Mexican Chicken Meatballs Recipe

Prepare delicious bites for the big game with a twist on the usual meatballs, plus a roundup of snacks, dip, and dessert recipes
Mexican Chicken Meatballs (Albondigas) in a Green Chili Sauce

Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara Miklasevics

Sure, a bag of frozen prepared meatballs heated up and tossed with bottled barbecue sauce can be a welcome sight at the buffet table, but you can step up your game and score points with these Mexican Chicken Meatballs by meat expert Bruce Aidells, which he created for Real Food. You can help yourself out and get a step ahead by preparing the meatballs the day before cooking. He suggests serving them as a main course over rice or in tortillas, but they would be tasty bites on their own, too.

Plus, scroll down for handy links to a number of recipes I have highlighted on this site for additional game-day snacks, hearty bites, and sweets—including more meatball recipes from Aidells.

Mexican Chicken Meatballs (Albondigas) in a Green Chili Sauce

Makes 6 Servings

Albondigas can be made with many choices of meat, such as pork, beef, turkey, veal, chicken, or a combination thereof. Experiment with whatever suits you. Ground chicken works well and has good flavor and texture. Often albondigas are served as a soup in a rich chicken broth spiked with chilies, but I find they make an excellent main course combined with a simple green chili sauce. I like to serve them over rice or grits and provide warm tortillas on the side. —Bruce Aidells

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup finely chopped onion
½ cup finely chopped carrot
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon New Mexico or ancho chili powder
1¼ pounds ground chicken (I prefer dark meat)
¾ cup cooked rice
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup Greek yogurt (I prefer full-fat)
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
3 tablespoons green onions, white and green parts finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups onion
2 tablespoons garlic
2 tablespoons New Mexico or ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 cup canned diced tomatoes, (with green chilies, if desired)
6 poblano chilies or 10 California chilies, fire-roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1½ cups cilantro stems, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or more to taste

  1. For the meatballs: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet over medium heat and add onion, carrot, garlic, and a pinch each salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring frequently, 10 minutes, until soft. Stir in cumin and chili powder and cook 1 minute, until spices become fragrant.
  2. Scrape mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add chicken, rice, egg, yogurt, oregano, green onions, cilantro, salt, and pepper. Squeeze and knead until well blended. Chill at least 2 hours or overnight. Form into 1-inch meatballs.
  3. Heat remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook meatballs in batches 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Turn and cook other side 5 minutes. Set aside.
  4. For the sauce: Add oil to a large, heavy-lidded saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in chili powder, cumin, and a sprinkling each salt and pepper. Add broth, oregano, tomatoes, chilies, jalapeño, cilantro, and lime juice. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered 20 minutes, until mixture just coats a spoon. Add salt, pepper, and lime juice to taste.
  5. Pour sauce over meatballs and heat 5 minutes. Serve 6 to 8 meatballs in soup bowls over rice or grits or serve stuffed into warm tortillas.

Cook’s Notes
• If using fresh chilies (my preference), don’t be intimidated by the idea of fire roasting. Place chilies directly over a gas flame or under a broiler. Cook and turn until all sides are charred. Place in a plastic bag and steam 10 minutes. Scrape off burnt skin, slice open, and remove and discard stems and seeds.
• You can serve these meatballs over rice or use them as part of a taco buffet. They also make a great sandwich filling for French rolls garnished with avocado, jack cheese, and shredded lettuce.
• Make a larger batch and store in the refrigerator up to 1 week or freeze to use for quick lunches or unexpected guests.

Nutrition info Mexican Chicken Meatballs (Albondigas) In A Green Chili Sauce (Per Serving): Calories 427 (230 From Fat); Fat 26g (Sat. 6g); Chol 95mg; Sodium 686mg; Carb 26g; Fiber 5g; Protein 26g

Lemon Blueberry Sheet Cake

Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara Miklasevics

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More from Bruce Aidells:

If turkey meatballs with Thai flavoring, bacon-beef meatballs, or Korean pork kimchi meatballs sound tempting, check out easy links to these recipes I have highlighted:
• Thai Turkey Meatballs
• Beef and Bacon Meatballs
• Korean Pork Kimchi Meatballs

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.