Albondigas (Spanish-Style meatballs)

in a smooth & smokey sofrito sauce.

A ceramic. bowl of albondigas sits beside a few slices of fresh bread

Albondigas is the Spanish term for meatballs and are made with either minced beef, pork, or both that are lightly fried and then simmered in a rich tomato-based sofrito sauce. Spelled ‘albóndigas’ in Spanish, you’ll find them in virtually every corner of Spain, served either as a tasty tapas morsel or as a larger main meal portion. 

This authentic Albondigas recipe makes a large tapas portion (around 15 small meatballs) which are perfect for sharing between 2-3 people. Both the meatballs and the silky smooth sofrito sauce can be made ahead of time and frozen and reheated when required, making this dish a perfect tapas idea when you’re short on time!

Easy Recipe | Tapas Recipe | Main Meal Recipe | Meat | Beef or Pork Recipe | Mediterranean Recipe | Summer Recipe | Healthy Recipe | Spanish Albondigas | Made in an Hour

Serving:

Tapas for 2-3 people

Ready in:

1 hr, 7 mins

Skill level:

Easy

Serve with:

Fresh bread

ingredients for mkaing albondigas sits on a white marble counter top

What you’ll need to make albondigas

For the albondigas

Makes 15-20 small meatballs

 

  • 500g/17oz. minced beef or pork
  • 1 small white onion, diced fine
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs
  • Half a cup of chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of cracked black pepper
  • 2 egg yolks

Sofrito sauce ingredients

  • 6 Roma tomatoes (around 500g/17oz.)
  • 1 jar of roasted bell peppers (200g/7oz.)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 large white onion
  • A handful of parsley
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 4-5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning

          Equipment needed

          • 1 large 12-inch (30cm) frying pan (and lid) with deep sides around 2-3 inches. 
          • 1 large mixing bowl
          A alrge frying pan sits cooking some albondigas and sofrito saucce beside a few slices of sliced white bread.

          What are albondigas?

          Albondigas is the Spanish term for ‘meatballs’ and is often made with ground minced beef or pork, breadcrumbs, onion, and spices. Albondigas in Spain are most commonly seasoned with smoked paprika and cumin and are typically served with a tomato-based sauce, called sofrito. In some regions of Spain, the sauce is also made with roasted bell peppers. 

          Throughout Spain, it is common to find albondigas served as tasty tapas or as a larger main meal dish. No matter where you sample albondigas, they make an impressive dish that is full of rich flavors and sure to please!

          Best mince meat to use

          When it comes to mince meat, it really depends on any dietary requirements. Beef mince tends to have a slightly richer flavor. The 80/20 (meat/fat) ratio is ideal and shoulder cuts of beef are perfect for minced meat. Speak to your local butcher and they can help choose the best cut and mince it for you. 

          Pork mince is also very common, especially throughout Spain. Pork mince is a great option as it has (on average) 15% fewer calories so it’s a great alternative for those watching their weight. One downside, pork mince also has slightly more saturated fat compared to beef mince. 

          Minced pork ‘vs’ minced beef – Nutritional comparison;

          • Per 100g serving, minced pork has 218 kcal ‘vs’ beef 250 kcal
          • Minced beef contains around 44% more protein than minced pork
          • Minced beef contains 3 times more iron compared to minced pork
          • Sodium is almost the same between both minced meats
          • Cholesterol varies between meat cuts. Corned beef brisket has 98mg per 100g ‘vs’ ground pork mince (28% fat) which has 100mg of cholesterol per 100g
          Uncooked albondigas sit on a pattered blue plate beside some tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil

          Vegetarian Albondigas – A healthy option

          OK, perhaps this may feel a little left-field considering we’re talking meatballs, but in all honesty, for those looking for a healthy option the easiest way is to make vegetarian meatballs

          There are literally hundreds of plant-based vegetarian and vegan mince meat options available these days, so why not give this recipe a go for your next ‘meatless Monday’. We did it and the results were pretty incredible with nothing lost in flavor, although the end result tastes slightly different!

          A large pan of vegetarian meatballs sits garnished with cherry tomatoes and thin slices of red onion

          How to make albondigas

          Albondigas are really easy to make and don’t require too much prep work. All you need is some minced meat (or vegan mince if you want to make a veggie meatball version), some breadcrumbs, egg yolks, diced onion, and a few spices. Season with some salt and pepper to taste. Optionally, add some freshly chopped parsley too. 

          Authentic Spanish Albondigas ingredients

          • 500g/17oz. minced beef or pork
          • 1 small white onion, diced fine
          • 1 cup of breadcrumbs
          • Half a cup of chopped fresh parsley
          • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
          • ½ teaspoon of salt
          • ½ teaspoon of cracked black pepper
          • 2 egg yolks

          How long to make albondigas and sauce?

          Albondigas don’t take too long to prepare and cook, however the sofrito sauce takes a little longer as you’ll want to let it simmer for at least 30 minutes.

          Here are some cooking times for this recipe from start to finish.

          • Prepare the Albondigas: 10 minutes
          • Cook albondigas: 6-7 minutes

          —————

          • Prepare Sofrito sauce: 10 minutes
          • Cook sofrito sauce: 25-30 minutes

          —————

          • Simmer sauce and meatballs: 15 minutes

          —————

          • Total time: 1 hour, 7 minutes.

          Planning a Tapas Party Night?

          If you’re planning a tapas party, we’ve got some good news! Both the albondigas and the sofrito sauce can be made well in advance and frozen, then thawed and reheated with minimum fuss when it’s time to serve. It’s also easy to make big batches and freeze them for a tasty snack! 

          How to make homemade albondigas

          First add the minced beef or pork, finely diced onion, spices, and egg yolk to a bowl. Use your hands to mix well and then start firmly squish the mixture to clump it together. Break off small pieces of the mixture (around a heaped tablespoon is ideal) and then gently roll the mixture in the palm of your hand until you have a small, firm ball. 

          Next, you’ll need to fry the albondigas in a little oil on medium-high heat. Shake the pan slightly to roll the meatballs to fry them evenly on all sides. Once they start to brown slightly, remove them from the heat and you’re all set to prepare the albondigas sauce.

          albondigas simmer in a sofrito sauce in a frying pan

          Albondigas sauce

          It’s most common for authentic Spanish albondigas recipes to be made with an aromatic sofrito sauce. ‘Sofrito’ is a simple tomato-based sauce that uses garlic, onion, roasted bell pepper, olive oil, freshly chopped parsley, and spices. Some sofrito recipes also include cilantro but we’ve found it works fine without. 

          Sofrito sauce for albondigas works great with some smoked paprika too. For this recipe, we added a tablespoon of good quality smoked paprika which gives the sauce a lovely smokey flavor

          Sofrito sauce ingredients

          For this recipe, you’ll need the following easy-to-find ingredients;

          • 6 Roma tomatoes (around 500g/17oz.)
          • 1 jar of roasted bell peppers (200g/7oz.)
          • 4 cloves of garlic
          • 1 large white onion
          • A handful of parsley
          • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
          • 4-5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
          • Salt and pepper for seasoning

          How to make sofrito sauce

          To make a sofrito sauce, grate a few fresh tomatoes (we used very ripe Roma tomatoes) and discard the skin. Add the finely diced onion, minced garlic, and diced bell pepper and saute for around 15-20 minutes. Add the chopped parsley, smoked paprika, and season to taste. Mix well and let simmer on low heat for another 10 minutes stirring occasionally. 

          The result is a lovely fragrant sauce perfect for your homemade albondigas to simmer away on the stovetop and soak up the delicious sauce flavors.

          Can sofrito sauce be made spicy?

          Sofrito sauce in Spain is typically not made with too much spice, but adding a little heat can be great. If you’re looking to boost your sofrito sauce and make it ‘picante’, add a teaspoon of crushed cayenne peppers at the same time as adding the smoked paprika. 

          Optionally, use a pre-made hot sauce of choice to get the desired heat level to your sofrito sauce.

          Bright red roma tomatoes hang from their vine with a black backdrop

          Best tomatoes to use for sofrito sauce

          For this sofrito sauce recipe, we used very ripe Roma tomatoes. Roma tomatoes are great as they have a lot of juice and sweetness that works well when making a sauce for albondigas. They’re also super easy to find in virtually any grocery store or fresh food market. 

          Fresh tomatoes will always have more flavor, however, canned plum tomatoes will also work for making sofrito. Separate the juice from the tomatoes and slowly add the juice back into the mix as required so the sauce doesn’t become too watered down.

          Next-level sofrito sauce recipe tweaks

          We’ve also taken our sauce and moved it to the next level with a few bunches of ripe cherry tomatoes and a few sticks of fresh rosemary thrown on top. 

          We added the fried albondigas to the sauce in the same pan, then added cherry tomatoes, rosemary sticks, some finely sliced red onion (for color and a contrasting zing flavor), and then sprinkled the whole thing with some loosely crushed almonds! We then let the whole thing simmer covered for around 15 minutes. Super sofrito here we come!

          A small ceramic bowl of Albondigas sits in a rich sofrito sauce waiting to be served

          Albondigas - Smokey Spanish-Style Meatballs in Sofrito.

          Byron
          This authentic Albondigas recipe makes a large tapas portion (around 15 small meatballs) which are perfect for sharing between 2-3 people. Both the meatballs and the silky smooth sofrito sauce can be made ahead of time and frozen and reheated when required, making this dish a perfect tapas idea when you’re short on time!
          5 from 2 votes
          Prep Time 25 mins
          Cook Time 42 mins
          Total Time 1 hr 7 mins
          Course appertizer, Main Course, party food, starter, tapas
          Cuisine American, Mediterranean, spanish
          Servings 3 tapas
          Calories 76 kcal

          Equipment

          • 1 large 12-inch (30cm) frying pan (and lid) with deep sides around 2-3 inches.
          • 1 large mixing bowl

          Ingredients
            

          For the albondigas

          • 500 g/17oz. minced beef or pork
          • 1 small white onion diced fine
          • 1 cup of breadcrumbs
          • Half a cup of chopped fresh parsley
          • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
          • ½ teaspoon of salt
          • ½ teaspoon of cracked black pepper
          • 2 egg yolks
          • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil for frying

          Sofrito sauce ingredients:

          • 6 Roma tomatoes around 500g/17oz.
          • 1 jar of roasted bell peppers 200g/7oz.
          • 4 cloves of garlic
          • 1 large white onion
          • A handful of parsley
          • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
          • 4-5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
          • Salt and pepper for seasoning
          • 2-3 bay leaves optional

          Instructions
           

          Step 1 - Prepare albondigas

          • Add all albondigas ingredients (except the frying oil) into a large bowl and mix well with your hands. Press and squish the mixture well to help it firm up (this helps keep the meatballs together when cooking).
            500 g/17oz. minced beef or pork, 1 small white onion, 1 cup of breadcrumbs, Half a cup of chopped fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika, ½ teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of cracked black pepper, 2 egg yolks
            vegetarian meatballs ingredients in a bowl
          • Take around a heaped tablespoon of the mixture and roll it gently in the palm of your hands until you’ve got a small smooth ball. This recipe makes around 20 1.5-inch balls. Set aside on a plate and repeat steps until no mixture remains.
            Uncooked albondigas sit on a pattered blue plate beside some tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil
          • Next, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat in a frying pan. Once hot add the meatballs and fry for 6-7 minutes or until they are evenly browned. Turn the meatballs frequently to ensure they are cooked evenly. Remove from the frying pan and set aside for use later.
            1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
            small albondigas fry in a saucepan

          Step 2 - Prepare sofrito sauce

          • Grate the Roma tomatoes and discard the skin and add the tomato pulp and juice to a frying pan on medium-high heat. Dice the onion, mince the garlic, and add to the pan with the jar of diced roasted bell peppers. Add some olive oil and mix well. Reduce heat to medium and saute for 15-20 minutes.
            6 Roma tomatoes, 1 jar of roasted bell peppers, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 large white onion, A handful of parsley
            Some pepper, grates tomatoes, onion, and garlicc fry in a pan
          • Next, add the chopped parsley, smoked paprika, and season to taste. Mix well and let simmer on low heat for another 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
            1 tablespoon smoked paprika, 4-5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, Salt and pepper for seasoning, 2-3 bay leaves
            A sofrito saucce simmers on a stove top
          • Allow the sauce to cool for 15 minutes then add to a blender and buzz for 1-2 minutes until smooth. Once smooth, return the sauce to the pan.
            Blended sofrito sauce sits in a frying pan

          Step 3 - Add albondigas to the sauce

          • Arrange the fried meatballs into the sauce around the frying pan. Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for around 15 minutes.
            albondigas simmer in a sofrito sauce in a frying pan

          Step 4 - Serve

          • Remove from the heat and allow pan to cool for 3-4 minutes before serving.
            A small ceramic bowl of Albondigas sits in a rich sofrito sauce waiting to be served
          • Serve straight from the pan with a few chunks of fresh bread.
            A alrge frying pan sits cooking some albondigas and sofrito saucce beside a few slices of sliced white bread.

          Video

          Nutrition

          Serving: 1ball (50g)Calories: 76kcalCarbohydrates: 4.6gProtein: 8.7gFat: 2.3gSaturated Fat: 0.8gCholesterol: 43mgSodium: 117mgPotassium: 138mgFiber: 0.5gSugar: 0.6gCalcium: 18mgIron: 5mg
          Keyword albondigas, Beef, easy recipe, easy to make, meat, meatballs, pork, Spanish tapas, tapas
          Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

          Albondigas Cooking Tips and FAQs

           

          How long does this recipe take to make?

          From start to finish you’ll need a little over an hour to make this recipe. Here’s a breakdown of the times involved. 

          • Prepare the Albondigas: 10 minutes
          • Cook albondigas: 6-7 minutes
          • Prepare Sofrito sauce: 10 minutes
          • Cook sofrito sauce: 25-30 minutes
          • Simmer sauce and meatballs: 15 minutes
          • Total time: 1 hour, 7 minutes.

          How many albondigas does this recipe make?

          This recipe makes 10 large meatballs (around 3 inches) or 20 smaller meatballs (around1.5-inches). 

          Which minced meat is best for making albondigas?

          Minced beef or pork both work well and both have subtle nutritional information differences. For a richer, fuller flavor, use beef mince. For albondigas with fewer calories, opt for pork mince. 

          Can albondigas be made vegetarian or vegan?

          Yep, sure can! There are plenty of great plant-based mince meat options available in any decent grocery store. To make vegan albondigas, omit the egg and use a plant-based thickening agent to help prevent your meatballs from falling apart while cooking. 

          Are authentic Spanish albondigas healthy?

          Albondigas are most commonly served as warm tapas in Spain and each tapas serving contains around 5-6 balls. 

          A small meatball (around 80 grams) from this albondigas recipe has the following nutritional facts:

          • 76 calories per ball
          • 2.3g total fat (0.8g saturated fat).
          • 43mg cholesterol
          • 117mg sodium
          • 4.6g carbs
          • 8.7g protein

          Where did albondigas originate from?

          Albondigas are considered a ‘world’ food as it is very common to find ‘meatball’ influences from various cultures all over the world. Albondigas are thought to have been brought to Spain by Berber or Arab influences during the beginning of Muslim rule of the Iberian peninsular (711- 1492 AD).

          Looking for more easy vegetarian recipes?

          A large white casserole dish sits on a white marble counter with a rich red Mediterranean Eggplant casserole with chickpeas and tomato

          Mediterranean Eggplant Casserole

          with Chickpeas and Tomato

          A large pan of vegetarian meatballs sits garnished with cherry tomatoes and thin slices of red onion

          Vegetarian meatballs

          with a smokey sofrito sauce

          oven baked beetroot falafels are laid out on a bed of salad greens in a wrap

          Easy Baked Beetroot Falafel Recipe

          Vegan | Gluten-Free | Made in 40 minutes

          A small ceramic bowl of Albondigas sits in a rich sofrito sauce waiting to be served

          Have you made this recipe?

          tag @thespanishradish or scan the nametag

          and don’t forget to hashtag it #thespanishradish

          👇👇👇  SCAN ME 👇👇👇

          Spanish radish nametag for instagram

          Our Blog

          Canarian Mojo Sauce Recipe (Mojo verde, rojo, picon)

          Canarian Mojo Sauce Recipe (Mojo verde, rojo, picon)

          Canarian Mojo Sauce Recipe (mojo verde, mojo rojo, mojo picon) Mojo sauce has to be one of the most versatile sauces. It’s a classic Canary Islands sauce that’s made either green, red, or as a spicy picon. Mojo is most commonly served in Spain...

          Tapas Valencia Walking Tour (Self-Guided, Free Map)

          Tapas Valencia Walking Tour (Self-Guided, Free Map)

          Tapas Valencia Walking Tour Self-guided | 2 Free Route Maps facebooktwitterinstagrampinterestyoutubeExplore the riches of Valencian tapas like a local with our free tapas Valencia walking tour, complete with all the info you need to show you the...

          Mediterranean Chickpea Fritters (with Romesco Dipping Sauce)

          Mediterranean Chickpea Fritters (with Romesco Dipping Sauce)

          Mediterranean Chickpea Fritters (with a Smokey Romesco Dipping Sauce)facebooktwitterinstagrampinterestyoutube When it comes to easy-to-make tapas recipes, you can’t go past chickpea fritters with a tasty romesco dipping sauce. This fantastic...

          We're social!

          Reach out and say hi!