The Cuban Meatballs to Make When You Want to Lose Weight

Cuban meatballs with ground turkey and sofrito

These Cuban meatballs or albóndigas Cubanas are a family-favorite in the home of Patty Morrell-Ruiz. This Floridian is something of a Cuban Martha Stewart, known for her elegant way with Latino food and entertaining on her website The Mad Table and in her The Essential Cuban Cookbook.

Chef Patty is a great friend of ours at Familia Kitchen, and one of the first Latina cooks we turned to for Healthy & Delicioso recipes after the coquito-ing and feasting of the holidays.

Watch our favorite Miami Cuban cook Chef Patty reimagine her family-famous Cuban meatballs to ditch calories and keep all the taste for a waist-friendly delicioso dinner.

We were in search of light Latino dishes with all the sabor and less calorías. What’s a flavorful family dinner Patty turns to when the holidays are over and it’s time to lose a few libritas so we can fit into our everyday clothing again, por favor?
Turns out it’s this healthy and delicioso recipe makeover of one of Patty’s go-tos: Cuban meatballs. The albondigas come together fast for an easy weeknight diner, they transport her back to her Cuban roots, and everyone loves them, she says.
“My grandmother always made them for us. They were my grandfather’s and my mom’s favorite,” adds Patty. “My children also love them.”
What makes these meatballs Cuban, beside their name, which we love to say. (Go for it: The four-syllable word rolls off the tongue like a juicy meatball bouncing off your plate and into your mouth: albóndiga.)
The delicioso starts, as so many criollo dishes do, with sautéed aromatics. “The base of the meatball’s tomato sauce is sofrito,” explains Patty. A foundational ingredient in Cuban, Puerto Rican and other Latino cuisines, sofrito typically includes onion, bell pepper, and garlic in olive oil. Instead of bread crumbs, ”these meatballs use cracker meal or galleta molida as a binder, which is very much part of our culture,“ says Patty. “All of this makes them uniquely Cuban.”

So how did she lighten up this traditional recipe into a dieta-friendly one that tastes Latino great and helps you lose weight? Patty explains she replaced the ground beef with ground turkey. She also skipped flour-coating and pan-searing the meatballs, and roasted them at 400°.

The result? All the sabor, less calorías. We made them, adored them, and we’re in. These delicioso turkey meatballs are going into weekly rotation in our cocina, this January and year-round.

We love Patty and her beautiful cooking here at, so you’ll soon see more of her favorite Cuban recipes, including the next dish she’s making for us this January, the month of resolutions and post-holiday reset. Next up is her lighter, diet-friendlier Cuban picadillo. Gracias, Patty!

Ready to Make Patty’s Waist-Friendly Cuban Meatballs with Sofrito?

The Cuban Meatballs to Make When You Want to Lose Weight

Recipe by Patty Morrell-Ruiz
5.0 from 1 vote
Cuisine: Cuban


Prep time


Cooking time




  • For the Meatballs
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground turkey

  • 4 Tbsp onion, finely diced

  • 4 Tbsp red bell pepper, finely diced

  • 2 eggs

  • 1/4 cup whole milk

  • 1 cup cracker meal

  • 1 Tbsp yellow mustard

  • 2 tsp kosher salt

  • 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

  • For the Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

  • 1/2 large onion, finely diced

  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced

  • 8 oz tomato sauce (1 can)

  • 3/4 cup water

  • 1/4 cup white wine

  • 1/3 cup ketchup

  • 1 tsp granulated sugar

  • 1 tsp kosher salt

  • 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper

  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley


  • Make the Meatballs
  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Combine the ground turkey, onion, bell pepper, eggs, milk, cracker meal, mustard, salt and black pepper. Shape into meatballs and transfer to a baking sheet pan.
  • Brush or lightly coat meatballs with olive oil and bake for 15 minutes.
  • Make the Sauce
  • Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat.
  • Add the finely diced onion and bell pepper, and sauté 3 to 4 minutes until tender.
  • Add garlic and continue to sauté for 30 seconds.
  • Add tomato sauce, water, white wine, ketchup, sugar, and salt and pepper; cook, covered, on low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Putting It All Together
  • Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Garnish with parsley.


  • This recipe is based on a classic Cuban recipe made popular by one of Patty Morrel-Ruiz’s favorite cooks, Nitza Villapol a Cuban chef, teacher, and cookbook author. She is also known as “the Cuban Julia Child,” says Patty.

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