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Beef Picadillo

Beef PicadilloThis recipe is our take on the classic comfort food, Cuban beef picadillo. There are versions of this dish in the Philippines, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Ours combines seasoned ground beef, hearty potatoes, and salty olives that simmer in a rich, tomato-based sauce. Picadillo takes 40 minutes to make, and it’s a great addition to casseroles, soup, or filling for pastries like empanadas. 

Beef picadillo on a plate black beans.

WHAT IS BEEF PICADILLO?

Picadillo (pronounced: pi-kuh-di-yo) is a traditional dish in Latin American countries, the Caribbean, and the Philippines. While the spices and some ingredients vary by region, the building blocks are the same: well-seasoned ground beef, tomato-based broth, and a sweet or salty component (or both).

WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE

  • Olive Oil: Saute the onions, bell pepper, and garlic in olive oil.
  • Sofrito: We prepare a homemade sofrito made with onions, bell pepper, and garlic. You can also purchase store-bought sofrito.
  • Ground Beef: Picadillo means minced in English. As such, take your time breaking up the beef. You can do this using a spatula, but I highly recommend using a meat chopper. Plus, the cooking tool is satisfying to use. We use lean ground beef, but you can replace it with chicken or turkey. If you’re vegetarian, go ahead and use ground beyond meat.
  • Tomato Paste: Thickens the mixture and enhances the tomato flavor.
  • Tomatoes: I use a drained can of diced tomatoes, but you can use three diced Roma tomatoes if you prefer.
  • Red Cooking Wine: We use red cooking wine, but replace it with beef broth if needed.
  • Spices: Season the beef picadillo with sazon, cumin powder, oregano, salt, and black pepper.
  • Potatoes: Potatoes aren’t a traditional ingredients in Cuban beef picadillo, but I like to add them to make it a complete meal. I use either petite or fingerling potatoes.
  • Green Olives: Olives are the star-of-the-dish; they’re a perfect salty addition to the dish, which is why I add very little salt during the seasoning process.
  • Cilantro: Brighten and garnish the meal with fresh cilantro. 

SUBSTITUTIONS AND VARIATIONS

I love how customizable picadillo is, and here are some suggestions for how you can change or replace ingredients to better suit your taste buds.

  • Protein: Use ground pork, turkey, chicken, or a plant-based alternative. Many Cuban homestyle recipes also include chorizo, along with ground beef. In Peru and the Dominican Republic, many recipes include hard-boiled eggs.
  • Sweetener: Some regions prefer a sweeter flavor profile, so you can try adding sugar, honey, or raisins.
  • Olives: In place of green pimento olives, you can also use capers.

HOW TO MAKE BEEF PICADILLO  

Warm oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, red bell pepper, and garlic; cook until the onions soften and become translucent, for about 10 minutes.

Onions, red bell pepper, and garlic cooking in a large skillet.

Add the ground beef, breaking it up with a meat chopper until finely minced. Cook until brown and heated through for about 10 minutes. Then, nestle the potatoes into the mixture.

Stir in the sazon, cumin powder, oregano, salt, black pepper, and tomato paste. Continue cooking for another minute.

Deglaze the pan with diced tomatoes and red cooking wine. Add the bay leaves and olives, and increase to high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Then, reduce and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Remove the dish from the heat and stir in the cilantro to serve.

Beef picadillo on a plate black beans and a flour tortilla.

COOKING TIPS

  • We make homemade sofrito using traditional Cuban ingredients to create the foundation for the dish.
  • Cut the potatoes into smaller pieces to ensure they cook until tender. Then, nestle the potatoes into the tomato mixture to ensure they cook together with the ground beef. 

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Beef picadillo on a plate with white rice.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS 

WHAT TO DO WITH THE LEFTOVERS 

  • FRIDGE – Store leftovers in an airtight container; they will keep for up to 4-5 days.
  • FREEZER – Let the dish cool and transfer leftovers to a freezer-safe container or bag. Aloo keema freezes for up to 3 months.
  • REHEAT – Warm the leftovers on the stovetop or in the microwave.
  • REPURPOSE – Use the leftovers to fill casseroles, empanadas, quesadillas, or tacos. You can also remove the potatoes and add the filling to papa rellenas.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

What is picadillo called in English?

Picadillo [pronounced: pi-kuh-di-yo] comes from the Spanish word ‘picar,’ which means ‘to mince.’

What is Cuban picadillo made of?

This one-pot meal typically contains ground meat (most commonly beef), tomatoes or tomato sauce, ground cumin, raisins, and olives. Other ingredients included in the dish will vary from home to home, as most Cuban homes have a treasured picadillo recipe.

Can I make this recipe ahead of time?

Picadillo can easily be made in advance, and it is perfect for meal prep or as a freezer meal.

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Beef picadillo on a plate black beans.

Beef Picadillo

Tressa Jamil
Cuban beef picadillo takes 30 minutes to make, and it's a great addition to casseroles, soup, or filling for pastries like empanadas; this one-pan meal is simple but delivers a ton of flavor! 
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Cuban
Servings 6 Servings
Calories 271 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 white onion, finely diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 packet sazon seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano, dried
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, coarse ground
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 can petite tomatoes, diced, and half drained
  • 2 tablespoons red cooking wine
  • 2 petite potatoes, quartered
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cup green olives with pimento
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped

Instructions
 

  • Warm oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, red bell pepper, and garlic; cook until the onions soften and become translucent, for about 10 minutes.
  • Add the ground beef, breaking it up with a meat chopper until finely minced. Cook until brown and heated through for about 10 minutes. Then, nestle the potatoes into the mixture.
  • Stir in the sazon, cumin powder, oregano, salt, black pepper, and tomato paste. Continue cooking for another minute.
  • Deglaze the pan with diced tomatoes and red cooking wine. Add the bay leaves and olives, and increase to high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Then, reduce and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  • Remove the dish from the heat and stir in the cilantro to serve.

Notes

Cooking Tips: 
  • We make homemade sofrito using traditional Cuban ingredients to create the foundation for the dish.
  • Cut the potatoes into smaller pieces to ensure they cook until tender. Then, nestle the potatoes into the tomato mixture to ensure they cook together with the ground beef. 
 
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 ServingCalories: 271kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 18gFat: 14gSodium: 1025mgFiber: 3gSugar: 5g
Keyword beef picadillo, Cuban picadillo
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