Sopa de Albondigas

Photo credit: Heidi Rabel

At its core, food is a historical social science. Often the expression, “authentic” is made use of to describe some type of ethnic cuisine. However history gives us evidence that, “it ain’t necessarily so,” more often than not they are integrated culinary traditions. Sopa de Albondigas was devised by the North African Berber people. The soup was introduced into Spain during the Saracen conquest of the Iberian Peninsula during the 13th Century.

Once the Spanish people were able to recover the territory under the leadership of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella many of the culinary traditions of the region were embraced due to the great tastes of the meals. Some dishes remained unchanged while others would undergo modification. Due the assimilation of many of the Berber people into the Spanish Empire, several of them ended up in Mesoamerica with the conquistadors along with the recipe for Sopa de Albondigas. Thanks to the conquistadors, Sopa de Albondigas found its way to Mexico where it flourished to become a cultural favorite.

Albondigas are meatballs and the name for them is a derivative from the Middle-Eastern “al” meaning “the,” and “bunduq” meaning “hazelnut.” Albondigas meatballs are small and round shape reminiscent of the circular dimension of a hazelnut. Although we consider Sopa de Albondigas to be a Mexican food, history tells us differently.

This particular recipe can be traced back to ancient Baghdad although ancient Rome had their own distinctive adaptation of meatballs. Their history shows evidence that they too could have been influenced by Middle Eastern cuisine.


  • 1 pound ground beef (Least fat)
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 potatoes
  • ½ cup long grain rice
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 zucchini
  • 2 carrots
  • I white onion
  • 2 tbs minced garlic
  • Sea salt and black pepper (to taste)
  • ½ can stewed tomatoes


First you will want to finely chop the onion and cilantro. You will also want to peel your potatoes and dice them. You will also dice the zucchini and carrots. Add the water to a pot over high heat and bring it to a boil.

Next it is time to make your meatballs. Combine the ground beef, chopped onion, garlic, sea salt, black pepper, chopped cilantro and rice in a mixing bowl. Once you have mixed all of these ingredients you will roll the combination into meatballs.

Add the meatballs, stewed tomatoes, diced potatoes, carrots and zucchini to your boiling water. Reduce your heat to a simmer and cook for approximately an hour.

Once the soup is ready if desired you can serve it with a slice of lime.

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