As a kid on the ranch, albondigas was my absolute all time favorite dinner. The savory tomato and garlic sauce soaked every delicious meatball, and I always served myself too many. They make the most wonderful tacos.
Even though we might think this is an old-timey Latin American dish, albondigas originated in the Middle East. The word al-bundiq means “hazelnut” in Arabic, which is the basis for the Spanish word albondiga, which means “meatball.” The Moors must have brought this traditional dish with them when they invaded the Iberian peninsula, and eventually the Spanish brought the dish with them to the New World. To all of them, I say thank you.
Ground meat dishes are usually considered quite humble, as ground meat bits are usually selected from the least choice cuts, or leftovers. I expect in the Middle East the original albondigas were made of lamb, such as kibbe or kofta. But here in cattle country, we wouldn’t think of making them any other way than with beef.
Albondigas are Easy to Make, But There are Tricks and Shortcuts
The tricky part of this dish is not to rush the cooking. The rice needs time to fully cook and bloom, so watch the grains for splitting, which means its ready. Also, feel free to add an extra cup (240ml) of water if you feel too much liquid has cooked away. You need enough liquid to transfer the cooking heat effectively into the center of the albondiga. Once you remove the lid at the end, it will simply steam away and reduce the sauce perfectly.
Also, I could have used fresh tomatoes for this dish, but tinned tomatoes can be such a welcome shortcut sometimes, don’t you think? Especially when you can’t wait to sit down at the table and enjoy that first bite.
Albondigas de Cilantro – Stewed Coriander Meatballs
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Total Time: 55 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings
- Category: Beef
- Method: Sauteeing
- Cuisine: Latin American
1 lb. ground beef (500 gr)
2 tbsp. uncooked rice
1 egg, cracked into a prep bowl and lightly beaten
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
28oz diced tomatoes
1 clove minced garlic
Extra cilantro for garnish
Place the ground beef, uncooked rice, egg, cilantro in a large mixing bowl, and mix to combine well (I use my hands to knead the mixture, but you can also use a spoon.) Season with salt and pepper, and then divide the mixture into 16 equal portions, rolling each portion into a ball.
Heat the olive oil in a large covered Dutch oven. Sauté the onions for a minute or two over medium heat, until they turn translucent. Add the meatballs, and brown over medium heat for about 7 minutes. Turn the meatballs over, and brown for another 7 minutes. (Turn the meatballs only once so they do not break apart.)
Pour in the entire contents of the can of diced tomatoes, and add the minced garlic. Add salt and pepper, if desired. Cover the pan, and lower to simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the rice appears split, which indicates it is fully cooked. Remove the lid from the pan, and simmer for another 5 minutes, to reduce the sauce.
Keywords: beef, meatballs, albondigas