This picadillo recipe is an easy, warm and comforting Mexican dish made from ground beef and potatoes cooked in a flavorful sauce. Great in tacos, gorditas and tostadas!
On nights when I’m not quite sure what to make for dinner, this picadillo recipe comes to the rescue!
Easy, warm and comforting, picadillo is a Latin American dish made from ground beef, potatoes and some type of tomato sauce mixture. Every country and region has it’s 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!
(Just for context, my family is from the central/northern part of Mexico in the state of Zacatecas.)
How to make Mexican picadillo
The first thing I do is make the flavorful tomato sauce mixture.
- Add tomatoes, onions, garlic, a jalapeno pepper, oregano, cumin, salt and some water to a large blender.
- Puree until smooth and set aside.
Be sure to taste the sauce and add another jalapeno or more salt if needed. The spice level of jalapenos can vary so much, from not spicy at all to insanely fiery, so I always recommend taking a little teeny bite and testing it out.
Next comes the meat and potatoes. And peas and carrots :).
- Cook the ground beef in a large skillet with some diced onions until the meat is lightly browned. Add the potatoes, carrots, and peas and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the pureed tomato sauce mixture, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
- Uncover and cook for another 10 minutes to help the sauce reduce a bit and get the flavors super concentrated. When the potatoes and carrots and tender and soft, it’s time to eat!
I served this beef picadillo with some white rice that I had in the fridge, but here are a few of my favorite ways to serve it.
- alongside my Mom’s authentic Mexican rice
- in tacos
- stuffed inside gorditas (one of my favorite memories is going to visit my grandparents in Mexico and buying gorditas stuffed with spicy picadillo on the street corner!)
- served on top of sopes (delicious thick corn cakes)
- keep it low carb with some cilantro cauliflower rice
And of course, you can always eat it by itself with some corn tortilla chips, my personal favorite!
My biggest tip for getting picadillo just right (and really any other ground beef dish) is to liberally season the dish with salt. Don’t be afraid of salt! It helps to bring out the flavors of the tomato sauce mixture and really makes the meat and potatoes one big happy family.
Of course you should taste as you go so you don’t accidentally oversalt, but if you feel like you’ve added a lot and it still tastes like it needs more, then go for it. Your tastebuds will thank you.
For the sauce
- 4 plum tomatoes, quartered
- 1/2 medium white or yellow onion
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
- 1 jalapeno pepper, stem removed (Remove the seeds if you don't want it spicy. I like to keep them in.)
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
For the meat
- 1 teaspoon cooking oil
- 1/2 medium white or yellow onion, diced
- 1 pound ground beef
- salt, to taste
- 1 medium white potato, diced
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 1/4 cup frozen peas
For the sauce
- Add all sauce ingredients in a large blender and puree until smooth. Taste and season with more salt if necessary. Set aside.At this point, I also like to make sure the spice level is to my liking. If it's not spicy enough for me, I'll half a jalapeno, blend and adjust until it's perfect.
For the meat
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the cooking oil, onion, ground beef and a generous pinch of salt. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat into smaller chunks. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, until beef is lightly browned.
- Add the potatoes, carrots and peas. Mix together with the meat and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the pureed sauce to the skillet, mix together and cover with a lid. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove the lid and continue cooking for 10 more minutes, until the potatoes and carrots are soft and tender. If the meat starts to get dry, add in 1/4 cup of water and continue cooking.
- Remove from heat, taste and season with more salt if necessary. (I always tend to add another generous pinch or two of salt at this step.)