This 30 minute Puerto Rican style Picadillo is the perfect weeknight meal. Ground beef is cooked with traditional spices like adobo and sazon, colorful sofrito, pimento olives, and tomato sauce.
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This popular dish takes ground beef and gives it that classic Puerto Rican flair with sofrito, lots of fresh veggies, and traditional spices. The result is a super rich and flavorful dish that is lick-your-plate addictive.
The Puerto Rican style Picadillo gets its name from the Spanish word Picar, which means to chop or mince. Here's what you'll need to make it:
- olive oil
- yellow onion, diced
- red bell pepper, diced
- ground beef (lean)
- sazon seasoning
- adobo seasoning
- bay leaves
- can of tomato sauce
- pimento stuffed olives, sliced in half
- salt to taste
- cilantro to garnish
See recipe card for exact quantities.
Raisins in Picadillo?
Raisins are a traditional ingredient many Puerto Ricans like to include in their Picadillo.
While I'm not a huge fan of raisins in general, I can admit that they add a sweetness that can help to balance out all the richness from the ground beef.
If you like raisins and you're into the idea of adding them in this recipe, feel free to add a half a cup of them in when you add the tomato sauce.
Start with olive oil, onions, and peppers in a pan over medium heat. Cook for a few minutes, until the onions become translucent.
Add sofrito and sauté another minute before adding in ground beef. While the ground beef is browning, break it up with a wooden spoon.
Hint: making your sofrito ahead of time makes this recipe come together even faster! It can be made up to a week in advance.
Next add sazon, adobo, bay leaves, and tomato sauce. Mix to evenly incorporate everything into the beef. At this point, add olives and water before bringing to a boil.
Lower to a simmer, cover slightly and cook for 10 minutes or until beef is fully cooked. Serve with rice, plantains, or pan de agua.
What to Serve with Picadillo
The options for what to serve with your picadillo are truly endless. Here are some classic puerto Rican pairings:
- Rice - serve with a generous spoonful of warm rice and let the sauce do it's thing!
- Tostones or Mofongo or Maduros - pairing your picadillo with plantains is about as Puerto Rican as it gets! Feel free to try one of my popular plantain recipes as a side to this savory dish.
- Pan de Agua - the Moroccan in me just loves a good bread and meat pairing, so this one makes me extra happy. Pan de Agua is really fun to make and makes an excellent vehicle for scooping up any leftover sauce on your plate.
If you have leftover picadillo or aren't sure how to use it, there are also many traditional Puerto Rican recipes that use it as a filling.
Puerto Rican vs Cuban vs. Mexican vs. Filipino Picadillo
If you're familiar with Picadillo, chances are you've noticed there are many different variations. This popular ground beef based dish has roots in countries all over the world from Cuba to Mexico, to the Philippines.
What's interesting about Picadillo is that despite the various origins, the base of dish remains the same. It's always ground beef with a blend of alliums (usually onions and garlic), usually with some kind of pepper.
From there you will notice ingredients vary in seasonings and vegetable add ins (think potatoes, peas, and even sometimes things like white wine).
Here's what makes Puerto Rican Picadillo stand out from the rest:
- seasonings: we use a blend of classic Puerto Rican spices (adobo and/or sazon) to give this dish that signature island flavor.
- sofrito: this dish wouldn't be Puerto Rican without our not-so-secret ingredient, sofrito!
- raisins: many Puerto Ricans like to use rum soaked raisins to add a bite and sweetness to this rich dish.
Picadillo in the Instant Pot / Crockpot
If you're looking for a way to make picadillo in one of your handy-dandy counter top appliances... I've got you covered! Here are my tips:
- Crockpot Picadillo: follow the directions as instructed up until step 4 (just before lowing the temperature to a simmer and covering). At this step, transfer everything to your crockpot and cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours.
- Instant pot Picadillo: follow the directions as instructed, sautéing everything directly in your Instant pot. At step 4, cover the Instant pot and cook on high pressure for 10 minutes.
Picadillo as a Filling and Ingredient
Some of my favorite Puerto Rican recipes use this Picadillo as a filling or ingredient. If you do have leftovers or just feel like getting creative in the kitchen, here are a few ideas for how to use it:
- Empanadillas - pie dough stuffed with picadillo. Enough said.
- Alcapurrias - fritters made with plantains and yucca, then stuffed with picadillo and fried. Again... enough said!
- Empanada Rice - this dish incorporates rice into the picadillo for a one pot version of the classic rice pairing.
This Puerto Rican style Picadillo stores great in an airtight container in your fridge for up to 5 days.