Chipotle Meatballs

Servings: 4


  • 1pound ground beef or pork, or a combination of the two
  • 1 egg
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 to 3tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves (if they are available)
  • 1/2cup (packed) cooked, cooled rice (I like to break up the grains by spreading the rice on a cutting board and giving it a rough chop) OR 3/4 cup (packed) fresh breadcumbs, made with soft, caky bread such as Pepperidge Farm white sandwich bread
  • 2tablespoons vegetable oil, olive oil, bacon drippings or freshly rendered pork lard
  • For the Tomato-Chipotle Sauce
  • 115-ounce can diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
  • 1 to 2(or more, if I want the sauce really spicy) canned chipotles en adobo, stemmed and optionally seeded
  • 1tablespoon chipotle canning sauce
  • 1scant teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican OR 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 1/3cup water, beef broth, chicken broth, beer or wine


Together in a bowl, mix the meat, egg, garlic, salt and mint leaves. Then add in the rice (or breadcrumbs).

Using your fingers or a spoon, mix everything together, being careful to get an even distribution without beating or compacting the mixture too much (which turns out a dense meatball). Then I form the mixture into 12 meatballs, rolling them gently between my palms without pressing too hard. (Meatballs made with rice will be a little wet at this stage, but they cook up lighter, which is why I prefer them.)

Next, in a very large (12-inch) skillet (I like to work in heavy cast iron or nonstick), heat the oil (or one of its stand-ins) over medium. When it's hot, add the meatballs in a single uncrowded layer. As they brown on one side, turn them with tongs or a spatula, continuing until they're evenly and richly browned all over, 6 to 8 minutes.

While the meatballs are browning, combine all the ingredients for the tomato-chipotle mixture in a blender jar and pulse until coarsely pureed.

When the meatballs are ready, pour the sauce mixture evenly over the top, making sure to coat the meatballs evenly and loosen any that may be sticking a little. After covering the pan and reducing the heat to medium-low, let the meatballs cook for about 10 minutes more, until they're cooked through.

To serve the meatballs, remove them to 4 dinner dinner plates, leaving behind as much of the sauce as possible. Raise the temperature under the skillet to medium-high and stir in 1/3 cup water (or beef broth, chicken broth, beer or wine) and let the sauce simmer for a minute or two. Season the sauce with salt (usually about 1 teaspoon) and spoon it over the meatballs and your albodingas are ready. 


  1. I’ve made a similar recipe that actually uses crushed tortilla chips as the binder (instead of rice or bread crumbs) and it gives them an unbelievable hint of corn flavor… very good!

    1. I have used rice but you can omit and use onions. I love it with onions better. Even went 1/2&1/2 onion and peppers. I omitted veg. stock for salsa. The name of mine were porcipine balls.

  2. Love this easy recipe. I’m making it for a Mexican food pot luck in early December. Of course I’ve made it at home already and really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing.

    1. True Mexican food is an adventure and an experience. I’m glad you like it. It is very nutritious to boot. 😀 Saludos!

  3. My wife is Mexican (and so am I now), and her recipe calls for “bread” (bolillo, white bread, etc) and milk as the binder. She adds garlic, pepper, and chipped chipotle to the meatballs.

    The sauce (more of a soup really) is simply boiled (or roasted) Roma tomatoes, white onion, garlic, pepper, chipotle, and Knorr (and/or salt) to taste all whirred in a blender.

    The albondigas (o almondigas segun RAE.ES) are dropped in and cooked in the soup.

    We accompany this dish with freshly made corn tortillas from the tortilleria down the street and a nice “limonada” or “jamaica” water. 😀

  4. These meatballs make me so happy – this is my favorite dinner IN THE WORLD! I have served this for favorite company, and for Christmas Eve dinner. The cookbook calls for tiny chunks of bacon 🙂 I like to double the recipe and freeze leftovers. I am making it tonight lucky me. Thank you, thank you, Rick Bayless.

  5. I made as directed. Absolutely wonderful. Will be my go to for albondigas always. Thank you Rick.

  6. Mr. Bayless. Thank you for sharing all your great recipes and techniques. We just made the Chipotle Meatballs and they were excellent. I’ve also been making my own tortillas (with your guidance) and cant imagine going back. They are so easy, I’ve made them while camping!

    Many thanks. Hope to see you soon in Chicago 😉

  7. Watched you make this the other night, had to try. Made a cold night a whole lot warmer! Thanks for sharing your wonderful recipes.

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