Albondigas are Mexican meatballs. This recipe is for vegetarian meatballs and you’re going to love it!
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Today I’m sharing my recipe for vegetarian Mexican meatballs. In Mexico we love to serve the albondigas in rich flavorful broth with vegetables.
Traditionally the broth is made with a tomato sauce, but I created this version using a non-spicy red chile broth.
The reason I did this was for my husband. He suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis and we experiment with limiting his intake of certain foods to see if it causes extra inflammation in his joint. At the time we were testing out tomatoes and that’s how this albondigas version was born.
Though traditionally albondigas are made with meat, I made them with lentils. Which, by the way, lentils make a fantastic meat replacement.
These albondigas hold their shape perfectly in the broth and they mix well with all of the other flavours in the soup — I’m sure you’re going to love them.
To Make Vegan Albondigas
If you follow my recipe you can actually just omit the egg. The softness of the lentils and the breadcrumbs will stick together well. But don’t skip the cooling step, this helps the meatballs stick together too.
Alternatively you can use a flax seed egg or even a vegan egg replacer mix instead of the egg. You need the equivalent of one. You can get them at your grocery store, health food store or of course online too. Follow instructions on the package.
Ingredients Used in Albondigas Soup
As I mentioned above Mexican meatballs are made using meat. Ground beef to be specific.
Other ingredients include
- precooked rice
- eggs are used for binding
- spices like salt, pepper and some also like to add garlic and/or onion powder
- herbs like either mint, oregano, cilantro or parsley are traditionally used
- vegetables like tomatoes, onion, garlic, carrots, potatoes and calabacitas (or Mexican zucchini) are used for making the broth
How To Make Mexican Vegetarian Meatball Soup
So the difference in vegetarian albondigas and regular albondigas are several.
For starters, the meat is replace with a cooked lentils. To bind the lentils both an egg and a little breadcrumbs are used. In regular albondigas the breadcrumbs are never used.
Along with the lentils, egg and breadcrumbs precooked rice and spices and herbs are also mixed in.
To give the lentils more of an umami taste I add a pinch of ground cumin as well as some Maggi sauce. You can find this seasoning sauce at Mexican food stores or online on Amazon. But if you don’t have it you can use light soy sauce in its place.
Once these ingredients are mixed it’s allow to rest in the refrigerator while we prepare the remaining ingredients for the broth.
In this case the broth is flavoured not by tomatoes but by dry chiles. So those are rehydrated along with onion and garlic. Once soft the mixture is blended.
Next in a large pot onion is saute until soft. Then gradually the remaining vegetables, strained chile mixture and vegetable broth is added to the pot. The veggies are simmered until soft.
While the vegetables cook in the caldillo or broth, we can shape and cook the albondigas.
Just like meat albondigas, these too are shaped into small balls then lightly sauteed with a little oil. This is done to help them crisp up on the outside and better hold their shape once added to the pot.
After you’ve shaped and sauteed all of the albondigas they are added to the pot along with the softened vegetables. Then simmered for about 20 minutes to let all the flavors come together.
Then they’re ready to serve!
How to Serve Albondigas Soup
Traditionally the meatball soup is laddled into a bowl and served with some lime wedges and perhaps some warm corn tortillas.
I like to take it a step further and add some cooked white rice to the bottom of the bowl. Then over it I ladle in the albondigas soup. Making sure to add plenty of vegetables, meatballs and broth.
On the side I love to serve some lime wedges, warm corn tortillas, some pickled jalapenos. Occasionally I’ll also serve additional spicy red salsa on the side for an extra kick.
Meatball Soup Recipe
Amigos making this vegetarian version of Mexican meatball soup is so incredibly easy! You’ve got to try it.
Albondigas Soup Made Vegetarian
Ingredients for Albondigas
- 1 cup cooked lentils*
- 2/3 cups boiled rice
- 1/2 teaspoon Maggi sauce
- large pinch teaspoon of salt
- large pinch black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- pinch of ground cumin seed
- large pinch dried crushed Mexican oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 medium egg or vegan equivalent
- 4 Tablespoons gluten-free crumbs or use regular bread crumbs
Chile Sauce Ingredients
- 1 dried large guajillo chile pepper
- small piece of onion
- 2 garlic cloves
Ingredients for The Soup
- 1/4 cup chopped white onion
- 2 cloves garlic finely minced
- 1 large potato peeled and cut into even-sized bite-size pieces
- 2 large carrots peeled and cut into even-sized bite-size pieces
- 1 large zucchini cut into even-size pieces don’t cut too small or they’ll fall apart
- couple sprigs fresh cilantro
- 4 cups low-sodium or homemade veggie broth
- extra cooked rice for adding to the soup
- Instructions for Albondigas
- Cook the lentils and rice with just water (see amounts in notes) and allow to before seasoning. In a small bowl combine all of the dried spices from the meatballs list and set aside. Mash the cooked lentils until broke down into a paste (it’s ok if there’s some whole lentils throughout), then mix in the rice and stir until well combined. Next add the Maggi sauce, the mixed spices and mix until well combined. Then add the egg and mix well, then the breadcrumbs and mix well. Cover and refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes.
Instructions for the Chile Sauce
- In a small pot bring about 2 cups of water to a boil, them add the chile, onion and garlic and cook until soft. Blend the ingredients with 1 cup of boiling broth until smooth — be careful & let it cool before blending. Set aside.
Instructions for the Soup
- In a large pot heat a Tablespoon of olive oil then add and saute the onion until soft. Then add the carrots and saute for a few minutes before adding the minced garlic and the potatoes and saute for about 8 minutes to help them start to soften up. Next strain the chile mixture into the pan and sauté for 5 minutes, then add 4 cups of vegetable broth & the cilantro and simmer until the carrots and potatoes are soft. Taste and see if it needs salt or any other seasoning. If not proceed.
- While waiting for the broth and vegetables to cook, remove the meatball mixture from the fridge and form the meatballs (this recipe makes 14) and lightly fry in just a splash of oil until just beginning to crisp a bit.
- Once the vegetables are cooked you can add the zucchini and the cooked meatballs to the soup. Place each meatball into the pot very carefully and once inside the pot do not disturb. Cover the pot again and simmer for 20 minutes — without stirring! Turn the heat off and allow the soup to cool slightly before serving.
- To serve scoop some cooked rice into each bowl then carefully ladle in the soup and meatballs too. Serve with lime slices, salsa or chopped chiles of your choice, additionally if you’d like you can also serve with warm corn tortillas. Makes great leftovers!
What Does Vegetarian Albondigas Soup Taste Like
The soup tastes really good — and even better the next day.
You’re going to be surprised just how similar the taste in this meatless version is to the original one.
Don’t worry it isn’t spicy at all! The guajillos just give it that colour that the traditional tomatoes would.
The soup is hearty enough for a warming dinner and you’re going to love it. Don’t forget that squeeze of lime juice!
Happy cooking amigos!
More Mexican Vegetarian Recipes to Cook
Check out all of these easy, inexpensive Mexican vegetarian and vegan recipes to cook right now!
- Flour Tortillas
- Vegan Pozole Rojo
- Vegan Pozole Verde Recipe (2 Ways)
- Vegan Menudo
- Corn and Poblano Pepper Soup with a Touch of Curry Powder
- Frijoles de Olla
Nancy Lopez is a food blogger and author of the cookbook Mexican Tamales Made Meatless. Born in Mexico, raised in the US, and currently living in Southern Mexico, she has followed a meatless diet for almost 10 years. It is her passion and mission to share all she has learned about vegan Mexican cooking and vegetarian Mexican recipes. Mexican Made Meatless is a blog dedicated to preserving the authentic flavors of Mexican cuisine just without the meat. It’s a place to celebrate Mexican culture and all it’s delightfully delicious traditional foods. Read more…