Pork Albondigas with Árbol Chile Tomato Sauce- an easy main dish, perfect for a quick meal. Tender meatballs made with lots of fresh herbs and ground pork in a slightly spicy, delicate tomato sauce. Serve with Coconut-Cilantro Rice and Garlicky Broccolini for a super tasty dinner.
Coping with 2020 has meant finding pleasure in the tiny things and sometimes even miniscule. The scent of a new spice, watching the birds in the backyard, even just dreaming of travel has brought a few moments of happiness.
It’s with this sense of curiosity and armchair adventure that I’ve created a new recipe with my partners at the National Pork Board.
For the past few months, we’ve been virtually traveling throughout Mexico using pork as a passport to explore different regions and the special dishes that they make with pork.
Today, I’m bringing you a Mexican comfort food classic: Albondigas! Tender meatballs made with ground pork in a chile de arbol sauce that is just a teensy bit spicy.
what you’ll need to make these pork albondigas
There are two parts to this recipe and luckily neither one requires a ton of ingredients. Just some ground pork, fresh vegetables, and a few spices.
Ground pork is so versatile and has the perfect ratio of fat to lean meat for moist, tender meatballs, plus who can resist that delicious pork flavor?!
The dried árbol chiles can be found at most grocery stores or at any Latin market. If you’re unfamiliar with using dried chiles, check out my Mexican Pantry Guide for more info.
Let’s gather those ingredients!
- Ground pork
- Fresh mint, oregano (preferably Mexican oregano), and cilantro
- Ground cumin
- White onion
- Large egg
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- The freshest tomatoes you can find
- Dried arbol chiles
- Chicken broth or beef broth
what NOT to do when making albondigas
Making Mexican meatballs is not rocket science, but a few missteps will give you rock hard albondigas instead of the fluffy moist ones we all love.
Here’s what not to do.
Don’t over work the mixture. Use your hands to gently combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl, but don’t over mix. The more the ingredients become packed together, the tougher they will be.
All different sized meatballs are a no-no. Use a cookie scoop to make even sized meatballs. If they are all different sizes the small ones will be undercooked, and the big ones will be overcooked.
Watch the cooking time. Don’t bake them for too long. The meatballs are cooked when they gently bounce back from slight pressure. If you are unsure, it’s okay to take them out of the oven a bit early, they will continue to cook when you add the meatballs to the sauce.
how to make mexican albondigas
Start with fresh ground pork. For the juiciest bite, use ground pork to make these meatballs. Ground pork is rich, without being too fatty and results in super tender meatballs.
Chop the onion super small. You will use half of the onion for the meatballs and the other half for the sauce. If you want to make the onions even smaller than a mince you can grate them on a box grater or in your food processor.
Use wet hands. Mix all the ingredients together with wet hands for a quick and less messy mix. Remember, don’t overwork the ingredients, combine them just enough to get everything distributed evenly but still loose.
tips for freezing/making ahead
These albondigas are amazing for meal prepping or batch cooking. This recipe doesn’t make a ton (about 20-22 meatballs) but you could double the recipe and freeze half for another meal.
I think it’s best to freeze them before cooking. To do that, scoop and roll the meatballs and place close together on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Stick the baking sheet in the freezer and freeze until hard then transfer to a resealable freezer bag and keep frozen for up to 3 months.
When you are ready to bake, cook from frozen for an extra 10 minutes.
If you want to make a batch and have in the fridge for meals later in the week, cook the albondigas all the way through and store covered, in the sauce. They will keep for up to 5 days. Reheat the meatballs and sauce together.
how to make the árbol chile sauce
This delicate tomato sauce is one of my absolute favorites. It is so easy to prepare, and it has just a subtle bit of heat that heightens the whole dish.
If you are sensitive to heat, don’t shy away from making this sauce. It will taste spicy at first, but the flavor mellows when you combine it with the meatballs. My kids don’t love spicy things and they eat this all the time with no problem.
You can prepare the sauce while the meatballs are cooking.
- Remove the stems from the dried chiles and shake the seeds out. Rinse under cold water and put in the blender.
- Chop the tomatoes and onion and add them to the blender along with the peeled garlic cloves and salt. Use the ripest tomatoes you can find.
- Blend until sauce is very smooth.
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add sauce and fry, stirring constantly. Add chicken or beef broth and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and wait for the meatballs to finish cooking.
- Once the meatballs are ready, transfer them to the sauce and let it all cook together a few minutes to create a flavorful broth.
make it a meal!
more pork recipes to try
- Crispy Pork Milanesa
- Three-Ingredient Pork Flautas
- The Best Crispy Instant Pot Pork Carnitas
- Crockpot Mexican Pulled Pork Sandwiches
- Instant Pot Pork Chili Verde with Cheese
- Spanish-Style Pork and Pierogy Stew
- Chiles en Nogada Tacos
No one says no to meatballs, especially juicy, ultra-flavorful pork meatballs. If you make this albondigas recipe let me know, okay? When you do, share it with me on Instagram @holajalapeno and #holajalapeno or leave me a comment below (don’t forget to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating) !Print
Pork Albondigas with Arbol Chile Tomato Sauce
Pork Albondigas with Árbol Chile Tomato Sauce- an easy main dish, perfect for a quick meal. Tender meatballs made with lots of fresh herbs.
- Prep Time: 35 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 55 minutes
- Yield: 4–6 servings 1x
- Category: Main dish
- Method: bake
- Cuisine: Mexican
- Diet: Low Lactose
for the albondigas:
1 pound ground pork
1 large egg
1/2 large white onion, minced
1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
2 tablespoon chopped fresh Mexican oregano leaves or Mediterranean oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
for the arbol chile sauce:
2 dried arbol chiles, stem and seeds removed and rinsed
4 large ripe tomatoes, quartered
1/2 white onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
Heat oven and prepare baking sheet. Heat oven to 400°F and place an oven rack in the top of the oven, grease a baking sheet and set aside.
Mix albondigas. Combine all the ingredients for the albondigas in a large bowl. Mix gently with wet hands until all the ingredients are evenly mixed.
Form albondigas. Use a one ounce-sized cookie scoop or a tablespoon to scoop the mixture into evenly-sized meatballs. Place them on the prepared baking sheet. Then using wet hands shape them into smooth balls.
Bake albondigas. Bake albondigas on the top rack of the oven until browned and cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.
Blend the sauce. Combine arbol chiles, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and salt in the blender. Blend on high until smooth.
Fry the sauce. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, but not smoking, add sauce, stirring constantly. Be careful, sauce will splatter. Fry for a minute or two or until the sauce becomes fragrant and the color changes from light pink to red.
Simmer the sauce and add meatballs. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce until the meatballs are ready. When they are done, transfer them to the sauce and cook for a few more minutes until the flavors are combined.
Enjoy! Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve.
In support of this small business, ¡Hola! Jalapeño earns revenue in a few different ways. Several sponsored posts are published each month, such as this one here which is sponsored by The National Pork Board. I also earn an affiliate commission on the sales of products I link to— there are a few of those links in this post. I only feature items I genuinely love and personally use on a regular basis. This commission is an arrangement between the retailer and ¡Hola! Jalapeño (readers never pay more for products). This income allows me to run the site. Thank you for reading!