Picadillo… pronounced pee-kah-dee-yaw [pikaˈðiʎo], looks and sounds so exotic and, yes, so Spanish..!!! This classic Latin ground beef dish comes in many forms, but this Puerto Rican version is one of my favorites.
This picadillo is so versatile, great in tacos, burritos, empanadas or alongside rice and plantains. Today I’m using the basic stovetop method, but read on for crock pot and instant pot methods…
What is Picadillo?
Picadillo is a very traditional home-style dish cooked in Spain and many Latin American countries, as well as the Philippines. Basically, it is a well seasoned ground meat mixture, known as carne molida in Spanish.
For some different flavors, check out my Filipino Picadillo recipe.
It has countless variations, and one may argue theirs is the best. Yet when I try different styles, I feel every single one is the winner. You can play with ingredients, add this subtract that, and each version turns out mighty good!
How can you go wrong with all those fragrant Latin herbs and spices? The adobos and sofritos mixed with ground meat, mostly beef or pork, but sometimes both. And then in goes tomato, peppers, onions, olives… yes, olives… ever hear of olives in a meat stew? But you find them in lots of Cuban or Latin recipes.
And some, but not all, use raisins. I have experimented with many different variations and I love the sweetness of raisins mixed in with the saltiness of olives in my picadillo.
So, how did I cross paths with picadillo? Can you believe I didn’t even know such deliciousness existed just a few years back? But it was just destiny that when we were in one of the Latin restaurants here. Remember, I live in sunny Florida where you find nice Latin restaurants… it was recommended by our waiter.
God bless that soul. I was blown over by the fragrances and the flavors of the dish! I made sure I perfected my own version.
Let’s gather some ingredients for our Puerto Rican Picadillo…
As I said, it’s usually made with ground beef or a mixture of ground beef and pork. But you can also make this with ground chicken or turkey for a leaner (if less traditional) dish. Then I like to use green, red and yellow peppers, because I’m kinda colorful!
Onions. Garlic… you didn’t think I would forget my garlic, did you? Olives, raisins, tomato sauce, olive oil, oregano, cumin, cilantro…
Now you are going to learn about some Puerto Rican pantry staples. First comes Adobo seasoning, an all purpose seasoning salt with mixed spices and garlic. I often use Goya brand… I love Goya products when it comes to Latin recipes… but sometimes I make my own, which I am using in this recipe. Hmm… future post idea!
Then it’s sofrito’s turn. Sofrito is a green base puree or seasoning, which you find in most Latin refrigerators, or sometimes frozen as ice cubes. No need to thaw before cooking and just throw in your dish! I like to make it in big batches, as it freezes well.
If I am in a hurry, I just use my Goya sofrito. The result is almost the same as homemade sofrito. Almost… but there is nothing like homemade. So if you really feel like tangoing in the kitchen, yes, go ahead and make this great green base in bulk. It’s too easy!! Store as frozen cubes so you can just use when needed.
Check out my super easy Homemade Sofrito Recipe!
Another seasoning I use for picadillo is one you would find in the Latin section of most grocery stores… Sazon Goya (the “cilantro y achiote” variety).
Don’t get intimidated by all these Latin things if you live somewhere you don’t have access to them. You can still make a mighty tasty picadillo if you miss one. But then again… Amazon!
Now, let’s start building this Picadillo…
Sauté onions, garlic and peppers…
Once they are a little soft, add a nice glob of sofrito…
Brown beef… add Sazon, oregano, cumin and tomato sauce…
Olives and raisins… almost ready…!!
Crock Pot method
Cooking picadillo in a slow cooker is great if you want a make ahead meal so you can relax in the evening. It also yields extra tender beef.
Season ground beef with adobo. In a large skillet, heat olive oil and add onion, bell peppers and garlic. Sauté till onion is translucent.
Add in ground beef. Crumble and stir until browned. Transfer the meat mixture to slow cooker. Add in sazon seasoning, sofrito, oregano, cumin, tomato sauce and a little water. Stir to combine.
Close the lid and cook on low for 6-7 hours, or 3-4 hours on high. Add olives and raisins during the last hour of cooking time.
Instant Pot method
Are you hooked on this kitchen gizmo, like me? Picadillo is very easy in your pressure cooker.
Season the meat with adobo. Press sauté button on your instant pot and add in oil. When hot, sauté onion, garlic and bell peppers until they are soft and the onion is translucent.
Add in meat and crumble while sautéing, till it’s no longer pink. Add in sofrito and cook for a minute. Add in sazon seasoning, oregano, cumin and tomato sauce. Pour in a quarter cup of water and mix well.
Cover, seal the lid, and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Use a natural or quick release, then open the lid.
How to serve picadillo
We go all out on Latin nights… rice, black beans and, of course, plantains! Check out my Tostones recipes for a great side.
It also makes a great filling for tacos, burritos and empanadas.
How to make Puerto Rican Empanadas
This Picadillo makes a great filling for empanadas, know in Spanish as pastelillos de carne. And they’re surprisingly easy! I use store bought empanada shells, which you can find in the Latin section of your grocery store’s freezer aisle.
Separate the empanada dough disks. Fill half of a disk with two tablespoons of picadillo, leaving about a half inch around the edge uncovered.
Fold the other half of the dough over and crimp the edges with a fork.
Heat about half inch of oil in a pan over medium high heat. Once hot, fry the empanadas for about 3-4 minutes per side, then remove to a paper towel lined plate.
Storing leftover Picadillo
This refrigerates well for up to 3-4 days in an airtight container. Simply reheat on stovetop or in the microwave.
You can also freeze it in an airtight container. Use within two months for best quality.
We hope you love this Puerto Rican Picadillo as much as we do. It has surely become one of our easy, yet tasty, weeknight staples.
If you try this recipe, please leave a comment and review, I love hearing from you. And be sure to subscribe to the GypsyPlate mailing list, we’re always cooking up great new recipes for you!
Puerto Rican Picadillo, on my GypsyPlate… Enjoy!
Need more 30-minute-or-less dinner ideas?
Kung Pao Chicken
Chili Lime Shrimp Tacos with Mango Salsa
Blackened (AKA Cajun) Shrimp and Grits
Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Peanut Sauce
Flank Steak Fajitas
Easy Creamy Chicken Skillet
- 2 lbs ground beef
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1/2 green bell pepper
- 1/2 red bell pepper
- 1/2 yellow bell pepper
- 3 Tbsp garlic
- 4 Tbsp sofrito
- 1 packet Sazon seasoning (see note 1)
- 2 tsp oregano
- 2 tsp cumin
- 14 oz tomato sauce
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 1/3 cup pimento stuffed olives
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp cilantro
Stove Top Method
- Season ground beef with adobo.
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, bell peppers and garlic,
sauté until onion is translucent.
- Add sofrito and sauté until fragrant and a little oil starts separating from your veggies.
- Add ground beef, crumble, and stir until browned, about 7-10 minutes.
- Add Sazon seasoning, oregano, cumin, and tomato sauce. Continue stirring.
- Add olives, raisins, cilantro and a little water. Cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes,
stirring occasionally, until meat is nicely cooked and oil starts separating on top of meat.
- Serve over white rice. Enjoy!
Crock Pot Method
- Season ground beef with adobo.
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil and add onion, bell peppers and garlic. Sauté till onion is translucent.
- Add in ground beef. Crumble and stir until browned.
- Transfer the meat mixture to slow cooker. Add in sazon seasoning, sofrito, oregano, cumin, tomato sauce and a little water. Stir to combine.
- Close the lid and cook on low for 6-7 hours, or 3-4 hours on high.
- Add olives and raisins during the last hour of cooking time.
Instant Pot Method
- Season the meat with adobo.
- Add oil to the pressure cooker and press the sauté button. When hot, add onion ,garlic and bell peppers. Sauté till they are soft and onion is translucent.
- Add in meat and crumble while sautéing, till it is no longer pink.
- Add in sofrito and cook for a minute. Add in sazon seasoning, oregano, cumin and tomato sauce. Add in a quarter cup of water and mix well.
- Cover, seal the lid, and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes.
- Use natural or quick release and open the lid.
- Sazon is a seasoning found in the Latin section of your grocery store. I prefer Goya brand, “cilantro y achiote” variety.
- A nice platter: Picadillo, rice, black beans, plantains and a slice of avocado!
- This is a big recipe. You can cut it in half, but better yet, impress some company or have leftovers for days!
Nutrition InformationYield 8 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 405Total Fat 25gSaturated Fat 8gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 12gCholesterol 101mgSodium 556mgCarbohydrates 12gFiber 2gSugar 7gProtein 33g
Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.
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