Made in under 30 minutes with flavorful ground beef and salty green olives, Beef Picadillo is a classic Latin American dish that reminds you of home. This recipe is so flavorful, it will leave everyone asking for more!
What is Beef Picadillo?
If you’re craving comfort food, but not the same old classics, I’ve got the dinner for you. Beef Picadillo is one of my go-to recipes when I want something hearty and filling, but with minimal prep/cooking time. This is Latin American comfort food at it’s core.
Picadillo (pronounced pi-kuh-di-yo) is a staple in a number of Latin American countries. It’s a simple dish, prepared with seasoned ground beef, various vegetables, and sometimes starches like potatoes. I like to make it with olives, but you can add in whatever you like! One of the best things about this picadillo recipe is how customizable it is depending on your tastes.
Just let some juicy ground beef simmer in tomato sauce with a bunch of seasonings, and dinner is essentially ready! The best part about picadillo is that you can eat a big bowl of it as is, or you can use it as a filling for tacos or empanadas!
Ready to get started? Great! Gather up the following ingredients before you begin:
- Olive Oil: Or your favorite cooking oil (canola, etc.).
- Onion: I used 1 medium white onion, diced.
- Ground Beef: You can use extra lean or reduced fat ground beef if you want to. While not traditional, you can even use ground turkey or chicken.
- Sofrito: An aromatic blend of vegetables and herbs commonly used in Latin American cooking.
- Seasoning: I used adobo seasoning, sazon seasoning, cumin powder, ground oregano, salt, and ground black pepper.
- Garlic: Make sure it’s finely minced. You could also use garlic paste instead.
- Tomato Sauce: Try whichever store brand you like! I prefer to use unflavored tomato sauces, but it’s ultimately up to you.
- Green Olives: With pimento. Can also use capers!
- Cilantro: This is an optional garnish.
How to Make Beef Picadillo
So let’s get into how you actually make beef picadillo! Once you cook the ground beef and season it, let it simmer in the tomato sauce for a bit, and then you’re basically done. Get ready for your kitchen to smell ah-mazing!
Cook the Onion & Ground Beef: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and ground beef. Cook breaking the beef apart and stirring often, until meat is evenly browned and onions are tender.
Add the Seasonings: Drain the excess liquid/grease from the pan and add the sofrito, adobo, sazon, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper.
Add in Garlic: Stir and cook for an additional minute or so, then add the garlic and cook for two more minutes or until the garlic becomes fragrant.
Pour in Tomato Sauce: Turn the heat down to low-medium then pour in the tomato sauce and stir. Bring the sauce to a low simmer, then turn the heat off and stir in the olives.
Serve and Enjoy: Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro, if desired.
Tips for Success
Simple dinners are the best. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time in the kitchen, but sometimes you just need to get food on the table, you know? Here are some tips to help you do that:
- Don’t Overcook the Ground Beef: The ground beef doesn’t have to be cooked all the way through before you season it and add in the garlic, as it will continue to cook as you mix in the other ingredients.
- Ground Beef Substitutes: If you don’t have ground beef, that’s okay! Ground turkey and ground chicken will also work in this recipe.
- Add Veggies: To make this dinner even more filling, add in peas, carrots, peppers, potatoes, fresh tomatoes, etc.
Picadillo By Region
Depending on where you are from, you may make your Beef Picadillo a little differently. While Picadillo is a common recipe among Latin cultures, everyone makes it a little differently.
Our house is a bit of a combination…I am from Texas and grew up with a big Mexican and Tex-Mex influence and Jorge is Puerto Rican and grew up mostly in Florida.
This recipe below is what our Picadillo in our house looks like. Everyone’s picadillo will look a little different depending on what flavors you like and if where your family is from! As I have learned, everyone usually makes it how their Abuela made it.
Below are some of the common additions to Picadillo:
- Raisins: these add a sweet flavor and are a very common addition to picadillo in many cultures. I love the sweet surprise from the raisins – Jorge does not.
- Potatoes: Add potatoes if you want a heartier meal.
- Capers: Sometimes added in addition to, or in place of, the olives with pimentos.
- Hard Boiled Egg: a common addition in the Dominican Republic!
- Sugar or Honey: certain regions in Mexico like their Picadillo a little sweeter and will add honey or sugar.
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
This picadillo can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week in the fridge. When you’re ready to heat it up again you can let it simmer in a pan on low until it reaches the desired temperature, or you can simply microwave it for a minute or two.
Can You Freeze Picadillo?
Definitely! If you want to freeze picadillo, keep it in an airtight container and make sure to eat it within 3 months. I almost always make a triple batch to freeze for easy dinners straight from the freezer.
What Goes with Beef Picadillo?
So now that you have all this tasty beef picadillo, what should you serve with it? Here are my thoughts:
- Rice: Picadillo is also delicious when you serve it over a simple bed of Spanish or white rice. Or go crazy and serve it with the Puerto Rican classic Arroz con Gandules.
- Tacos: Beef picadillo makes a great filling for tacos, or even a stuffing for burritos!
- Empanadas: If you love picadillo in tacos, you’ll definitely love it as the filling for buttery Beef Empanadas too! I have a great recipe for homemade Easy Empanada Dough too!
- Beans: Serve with a side of black or refried beans!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 1 lb ground beef
- ¼ cup sofrito
- 1 tablespoon adobo seasoning
- 1 packet sazon seasoning
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon dried, ground oregano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic or garlic paste
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 cup green olives with pimento
- cilantro, optional garnish
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and ground beef. Cook breaking the beef apart and stirring often, until meat is evenly browned and onions are tender.
- Drain the excess liquid/grease from the pan and add the sofrito, adobo, sazon, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper.
- Stir and cook for an additional minute or so, then add the garlic and cook for two more minutes or until the garlic becomes fragrant.
- Turn the heat down to low-medium then pour in the tomato sauce and stir. Bring the sauce to a low simmer, then turn the heat off and stir in the olives.
- Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro, if desired.
More Latin american recipes
Looking for more Latin American recipes to try?
- Arroz con Gandules (Puerto Rican Rice with Pigeon Peas)
- Mexican Casserole
- Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas
- Cheese Enchiladas
- Fried Plantains
- Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja
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