If you were to ask me what was the weeknight recipe I had the most often as a kid, the answer would be this Cuban picadillo recipe!
My mom was never a microwave mom; She made delicious Cuban cuisine every night.
On those busy nights, there was nothing easier to make than this flavorful tomato-based Cuban-style picadillo. Needless to say, I too make this dish all the time! I also make my delicious Cuban arroz con pollo all the time but I digress. Hehe.
I’m a huge fan of 30-minute one-pan meals like this Cuban beef picadillo so I always have ground beef in my freezer as a result.
Let me show you how to make my version of this Cuban recipe for picadillo!
What is Cuban picadillo made of?
First things first, let’s talk about what exactly is picadillo. The actual word comes from the Spanish word “picar” which means “to mince” and/or “picado” which means “to chop”.
Picadillo [pronounced: pee-ca-dee-yo] is a classic Latin dish made with ground beef, sofrito (a mix of garlic, onions, and green bell pepper which is the base of most Cuban dishes) then simmered in a tomato-based sauce with spices, green olive, and raisins.
Don’t worry, it does not taste like pure tomato sauce. As you cook this dish ‘low and slow’, the ground beef will absorb all the different flavor profiles of the sauce making it truly flavorful.
Many Latin American countries have their own variation of this saucy dish. Some will add chopped potatoes, others will give it some heat.
This Cuban picadillo, like most Cuban dishes, is not spicy. It’s a saucy, fragrant, tomato-based, hash-style ground beef dish and it’s delicious!
This Cuban-style picadillo recipe is what I grew up with and it’s my personal favorite.
How is Cuban picadillo served?
This one-pan meal is usually served over white rice. You can also serve picadillo with:
It’s an easy and flavorful weeknight meal. The leftovers the next day are even better!
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Onion, green pepper, garlic. Cuban sofrito is the basis of most Cuban dishes. Some call it the “Holy Trinity”. It consists of garlic cloves, onions, and green peppers. You sauté the sofrito in a skillet with a bit of olive oil before continuing with the rest of your recipe and that’s what gives meals such a unique and distinctive flavor!
- Tomato sauce. The basis of this dish. I add about 6 ounces so it adds enough sweetness and acidity without it being too saucy or having too much of an intense tomato flavor.
- Vino seco aka dry cooking wine. You can also use chicken broth if you prefer.
- Ground cumin and oregano. Earthy spices are the best spices. 1 teaspoon of each is fine.
- Spanish olives. Salty, briny olives complement all these flavors so well. Be careful when you’re adding salt to this dish since the olives are already salty enough.
- Raisins. A touch of sweetness. I know it sounds weird and it’s a bit controversial in some places (lol) because raisins are boring but it does taste well mixed in with everything else. I’ll be honest though, I’m not the biggest fan of raisins and typically don’t add them (don’t hate me) so it’s totally cool if you want to omit them.
- Ground beef. I like using ground beef for this recipe since when cooked properly, it’s juicy from soaking in the spiced sauce. Yum! You can use lean ground beef, if you prefer. I buy my ground beef from Butcher Box!
Butcher Box is a service that curates boxes of grass-fed, no-hormone-added, humanely raised beef, chicken, pork, salmon + sustainable seafood and, they deliver it right to your door. I love getting my box delivered directly to me. There are always specials – like free bacon or free ground beef – you gotta check them out! Click here to find out more info on Butcher Box!
- First, make the sofrito. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and green peppers and, sauté for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.
- Brown the ground beef. Next, add ground beef and cook, breaking the meat apart, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat down to medium-low.
- Make the tomato-based sauce. Stir in cooking wine, tomato sauce, cumin, oregano, and, salt + pepper to taste.
- Simmer for 10-12 minutes until fragrant and saucy. Remove from the heat. Stir in olives and raisins (if using). Raisins are completely optional but they do give the savory picadillo a touch of sweetness.
When you’re done making this easy picadillo recipe, check out my other Cuban dinner recipes!
- Add potatoes. If you’d like to add chopped potatoes to this picadillo recipe, peel and cut 2 small Yukon gold potatoes into small cubes. Make sure they are all the same size so they cook evenly. Add them to the skillet in step 3 so they cook with the tomato-based sauce until tender.
- Make lettuce wraps. You can spoon this flavorful picadillo inside Boston lettuce leaves and serve them with sweet plantains.
- Stuff it into roasted sweet potatoes. My Cuban-style stuffed sweet potatoes are packed with this Cuban beef picadillo, chopped sweet plantains, and avocado. It’s always a hit in my house!
- Make beef empanadas. You can buy empanada rounds in the freezer section of your grocery store to make empanadas. Great idea for leftovers too!
That’s all folks! I mean… how good does that look!
This is a very versatile and one that I know will become part of your weekly rotation.
Easy & Authentic Cuban Picadillo
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1/2 cup diced green pepper
- 3-4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/3 cup vino seco (dry cooking wine)
- 6 ounces tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste (start with 1/4 teaspoon then adjust from there)
- 1/4 cup Spanish olives cut in half
- 2 tablespoons raisins (or more to taste) optional
- In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and green peppers and, sauté for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.
- Next, add ground beef and cook, breaking the meat apart, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat down to medium-low.
- Stir in cooking wine, tomato sauce, cumin, oregano, and, salt + pepper to taste. Simmer for 10-12 minutes until fragrant and saucy.
- Remove from the heat. Stir in olives and raisins (if using). Serve with white rice. Enjoy!