Tijuana Meatball Soup

mexican meatball soup tijuana meatball soup albondigas

The idea for this soup came when I was making cabbage rolls.  Huh? Yes! From Kraków to Tijuana. I had a mixture of ground pork and beef and wasn’t going to need all of it. And I had extra cooked rice and tomato juice. So it reminded me of a soup my mom makes called Mexican Meatball Soup. I’m not sure where she got the recipe but it’s tasty and spicy. It has meatballs held together with sticky cooked rice. I make terrible rice. It’s always sticky. It’s perfect for this!

I didn’t want to call this Mexican Meatball Soup because it isn’t like the traditional Albondigas which is the real deal. So I thought, “Do you wanna meatball soup?” Get it?

I love making soup because you don’t have to be too concerned about measuring amounts. You can use the ingredients you have on hand and what you like. And this one can be as spicy as you want. Jalapeños can fool you. Sometimes they’re very hot, sometimes they aren’t at all. So I use a bit of cayenne too which allows you to control the amount of heat. You can add more or less depending on how much heat you like. This amount is about medium heat.

Start by making the broth. Finely dice onion, carrots and celery. This is a “mirepoix” which is the base for most soups and stews. You want about 2 cups in total of this mixture. Sauté them in a bit of olive oil over low heat for a few minutes to soften. I do this to take the edge off the onions, sweeten them slightly.

Add minced garlic, oregano, cayenne, cumin and salt. Sauté to allow the spices to “bloom” meaning release their flavour.


Add the broth and a few bay leaves. I like to use half vegetable and half chicken broth but you can use all of one or the other if you prefer. And if you have homemade, that’s awesome! Use about 7-8 cups. Add the tomato juice and bring to a simmer.

mexican meatball soup

While this is simmering away, make the meatballs. I like to use a mixture of pork and beef because it has the right balance of fat and flavour. You don’t need egg and breadcrumbs to hold them together. The rice does the trick. Season the meat mixture with salt and pepper, garlic powder, cayenne and cumin. Mix in the rice and roll into small balls, about 2 inches or so. You should get around 2 dozen meatballs. Pop them in the fridge until the broth has simmered for at least 20 minutes.

Next, seed and dice a jalapeño pepper. Taste it and decide how much to use depending on your heat tolerance. Dice half a red pepper. Add the peppers and meatballs to the broth, taste and season with salt and pepper and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir very gently so you don’t break up the meatballs.

mexican meatball soup albondigas

Just before serving add sliced green onion, a squeeze of lime and fresh chopped cilantro to top each bowl.

mexican meatball soup albondigas

mexican meatball soup albondigas tijuana meatball soup

If you’re in the mood for more meatball soups, you should try Italian Wedding Soup.

Here’s the recipe:

Tijuana Meatball Soup

Tijuana Meatball Soup


2 stalks celery
2 carrots
1 medium onion
1 T extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper (or more or less depending on heat tolerance)
2 bay leaves
1 carton (900 grams) chicken stock
1 carton vegetable stock
(or approximately 7 cups homemade stock)
1½ C tomato juice
1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced
½ sweet red pepper, diced
salt and pepper to taste


⅓ lb ground pork
⅔ lb ground beef
¾ C cooked rice
pinch of cayenne pepper
¼ tsp cumin
¼ tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste


1 green onion
1 lime
handful cilantro


Finely dice celery, onion and carrots. Sauté in olive oil until soft. Add minced garlic, oregano, cumin, cayenne and salt. Sauté another minute or two to allow flavours to bloom.
Add chicken and vegetable stock, tomato juice and bay leaves. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile combine ground meat, rice, cayenne, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Shape into small balls, about 2 inches. Refrigerate until stock has simmered for at least 20 minutes.
Add meatballs gently into the broth along with finely diced jalapeño and sweet red pepper. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes. 

Slice green onion, chop cilantro and quarter the lime to serve with the soup.

3 thoughts on “Tijuana Meatball Soup”

  1. I’ll keep this one. I have a great albondigas recipe, but this is a delicious variation. Have you tried searing the meatballs before they go into the broth? It helps mine stay together a little more.

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