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Cuban Picadillo Recipe: Quick and Delicious Family Meal

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If you’re looking for a flavorful and easy-to-make dish, Cuban Picadillo is a must-try. This ground beef recipe combines tomato sauce, olives, raisins, and spices to create a delightful mix of sweet and savory flavors. It’s perfect served over rice or used as a filling for tacos and empanadas.

Imagine coming home to a kitchen filled with the aroma of onions, garlic, and spices simmering with tender beef and a rich tomato sauce. The addition of green olives and raisins adds a unique twist that sets Cuban Picadillo apart from other beef dishes. Plus, it’s a versatile meal that you can easily repurpose into other dishes, making it perfect for meal prepping.

With just a few simple ingredients and about 30 minutes, you can whip up this comforting and delicious Cuban classic that will leave your taste buds dancing. Get ready to impress your family and friends with a dish that’s both easy to make and bursting with flavor.

Exact Ingredients (+ Possible Substitutes)

Ground Beef: Use 1 pound of ground beef. If you prefer, substitute with ground turkey or chicken for a lighter option.

Olive Oil: You’ll need 1-2 tablespoons. Canola or vegetable oil works as a substitute.

Onion: 1 medium onion, chopped finely. If you’re out of onions, shallots can fill in.

Bell Peppers: 1 bell pepper, chopped. Green, red, yellow, or orange—pick your favorite, or mix them up!

Garlic: 2-3 cloves, minced. Garlic powder can be used in a pinch.

Tomato Sauce: 8 ounces of tomato sauce. Crushed tomatoes or diced tomatoes blended can do the trick too.

Potatoes: 2 small potatoes, diced. Sweet potatoes or yams can add a unique twist.

Raisins: About 2 tablespoons. If you don’t have raisins, dried currants or cranberries work too.

Green Olives: 1/4 cup, sliced. Pimento-stuffed olives add extra flavor.

Capers: Optional, 1 tablespoon. If you like them, they add a tangy touch.

Cumin: 1 teaspoon ground cumin. Coriander could be a substitute if needed.

Oregano: 1 teaspoon dried oregano. Italian seasoning can replace it.

Bay Leaf: 1 leaf. You can skip it, but it adds a nice depth.

Salt and Pepper: To taste. Adjust as needed.

Optional Ingredients:

  • Peas: Fresh or frozen, for added color and texture.
  • Cilantro: Fresh, chopped, sprinkled on top for a burst of freshness.

Mix and match these ingredients and substitutes to customize your Cuban Picadillo to your taste.



  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce or diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sliced green olives
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1/4 cup raisins


  1. Heat oil: Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

  2. Sauté veggies: Add the chopped onion and bell pepper to the skillet and cook for about 5-7 minutes until they soften. Add minced garlic and sauté for 30 more seconds.

  3. Cook beef: Add ground beef to the skillet. Use a spatula to break the meat apart. Cook until the beef is browned and no longer pink, about 5-10 minutes.

  4. Add tomatoes and olives: Pour in the tomato sauce or diced tomatoes, and stir in the sliced green olives. If you like a touch of sweetness, add the raisins.

  5. Simmer: Reduce heat to low and let the mixture simmer for 15-20 minutes. This helps the flavors combine.

  6. Season: Taste your picadillo and adjust with salt and pepper as needed.


  • Feel free to add extra veggies like carrots or peas for more flavor and nutrition.
  • Serve with white rice, black beans, or plantains for a traditional experience.

Enjoy your delicious homemade Cuban Picadillo!

Tips, Tricks & Storing


  • Use fresh ingredients like onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers. They make a big difference in flavor.

  • Brown the ground beef well. This adds depth and richness to the dish.

  • Customize your spices. Adjust cumin, oregano, and even add a dash of paprika if you like a bit of heat.


  • To save time, chop veggies ahead and store in airtight containers in the fridge.

  • For a richer flavor, let the picadillo simmer longer, allowing the spices to meld well.

  • Use a wooden spoon to break up the ground beef easily while it cooks.


  • Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days.

  • To freeze, portion the picadillo into freezer-safe bags or containers. It keeps well for up to 3 months.

  • Reheat in a skillet over medium heat or microwave in a microwave-safe dish until hot. If it’s too dry, add a splash of water or broth.

Recipe Variations & Serving Suggestions

Cuban Picadillo is a flexible dish that you can easily adapt to your taste. Here are some variations and suggestions for serving it:

Recipe Variations

  • Ground Meat: While traditional picadillo uses ground beef, you can try it with ground turkey, chicken, or even pork for a different flavor.
  • Potatoes: Some recipes include diced potatoes. Cook the potatoes separately and add them in near the end.
  • Vegetarian Option: Swap out the meat for lentils or a mix of beans for a vegetarian version.
  • Sweet Additions: Adding raisins or a bit of sugar can balance the savory and tangy flavors.
  • Spices: Common spices include cumin and oregano. Feel free to experiment with other spices like paprika or even a bit of cinnamon.

Serving Suggestions

  • Over Rice: Serve your picadillo over a bed of white or brown rice.
  • Tacos or Burritos: Use picadillo as filling for tacos or burritos.
  • With Plantains: Complement the dish with fried or baked plantains.
  • Empanadas: Use the picadillo as a filling for empanadas.
  • With Eggs: Serve picadillo alongside or topped with a fried or poached egg for a hearty breakfast.


  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Diced raw onions
  • Sour cream or crema
  • Lime wedges

These are just a few ways to enjoy and customize your Cuban Picadillo. Play around with your favorite ingredients to make it your own!