Picadillo: Mexican-Style Recipe

Picadillo
Picadillo is a dish enjoyed nearly everywhere in Latin America. Melanie Acevedo/Getty Images
  • 45 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins,
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Yield: 6 servings
Ratings (7)

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.

What You'll Need

  • 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

How to Make It

  1. Drizzle the oil into a large skillet and heat it over medium-high until the oil starts to shimmer.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  1. 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.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  3. 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.
  4. 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