Caldo de albóndigas (or Mexican meatball soup) is a hearty, healthy, and comforting meal that can be enjoyed by all ages! Find out how to make a plant-based version of this delicious soup.
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We're huge fans of soup recipes because they're typically cheap, filling, and easy to prep (plus, they make for great leftovers). This plant-based Mexican meatball soup is no different! You'll want to make it over and over again.
What is caldo de albóndigas?
Albóndigas is Spanish for meatballs and caldo means broth, so a direct translation would be "meatball broth." But, think of it as a meatball soup with hearty vegetables like:
- Green beans
There are many ways to prepare this tasty soup, but the main components include...
Although some albóndigas are made from seafood or turkey, ground beef is more typically used. But, no need to worry about any of those because we're using black beans today!
Eggs (or aquafaba in our case) act as a binder, white rice adds bulk, and spices like Mexican oregano, cilantro, cumin, mint, or parsley can be mixed in.
Many sources claim mint needs to be in the meatballs to give them a more traditional flavor, but we think the recipe is delicious either way (and, it's not very traditional with black beans anyways!).
As we mentioned, the caldo (or broth) for this dish generally consists of a meat base (chicken or beef are common) and vegetables.
Of course, we use a vegetable-only broth. But, if you have access to Better than Boullion, that's even better! It will provide a rich, savoury, umami element to the recipe.
Also, we mixed our caldo with a chipotle salsa to add smoky and spicy notes. This pairs well with the hearty black bean meatballs and balances out the soup.
Is caldo de albóndigas vegan?
If we didn't make it clear already, a traditional caldo de albóndigas is not suitable for vegans or vegetarians.
Even though it's not technically authentic, we thought it would be fun to recreate a 100% plant-based version of this comforting recipe.
With a few simple swaps like aquafaba for eggs, black beans for ground beef, and vegetable stock for meat-based broth, we ended up with a delicious bowl of soup!
History of albóndigas
The meatball as a whole has a largely unclear origin story, but we do know that albóndigas made their way to Mexico at some point from the Middle East.
It seems as though kofta (argued to be the first-ever meatball) was passed from the Persians to the Arabs. They then created a similar dish, which was introduced to Spain around the 13th century during Muslim rule.
As you may know, the Spanish brought many new foods and recipes with them to what is now known as Mexico — including this Arabic-inspired meatball dish.
Over time, people in Mexico put their own spin on the original forms, turning it into a unique recipe influenced by the flavors of the country.
This is a particularly popular recipe in the Northern states of Mexico, but it can be found all throughout the other regions.
Serve caldo de albóndigas steaming hot from the pot after it's finished simmering. Some of our favorite sides include cilantro, lime wedges, and a little extra rice.
Try dipping a few freshly made corn tortillas in for the ultimate soup experience.
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
- Black beans: This protein-packed legume replaces the ground meat typically found in albóndigas. It provides a similar umami flavor but contains over 15 grams of fiber in just 1 cup!
- White rice: White rice is a common ingredient found in albóndigas to "stretch" the protein further. For this plant-based version, make sure it's cooled completely to avoid a mushy texture.
- Tamari: For extra umami taste, add tamari to the meatballs to help emulate that characteristic savoury meat flavor.
- Breadcrumbs: Adding breadcrumbs helps bind the albóndigas together and gives them shape.
- Aquafaba: Chickpea brine (also called aquafaba) is used to replace eggs in this recipe. You can use aquafaba from a can or save the liquid if you cook them from scratch.
- Cilantro: For a zesty and herbaceous element, we use cilantro. It can also be replaced or used in combination with mint or parsley.
- Cumin, Mexican oregano, paprika: These spices complement each other well in Mexican cooking. Cumin adds a warm earthy flavor, Mexican oregano brings citrus and licorice spice, and paprika lends a mildly smoky flavor.
- Garlic, onion: We use a mixture of fresh and powdered garlic and onion throughout this dish to provide savoury flavors and aromas.
- Tomatoes: Fresh Roma tomatoes make up the basis of the salsa, and we use tomato paste to add a further umami element to the meatballs.
- Chipotles in adobo: Although optional, we always add a few chipotles in adobo to our meatball soup to impart smoke and spice.
- Vegetable broth: To make a plant-based soup, we swapped out chicken broth for vegetable. As we mentioned, you can also tryBetter than Boullion.
- Vegetables: Our favorite vegetables to add include zucchini, potatoes, carrots, celery, bell pepper, corn, etc.
If you have questions about this caldo de albóndigas recipe, don't forget to check out our FAQ section at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: First, cook your white rice if you don’t have any on hand. Let it cool completely before using. Bake the black beans until they are dried out and cracking slightly.
Step 2: Add black beans, cilantro, cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder to a food processor. Pulse into a meal consistency, then add in breadcrumbs, cooled rice, tamari, aquafaba, tomato paste, and salt and pepper. Pulse a few more times (you don’t want it to be too paste-like).
Step 3: Chill the meatball mixture, then shape the balls. Sauté them until browned on all sides, then finish them in your oven once more.
Step 4: In the meantime, boil tomatoes, onion, and garlic, then blend them with chipotles in adobo, cumin, oregano, paprika, salt, and pepper.
Step 5: Season the salsa in a little oil for a few minutes, then add in vegetable broth and potatoes. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Add in the zucchini and simmer until the vegetables are tender.
Step 6: Serve your soup topped with extra rice, black bean "meatballs," a squeeze of lime, more cilantro, corn tortillas, etc. Happy eating!
These simple and effective storage tips will help keep your food lasting longer. We always love making a double batch of soup to have leftovers during our busy weeks!
Store this plant-based caldo de albóndigas in the fridge for 4-5 days in airtight containers. We use glass containers as they preserve the flavors best.
To limit soggy meatballs, we suggest storing them separately from the soup.
As long as your meatball soup is kept in freezer-safe bags or containers, it should be good for at least 3-4 months. Let it cool completely before transferring it to your storage containers.
If frozen, allow the soup to thaw in your fridge overnight. Then, transfer it to a pot and cook over medium-low for 5-10 minutes, or until warm.
💭 Tips & variations
We'd like to share some tips and variations we learned while experimenting with this vegan Mexican meatball soup:
- Dehydrate the beans. To ensure your meatballs don't end up too mushy, bake the black beans in your oven beforehand.
- Prep the rice in advance. As with the black beans, using cooled rice will prevent mushy meatballs. This is a great recipe for using up leftover rice!
- Add some heat. If you like a spicy broth, try adding serrano or jalapeño peppers to the salsa before blending it.
- Mix up the veggies. If you don't have zucchini or potatoes, try carrots, peas, celery, corn, turnips, or sweet potatoes.
- Switch up the protein. Black beans can be replaced with other legumes like lentils. You can also use a meat replacement like Beyond Meat or Gardein!
🍴 Tasting notes
Whenever we're in the mood to cozy up with a movie or a book, this vegan meatball soup always comes to mind. It's:
If you try this caldo de albóndigas, please rate it and leave us a comment below! Want to stay up-to-date with new recipes? Subscribe to our newsletter or connect with Broke Bank Vegan on social media. Happy eating!
Plant-Based Caldo de Albóndigas
- Baking sheet
- Food processor or blender
- Chef knife & cutting board
Black bean meatballs
- 1 cup cooked & cooled white rice ($0.13)
- 1 ½ cups cooked black beans ($0.16)
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, minced ($0.03)
- ½ tablespoon cumin ($0.02)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder ($0.01)
- 1 teaspoon onion powder ($0.01)
- ½ cup breadcrumbs ($0.05)
- 2 tablespoons tamari ($0.36)
- 5 tablespoons aquafaba ($0.01)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste ($0.08)
- Salt & pepper to taste ($0.02)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil ($0.11)
- 3 Roma tomatoes ($0.48)
- ½ white onion ($0.12)
- 4 cloves garlic ($0.16)
- 2-4 chipotles in adobo ($0.08)
- 1 teaspoon cumin ($0.01)
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano ($0.03)
- ½ teaspoon paprika ($0.01)
- Salt & pepper to taste ($0.02)
- 1-2 teaspoons olive oil ($0.06)
- 5 cups vegetable broth ($0.23)
- 1 medium yellow or white potato, diced ($0.21)
- 1 medium zucchini, diced ($0.15)
- Lime wedges
- Extra rice
- Corn tortillas
- First, cook your white rice if you don’t have any on hand. Let it cool completely before using.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread drained and rinsed black beans out evenly on the sheet and bake for 13 minutes, or until the beans are dried out and cracking slightly.
- Add black beans, cilantro, cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder to a food processor. Pulse into a meal consistency, then add in breadcrumbs, cooled rice, tamari, aquafaba, tomato paste, salt, and pepper. Pulse until a rough dough consistency is achieved (you don’t want it to be too paste-like).
- Transfer mixture to your fridge to chill for ~10 minutes and turn your oven to 400°F.
- Once chilled, form “meatballs” using a tablespoon (~35-40 grams). Sauté in a pan with a small amount of olive oil until browned on all sides. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
- In the meantime, boil tomatoes, onion, and garlic in a saucepan for 12-15 minutes or until tender. Transfer to a blender with chipotles in adobo, cumin, oregano, paprika, salt, and pepper, and mix on high until smooth.
- Heat 1-2 teaspoons olive oil in a large stockpot over medium. Pour in salsa and season for 5 minutes, then add in vegetable broth and potatoes. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Add in the zucchini and simmer for another 5-10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
- Serve your soup topped with extra rice, black bean meatballs, a squeeze of lime, cilantro, corn tortillas, etc. Happy eating!
- Meatball inspiration from Minimalist Baker's vegan meatballs.
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price or calories of our recipes.
- We calculate nutritional information for our recipes with Cronometer.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe-to-recipe.
- All prices are in USD.
♻️ Similar recipes
For more plant-based versions of Mexican soup recipes, check out our:
- Sopa de tortilla for crispy strips of corn tortillas covered with a tomato and chile-infused broth.
- Pozole verde to try a tasty stew filled with tender hominy, shredded jackfruit, and tangy tomatillos.
- Sopa de conchas for a simple recipe made with toasted pasta, hearty vegetables, and a savoury tomato broth.
- Sopa de lentejas for an extremely healthy soup filled with protein-packed lentils and vegetables like celery, carrots, onions, and garlic.
No, caldo de albóndigas isn't meant to be an overly spicy dish. Adding the chipotle in adobo slightly turns the heat up, but feel free to add more or less as per your preference.
Yes, you should bake the black beans. If not, your vegan meatballs will end up soggy.
Other vegetables that work in caldo de albóndigas are celery, carrots, sweet potatoes, corn, mushrooms, green beans, etc.