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This Cuban picadillo recipe is easy to make and loaded with authentic Latin American flavor. Savory ground beef and diced veggies team up with olives, capers, and other flavorful ingredients to create a rich, satisfying meal your whole family will love.
Cuban beef picadillo is like nothing you have ever tasted before. The ingredients are familiar, but the way they are put together is a beautifully unique representation of the inventiveness of Cuban cuisine.
Bursting with ground meat, capers, olives, and raisins, this dish is beefy, briny, slightly sweet, and incredibly satisfying. I never would have guessed these ingredients go together, but taste and see!
Oh, and did I remember to mention it is easy to make and super versatile!? This beef picadillo recipe takes only 15 minutes to prepare and less than an hour to cook. What a great way to expand your palate while impressing your friends!
Table of Contents
- Oil – Regular vegetable oil is perfect, or you can choose another oil with a high smoke point like coconut, avocado, or canola.
- Ground Beef – Savory ground beef is perfect for authentic Cuban beef picadillo. If desired, you can try a mix of ground beef and ground pork.
- Chili Seasoning – Adds a depth of smoky, spicy flavor. Try this homemade version or grab a premade version from the spice aisle.
- Cumin – Infuses the dish with an earthy, smoky warmth.
- Onion – I prefer the sharp pungency of white onions for this recipe, but feel free to substitute yellow or red if that’s what you have on hand.
- Garlic – Fresh garlic perks up the dish with a dash of pungent zestiness.
- Tomato Paste – Infuses the dish with a concentrated dose of savory-sweet and umami flavors. For an even bigger flavor boost, you can substitute in 8 ounces of red sofrito.
- Veggies – I have included potatoes and carrots in this recipe, but you can add other veggies as desired. For even cooking, chop the vegetables as uniformly as possible.
- Green Olives & Capers – These two key ingredients add the bold briny flavor that really sets Cuban picadillo apart.
- Raisins – Add just the right amount of natural, complimentary sweetness.
- Brown the Beef. Place a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Heat the oil, then add the ground beef, cumin, chili powder, and kosher salt. Cook for 6-7 minutes until the meat is no longer pink.
- Make the Sauce. Add the garlic, onions, and tomato paste to the pot and stir to combine. Cook the mixture for several minutes, then stir in the tomato sauce. Reduce the heat, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.
- Add the Vegetables. Now, stir in the diced carrots, potatoes, olives, capers, and raisins. Replace the cover and cook for another 20 minutes. Be sure to stir periodically, taking care to not scorch the bottom.
Cuban cuisine is largely based on Spanish cuisine with influence from African and other Caribbean cuisines. Some Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish, African and Taino cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor.
Speaking of influences and similar recipes, I hope you also take a look at and try soffrito. Originating from Spain and passed on to Latin America and the Caribbean, sofrito is a versatile flavor base that adds depth, complexity to countless recipes. Read all about it and how to make it in my post, What is Sofrito and How to Use It.
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Spanish in origin, the term picadillo comes from the Spanish word picar, which means to mince.
In English, it basically translates to mean hash or mincemeat. This makes perfect sense when you consider that the entire dish is made of ground (minced) meat and small, diced veggies.
Picadillo is a dish that is popular in many Latin American countries including Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and beyond. And while picadillo begins with ground meat, each region has its own unique way of preparing it, incorporating local vegetables and other ingredients as well as cultural preferences.
Mexican picadillo, in general, has a flavor profile that is savory, spicy, and sometimes a bit sweet. You can expect to find diced potatoes, carrots, and onions included in a base of ground beef, chicken, pork, or even seafood. The spiciness is thanks to the jalapeno, serrano, and other peppers abundant in the area while the touch of sweetness is from tomatoes, apples, or sometimes raisins.
Cuban picadillo, on the other hand, is generally sweet, savory, and briny. It is almost always made with beef (sometimes pork) potatoes, carrots, and onions as well. Rather than the chile peppers used in Mexican recipes, picadillo from Cuba incorporates sweet raisins, briny olives, and salty capers.
Keep in mind, though — even in the same country, many versions of the same recipe exist. These are simply general guidelines.
Cuban picadillo is as versatile as it is hearty. Enjoy this minced meat and veggie dish as is or try out some of these delicious ideas:
– Serve spooned over Cilantro Lime Rice, Dirty Rice, plain rice, or quinoa.
– Pair with Fire Roasted Salsa, Guacamole, and Queso Dip with chips for dipping.
– Use as a stuffing for any of your favorite Tacos, Burritos, or Empanadas.
– Incorporate some into your next batch of Scrambled Eggs, Huevos Rancheros, or any of – your favorite egg dishes.
– Try some on your next Sloppy Joe or try your hand at this Sloppy Joe Flatbread.
– Toss a scoop on your next Taco Salad or Burrito Bowl.
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp chili seasoning
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 large white onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 cup tomato paste (See Note 1)
- 16 oz tomato sauce
- 1 large carrot peeled and diced, about 1 cup+
- 1 large White or Yukon Gold potato diced, about 1 cup+
- 1/2 cup green olives drained
- 1/4 cup capers drained
- 1/4 cup raisins
- Over medium high, heat the oil in a dutch oven or large stock pot and add the ground beef, kosher salt, chili powder and cumin. Cook until no longer pink, about 6-7 minutes.
- Stir in onion, garlic and tomato paste. Cook for several minutes. Stir in tomato sauce. Reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes covered.
- Add diced carrot, potatoes, olives, capers and raisins. Stir and continue cooking for another 20 minutes covered. Stir occasionally and add some water if it gets too thick and does not scorch bottom of pot.
- You could substitute the tomato paste for 8 ounces red sofrito for an added punch of flavor. It’s a traditional Latin condiment made of tomatoes, green and red bell peppers, onion, culantro, garlic and olive oil.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.