Mexican Picadillo packed with lean ground beef, potatoes, and carrots in a spicy Chipotle tomato sauce. Jump to Recipe
Picadillo is a traditional Mexican dish that essentially is stewed ground beef with tomatoes, potatoes, and a little or a lot of spice depending on your preferences. It's known as a guisado, which translates to stew, and is a staple in Mexican cooking.
When it comes to making picadillo in our house, I love making mine with lots of spice, adding chipotles and whole jalapenos. But this is one of those dishes that is easy to adjust depending on what you like. You can make it barely spicy and serve chipotle peppers on the side for those that want it or make the base nice and spicy,
One of the things I love most about picadillo is that there are so many options for serving it. Sometimes I serve it on its own over some rice or wrapped in warm, corn tortillas for tacos. I almost always make a double or triple batch and use leftovers for stuffed peppers, quesadillas, burritos, and rice bowls. It also freezes great so it's nice to pop an extra serving in the freezer for later.
Now you may be wondering about another version of picadillo that includes ingredients like raisins, capers or olives, and sometimes even walnuts to their picadillo. This version comes is another Latino dish, popular in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and in South America. Same name, but one is sweet and salty and the Mexican version is spicy.
What's the difference between Mexican and Cuban Picadillo?
Both types of picadillo are made with ground beef that's simmered in a tomato-based sauce. However, these two dishes couldn't be more different. Mexican picadillo is a spicy dish that is made with potatoes and chipotle peppers. It's smoky, spicy, and it's a popular guisado that's served with rice and corn tortillas.
On the other hand, Cuban picadillo is made with red bell peppers, green olives, and sometimes raisins. It's slightly sweet with lots of salty notes from the olives. It is typically served with white rice and many times is used for a filling for empanadas.
How to Serve Picadillo
Since we are focused on the Mexican version, this dish is typically served with white rice and corn tortillas. Some people will also serve beans on the side, but since there are potatoes in the dish, I don't like adding another starch.
- Tacos are a natural option for this dish. Toast some corn tortillas, dice some fresh onions and cilantro, and grab queso fresco for even more flavor.
- Another common option is rice - white rice, Mexican rice, or you could use cauliflower rice for a lower carb option.
- For something different, consider using leftover picadillo as a topping for baked regular or sweet potatoes. Top with shredded cheddar cheese, cilantro, and green onions.
- In our house, we love serving picadillo on sopes, which are basically a thick corn cake made with the same masa as a corn tortilla. You can find them in some grocery stores and most Mexican markets.
- Although completely untraditional, I have a few friends who serve this with cooked egg noodles or pasta.
- Leftover picadillo makes the best stuffed peppers. Par-cook the peppers and then stuff them with a combination of picadillo and cooked rice. Top with a little cheese and bake.
Can this be frozen?
This is an excellent recipe to double or triple and keep in the freezer for a quick meal. Let it fully cool before freezing. For easy storage, use a large plastic freezer bag and press the picadillo flat. Freeze it flat so it doesn't take up so much space in the freezer.
Defrost overnight in the fridge and then reheat in a pot or the microwave. To quickly defrost, run the bag under hot water to loosen the edges. Then add frozen to a large skillet and reheat over medium heat.
Recipe Tips and Ideas
There are lots of ways to customize this recipe and make it yours.
- Swap in ground turkey, ground chicken, or vegetarian ground meat instead of the beef.
- Make a Paleo version using sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes.
- Add 1-2 diced chipotle peppers for an extra spicy version. You can also serve the chipotles on the side for anyone who likes extra heat.
- If you want a milder option, swap in 1-2 whole poblano peppers for the jalapeno peppers. You can also leave out the chipotle peppers and add cumin instead to get a smoky flavor.
- If you want to make a lower carb version, swap in cauliflower florets for the potatoes. You could also use turnips, butternut squash, or rutabaga.
- If you prefer a homemade sauce, you can roast 4-6 tomatoes in the oven until they begin to burst. Add them to a blender with 1/4 onion and a few cloves of garlic. Use this instead of the canned tomato sauce.
Can I make this in the slow cooker? Instant Pot?
This recipe easily translates to the slow cooker. Start by cooking down the onion, garlic, and carrots. Then brown the beef. Add this to the slow cooker along with the potatoes, jalapenos, blended tomato sauce, and bay leaf. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours until the potatoes are tender.
For the Instant Pot, cook the vegetables and brown the beef in the Instant Pot. Then add the blended tomato sauce, potatoes, jalapenos, and bay leaf. Cook on Manual (Pressure Cook) for ten minutes and let naturally release.
This recipe has been updated with new photos, tips, and serving ideas.
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- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 U potato, peeled and diced small
- 1 U onion, diced
- 4 U cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 U carrots, diced
- 1 lb 95% lean ground beef
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 U jalapenos
- 18 oz can tomato sauce
- 4 tbsp. chipotle peppers in adobo
- 1 U bay leaf
- Salt and Pepper
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* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
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