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Best Picadillo Recipe

The best EVER Picadillo Recipe that’s a true family favorite. Perfectly seasoned ground beef, garlic, and onions are simmered in a light tomato sauce. You are going to love how easy it is to make.

spanish picadillo recipe

Picadillo pronounced [pee-kah-DEE-yoh] is a dish preferred by many Spanish-speaking regions. In Cuba, it’s served alongside traditional rice and black beans. In Mexico, it serves its purpose as a stuffing for various dishes.

With much research and an already established flavor pallet, I have carefully chosen specific ingredients to make this recipe perfect.

I wouldn’t say that this is a Cuban picadillo nor a Mexican picadillo either. It’s kind of both. If they were to have a baby, this would be their offspring. ☺️ Minus the potatoes and the raisins.

Furthermore, this picadillo recipe has one very special secret ingredient. Are you ready? Pure maple syrup…gasp! I know. Allow me to explain.

With all dishes, it’s important to have a well-balanced flavor profile like sweet, savory, and salty, etc. By all means, this picadillo does not taste sweet. When your loved ones eat it, they will not even know that it’s in there. Trust me. They’ll just know that what they are eating is super yummy!

Besides that special secret ingredient we just spoke about, now let’s talk about the other ingredients you will need.

mexican picadillo recipe

Ingredients to make the best picadillo recipe

Ground beefYou will need one pound of ground beef.
Garlic and OnionWill add loads of flavor.
CarrotsGives a crunch and sweetness.
PeasAdds more flavor and sweetness.
Green olivesChoose pitted green olives.
Tomato sauce or tomato pasteEither one will be fine.
Lime and CilantroAdds a nice fresh flare.
SpicesLike cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, Cheyanne pepper, kosher salt, and pepper.
My secret ingredient (pure maple syrup)Pure maple syrup. Gasp… I know. Trust me, it is there only to balance out the flavor profile.

This picadillo recipe is very forgiving. If you do not have one of the ingredients, that’s completely ok.

What goes well with this picadillo recipe?

Though you can enjoy picadillo the way you like, my favorite way is alongside cilantro-lime cauliflower rice. It’s just so flavorful!

You may also serve it with fluffy quinoa or cassava tortillas for more of a healthy touch.

cuban picadillo recipe


  • Swap out the beef for ground chicken or turkey. This will add a light flavor and possibly less fat.
  • Add diced green pepper. Though most recipes call for it, I decided to leave it out.
  • Use capers instead of green olives. The capers will add a nice salty touch. I will defiantly be trying that next time.
  • Use red pepper paste in place of tomato paste (if using).

More delicious recipes!

Read the recipe from start to finish. You will better understand the flow of the recipe and identify any unfamiliar words or methods.

Shop for the ingredients beforehand. When you shop ahead, you are less likely to swap out ingredients for what you don’t have, thus creating a complete recipe fail!

Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to leave a comment below and an honest rating. ♡

This my friends, is my family’s favorite picadillo recipe.

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Best Picadillo Recipe

  • Author: ashley
  • Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10-15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free


A family-favorite dinner with perfectly seasoned ground beef, garlic, and onions simmered in a light tomato sauce.


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup of carrots, peeled, medium dice or diagonal-cut
  • 1 tsp kosher salt divided* you will add 1/2 tsp to the onions and the other 1/2 tsp to the ground beef
  • 1/4 tsp coarse black pepper
  • 4 cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp dried oregano 
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika or one chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup green pitted olives
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce or 2 tbsp tomato paste + 4 tsp water
  • the juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro


  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil, onions, and carrots. Season with 1/2 tsp kosher salt and black pepper. Sautee until the onions have softened. 
  2. Next, add the garlic, oregano, smoked paprika, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Stir-fry just until aromatic, about 30 seconds. 
  3. When ready, add the ground beef, the other 1/2 tsp kosher salt, and stir-fry until the meat gets crispy and brown. Then, add the frozen peas, olives, and tomato sauce. Mix to combine. Then, cover the skillet with a lid and cook for 10 minutes on low heat. 
  4. Finally, open the lid, give a quick stir, squeeze lime juice all over the seasoned meat, sprinkle in the chopped cilantro, and enjoy immediately. 


When you first add the tomato sauce, it may look as though it’s not enough. However, because we are not making a stew, the added tomato is only to provide additional flavor. 

  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Spanish-Inspired

Keywords: cuban picadillo recipe, mexican picadillo recipe, spanish picadillo recipe, puerto rican picadillo recipe, easy picadillo recipe, beef picadillo recipe,

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