Indulge in the rich flavors of this easy Mexican-style Meatball Soup, where tender, savory meatballs are gently poached in a spicy tomato-based broth. This hearty dish also features a delightful addition of beans and rice, making it a comforting and satisfying meal.
This soul-warming easy Mexican-style Meatball Soup finds its popularity during colder months for good reason. Its spicy, tomato-based broth, tender meatballs, and hearty beans and rice provide not only a delicious meal but also a comforting warmth that's particularly welcome when the chill is in the air. It's like a cozy hug for your taste buds on a chilly day!
This recipe was inspired by pairing two easy recipes; Quick Pho with Ginger Pork Meatballs, where I poach the meatballs in a flavorful beefy pho broth; combined with the flavors in my rich spicy tomato-flavored broth used in Spicy Red Chicken Tortilla Soup. The simple addition of canned beans and rice creates a hearty dinner that cooks all day in your slow-cooker, crock-pot, or Multi-Function Instant Pot. This hearty soup pairs well with Jalapeno Cornbread, or these easy Polenta or Cornbread Muffins.
Why you will love this recipe for Mexican Meatball Soup
Here are three reasons to fall in love with this recipe:
- Flavor Explosion: This soup combines tender meatballs, a spicy tomato-based broth, and the hearty goodness of beans and rice. The result? There is an explosion of delicious flavors in every spoonful.
- Set-and-Forget Convenience: Making it in a slow cooker means you can set it and forget it. It practically cooks itself, making your life easier while the flavors intensify.
- Cold Weather Comfort: Perfect for colder months, it's like a warm, cozy blanket for your taste buds. A bowl of this soup is the ultimate comfort food on a chilly day.
Ingredients and Substitutions
For the Meatballs
- Lean Ground Beef - Freshly ground is the best but otherwise use lean ground beef not to exceed 90% fat. Since the meatballs do not precook, any and all fat will end up in your soup, so keep it lean.
- Bread Crumbs - Use unflavored for best results. You can use fresh bread crumbs, or as I do, Panko
- Finely Chopped Onion
- Garlic - fresh
- Cilantro - If you are not a fan, you could use a combo of fresh parsley and fresh mint leaves
- Fresh Jalapeno
For the Soup
- Frozen Corn - Or try hominy for a different taste and texture
- Bell Pepper - You can use green, red, yellow, orange, or a combo of them. Or use baby bells. Again, use a combo of colors for extra flavor and visual interest
- Beans - You can use small red beans, black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, or a combination of them
- Mexican-Style Stewed Tomatoes
- Tomatoes with Chilies, such as Rotell
- Beef, Chicken, or Vegetable broth
- Water - Also known as H2O
- Cooked Rice - White rice, or brown rice. You could also use cooked farro or Pearl barley
- Spices - Oregano, cumin. and salt
Optional toppings to make this Mexican-style meatball Soup shine even more
- Crisp tortilla strips - Cut corn tortillas into thin strips and fry in oil until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and perhaps some chili powder
- Diced fresh tomatoes, avocado
- Salsa - Another good way to control the heat factor
See the recipe card for quantities.
Yes, it's very easy to adjust the "heat" factor of this dish by adding or omitting the amount of peppers. For example, use regular stewed tomatoes in place of the Mexican-style ones. Use more, or less jalapeno. Use the hot version of the tomato with peppers, or add an additional can of diced roasted chiles such as Ortega.
You can easily test your meatball for soup soundness by "pre-testing" it. Once all of the meatball ingredients are mixed together, take a small amount, about ½ teaspoon, and gently shape it into a ball. Microwave for 20 seconds or until cooked. If the meatball holds together, it should be fine. If it doesn't add a small amount of breadcrumbs, remix, and retest until it does. This is also an excellent way to test your meatball for flavor.
One of the best parts of this soup is the easy poaching of the meatballs at the end of the cooking time. In order to avoid a tough meatball, do not overmix or overhandle the meat mixture. Using a gentle touch works best. And, if you do the pretest, you will be assured of a tender meatball.
Chop the vegetables. If using large bell peppers, seed them and dice. If using baby bells, slice them into ¼ slices. Some seeds are ok.
Drain and rinse the beans in a sieve.
Mix the stewed tomatoes and the diced tomatoes with green chilies together in a small food processor. Process, using on/off pulses until the tomatoes are just roughly chopped.
Mix the beans, peppers, corn, tomatoes, and spices, along with salt into your slow cooker or a Dutch oven (if cooking on top of the stove or in the oven - see cooking methods in the recipe card.)
Add the stock and water and set the slow cooker to cook. Follow the directions on your device, but generally cook on low heat for 6 - 8 hours or high for 3 - 4 hours. Once the soup is cooked to this point, we will add the meatballs. So while the soup is cooking prepare the meatballs for this slow cooker soup.
Make the meatballs
Finely chop the vegetables and add them to the meat along with the egg and bread crumbs. (I used a garlic press and pressed the clove into the mixture).
Using your clean hands (best if you remove any rings) mix together until well blended.
Test the taste and "hold-ability" of the meatball by placing a small amount in a microwave-safe dish and cooking it for about 20 seconds. The meatball should not fall apart. Also, adjust any spices as necessary.
Once satisfied with the taste and holdability, form the rest of the meat into balls about 1 inch around. Place in the refrigerator until ready to add to the soup. Remove the meatballs from the refrigerator about ½ hour prior to adding them so they can come to room temperature.
1 hour before the final cooking time, add the meatballs to the slow cooker (if cooking on low heat, turn to high) and let them "poach" for an hour, then add the rice, or other starch. Let cook until heated through, then serve along with some additional cilantro and any additional toppings, as desired.
Keep it Gluten-Free
If you want to keep this soup gluten-free, you can either use a gluten-free breadcrumb such as Schar-Gluten Free Bread Crumbs or try using Ground chia or flax seeds. Chia seeds aren't great for breading the outsides of foods, but they're excellent substitutes for breadcrumbs as a thickener in foods like meatballs.
If you don't own these and don't want to buy one, you can still make this delicious easy Mexican-style meatball soup on the stovetop or even in the oven. All you need is a deep pot with a lid or Dutch Oven.
See the recipe card for cooking instructions.
Store leftover soup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Freeze if keeping it longer than that.
LindyTip: I like to freeze soup in 2-cup reusable square containers. Once frozen, I transfer the soup block to a vacuum food-saver system. Once transferred the soup keeps in the freezer for more than a year with little to no compromise in taste or texture.
Since the meatballs in the tasty Mexican-style soup are going to be "poached" in the soup, SIZE matters. You don't want to make the meatballs too large, keep them all about 1 inch in diameter. Using a small scoop is the best way to keep them all uniform in size.
Serve this hearty Mexican-style meatball soup with:
Some of my favorite sides to serve with Mexican-style meatball Slowcooker Soup are:
More fresh and hearty soups to warm your soul
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Easy Mexican-Style Slow-Cooker Meatball Soup
For the Meatballs
- ½ pound lean ground beef
- ¼ cup unflavored bread crumbs
- ¼ cup finely chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped or pressed through a garlic press
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro or a mixture of parsley and fresh mint
- ½ tablespoon finely minced jalapeno
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon salt and pepper or to taste
For the Soup
- 1 cup chopped onion about ½ large
- 1 cup frozen corn or try hominy as a substitute
- 1 cup diced or sliced bell pepper seed and dice large peppers, if using baby bells just slice into ¼-inch slices
- 1 jalapeno minced
- 2 15 ounce cans beans (small red, black, kidney, or pinto rinsed and drained
- 1 15 ounce can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
- 1 10 ounce can diced tomato with chilies
- 1 quart stock or broth chicken, beef, or vegetable
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano or to taste
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder or to taste
- 2 cups cooked rice white, brown, or try farro or barley
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- crisp tortilla strips
- diced tomato or avocado
- chopped cilantro
Make the Meatballs
- Combine the meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Gently mix with your hands until thoroughly combined. Test for flavor and "hold-ability" by putting a small ball in a microwave-safe bowl, microwave for 20 seconds or until cooked. If the meatball stays together, it is good to go. If it falls apart, add a small amount of bread crumbs to the meat mix and mix again. Test again. Taste and adjust flavor as needed. Using a small scoop or heaping teaspoon, form into balls not more than 1-inch in diameter, can make smaller if desired. Refrigerate until ready to use.
How to make the soup in a slow-cooker, crockpot, or Multi-Function Instant Pot
- Combine all the soup ingredients (except the meatballs and rice or other starch) into the container, and set to cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours. When the time has been reached, add the meatballs which have been removed from the refrigereator ½ hour prior. If cooking on low, increase the setting to high heat. Poach the meatballs in the soup for 1 hour, then add the rice or other starch. Cook until heated through.
If cooking the soup on the stovetop
- In a large pan with a lid, combine all the soup ingredients (except the meatballs and starch) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover and cook for an hour. Add the meatballs and simmer gently for 15 minutes, then add the starch. Cook until heated through.
If cooking the soup in the oven
- In a Dutch oven, combine all the soup ingredients (except the meatballs and starch.) Cover and place in the middle of a 325ºF oven (176ºC) oven. Bake for 2 hours, add the meatballs, cover, and continue to cook 30 minutes. Add the rice and cook until hot.