Soup so good, you'll yearn for it.

When my hubby gives me that look of longing, I so know what that means.

When he gets that glint of desire in his eyes, after five years of marriage I totally know what he’s after.

No, not that. Geeze, Louise.

Please, he wants soup. The heavenly Chicken Meatball Soup that he’s loved (well, not as much as me, of course) since I started making it six long years ago.

It’s by Mary Sue Milliken, one half of the culinary duo that oversees Border Grill in Santa Monica and Las Vegas. (The other half is Susan Feniger, of course.)

The recipe is from the cookbook, “Cooking From the Heart” (Broadway Books), a compilation of recipes and anecdotes from 100 chefs that was put together to raise funds for Share Our Strength, one of the nation’s most prominent anti-hunger agencies.

Why is this soup so incredible? Well, it has meatballs for one thing. And who doesn’t love meatballs? It’s also a super-simple broth of chicken stock, onions, carrots, green cabbage, and a couple of plum tomatoes (use canned if they’re not in season), that becomes so much more than the sum of its parts. One or two jalapenos give it just the slightest kick. Orzo makes it substantial enough to be a light lunch or supper. And the final drizzle of white vinegar somehow miraculously ties all the flavors together, while elevating them at the same time, too.

It’s a soup that soothes, comforts, nourishes, and puts a contented smile on your face.

One spoonful, and you’ll be hooked. One spoonful, and whomever you share it with will be giving you that yearnful look, too.

Chicken Meatball Soup

(serves 6)

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves chopped, stems discarded

1 tablespoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper

1 pound ground chicken, preferably dark meat

1 large egg, beaten

2/3 cup fresh bread crumbs

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 large onion, diced

4 medium carrots, diced

1/4 head green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced

1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and julienned

3 medium plum tomatoes, cored, seeded, and diced

10 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 cups cooked rice or small pasta such as orzo, optional

3 tablespoons white vinegar

Combine garlic, cilantro, 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper, chicken, and egg in a mixing bowl. Stir in bread crumbs.

Roll meat mixture between your palms into walnut-size balls. Place them on a tray, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large stockpot over high heat. Add onion, carrots, the 2 teaspoons of salt, and the 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Saute for 3 minutes. Add cabbage, jalapenos, and tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft, about 3 minutes. Pour in chicken stock and bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

Heat remaining oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until nearly smoking. Add chilled meatballs in batches, shaking pan to prevent sticking. Brown the meatballs on all sides and transfer them with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

Add cooked meatballs to the simmering soup and cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. For a heartier version, add rice or pasta, if desired. Stir in vinegar.

From “Cooking From the Heart”

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  • This soup sounds incredible! I love chicken meatballs in a soup as my grandmother used to make them for me when I was little. A little jalapeno sounds excellent!

  • Chicken meatballs and jalapeno and cilantro? Perfect! I have to make this soup.

  • I’d probably give you that look, too, if you made me that soup. It looks fantastic.

    Why have I never made chicken meatballs?

  • Ladies, just to let you know, the recipe also works great with ground turkey instead of ground chicken, whichever you prefer.

  • What a delightful soup! Nice flavor combo! Perfect!



  • Gorgeous soup. And it’s snowing. I’m sitting here at my desk, looking out onto the woods, and watching everything blur into that afternoon snow, a shadowy riot of “bare tree trunks, where late the sweet birds sang” (to quote the old poet). This soup looks warm and luscious.

  • This looks so pretty. I love a good hearty soup in the winter.

  • sounds Awesome! Thanks for sharing.

  • Love the sound of this! I’ve never used ground chicken for meatballs before, so I’ll have to try it. My husband is not fond of soup unless it’s very hearty, and this looks like it fits the bill. The jalepenos will definitely seal the deal for me. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  • A man who doesn’t like soup? Is that possible?? Tammy, your husband will adore this soup. It’s guaranteed. 😉

  • I also just wrote about craving soup (clam chowder) on my blog ( and now you have gone and made it worse :0) !

    This sounds like a great recipe! Another one we like with small meatballs is Italian Wedding soup. The problem is that my wife is a true Italian from South Philly and it must be made with escarole and not spinach. Do you know it’s not easy to find fresh escarole out here?

  • Trent: Boy, oh boy, do I know that escarole is not easy to find. It’s an ingredient in one of my favorite Thanksgiving stuffing recipes. One market that stocks it is Cosentino’s. That’s where I always get mine.

  • Oooh, this looks and sounds amazing! I love the addition of jalapeno and cilantro. Just in time for dinner!

  • Little bits of green just poking out of the meatballs. Love it!

  • Lol cute entry. I always have a longing for a yummy meatball soup, especially my grandmas :). I love how you added spinach to the meatballs, makes them irresistible!

  • Actually, no spinach, Sophie. It’s cilantro. Hopefully, you’re not a cilantro hater. I know there’s quite a cult of anti-cilantro folks out there.

  • I’m intrigued by the addition of vinegar at the end. When I was growing up, there was a type of packaged ramen my mom would get that came with a little packet of vinegar. It really made all the difference and I remember carefully tearing open the packet so as not to loose even a drop.

    Thanks for reminding me of that little tidbit of my childhood and for this fantastic recipe:-)

  • I tried this recipe last night. It was oh so good! My hubby is not so fond of cilantro, so I substituted half the bunch with some chopped up baby spinach instead. It still had the taste of the cilantro and he loved it. Didn’t taste the spinach really, but the meatballs looked just like yours with the green flecks. I ended up using dried bread crumbs because of laziness and it came out fine. And my package of ground turkey was 1¼ lbs. This was the first time I’ve ever made meatballs. Took a little time, but worth it. Thanks so much for a great soup!

  • This is great! try this-use Panko instead of reg. bread crumbs, makes a much better ball, also you can sub spinach for the Cilantro ,Im not a big Cilantro guy. My Grand kids love it& my brother that can’t eat red meat- 5 star!

  • OK, that’s it! I’m telling my husband that we simply can’t take long vacations any more. I’ve been missing *way* too many good ideas from your blog. Gonna have to save the rest of my catch-up process until next week — the grocery list is already plenty long enough.

    Man, oh man. Chicken meatballs? Fantastic concept. Who knew?!

  • Carroll, of course you can take long vacations. And I hope you had a very nice time away. Did you go somewhere exotic? We want to know what you ate.

    That’s the beauty of cyberspace. You can take a holiday, and come back to read all the posts you missed. They live on and on and on. Now, go unpack, do laundry, get some rest, and take your time catching up. It’ll all be here for ya. 😉

  • Maui — with an impossibly flaky internet connection — very frustrating. But the food? Ohhhhh, the food! I would have to hijack your comments for a month to recount just the highlights, starting with Sansei’s special “Panko Crusted Ahi Sashimi Sushi Roll Sashimi grade Hawaiian ahi, arugula and spinach wrapped into a sushi roll, panko-crusted, flash-fried and served with Sansei’s mild soy wasabi butter sauce” Ohhhhhh, so good! And their Miso Butterfish. And, and, and… If any of your readers are headed to Maui, Oahu or the Big Island, do not fail to experience the wonder that is Sansei. If you can’t get there, just google their menu and drool!

  • Ahhh, Maui! What a divine time you must have had. Sand, sun, beaches, shave ice, and incredible Sansei dishes. Who could ask for more? Mmm, that sushi roll does sound pretty darn incredible.

  • What a wonderful soup – I’m going for the *look*!

  • OK, I finally made this soup, or at least the meatball part. I used snap peas instead of cabbage because that’s what I had, skipped the jalapenos to avoid a kid-revolt, and threw in a few handfuls of thin egg noodles. Wow! I knew the chicken meatballs would sing, and they really, really did. Hats off to you and Mary Sue Milliken (who may not forgive me for skipping the peppers) for a terrific recipe.

  • Just wondering what does the for ? does it do something?

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