Cuban Picadillo

September 24, 2023

Picadillo has all the elements of one of my favorite Cuban dishes, Ropa Vieja, where flank steak is braised until it falls apart like old clothes, but in a fraction of the time. In this dish, ground beef cooks super quickly making this ideal for a weeknight dinner. The onions, bell pepper and garlic – what my dad calls the Trinity of Cuban cooking – come together with the tomato sauce to form a rich and comforting sauce that gets studded with tangy, briny olives.

Many people add capers and raisins in addition to the olives for a sweet and salty mix. I leave them out because my abuela never included, and I personally don’t love raisins, but feel free to customize as you’d like! You’ll also see people add one peeled and diced russet potato in the last step to simmer with the beef and tomato sauce until it’s fork tender. I like to do this when I’m looking for an especially hearty meal in the winter. Cubans love a starch-on-starch, but who doesn’t :)

Like many dishes, this picadillo gets better the longer it sits. If you have time, keep simmering for 30 minutes to develop the flavor and even double the batch. I think this recipe can serve two super hungry people or more if you also serve with white rice, black beans and maduros.

Cuban Picadillo

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Recipe by Gabriela Rodiles Course: DinnerDifficulty: Easy


Cooking time




  • 2 cups long grain white rice

  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for rice

  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced

  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 1/4 cup sherry or white wine

  • One 15-ounce can tomato sauce

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1/4 cup pimiento-stuffed olives, halved crosswise

  • 1 lime, juiced


  • For white rice: Bring 2.5 cups water to a boil in a medium sauce pot. Once boiling, add rice, a drizzle of olive oil and a good pinch of kosher salt. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes without opening the lid!
  • For picadillo: Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, then add ground beef. Spread the ground beef into one layer to maximize the surface area and cook, undisturbed for 6-8 minutes until meat is browned and caramelized. Flip pieces and cook on other side until no pink remains. Season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and a few cracks of black pepper. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate.
  • Add the onion and bell pepper to the skillet. Season with 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt and a few cracks of black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin and oregano and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste. Cook for 30 seconds.
  • Add the sherry or wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Stir in the tomato sauce, 1 cup water, olives and bay leaf. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomato sauce thickens and turns a deep red color, 10-15 minutes, or up to 30 minutes to develop more flavor if you have time!
  • Stir in the lime juice. Discard the bay leaf. Fluff the white rice with a fork and serve with picadillo.


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