Picadillo is a classic Cuban dish. It’s really easy to make and it’s perfect for a deliciously different weeknight meal.
In this recipe we go all out and add little fried potatoes to the picadillo. Many folks add raisins to add a sweet touch, and capers for a salty taste. We stick with Spanish olives for that salty bite and leave out the raisins altogether.
Serve the picadillo with white rice for a traditional Cuban dinner.
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To make this Cuban picadillo you will need
1 Large potato (about 10-12 ounces) cut into ½ inch cubes
Canola Oil for frying, enough to cover the bottom of a skillet by about ½ inch
1 teaspoon Salt, plus a pinch or two, divided
½ teaspoon Dried Oregano
¼ teaspoon Cumin
¼ teaspoon Black Pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion, finely diced
1 Large Carrot, small dice
2-3 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 pound Lean Ground Beef, use ground beef with the lowest fat content you can find
¼ cup White Wine
8 ounce Can Tomato Sauce
3 tablespoons Water
½ cup Pitted Spanish Olives
4-6 Servings Cooked White Rice, for serving if desired
There’s not a lot of time in between adding the ingredients for this picadillo so it’s best to have everything ready to go before you start.
I like to organize the ingredients in glass nesting bowls. They help me keep everything organized and there’s a size for everything I need to prep. Using this technique really takes the stress out of cooking!
Combine the salt, dried oregano, cumin, and black pepper in a small bowl.
Dice the onions and carrots. They will go into the picadillo at the same time so keep them in the same bowl. Then, mince the garlic.
Next, get the rest of the ingredients ready. Measure out the wine, water, olives, etc.
Fry the potatoes
Start with frying the potatoes. They go in at the end, but frying always requires your undivided attention.
The potatoes will keep just fine, draining on paper towels while you make the picadillo. The tough part here is preventing your family from sneaking a few potatoes while your back is turned.
Cover the bottom of a large skillet with about ½ inch of canola oil. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Test the oil by adding a couple of potatoes. If they start sizzling and the oil starts bubbling, it’s ready.
Fry the potatoes until they’re golden and cooked through. This will take about 5-6 minutes, stir them frequently while turning to brown on both sides.
Remove the potatoes from the skillet and place them on a plate lined with a paper-towel to drain. Sprinkle the fried potatoes with a pinch of salt.
Start the picadillo
Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet (preferably non-stick) over medium heat. When the oil is hot, but nowhere near smoking, add the onions and carrots.
Cook the vegetables for 5 minutes until the onions are translucent, stirring frequently. Next, add the garlic and stir well to combine. Continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Brown the ground beef
Raise the heat to medium-high. Then add the ground beef and the prepared seasoning mix to the skillet. Stir the beef while breaking up any large pieces using a wooden spoon or a spatula.
Cook the beef for approximately 5 minutes or until it’s browned, stirring occasionally.
Finish the picadillo
Add the white wine to the skillet. Stir and gently scrape any bits off the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking for 1-2 minutes until the liquid evaporates.
Lower the heat to medium-low and add the tomato sauce, water and olives to the picadillo and stir well to combine.
Here’s a tip: I add the water to the empty can of tomato sauce and give it a swirl, that way I get every last drop out.
Cover the skillet and cook the picadillo for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cook’s Note: Keep the picadillo at a simmer, if the liquid is boiling vigorously, lower the heat a bit. You don’t want it to dry out. You want it a little bit saucy!
Now, lower the heat to low and add the potatoes to the picadillo. Cover the skillet and cook another 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to develop and combine, stirring occasionally.
Once the potatoes are in, stir the picadillo gently so they don’t tear. Use a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.
Taste the picadillo and add salt, if needed. It’s best to wait until the end to add extra salt since the tomato sauce and olives both contain a good amount already. As a reference we added just a pinch to our picadillo.
Want more Cuban food? Try one of these delicious recipes
- Chicken Fricassee
- Ropa Vieja
- Vaca Frita
- Vaca Frita de Pollo
- Camarones Enchilados
- Cuban Style Pork Chops
- Cuban Chicken Soup
- 1 Large potato cut into ½ inch cubes
- Canola Oil for frying enough to cover the bottom of a skillet by about ½ inch
- 1 teaspoon Salt plus a pinch or two, divided
- ½ teaspoon Dried Oregano
- ¼ teaspoon Cumin
- ¼ teaspoon Black Pepper or to taste
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Medium Onion finely diced
- 1 Large Carrot small dice
- 2-3 Garlic Cloves minced
- 1 pound Lean Ground Beef lowest fat content you can find
- ¼ cup White Wine
- 8 ounce Can Tomato Sauce
- 3 tablespoons Water
- ½ cup Pitted Spanish Olives
- 4-6 Servings Cooked White Rice
- Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the potatoes until golden and cooked through, about 5-6 minutes.
- Remove the potatoes from the skillet and place them on a plate lined with a paper-towel to drain. Sprinkle with just a little bit of salt.
- In a small bowl combine the salt, dried oregano, cumin, and black pepper. Stir with a fork to combine the seasoning well.
- Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots to the skillet. Cook the vegetables for 5 minutes until the onions are translucent, stirring frequently.
- Add the garlic, stir well to combine. Cook 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Raise the heat to medium-high, add the ground beef and the prepared seasoning mix, stir, breaking up the meat using a wooden spoon or a spatula. Cook about 5 minutes to brown the beef, stirring occasionally.
- Add the white wine; cook about 1-2 minutes until most of the liquid evaporates.
- Lower the heat to medium-low and add the tomato sauce, water and olives, stir to combine.
- Cover the picadillo and cook for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep the picadillo at a simmer, if the liquid is boiling vigorously, lower the heat a bit.
- Lower the heat to low and add the potatoes to the picadillo, cover and cook another 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to develop and combine, stirring occasionally.
- Taste the picadillo and add salt, if needed.
- Serve the Cuban picadillo with white rice, if desired.