Cook the Book: 'Almost Meatless' Albondigas

Cook the Book: 'Almost Meatless' Albondigas

Albóndigas are little Spanish or Mexican meatballs. In Spain, they're commonly served fried, in a rich tomato sauce, whereas a Mexican cook is more likely to serve them in a light broth, "Italian wedding" style.

In Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond's reimagining of the albóndiga, just half a pound of ground lamb is stretched to feed four to six people. Steel-cut oats provide some of the bulk, and chipotle peppers, cumin, and cilantro provide the flavor. Instead of being fried, the uncooked meatballs are placed straight into the tomato sauce to simmer—and sharpened at the very end with a squeeze of lime.

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  • Yield:4 to 6


  • 1/2 cup steel-cut oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped plus more for garnish
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons), divided
  • 1 chipotle in adobo sauce, seeded and chopped into a paste
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • Juice of 1 lime


  1. 1.

    Mix together the oatmeal, cilantro, half the garlic, the chipotle, 2 teaspoons of the cumin, 1 teaspoon of the coriander, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Gently work the lamb into the mixture, distributing it evenly. Form balls out of tablespoon-size scoops of the mixture and set aside.

  2. 2.

    Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining garlic, cumin, and coriander, cooking for an additional 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and water and stir to combine.

  3. 3.

    Bring the sauce to a simmer and add the meatballs. Simmer partially covered for 45 minutes.

  4. 4.

    Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste, squeeze the lime juice over top, and serve with extra chopped cilantro.