Classic Cuban Picadillo with ground beef and spices served over rice and black beans. A hearty plate of food to warm the soul!

Cuban Picadillo

Cuban Picadillo - Spiced ground beef and pork mixed with sweet and savory ingredients and simmered makes for a faster version of a classic picadillo recipe.

Some might think that knowing a food blogger like Yours Truly would be fantastic because you’ll be occasionally invited for extravagant meals and fancy dinners.

That is sometimes true.

But sometimes you might also get something that looks like Hamburger Helper.

When this recipe won the poll last week, I browsed the recipe and quickly realized that it would feed more than two so I invited some friends over. I then proceeded to serve them what is essentially street food, but they didn’t complain because they are good people. Also, because this Cuban Picadillo happened to be pretty darn good.


Cuban Picadillo

Spiced ground beef and pork mixed with sweet and savory ingredients and simmered makes for a faster version of a classic picadillo recipe.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Course Main Dishes
Cuisine Cuban
Servings 6 Servings


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 medium onion minced
  • 1 green pepper minced
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • ¾ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup beef broth
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ½ cup chopped green olives
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Basic Rice and Beans:

  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1 jalapeno seeded and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 can 15-ounnce black beans rinsed
  • Salt and pepper


  • Combine beef, pork, water, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Combine well and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
  • Dice onions and bell peppers finely. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and add peppers and onions along with oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Cook and stir frequently until veggies start to brown slightly, about 8 minutes.
  • Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Then add tomatoes and wine and cook, using the liquid to scrape up any bits. Cook for another few minutes.
  • Stir in broth, raisins and bay leaves and bring mixture to a slight simmer.
  • Add meat mixture in 2-inch pieces to the pot and simmer gently. Cover and stir occasionally to break up meat as it cooks. Simmer for 10 minutes, but try not to overcook the meat or it will dry out.
  • Remove bay leaves and stir in olives and capers. Season with vinegar and salt and pepper.
  • Serve over beans and rice.
  • For beans and rice:
  • Add a drizzle of oil to a medium pot over medium heat. Add onions, jalapeno, and garlic and cook until soft, about five minutes. Season with a pinch of salt.
  • Stir in 1 cup of rice and cook for 30 seconds. Add 2 cups of water (refer to rice instructions for exact amount) along with drained and rinsed black beans. Stir together.
  • Cover pot and cook for 15-20 minutes over medium-low heat until rice is cooked through and liquid is absorbed.
  • Fluff with a fork and serve while warm.


Picadillo recipe from Cook’s Illustrated.


Serving: 1plateCalories: 660kcalCarbohydrates: 42gProtein: 30gFat: 39gSaturated Fat: 13gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 19gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 108mgSodium: 344mgPotassium: 730mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 139IUVitamin C: 24mgCalcium: 85mgIron: 4mg
Keyword Beef Recipes, Picadillo, Rice

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The Cuban Picadillo

This dish is a classic that’s served in a bunch of different countries and has different ingredients and elements depending on where you are. Even though I’ve never been to Cuba (or Florida for any extended period of time), I’m told that this is a more Cuban variety.

The original dish is simmered for many hours and involves whole chunks of roast that are minced and simmered and minced and simmered with lots of love. This recipe took a bit of a short-cut by mixing together some ground pork and ground beef which might mean a slightly inferior texture, but also saves you a few hours.

Just mix the two ground meats with some baking soda, salt, and pepper, and a dribble of water.  The baking soda acts as a tenderizer and keeps the meat from getting too tough as it cooks.

beef for cuban picadillo
Hard to go wrong here.

Starting the Picadillo

This recipe starts like many Latin recipes: lots of onions, peppers, and garlic. Also known as sofrito, this is a pretty important mix. Some people will pulse this in a food processor to get a really fine texture out of the vegetables but I decided to leave them a bit on the chunkier side this time around.

veg for cuban picadillo
Good veg.

In a medium to large pot, add a good drizzle of oil (about 2 tablespoons if you’re keeping track) and then add the onions, peppers, and dried spices. The cinnamon is maybe the most important of the spices. Don’t skip it.

Cook this over medium heat until the veggies start to brown slightly, about eight minutes should do the trick.

starting Cuban Picadillo
Starting the process.

Then add the garlic and cook for another few seconds. Next, toss in the wine and crushed tomatoes and use the liquid to scrape up any stuck bits.

Keep building this base by adding in some beef stock, bay leaves, and raisins. The raisins might sound weird but they give the dish some sweetness that is really welcome.

tomato for cuban picadillo
Just a bit of tomato flavor.

Cooking the Meat

Cook’s Illustrated, who originally published this recipe version, warned against browning the meat before adding it to the sauce, a step I would normally always take. You run the risk of really drying out the meat if you do that I guess, so I skipped it, followed their instructions, and just broke up the ground meat and added it to the pot.

I can see how you run the risk of drying out the meat if you brown it first, but frankly, I thought the meat could’ve used some browning. Just my opinion though!

meat added to cuban picadillo
Just a big pot of meat.

Cover your pot and let the meat simmer in the sauce for 10-15 minutes. Stir it occasionally until it is cooked through. While you stir it you can break up the meat into smaller bits to make it easier to serve later.

Cuban Picadillo: A Umami Party

There are some big savory flavors that go into this version at the end, after the meat is completely cooked. If you are feeding others, I recommend asking around before tossing these into the pot. Some people, namely my wife, have intense aversions to olives and capers so I’m always willing to spoon a bit of the mixture into a separate pot.

Personally, I can’t get enough of these things.

olives for Cuban Picadillo
Now it’s getting interesting!

Add those to your pot along with a splash of red wine vinegar. Season the whole thing with more salt and pepper and it’s ready to serve!

I served mine over a really basic beans and rice (see the print version for instructions) and garnished it with cilantro.

What I found funny about this dish is that for what is supposed to be simple fare, it has a shocking number of ingredients!  But don’t let that stop you from giving it a shot and don’t be afraid to change it up a bit (just don’t skip the cinnamon).  After all, people have been serving this recipe in one form or another for decades so don’t feel obligated to any step or ingredient.

The flavors do work though and even my dinner guests gave it good reviews for what is essentially a meat pile on a plate.

Classic Cuban Picadillo with ground beef and spices served over rice and black beans. A hearty plate of food to warm the soul!

10 Responses to “Cuban Picadillo” Leave a comment

  1. This looks really, really good…I’m with your wife on the olives, but I’m generally outvoted in my house so I pick them out. Do you think this would work in a slow cooler? With sports and school activities there’s three nights a week where we’re *really* short on time and I’m always trying to try new things for those evenings.

    1. I think absolutely! I would keep it on low so as not to overcook the meat but it shoudl work fine! Don’t stir in the olives and stuff until right before you serve it or they will overpower everything.

  2. Simple fare is always a winner for us! And although there’s a long list of ingredients, they’re not uncommon ones and we usually already have them on hand anyway!

  3. Other times when I’ve seen picadillo in process, there has been a good deal of sugar – white refined sugar – as an ingredient. I don’t know why, but this really turned me off. I don’t have a problem with meat and sweet generally – honey ham, curry with chutney, sweet barbecue sauces, etc. – fine. But sugar and ground beef together? Blech. I like how this recipe can get some sweetness out of the raisins instead.

  4. I’ve only ever made Gina from SkinnyTaste’s version, and it was amazing! Thanks for reminding me of this great dish and giving me a new variation to try! :-)

  5. Hey, it looks fantastic too me, not just “meat on a plate”. And what do you have against “street food”? You food elitist! (ha ha)

  6. Nick, being Cuban myself I can tell you we do it slightly different, could be regional. I certainly don’ use any jalapenos in the beans and do use bay leaves.
    I think the most centric ingredient for both is the cumin, used throughout all of the Cuban cuisine, perhaps due to the Spanish/Moor influence.
    I don’t add cinnamon, and funny enough I’ve found it to be great in “Arroz con Pollo”!
    Also, at home we tend to dry it a bit more in cooking.
    If you would like, although it is very similar to yours, I could share mine.
    BTW, in the spirit of your book, we make empanadas with the leftovers and even our version of Sheppard’s Pie, made with ripe to very ripe plantains, boiled, mashed and then used like mashed potatoes.
    Keep up the awesome recipes!

  7. This was delicious! I for one love the olive and caper combo. I made it with some mushrooms for myself and did the meat version for the man, surprisingly he keeps saying how good it is, I figured the olives or raisins would be his issue!

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