Picadillo (pee-cah-DEE-yo) combines ground or finely chopped beef with vegetables (and sometimes fruit) for a versatile stew enjoyed throughout Latin America. Depending on the region and people´s personal customs, picadillo serves as a main dish, often accompanied by rice and beans, or as a filling for empanadas, chiles rellenos, tamales, tacos, stuffed potatoes, and more. Start with a basic recipe that you can customize to your taste with seemingly endless serving suggestions and variations.
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 onion (white or purple, thinly sliced or chopped)
- 2 jalapeño peppers (seeded and diced)
- 1 pound ground beef
- 4 to 5 cloves garlic (peeled and diced)
- 4 medium tomatoes (seeded and diced)
- 8 green olives (pitted and quartered)
- 2 tablespoon liquid from olive jar
- 1/4 cup raisins (softened by soaking in warm water for 20 minutes)
- 1 poblano chili or green bell pepper (seeded and chopped)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 small cone piloncillo or 1 teaspoon brown sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon molasses
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: 2 potatoes (peeled and cubed) plus 1/4 cup oil
- Drizzle the oil into a large skillet and heat it over medium-high until the oil starts to shimmer.
- Add the onions and jalapeños and cook, stirring occasionally, about 3 to 4 minutes or until the vegetables start to soften. Move them to one side of the skillet.
- Put the ground beef in the cleared area of the skillet and use a spatula to separate it into a few large chunks. Let it cook undisturbed for about 3 minutes.
- Break the beef into smaller pieces and toss them around in the pan, combining the meat with the vegetables. Reduce the heat to medium. Continue to cook for another 7 or 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beef starts to brown but some pink remains.
- Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
- Add the remaining ingredients and decrease the heat to low; continue to cook for another 10 to 12 minutes or until the tomatoes and onions begin to fall apart and combine with the other ingredients.
- Optional: Fry the potatoes in the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet, flipping occasionally until the potatoes turn evenly brown. Drain the potatoes on paper towels or brown paper, then fold them into the beef mixture.
Picadillo Serving Suggestions
Serve picadillo as a main dish with rice and beans or mashed potatoes.
Fold a spoonful of picadillo into a hot corn tortilla for an instant (and delicious) taco.
Stuff chiles rellenos with picadillo.
Top a tostada with a spoonful of picadillo and a little cream or crumbled cheese.
Use picadillo as the filling for savory empanadas.
Serve picadillo over spaghetti or toss it with a smaller shaped pasta such as orecchiette or cavatappi.
Use picadillo as the filling for a pot pie or the base for a shepherd’s pie.
Picadillo leftovers make delicious mix-ins for scrambled eggs or macaroni and cheese.
Variations on Basic Picadillo
Use ground pork instead of ground beef, or half pork and half beef
Add more vegetables, either to make it healthier or to stretch it to feed more people. Try diced carrots, green peas, chopped green beans, or corn kernels.
Use canned diced tomatoes instead of fresh.
Add a little dried oregano to your picadillo at the same time as (or instead of) the cumin.
Stir in some finely chopped fresh Italian parsley right before serving for a fresh green flavor note.
Cook the cubed potatoes in with the rest of the ingredients instead of frying them first.
Use dried cranberries instead of raisins for a tart accent flavor.
Edited by Robin Grose