Cuban Picadillo

May 22, 2013

Picadillo is difficult to describe – it’s too thick to be a stew, but it’s not a casserole or one-dish meal either. It’s generally served alongside rice, black beans, and plantains or potatoes to make a complete meal. The dish is made primarily of finely chopped or ground beef cooked with peppers, onions, raisins, olives, and spices (such as cinnamon and cumin)

When I saw this recipe in my May/June 2013 issue of Cook’s Illustrated, I knew I had to try it because the flavor profile sounded very similar to the delicious Don Francisco empanadas that Juan and Maria’s serves at the public market. They include bits of hard boiled egg, olives, and raisins in these empanadas, and they have a wonderful sweet-sour-salty quality that I guessed this recipe would provide as well.

I guessed correctly, and we will definitely be eating this picadillo again! It was delicious served over rice with black beans, and while I didn’t have any plantains, perhaps I’ll get some for next time. I served mine with hard-boiled eggs, but you could also serve the picadillo with chopped parsley or toasted almonds for a bit of flavor/texture variety. Although the ingredient list is long, the dish comes together quickly and could be reasonably made on a weeknight. Enjoy!

Cuban picadillo

Serves 6


  • 1  pound ground beef (85% lean)
  • 1  pound ground pork
  • 2  tablespoons water
  • 1/2  teaspoon baking soda
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1  green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1  onion, halved and cit into 2-inch pieces
  • 2  tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1  tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1  tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 3/4  cup dry white wine
  • 1/2  cup beef broth
  • 1/2  cup raisins
  • 3  bay leaves
  • 1/2  cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, chopped coarse
  • 2  tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 1  tablespoon red wine vinegar, plus extra for seasoning


  1. Toss beef and pork with water, baking soda, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in bowl until thoroughly combined. Set aside for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, pulse bell pepper and onion in food processor until chopped into ¼-inch pieces, about 12 pulses.
  2. Heat oil in large dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chopped vegetables, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until pot is almost dry, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in broth, raisins, and bay leaves and bring to simmer.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low, add meat mixture in 2-inch chunks to pot, and bring to gentle simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally with 2 forks to break meat chunks into ¼- to ½-inch pieces, until meat is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
  4. Discard bay leaves. Stir in olives and capers. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened and coats meat, about 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar and season with salt, pepper, and extra vinegar to taste. Serve.

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