Have you ever fallen into a soup rut? I have. I’m guilty of making the same old soups over and over again in part because my tried and true soups are pretty darn delicious but also because I’m familiar with the recipes and very little creativity is necessary. The soup I’m about to share with you, however, does not fit into the category of my rut soups. In fact, this very soup has inspired me to put a bit more thought and creativity into the soups coming from my kitchen this winter. Like so many of my recent recipes, this one is an Instant Pot soup, but that’s not to say that it couldn’t be created on the stovetop, or even in a slow cooker. In any case, you should definitely pin this Instant Pot Mexican Meatball and Barley Soup recipe, or bookmark it for later. It’s really quite delicious.
Jeff and I were at Whole Foods doing our regular grocery shopping one afternoon a few weeks ago. It was too late in the afternoon to grab lunch at a restaurant but we were hungry enough to want a little something. The Whole Foods hot food bar came to the rescue. I chose a cup of corn chowder while he went with the Meatball and Rice Soup. I don’t eat beef, so I make it a point to avoid anything with the word ‘meat’ in the name when we’re out. He really enjoyed the soup, though, and so the inspiration for a new recipe was born.
As with so many of the meals I create in my kitchen, this one features favored south of the border flavors. I opted to use turkey for the meatballs, but these are no ordinary meatballs. They get a kick of flavor from chopped green onions and salsa verde. Perhaps the biggest game changer, though, is that I use crushed tortilla chips to act as a binding ingredient that holds the meatballs together. It might seem like an odd choice at first, but I’m here to tell you that one bite of this Instant Pot Mexican Meatball and Barley Soup will make you a believer.
The addition of barley adds amazing texture to each spoonful. Carrots, celery, tomatoes and potatoes play a supporting role, too, adding wholesome flavor in each and every scrumptious bite.
When I first made this dish, I planned to garnish it with avocado. When I cut into my avocado that night, it was no good so we skipped it and as it turned out, I’m glad. There are already so many great textures and flavors in this dish that, in hindsight, the avocado may have detracted from. A light sprinkling of finely grated cotija and some fresh cilantro are all you need for an unforgettable bowl of Instant Pot Mexican Meatball and Barley Soup. If your soup game isn’t at its best right now, try this one. It will most definitely inspire you to break out of your soup rut.
For the meatballs
- 1 lb. ground turkey meat (not turkey breast)
- 1 egg
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup finely crushed tortilla chips
- 1 tablespoon salsa verde
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the soup
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 4 stalks celery, chopped into large chunks
- 3 small potatoes, diced (red or Yukon gold work well)
- 3 carrots, chopped into large chunks
- 1/2 cup pearl barley
- 26 oz. container petite cut tomatoes in juice
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped, plus more for garnish
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1/4 cup salsa verde
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese, optional
To make the meatballs:
- Combine ground turkey, egg, green onions, salt, crushed tortilla chips and salsa verde in a large bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir well to mix.
- Using an ice cream scoop or a 1/4 cup measuring spoon, scoop the turkey mixture into your hands and gently roll it to form a ball. Do not overmix.
- Place the prepared meatballs on a plate and set aside.
To make the soup:
- Activate the saute function of the Instant Pot. When the digital screen indicates 'hot,' coat the bottom of the pan with the olive oil. Gently place the meatballs on the pot, one at a time. Allow the meatballs to brown on one side before flipping them. It should take roughly ten minutes for the meatballs to brown evenly on all sides. There is no need to drain, but you can if you'd like.
- When the meatballs are browned, turn the Instant Pot off while you prepare the rest of the soup. Add the celery, potatoes, carrots, barley, tomatoes, garlic, spices, cilantro and liquids to the pot. Using a spatula, gently scrape the bottom of the pan, turning the browned meatballs into the soup. If a few of the meatballs happen to break apart during this step, don't stress about it. The soup won't suffer in the least for it.
- Lock the Instant Pot lid into place and set the valve to the 'sealing' position.
- Activate the 'soup' function and set the cooking time to 30 minutes.
- When cooking is complete, allow the Instant Pot to naturally depressurize for three minutes. Move the valve to the 'venting' position. When the pin drops, unlock and remove the lid.
- Garnish the soup with cotija and chopped cilantro, if desired.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 255Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 61mgSodium: 454mgFiber: 6gSugar: 6gProtein: 20g
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