I absolutely love Cuban picadillo! And what’s not to love? This picadillo recipe has very basic ingredients and comes together in just 30 minutes. And the leftovers have endless possibilities!
What Is Cuban Picadillo?
Picadillo is a very common Latin American dish made with ground beef. Like most Cuban dishes, Cuban picadillo uses a sofrito base of onions, peppers, and garlic sauteed in olive oil. We use it in just about all Cuban cooking. This mix is the Cuban version of Italian soffritto and French mirepoix, which call for onion, carrot, and celery.
Other picadillo ingredients include tomato sauce, cooking wine (vino seco), cumin, and oregano. Some versions throw in fried, cubed potatoes or raisins, or both. My crew likes it simple, so I don’t add these. But can I just say it’s sooo good with raisins? It’s got that sweet and savory thing going on. Maybe when I have an empty nest, I’ll be able to make my picadillo with raisins ?
Various Picadillo Meats You Can Use
Most Cuban picadillo recipes call for ground beef, but traditional recipes included a mix of ground beef, pork, and ham. Growing up, Mami used three parts ground beef and one part ground pork to make her picadillo, which is how I made this recipe. But you can make it with all beef. The combination of ground beef and pork gives you a milder, less beefy flavor. But either way, it’s delicious! I’ve even made it with ground turkey (with 7% fat); it’s not a finicky recipe.
Usually, I make it with just ground sirloin, but I wanted to give you the option to try it with the pork. If I’m using a mix of beef and pork, I cook the meat first and drain it since ground pork is a bit fatty. If you’re using all ground sirloin, you don’t need to brown the meat first. You can make the sofrito first and then add the seasonings and the raw meat and break up the meat with a wooden spoon. Let it cook for a bit before you add the tomato sauce and other ingredients.
What do you serve with Picadillo? Usually, I serve this dish with rice, black beans, and maduros, which is my ultimate comfort food! My son likes his with white rice and bananas, which is another way Cubans like to eat picadillo.
Now about the leftovers. Picadillo second day is even tastier! It’s the perfect filling for tacos, quesadillas, empanadas, nachos, stuffed peppers and so much more. You can even use it as a base for Shepherd’s Pie. Picadillo is just so easy, flexible and no fuss, I just love it and I hope you do too ❤️
There’s a direct link between memory and taste. A 2014 study found that the area of our brain responsible for our taste memories is directly tied to our ability to remember the time and place we ate it. Scientists believe this is a survival mechanism to keep us from eating poisonous things. That’s a very vital reason, but not as poetic as remembering the taste and smell of your grandma’s cookies.
The reason picadillo, rice, and beans are such comfort food for me is because it takes me back to second-grade me sitting in a small private school in Little Havana. We had just moved to Miami from New York City, and everything was so different, except the picadillo. Mami had placed me in a little school owned by Cubans, and they made home-cooked lunches for us. Wednesdays was picadillo day. And with so many things being different, it was nice to have my favorite dish to help me deal.
Why do you love certain foods? When you eat it does it take you back to another time and place? That connection between our food and our memories is what Bean Train is all about. I record Mami’s best recipes because I don’t want to lose them. One day in what I hope is a very distant future, I may need a bowl of her Congri to comfort me when I can no longer pick up the phone and speak with her.
This quick and easy Cuban Picadillo recipe is so easy to make and a perfect topping for rice bowls, tacos, empanadas and so much more.
- 1 1/2 lbs ground sirloin
- 1/2 lbs ground pork
- 1 large onion diced (about 2 cups)
- 1 red bell pepper diced (about 1 cup)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup pimento-stuffed green olives
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup white cooking wine (vino seco)
- 1/4 cup raisins (optional)
- 1 cup cubed, fried potatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Preheat: Set a large cast-iron skillet on the stovetop on medium heat. You can use a regular stainless steel skillet if you prefer.
- Prep: While you wait for the skillet to get hot, chop the onions and crush the garlic. Measure out the spices.
- Brown the meat: Add the ground sirloin and pork to the skillet and break up the meat with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook the meat until it’s no longer pink, about 6-8 minutes. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and discard the drippings.
- Add the aromatics: Add the olive oil to the pan and saute the onions, pepper, and garlic for about 3-5 minutes until softened and translucent. Add the spices and cook one more minute.
- Add the rest of the ingredients: Return the beef to the pan and add the tomato sauce, cooking wine, olives, and capers.
- Add the optional mix-ins: Add the raisins or potatoes, if you want to be a little extra.
- Simmer: Cook on medium-low for about 15 minutes.
Using ground beef only: You can omit the ground pork and use 2 pounds of ground sirloin. In that case, you don’t have to precook the meat. You can sauté your onions, garlic and peppers and add the raw beef when the onions are soft. Break up the meat with a wooden spoon, the same way you would with the beef and pork mixture.
Using ground turkey: It’s also good with turkey. However, if you’re using turkey, replace the tomato sauce with 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and double the paprika and oregano. Also, cook for an extra 15 minutes to give the ground turkey a little more time to absorb the flavors.
- Serving Size: 4 oz
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