A meat ball dish known as "Mexican Soul Food", it originated in Spain and was taken to Mexico by the conquistadors.

TravelCurious Tip

For the best albondigas in Barcelona, head to Casa Jacinta. Do not underestimate this little local bar — it’s marvellous

You may not be familiar with albondigas, but you certainly know what meatballs are. Almost every country has their own riff on this staple dish, and Spain is no exception. Albondigas are a classic tapas dish in Spain. Standing at a bar, their hot, smokey flavour goes perfectly with a caña of chilled beer. However, this particular recipe has made quite a path through history.

Get the Ball Rolling

Albondigas are itinerant meatballs. The name is derived from the arabic ‘al-bunduq’, meaning hazelnut, but also more generally used to describe any small round object. It is thought that albondigas were originally a Berber or Arabic speciality which was found its way into Spain during the period of Muslim rule.

When the Spanish seized the Iberian peninsula in the 13th century, they kicked the Moors out, but some of their influence remained. The Spanish were delighted to adopt albondigas, and they in turn took the dish to Latin America during their voyages to the New World. It’s fair to say it was one of the nicer things that the conquistadores brought with them.


However, each of those cultures has its own spin on these meatballs. Whereas the Moors had a preference for lamb, the Spanish expanded into beef and pork; and while the Mexicans like theirs with a light broth or with a mild chipotle dip, the Spanish often serve theirs in a rich tomato sauce. Nonetheless, the influence of the Arabic palate can be seen in the spices: paprika, cumin and cilantro are in full force, giving that sauce a real kick.

Nearby Attractions

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Placa del Rei
Meaning 'Kings Square' this 14th century medieval public square is in the Barri Gòtic of Barcelona.
Palau de la Musica
This beautiful concert hall is designed in the Catalan modernista style by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner.
Calamari is deep fried squid covered in batter, a popular dish in Spain and elsewhere in the Mediterranean.
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