This picadillo recipe is an easy, warm, and comforting Mexican dish made from ground beef, potatoes, and vegetables cooked in a flavorful tomato-based sauce. Great in tacos, gorditas, or served with rice and beans!
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On nights when I’m unsure what to make for dinner, this picadillo recipe comes to the rescue!
What Is Picadillo?
Picadillo is a Latin American dish made from ground beef, potatoes, and a tomato sauce mixture. Every country and region has its own unique variation on the meal (for example, the very popular Cuban picadillo is made with olives and raisins), but today I’m going to share the way my family has always made it!
For context, my family is from the central/northern part of Mexico in the state of Zacatecas.
- Meat: Ground beef is what is traditionally used, but you could also use ground chicken or turkey if you prefer.
- Vegetables: You’ll need carrots, frozen peas, potatoes, onions, and tomatoes.
- Pepper: I used a jalapeño for a milder spice level, but you could also use a serrano pepper for more heat.
- Seasonings: I used a mix of dried Mexican oregano, kosher salt, ground cumin, and garlic.
How to Make Picadillo
Make the sauce. Add tomatoes, onions, garlic, jalapeño pepper, oregano, cumin, salt, and some water to a large blender, then puree until smooth and set aside.
Cook the meat and veggies. Cook the ground beef in a large skillet with some diced onions until the meat is lightly browned. Add the diced potatoes, diced carrots, and cook for 5 minutes, then add the blended tomato sauce mixture, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.
Thicken and serve. Uncover, cook for another 5 minutes, then stir in the frozen peas. It’s ready when the potatoes and carrots are tender and soft!
- Don’t be afraid of salt. The salt helps bring out the flavors of the tomato sauce mixture and makes the meat and potatoes one big happy family.
- Taste as you go. Add another jalapeño or more salt in the sauce if needed. The spice level of jalapeños can vary from not spicy to extremely fiery, so take a small bite and test it out.
- If the meat starts to dry out during the cooking process, add ¼ cup of water to keep it moist and continue cooking.
I recently served this beef picadillo with some leftover cilantro lime rice I had in the fridge, but there are plenty of other ways to eat it. Here are a few suggestions:
- Give it a healthy twist by substituting ground turkey or chicken for ground beef.
- Use sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes to add a subtle sweetness.
- Try green beans in place of peas to switch things up!
- Nonstick skillet. These are my absolute favorite. They’re high-quality and worth every penny.
- Blender. A good blender is a must when blending various vegetables for the perfect sauce consistency.
Leftover picadillo can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
You can also store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat from either method, simply toss it in a pan and heat it!
Photos by Erin Jensen of The Wooden Skillet.