Albóndigas in Spanish Red Sauce

Tapas in Spain – delicious! Classic albóndigas are a favorite in bars throughout Spain. Albóndigas in Spanish Red Sauce are Spanish meatballs. In a Spanish red sauce they have a smoky-tasty flavor that goes perfectly with Manchego cheese and a thirst quenching low-carb Sangria.  In our recipe we eliminated most of the carbs and highlighted the smoked paprika flavor to make this a “go-to” small plate recipe.

Smoked paprika is not the only flavor that makes this dish tasty. Plenty of garlic, a tangy tomato puree, the heat of red pepper flakes, and a fine sherry for body are all apparent with each bite. These ingredients form the basis for the “red sauce.” You will also find many tapas bars in Spain will serve Albóndigas in an almond sauce. It is lighter and has a totally different flavor, but is equally delicious. Most recipes call for bread as a key ingredient for the almond sauce. To avoid the carbs we stick with our red sauce.

Preparation Tips

As with most meatball recipes, we start with a mixture of ground beef and ground pork. We use a 2 to 1 ratio and generally look for ground beef that is 80% lean – a little extra fat content makes the meatballs more tasty. To firm up our mix we use Chicharrones that have been finely pulsed into crumbs instead of using bread. Grated Manchego cheese, Spanish mild smoked paprika, and plenty of chopped garlic are the key taste ingredients.

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As noted above, we also use smoked paprika in the sauce, but it is the Spanish sherry that really adds to the flavor of our red sauce. Other than that, the red sauce is a basic tomato base sauce that you likely have made many times. Red pepper flakes are optional. We add some each time we make our sauce since we prefer using a mild paprika – they do make hotter varieties. If you prefer more heat then either buy a hotter smoked paprika or just add some red pepper flakes.

Some Albóndigas in Spanish Red Sauce recipes call for using a beef stock or even a chicken stock in the red sauce. Usually these take longer to cook down and we prefer quicker preparation and a thicker sauce for our meatballs. We used cilantro in our meatball mix and as a garnish. It is abundant here in the Southwest, although chopped parsley works just as well. A little shaved Manchego adds to the presentation before plating.

Manchego is Joanie’s favorite cheese. She uses it in many of our recipes and she snacks on sliced Manchego all the time. It is gaining in popularity around the world, as well. We have no trouble finding it in our local markets. Even Costco has a delicious imported Manchego. The only kind we use is imported from Spain and is made from sheep’s milk. Some say it has a similar taste to swiss cheese, but the more you try Manchego the more you realize it has its own unique flavor. What “parmigiana reggiano” is to Italy, Manchego is to Spain – both are delicious and a must for your kitchen.

We blogged previously about our choices for Spanish Smoked Paprika, Spanish Sherry, and Manchego in our recipe posts for Smoky Bacon Deviled Eggs, Langostinos in Sherry Cream Sauce, and Brussel Sprouts in Manchego Cheese Sauce. Take a moment to check out those posts to learn more.

Let’s not forget the Sangria. In Spain, bar patrons partake of a small “tinto” or red wine with their tapas. In fact, the word “tinto” is synonymous with red wine in Spain. But, Sangria is our choice with this recipe since it adds a fruity sweeter flavor that will balance the smoky paprika, garlic, and tangy tomato sauce. The problem is that Sangria is loaded with carbs. We have mastered a perfect Sangria with no sugar, no sugar-laden lemon-lime soda, and with all the fruity taste of the original. Here is our Sangria recipe.

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Albóndigas in Spanish Red Sauce – Tapas in Spain and So Delicious!

We made our Albóndigas in Spanish Red Sauce for our annual neighborhood Holiday party last year. They were a hit with our friends. We know our classic version will be the same for you. The best part is they are Tasty Low Carb!

Albondigas in Spanish Red Sauce

Recipe by Joanie and Chris
4.90 from 55 votes
Course : Appetizers & Sides, Small Plates
Cuisine : Spanish
Allergen : Gluten Free, Peanut Free
Prep time 20 minutes
Cooking time 35 minutes
Total time 55 minutes
Servings 24
Calories 107.7kcal
Albondigas in Spanish Red Sauce is a Tapas in Spain – delicious! This one has a smoky tasty flavor that goes perfectly with  Manchego cheese and low-carb Sangria.
Net Carbs 2g


Meatballs (Albondigas)

  • 1 pound ground beef (80-20 mix)
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • cup onions (chopped)
  • 5 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • ¼ cup Manchego cheese (grated)
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt (to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon pepper (to taste)
  • Chicharrones (crumbs – as needed)

Spanish Red Sauce


Meatballs (Albondigas)

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  • Combine the ground beef, ground pork, onion, 5 cloves of minced garlic, eggs, cilantro, smoked paprika, Manchego cheese, and salt and pepper into mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly adding Chicharrone  crumbs to firm up meatballs.
  • Form into 24 small meatballs. Bake for 15 minutes, turning once – set aside.

Spanish Red Sauce

  • In a large sauce pan heat olive oil over medium heat, add shallot and cook for 2 minutes. Add two garlic cloves and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the sherry, tomato puree and salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
  • Return the cooked meatballs to the pan, baste with the sauce, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Top with more cilantro and  shaved Manchego if you prefer and serve on a small plate.

Chef’s Notes

Increase or decrease the amount of the smoked paprika per your own taste. Use a mild Spanish paprika.


Calories-107.7kcal | Carbohydrates-2.7g | Protein-6.1g | Fat-7.8g | Saturated Fat-2.8g | Cholesterol-35.1mg | Sodium-85.2mg | Potassium-182.9mg | Fiber-0.5g | Sugar-1.2g | Calcium-26.6mg | Net Carbs-2g

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