This authentic Mexican Picadillo is as tasty as it is easy to make. Packed with bold spices and a whole lot of heart, this recipe brings the true spirit of Mexico right into your home kitchen.
It is part of my favorite Mexican recipes, and could be a great addition to your cooking repertoire together with Pork Chile Verde, Papas Con Chorizo, or this Mexican Pico De Gallo With Tuna, just to mention a few.
What is Picadillo?
Picadillo is a popular dish in most South American cuisines that is similar to hash. It is made with ground meat (usually beef, pork, or a combination of both), tomatoes, potatoes, and other ingredients that can widely vary from one region to another.
The word 'Picadillo' is derived from 'picar' in Spanish, which means 'to mince' or 'chop.'
The recipe originally came from Spain, and it traveled to the New World and adapted to regional tastes, creating several distinct versions across Latin America and other parts of the world. Besides the Mexican picadillo, you will also find Cuban picadillo, Puerto Rico picadillo or even Phillipines picadillo.
The dish is appreciated for its warm, comforting flavors, its versatility, and its ability to blend the sweet with the savory – an element quite emblematic of Mexican gastronomy.
You will find a recipe for picadillo in every household. The ingredients might vary from family to family based on where they are located and what is available.
However, having lived in Mexico and fallen in love with its rich food culture, I've learned the ins and outs of making a true Mexican picadillo.
With hands-on experience and a deep appreciation for authentic Mexican flavors, I am excited to share a picadillo recipe that feels just like a warm, heartfelt embrace of Mexican cuisine.
Why do I like this easy Picadillo recipe:
Authenticity: This recipe sticks closely to its Mexican heritage, giving you the true flavors of traditional Mexican cooking.
Versatility: You can easily replace the lean ground beef with ground pork or use a mix of both. Even though beef is conventional, pork can offer an equally pleasing experience.
Simplicity: The recipe does not require any complicated cooking techniques or hard-to-find ingredients. It is a perfect comfort food for both weekday family dinners and when you wish to impress your guests at a weekend get-together.
This beauty will bring to your plate the flavors of "canela" or cinnamon and the sweetness of "pasitas" or raisins.
Recipe Ingredients for Mexican picadillo:
- Ground beef: The base of the dish, it's hearty and full of flavor. You can also use ground pork or a mix of both for a change.
- Onion: Adds a mild sweetness and depth to the dish. White or yellow onions work best, but red onions can be used in a pinch.
- Potatoes: These give the dish a comforting, hearty feel. Use either waxy potatoes or all-purpose potatoes, like Yukon Golds. Avoid starchy potatoes, like Russets, as they may become too soft in the process.
- Peas: Brings in some sweetness and color. Frozen peas are easy to use, but you can also use fresh ones when in season.
- Tomatoes: Adds juiciness and a slight tang to balance the flavors. Fresh tomatoes are the best, but canned ones, like tomato sauce, can work too.
- Raisins: These give the dish its characteristic sweet touch. Golden or dark raisins can be used.
- Garlic: Brings in a kick and loads of flavor. Fresh is best, but garlic powder can be used if needed.
- Ground cloves, Cinnamon, and Cumin: These spices add warmth and depth to the dish.
- Vegetable oil: Any neutral-tasting oil like canola or sunflower can work.
- Chicken broth or water: For deglazing the pan and enriching the flavors.
- Salt and Pepper: Basic seasonings to enhance all the other flavors. No real substitutes for these!
Vegetables: You can also add diced carrots, diced bell pepper, or even diced zucchini.
Spices: Some versions of picadillo might include more spices, such as oregano, thyme, or bay leaves, to enhance flavor.
Olive: You can find picadillo recipes with chopped green olives or capers for a briny, salty flavor that complements the sweetness of the raisins.
How to make Picadillo:
Step 1: Saute the onions and garlic. Start by heating up the vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and garlic, stirring occasionally until they turn translucent.
Step 2: Cook the ground beef. Next, add the ground beef to the pan. Be sure to break it into crumbles. Cook it until it's no longer pink, but avoid letting it brown.
Step 3: Add the remaining ingredients. Now, stir in the peas, potatoes, raisins, tomatoes, and spices. Season the mixture with salt and pepper according to your preference.
Step 4: Simmer. Pour in the chicken broth or water and reduce the heat to low. Cover your pan and let the Picadillo simmer gently until the potatoes and peas are soft.
Step 5: Final seasoning check. Before you're ready to serve, do a final taste check for salt and pepper, adjusting as needed. Your Picadillo is now ready to be enjoyed!
You can add more water if you notice the potatoes need more liquid, but just add a little bit at a time. You do not want to have a lot of sauce on this dish, but you do want the peas and potatoes cooked.
What do you serve with Mexican Picadillo:
The traditional picadillo is used in empanadas, enchiladas and quesadillas, as well as tacos, tortas, and stuffed chiles. Warm tortillas, preferably corn, are my favorite. Flour tortillas are also used.
White rice is a good option as well. Try this recipe for Mexican rice.
For a low-carb option, consider serving it over cauliflower rice or inside lettuce wraps.
How to store:
In the refrigerator: Place the cooled ground beef Picadillo in an airtight container and refrigerate. You can store it for up to 3-4 days. Reheat in a saucepan over medium heat or in the microwave before serving.
In the freezer: For longer storage, you can freeze the Picadillo for up to two months. Use a freezer-safe container and thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Yes, you can. Fresh peas might take a little longer to cook, so adjust the cooking time accordingly.
Any type of ground beef works for this recipe, but a higher fat content (like 80/20) can add more flavor to the dish. However, if you prefer a leaner option, ground beef with less fat (like 90/10) will work as well. You can also use ground pork.
Absolutely! Mexican Picadillo can be a versatile filling for various dishes. You can use it in tacos and empanadas or even stuff it into bell peppers or chilies.
Picadillo and Tinga are both popular dishes in Mexican cuisine, but they differ in ingredients and preparation.
Picadillo is a dish primarily made with ground meat (usually beef), which is cooked with a blend of spices, onions, and garlic and often includes diced potatoes, peas, and raisins. It tends to have a mildly sweet and savory profile.
On the other hand, Tinga is made with shredded chicken. The chicken is stewed with tomatoes, onions, and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, giving it a distinct smoky and slightly spicy flavor.
More Mexican Recipes:
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- 1 ½ pounds ground beef
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 2 medium potatoes chopped small
- 1 medium tomato chopped
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- 1-2 cloves of garlic chopped
- 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup chicken broth or water
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a cooking pan heat up the oil on medium heat and add the chopped onions.
- Cook the onion until translucent, mixing from time to time. Add the ground beef and cook without browning it.
- When it is half cooked, add the peas, cubed potatoes, raisins, chopped tomatoes. garlic and spices.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the chicken broth or water and cover the pan with a lid. Lower the heat and let it simmer until the potatoes and peas are cooked.
- Taste again for salt and pepper.
- Serve with warm tortillas or cooked rice.