baked oats green chile chicken enchiladas chow mein bakery-style butter cookies

copyright jennifer yu © 2004-2023 all rights reserved: no photos or content may be reproduced without prior written consent

i just flipped that

Recipe: albóndigas soup

With the arrival of each new month, I have a little routine of running through the house flipping all of our calendars. We have several calendars just like we have several clocks, because I’m all time-conscious. I could have sworn it was just yesterday that I flipped to November. Is this what happens when you get old?! December is going to be a good month, because I say so. We already have an inch of highly-anticipated snow on the deck as I type. I am hoping December will make up for what November was lacking in blessed frozen precipitation. And then I have my schedule of handmade gifts for those people that have been very good to us like Kaweah’s Camp Crazy, our Subaru service team, the local post office (yes, even the ornery employee), Jeremy’s administrative staff, our vets, and my oncologist (the best one in the whole wide world). It just so happens that we’ll have new toys of our own to break in this month.

(left to right) my waxless touring skis, my teles, jeremy’s teles

While I’m ridiculously excited to have all of this new gear, I’m also grateful that we only upgrade our skis every four to five years because we’re having bread and water for the next 12 months. Actually, it’s been 13 years since we upgraded our waxless touring skis and let me just say, technology can be a beautiful thing when you wait a decade.

So earlier this week I was sitting at my desk one morning, typing emails in a horrible posture when Jeremy said, “Come look at these birds in the yard!” I jumped up from my seat and *twang*. My back has been recovering rather quickly. Although it feels slow as hell to me, I recognize that going from being unable to stand to being able to ride my bike in 48 hours is definite improvement. This has happened before in the past, so I know what works. Ice is my friend. Say it with me, everyone. I ice my back a couple of times a day, lying with my back on the floor, legs bent at 90 degrees and calves resting on a chair. I lay a quilt and pillow on the floor, then go to the freezer to get my ice pack. And without fail, upon my return there is a little occupy movement going on. Every. Single. Time.

hey, thanks for setting this up for me!

I make her move, but only enough for me to lie down next to her. Kaweah loves it when people get on the floor because she thinks they’re going to play. We had to establish that there was no playing going on while I iced my back. She settles for resting her head on my stomach and cuddling, periodically raising her head and sniffing around to check for treats (I know, she’s crazy – she is food obsessed 24/7). She’s become incredibly sweet in her old age.

We are having a lot of soups and stews in this house and it is without a doubt very absolutely awesome amazing. I load them with vegetables, they serve us for several meals, and the cooking warms the house with wonderful savory aromas. I had a batch of navy bean soup on the stove this evening as the sun dropped below the Continental Divide. There were nice clouds that I expected to light up on the bellies, but they were duds – gray, lifeless. I stood at the windows tapping my foot on the ground and scrunched my mouth to one side. Back to the soup… But you know, there is a reward for patience. Most of the time, it is a fizzle, but I kept checking every 20 minutes and after nearly an hour past local sunset, I started to see a yellow glow. This was a good sign. I took my photo equipment out onto the deck. I set up my gear while watching pale yellows become golds which touched off oranges, pinks, and reds that painted these textured cloudscapes. Kaweah ambled about the deck checking the grill for any overlooked goodies. The clouds were not high, they hugged the horizon but stretched from east to west (as far as I could see). Even though most people think they need a wide angle lens to capture something big, I find I use my telephoto zoom as much as my wides if not more so.

seven image pano stitch

like fire

eerie patterns to the south

sunset rainbow of colors

You can find the entire set on my photoblog.

Now back to the soups. I’ve had this one in a couple of Mexican restaurants when I lived in Southern California. It was a simple meatball soup, albóndigas soup. Usually the broth was thin and there were swirls of cabbage, carrot, and onion floating about with a grain of rice here and there alongside three small meatballs. I found it comforting despite how plain it was and how cheaply it was made. I didn’t know it was cheaply made, I just thought they were all this way. At some point my mother-in-law gifted me this terrific New Mexican cookbook – The Border Cookbook, which I didn’t really cook from until my in-laws moved from New Mexico to Colorado and my supply of good New Mexican fare was cut off. When we moved to Colorado, I began to tag recipes until the book looked like it was growing a thick lawn of bright pink post-it tabs out the top. I had albóndigas soup marked forever and I finally made it this week.

soup base: carrots, zucchini, onion, cumin, oregano, rice, salt, garlic, chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, tomatoes

everything is chopped, shredded, ground, or minced

adding broth, tomatoes, carrots, chiles to the sautéed onions, garlic, and spices

This version is far heartier than those token bowls of albóndigas soup I got at restaurants. Loaded with vegetables and a good amount of spice, I couldn’t wait for it to finish cooking. The meatballs are made with beef and pork, but the book says there are some variations depending on region. You could use chicken instead of beef, and some meatballs are wrapped around a pitted green olive. Instead of a crumbled corn tortilla, you could use rice, cornmeal, or breadcrumbs for the binding agent. Some regions add macaroni to the soup rather than rice. So it appears that anything goes – as long as it goes in your belleh.

cilantro, garlic, corn tortilla, beef, pork, zucchini, spices, egg

place it all in a bowl

mix it together

I don’t know why, but I always have this temptation to make meatballs enormous. That might be because I’m a lion’s head meatball kinda girl. My dad makes the best ones. Anyway, I was *really good* about keeping these small, about 3/4-inch in diameter. I wound up with about 28. The recipe calls for cooking them in boiling water for 3-4 minutes to reduce the grease. Word. Timing-wise, it all works out great. Mise en place the soup and while that is simmering for about 20 minutes, prep and make the meatballs. By the time the meatballs have been cooked and drained, it should be time to plop them into the soup along with the zucchini and rice. Let that simmer for 30 minutes and you’re golden!

forming meatballs

cooked and drained

last step – add the meatballs, zucchini, and rice

Okay, that’s not the last step. The last step is scarfing down a bowl of this fine soup. The chipotle chile and adobo sauce give it a rich smokey-earthy flavor with just a hint of chemical heat. I only added one teaspoon of the sauce because I was afraid of making it too spicy for Jeremy (he likes the spice, but as we get older, our bodies start stickin’ it to us). The meatballs are tender and meaty, although I can really taste the corn tortilla in there and I love it. If you have this the next day, expect the rice to have soaked up a good deal of the liquid. Add more water, reheat, and enjoy. It’s lovely.

that’s not a margarita, but if it makes you happier, go ahead and pretend it is

chocked full of goodness

Albóndigas Soup
[print recipe]
from The Border Cookbook by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1/4 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground (or ground cumin)
6 cups beef stock
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 canned chipotle chile plus 1-2 tsps adobo sauce
2 carrots, grated
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup grated zucchini
1/4 cup uncooked rice

1/2 lb ground beef
1/4 lb bulk chorizo or ground pork
1/4 cup grated zucchini
1 egg
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stale small corn tortilla, processed to crumbs
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground (or ground cumin)
1/4 tsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican

Heat the vegetable oil in a large stock pot over medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic, oregano, and cumin until onions are soft. Add the beef stock, tomatoes, chipotle, carrots, and salt. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer (medium-low heat) for 20 minutes.

Make the albóndigas: Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Pinch off about a tablespoon of filling and roll it into a ball about 3/4-inch in diameter. Bring 2-3 inches of water to a boil in a medium to large saucepan. Add the meatballs and boil for 3-4 minutes (this is for reducing some of the grease). Drain the meatballs and discard the water. Add the meatballs, zucchini, and rice to the soup and simmer for another 30 minutes. Serve hot and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro and mint. Serves 6.

38 nibbles at “i just flipped that”

  1. Kristin says:

    Beautiful skis. Amazing sunset photos…love those colors! Snorted something onto my computer screen (sorry…thought I’d blown it well before I sat down) when you mentioned Kaweah checking out the grill. Soup looks & sounds delicious! I wonder if I could convince my weird family that the zuke was green onion. Does it, by any chance, break down quite a bit in the soup so that they might not notice it?

  2. Kristin says:

    Oh! And I’m glad your back seems to bee healing quickly!!

  3. Kristin says:

    oops, clearly I should not comment in the morning…”be”

  4. Andrea says:

    Oh man that is going on the menu for this weekend! What a great looking soup!

  5. Emily (roots+platters) says:

    With all of this snow we’re seeing in CO today, this will be the perfect Friday night dinner! (Although, I don’t know if I can wait that long…) And that is a precious puppy. :)

  6. Amy says:

    Wow, this looks like *just* what I want to be eating now – howling Ithaca wind outside my window. Those new skis are gorgeous (and Kaweah’s eyes melt my heart!)

  7. Elizabeth says:

    That sunset yesterday was amazing. And fleeting. I kept telling the kids in the back seat to “look at the pink sky,” but as littles often are, they were too busy doing what littles do.

  8. Mollie says:

    all beautiful – the skis, the pup, the sky and the soup. love…

  9. Renee says:

    What a nice looking soup that is. Love the idea of an olive in the center of the meatball!

  10. Barbara says:

    Hmm nice idea to simmer the meatballs to reduce the grease. I do that with sausages before I brown them. I love the colour ofthe soup. It looks enticibg.

  11. Nisrine M. says:

    Beautiful soup, full of soul. Just what I wish I had for dinner.

  12. shelley says:

    we watched that from here in boulder as my camera battery was charging. I am glad to see pictures of it

  13. Sawsan@ chef in disguise says:

    Those sunset pictures are breath taking. Thank you for sharing them
    and that soup looks so comforting and I love all the ingredients in is going on the menu for this week for sure

  14. Purabi naha says:

    What a yummy meatball preparation! Loved it. But why did you mention about oncologist? I hope everything is fine now. Loved the the way you wrote the post!

  15. barb gornick says:

    Oh my! What an incredible post!!

  16. says:

    Thank you for the wonderful recipe for albondigas. I’ve tried making it before, but that recipe was not nearly as good.

  17. Nicole says:

    Just found you through foodgawker. I can’t wait to try this soup. It sounds delicious! Love your black furry friend– I have one too:)

  18. cheryl says:

    I now swoon regularly over your dog, your photos, your recipes…the general vibe of your site is pure joy even in the midst of back pain. Just wanted to say thanks and hope you feel better.

  19. belle (tinkeringinthekitchen) says:


  20. Jill says:

    Hope the back is doing much better. I hate when that “tweak” happens!!!
    Many times when I look at the pre and post sunsets from here on the FLATS….I think, ahhhh…Jen is having a wonderful photo opportunity! Those were gorgeous.
    I’m loving this snowed in feeling, and thinking soup is on the menu! hugs…..jill and tom
    And oh yes, Kaweah’s palate…..precious!

  21. Margie says:

    The photo’s leave me breathless. Who needs diamonds and rubies, just put a camera in the hands of Jenzie and watch the magic unfold. So very beautiful, every single one of them. :)

    My best friend hails from Socorro, New Mexico. She taught me how to make my first tortilla, served me my first real enchilada (fried egg, red chili, etc.), and gave me the secret to a true pork stew. I’ve wanted to find something special to give her. She would love this cookbook!

  22. Jacqueline says:

    Those sunset pictures — magnificent! We’ve been enjoying some incredible sunsets in Missouri this fall, as well. There aren’t too many things that will make me stop in my tracks (or even pull over to the side of the road) like a sunset will.

    We made the albondigas soup for Sunday football watching. YUM! Just enough zing from the chipotle pepper to make you sniffle a little. So healthy and great for a low carb girl! Thank you for sharing the recipe. I have leftover shredded zucchini, so am eyeing your zucchini bread recipe, too. :)

  23. Kath says:

    Oh Jen! Glad you are feeling better. Back ouchies are the WORST! Miss K is such an adorable cuddler, even on the floor.

    Your sunset pix? Best I’ve ever seen.

    Sending you love & stay well wishes –

    xoxo <3

  24. April was in CT now CA says:

    Holy meatball, I can’t WAIT to make this.

    Beautiful pictures, stunning. And that sweetheart of a pup always, always makes me smile.

  25. jenyu says:

    Kristin – the zucchini is still noticeable, but it all sort of lends to the chunkiness of the vegetables in the soup (they’ll notice the carrots more). I hope you try it and that they like it! Can’t really “taste” zucchini, to be honest :) Thanks!!

    Andrea – thanks!

    Emily – it’s super awesome for cold weather! Thanks, the pup is a dork, but we love her :)

    Amy – ugh, winds in Ithaca? :( xxoo

    Elizabeth – ha ha, hopefully they’ll have several more opportunities to see amazing sunsets!

    Mollie – thanks xo

    Renee – oh, I know! I’d do it, except someone here isn’t fond of olives…

    Barbara – thanks, B!

    Nisrine – it’s not too hard to make :)

    shelley – :)

    Sawsan – yay!

    Purabi naha – oh, because I was diagnosed in 2007 and my oncologist still sees me for followups and takes great care of me.

    Barb – thank you.

    amy – this is a good one – I hope you like it!

    Nicole – awww, thanks!

    cheryl – you are so sweet, thank you!! xo

    belle – :)

    Jill – it is, thank you sweetie. xxoo

    Margie – ahh, she lives in the land of enchantment. Nothing short of awesome food, nice people, and beautiful country.

    Jacqueline – I totally agree about sunsets :) And so happy you enjoyed the soup. Isn’t is lovely?! :)

    Kath – thanks, I am muuuuch better now xo Sending you lots of love right back, cutie!

    April – I hope you like it!!

  26. Kristin says:

    I think I’ll just make it…they all know where the cereal & bread are. Thanks!

  27. Rosa says:

    That’s a really intense soup!

  28. Chris Bolzan says:

    I just made this. I think I first saw it on Pinterest. It is fantastic! I am so grateful to have come across this post. Absolutely delicious! Thank you so much for sharing it.

  29. Eloise says:

    this looks so delicious. i want to make this today for my husband, who is sick with the cold. iwe love the heat from the chipotles, but not the smokey flavor. :( any substitutions you can suggest?

  30. jenyu says:

    Eloise – I wonder if you could try rehydrating some dried ancho chiles or some other kind of hot dried red chile?

  31. Mahlzeit - kein Espresso-Motiv - Seite 240 says:

    […] […]

  32. Sarah says:

    Yum, yum, yum, yum! This was so good! My meatballs were really moist so I worried about them falling apart as I cooked them (which I did in the soup instead of boiling them separately), but they held up.

  33. 50 Soup, Stew, and Chili Recipes - The Roasted Root says:

    […] 12. Mexican Meatball Albondigas Soup from Use Real Butter […]

  34. Liz Tsuji says:

    I’m very happy to have found this recipe. This has all the ingredients for my favorite albondigas soup from a small local family restaurant. There are a few differences. The meatballs are huge. The stock ends up being almost clear, just a little tomato cast, because the carrots are left in long 4 inch chunks and so is the zucchini. The rice is cooked separately as Spanish rice. When served you get a large flat soup bowl with a couple of meatballs, carrots, zucchini in soup and a separate bowl of Spanish rice to mix in yourself along with a couple of wedges of lime and some cilantro. Thanks for the recipe!

  35. Linda Butwinick says:

    I have just decided this will Friday night.

  36. Beth says:

    This looks amazing, I’ve gotta try it this week!

  37. Albóndigas Soup – Gravel & Dine says:

    […] it’s one of her favorite meals to make her family and I knew I had to try it.  She sent me this recipe and gave me a few tweaks like adding enchilada sauce. This is definitely a keeper.   Thanks […]

  38. Albondigas (Mexican Meatball) Soup | Hunt, Cook, Eat says:

    […] Albondigas (Mexican Meatball) Soup adapted from Use Real Butter […]

leave a reply