Mexican Picadillo is a warm and comforting food, but not spicy, that is easy to make on a week night. It requires minimal effort, cooks in one pan, and is ready to eat in about 45 minutes. Picadillo is eaten all across Latin America and there are many variations that include a whole plethora of different ingredients. However, the recipe here is based off of that which my family has always made in the Monterrey region of Mexico, located in the north of the country.
What is Mexican Picadillo
At its most basic, Picadillo is a hash consisting of potatoes and ground beef cooked in a flavorful sauce. That’s it. As I’ve already stated, picadillo is enjoyed across Latin American cultures which means there are variations by country. In fact, I’d go as far as saying every Latin American family has their own recipe for Picadillo. That means there are likely thousands of variations and really no right or wrong way to make this dish. Mexican Picadillo is very versatile and goes great in tacos, gorditas, on tostadas, or served with rice and beans. To make a delicious and “proper” Picadillo you need to include three things at a minimum.
Potatoes: If you don’t like potatoes then this dish isn’t for you. I’ve never heard of a Picadillo recipe that didn’t include potatoes and Mexican Picadillo definitely requires it. Potatoes soak up all that delicious sauce and add to the overall enjoyment of the meal.
Protein: My family always uses ground beef as the protein in our Mexican Picadillo recipe. Whatever protein source you choose, make sure it is in the form of ground meat. The consistency is much better and that makes this dish as versatile as it is. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan then you could easily substitute meat for vegetable crumbles.
Sauce: The sauce brings the dish together and should be tomato-based. Without the sauce, you simply have a bowl of cooked meat and vegetables.
You can also add in other ingredients to the Mexican Picadillo you make at home. I am HUGE proponent of food fitting your own and your family’s palettes. Therefore, take this recipe and make it your own. Some Latin American cultures add raisins or olives to their Picadillo. You could switch up the spices or include additional spices. Just remember preparing this meal should be really easy and not take you all day. You can easily serve it with a green salad, rice, beans, and tortillas.
Make another great Mexican dish with my recipe for tostadas here!
Why I Love Mexican Picadillo
To me, Mexican Picadillo is the food of nostalgia as it brings back memories in two different countries. On the one hand, as a child, my mother made a picadillo at least once a month if not more often. Her recipe was a bit different than mine, including additional ingredients such as corn, but it was definitely tasty and filling. I think at that point in my life foods that were filling were important as we did not always have very much money. Mexican Picadillo is definitely a cost efficient meal as it can be made with ingredients people tend to typically have in their kitchens. It likely was created out of necessity and evolved over time through the filters of various cultures.
Later in life, I moved to Mexico for a year and lived with my Aunt Elena in the city of Monterrey. She would make Mexican Picadillo at least once a week. I always enjoyed eating it for dinner and sometime she’d send it with me to school in tacos or gorditas. My recipe is largely based off what my Aunt cooked. It is comfort food at its best because it is a no fuss meal you can cook quickly and makes everyone fill happily full.
MY Picadillo Recipe
As I’ve already said multiple times, there is no uniform way of making Mexican Picadillo save for the three main components of potatoes, ground protein, and tomato-based sauce. Other than that, you can feel free to add in or omit any ingredients you like from the recipe I provide below. My picadillo includes extra ingredients I enjoy including carrots, bell peppers, and sweet peas. I also include a bit more cumin in the meat mixture as well as thyme and oregano because I like those flavors a lot. One last ingredient I add is achiote which adds an earthy, peppery flavor. But you can leave this one out if you are unable to find the spice or if you aren’t sure you’ll like it.
Without further ado, here is my recipe for Mexican Picadillo. I hope you enjoy it!
- Large nonstick pan
- Wooden spoon
FOR THE SAUCE
- 4 Roma tomatoes, chopped into quarters
- 1/2 large yellow or white onion, peeled and chopped into quarters
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/4 Jalapeno pepper, seeds removed to reduce spiciness. You may leave seeds in if you prefer.
- 1/2 cup cilantro
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbs cumin
- 1.5 cups water
FOR THE MEAT MIXTURE
- 1/2 onion, small diced
- 1 lb Ground Beef, chicken, or turkey
- 2 potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and small diced
- 1 cup sweet peas
- 1/2 tbsp paprika
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tsp Oregano
- 1 lime, juiced
- Add 4 tomatoes, 1/2 onion, 4 cloves of garlic, 1/4 jalapeno,1/2 cup cilantro, 1/2 salt, 1 tbs cumin, and 1.5 cups of water to a blender.
- Blend until smooth. If too thick, add another cup of water and blend until smooth. You want a sauce that is neither too thick or to liquid. Set aside.
- Saute diced onion over medium high heat until slightly translucent. (Approximately 3 minutes)
- Add ground meat to pan. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat into a few large pieces. Let it brown for a few minutes (approximately 5 minutes). As the beef begins to brown, break the meat into smaller and smaller pieces. Stir the meat occasionally until all the beef is browned.
- Add the potatoes and carrots to the pan. Cook for approximately 5 minutes on medium heat until the potatoes and carrots are slightly soft. Stir occasionally.
- Add the sweet peas, paprika, bay leaf, oregano, sauce, and lime juice to the pan. Stir to combine. Cover with a lid. Lower heat to medium. Cook for 15 minutes checking every so often to ensure the food is not sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Remove lid and cook for another 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens up a bit.
- Remove from heat and spoon out mixture onto a plate.
- Serve with beans, rice, and flour tortillas. You may also consider serving with a small green salad drizzled with Mexican table cream as well as sliced radishes.
Will you make this easy and delicious for your family?
Comment below to let me know how it goes!
Pin Me, Please!