Sweet and savory Puerto Rican-Style Picadillo is a ground beef stew that’s so ridiculously delicious it brings table talk to a complete stop because everyone’s too busy stuffing their face. This beef picadillo recipe is budget-friendly, comes together quickly, and is incredibly versatile. I don’t know any other way to say it: You. Need. To. Make. Picadillo.
A NOTE ON AUTHENTICITY
This is not a historically authentic recipe. We strive to create recipes that are accessible to everyone, which means ingredients need to be available at a mainstream budget grocery store. We test recipes using the least amount of steps, tools, and ingredients while still honoring the spirit of the recipe. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico and look forward to a time when our ingredients are available in mainstream markets. Until then, buen provecho!
What Is Picadillo?
Picadillo is a traditional sweet and savory Latin dish usually made with ground beef stewed in tomato sauce. In Puerto Rico, we cook it in a hearty tomato-based sauce with sofrito, adobo, olives, raisins, and sometimes diced potatoes. To the uninitiated, pairing raisins with beef sounds like blasphemy. But I promise you, IT WORKS.
What You’ll Need
Picadillo comes together in one pan in under 30 minutes. There’s a little chopping involved, and it takes about 7 minutes to assemble the recipe, but the rest of the time it simmers on the stovetop. I love a one-pot hands-off recipe! Don’t you?
- Onion, Garlic, and Bell Pepper – this combination creates an aromatic and intensely flavored base
- Sofrito – this is the flavor base of many Puerto Rican dishes. I have a simple recipe for you here, though you can definitely take it further if you have access to traditional ingredients like aji dulce and recao.
- Sazón and Adobo – these seasoning blends go hand in hand to develop deep, earthy notes. The annatto in the sazón also deepens the color of the sauce. If these are hard to source, I have included recipes for both in the notes section of the recipe card.
- Ground Beef – 80/20 is best as the fat adds flavor, but use what you have. You can also make this recipe with ground pork, chicken, lamb, or turkey. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you can substitute ground beef with a plant-based alternative, chopped mushrooms, or black beans.
- Green Olives – I prefer to use the sliced kind with pimento because it’s less work, but feel free to slice whole ones. If you can’t find Green Olives with Pimento (AKA Manzanilla or Spanish Olives), get pitted green olives and add a tablespoon of chopped roasted red pepper to the mix.
- Raisins – though dark raisins are traditional, you can also use golden. I sometimes sub raisins with chopped prunes.
- White Distilled Vinegar – helps cut through the fattiness of the ground beef and adds a sharp top note. Sub it with Apple Cider Vinegar.
- Bay Leaves – have a mild tea-like flavor that sits in the background and helps enhance bolder flavors. Sub with a teaspoon of oregano.
- Tomato Sauce – creates a liquid for the ground beef to stew in and adds acidic, fruity brightness.
What TO Serve With Picadillo
This sweet and savory ground-beef stew is a weeknight staple at my house because I can eat it as is, or served over rice and mashed potatoes. I can also stuff it into an empanada, a burrito, or a lettuce wrap. I’ve even added it to marinara for Puerto Rican-style spaghetti. Picadillo is all-purpose!
How To Store Picadillo
This is one of those recipes that tastes even better the next day. (I love those recipes.) Store cooled Picadillo in an airtight container with plastic film or wax paper directly on the surface. It keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw frozen Picadillo overnight in the refrigerator, then warm it in a pan set over medium heat or microwave it until steaming.
- 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil $0.06
- 1 yellow onion, small dice $0.42
- 1 red bell pepper, small dice $1.59
- 1 Tbsp tablespoon garlic, minced $0.14
- 1 lb ground beef (80/20) $5.49
- 1 tsp coarse salt* $0.04
- 1 1/2 tsp sazón* (1 packet) $0.17
- 1 tsp adobo* $0.04
- 1/2 cup sofrito $0.72
- 1/2 cup sliced pimento-stuffed green olives * $0.66
- 1/4 cup raisins $0.87
- 1/2 Tbsp white vinegar $0.04
- 15 oz tomato sauce $1.00
- 2 bay leaves $0.20
- 1/4 cup water $0.00
- Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and peppers to the pan and cook until the onions are transparent.
- Add the garlic to the pan and cook until fragrant.
- Add the beef to the pan and sprinkle with salt, sazón, and adobo. As the beef browns, break up big chunks with your spoon.
- When the beef has browned, add the sofrito and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Add the olives, raisins, white vinegar, tomato sauce, bay leaves, and water. Continue to cook, occasionally stirring, for 10 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and allow it cool.
See how we calculate recipe costs here.
*A packet of sazón contains about 1.5 teaspoons of sazón. If you cannot source sazón use the following:
1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/3 teaspoon ground annatto
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground oregano
*If you cannot source Adobo, mix your own and then use the amount called for in the recipe. Store the rest in an airtight container.
2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground oregano
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
*Pimento-stuffed green olives are also known as Spanish Olives or Manzanilla Olives.
How to Make Picadillo – Step by Step Photos
Place a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add 1 diced onion and 1 diced red bell pepper to the pan and cook until the onions are transparent.
Add 1 tablespoon of minced garlic to the pan and cook until fragrant.
Add the pound of ground beef to the pan and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon coarse salt, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons sazón, and 1 teaspoon adobo. As the beef browns, break up big chunks with your spoon.
When the beef has browned, add the 1/2 cup sofrito and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Break up any remaining chunks of ground beef.
Add the 1/2 cup olives, 1/4 cup raisins, 1/2 tablespoon white vinegar, 15 ounces tomato sauce, 2 bay leaves, and 1/4 cup water.
Continue to cook, occasionally stirring, for 10 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and allow the Picadillo to cool slightly before serving. Tell me how long it takes for everyone to start talking again!
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