heat)
- 1 pound (3-4) Tomatoes
- 1 cup Onions, roughly chopped
- 3 cloves Garlic, chopped
- 2 stalks Celery, roughly chopped
- 1 medium Carrot, roughly chopped
- 1½ teaspoons Cumin
- Mix all of the meatball ingredients by hand in a large bowl.
- Roll small-to-medium-sized meatballs (about 1" in diameter) and place them in a medium skillet with a drizzle of olive oil.
- Sear on medium heat for 5-10 minutes, turning until the meatballs are fully browned.
- Place the meatballs on a baking sheet.
- Bake in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes. Remove and set aside.
- Add the oil and fat from the meatball pan to your large soup pot for use in the broth
- Add the chopped tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic to a large pot. Add 3-4 ounces of water and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and begin to separate from their skins.
- Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth.
- In a separate pan, add the celery, carrot, and onion and drizzle with olive oil. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the celery and carrot are soft.
- Add the pan contents to the pot and stir together. Add the broth, cumin, and meatballs, and bring up the heat.
- Allow the soup to simmer for 10-15 minutes to bring the soup to the same temperature.
- Serve with cilantro and/or Greek yogurt.
Amount Per Serving: Carbohydrates: 8g
Which Peppers to Use in this Keto Albondigas Soup Recipe
One quick note before I wrap up: you can choose how hot you want this soup to be based on the peppers you choose.
- Serrano peppers will make the soup HOT
- Jalapeños will be hot but tolerable
- Anaheim peppers are the best option if you want a mild-to-moderate heat level
Remember, peppers get hotter the longer you cook them. So if you’re not a huge fan of spicy heat, you might want to go for a lower heat pepper to start with. Otherwise your leftovers will scorch ya!
Have other questions about this Keto Albondigas (Mexican Meatball) Soup recipe? Let me know in the comments!
Love this recipe? Save it to Pinterest and you’ll help others find it too!
Looking for other keto soup recipes? Here are some suggestions:
- Egg Drop Soup without Cornstarch (Keto-Friendly)
- Keto Lentil Soup (Stovetop or Instant Pot)
- Keto Celery Soup (Stovetop or Instant Pot)
- Copycat Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup (Keto-Friendly)