This Slow Cooker Picadillo is made with ground meat and potatoes cooked in a spicy tomato sauce. It's full of flavor and easy to make.
Picadillo is one of my all-time favorite twists on meat and potatoes. It's a dish that hails from many countries Spain, Mexico, Cuba, and the Philippines to name a few and every country has its own take.
My personal favorite is the spicy Mexican version normally made with ground beef, spicy tomato sauce, and potatoes.
Today we are mixing things up a bit and substituting lean ground turkey for the beef and cooking it in the slow cooker instead of simmering it on the stove for hours.
Normally it is served with tortillas but it works great over rice, served in sandwich rolls, or stuffed into peppers with rice. If you love these types of flavors, you will also want to try this Slow Cooker Chicken Chile Verde and Slow Cooker Beef Machaca.
What is picadillo?
Picadillo has origins in Latin America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Philippines. It is made with ground meat, usually ground beef, cooked in a rich tomato sauce.
Depending on where the picadillo is from, it may have olives, raisins, potatoes, peas, or carrots. Most versions are served with white rice and fresh cilantro. It is also a common filling for empanadas.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Here is everything you need to make this Mexican-style picadillo.
- Ground meat: The recipe uses ground turkey but you could swap in ground beef for a more traditional spin.
- Potatoes: Potatoes are key ingredient in picadillo. Any type of potato can be used in the recipe and you can peel them or leave the skin on. Sweet potatoes can be used as a paleo option. For a more traditional Latin American picadillo, leave out the potatoes.
- Tomatoes: Picadillo is always made with a rich tomato sauce. Canned tomato sauce works great as long as you add plenty of spices and flavor to it.
- Onions and garlic: Onions and garlic add flavor to the ground meat and the sauce. Make sure to saute them until they are nice and soft. Normally white or yellow onions are used. Fresh is best for this recipe.
- Spices: Cumin, oregano, bay leaves, salt, and pepper add flavor to the sauce and beef mixture. Some recipes also add garlic and onion powder to amplify those flavors.
- Jalapenos and chipotle peppers: Mexican picadillo has some spice. Whole jalapenos add flavor to the sauce without adding lots of spice since they are cooked whole. The chipotle peppers in adobo add spice and smokiness to the sauce. Use less for a less spicy sauce.
Variations: For a Latin American picadillo, leave out the potatoes, jalapenos, and chipotle peppers. Then add in about 1/2 cup of green olives and 1/4 cup of raisins. You can also add 2 tablespoons of capers and a pinch of cinnamon.
Recipe Tips and Ideas
Here are some tips and recipe variations to keep in mind as you prepare this picadillo.
- Brown the meat: Always brown ground meat before adding it to the slow cooker. This helps some of the fat to render out and gives the meat better color and flavor.
- Add more veggies: Saute some bell peppers with the onion and garlic to add another layer of flavor. When the dish is ready, stir in some frozen peas.
- Use fresh tomatoes: This dish is sometimes made with fresh Roma tomatoes as well. Add them to a blender with the spices, sauteed garlic and onion, and chipotle peppers.
- Add bouillon: To add more beefy flavor to the dish, added a cube of beef bouillon to the slow cooker.
- Make it less spicy: Some versions of picadillo are not spicy at all. You can leave the spice out completely or simply use fewer chipotles or jalapenos.
Side Dishes for Picadillo
- Rice: White rice is the most classic side dish for picadillo. Some people also like to serve it with cilantro lime rice. Use leftovers to make taco bowls with rice or cauliflower rice.
- Beans: Make some homemade black beans, pinto beans, or refried beans on the side.
- Corn tortillas: In any Mexican kitchen serving picadillo, there is always a pile of warm corn tortillas on the side.
- Vegetables: Add some extra vegetables to your meal with this easy spring mix salad, easy corn salad, or a Mexican Street Corn Salad.
- Garnish: Picadillo is almost always finished with fresh cilantro.
Storage and Reheating
Picadillo keeps well in the fridge for 4-5 days and even tastes better after a night in the fridge. Make sure to let it cool completely before storing it in the fridge.
Picadillo also freezes well. Let it cool first and then store it in an airtight container for up to 3 months in the freezer.
To reheat, let the picadillo defrost in the fridge overnight. Then reheat it in a large pot on the stovetop over medium heat until warmed through.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the most common questions about making this picadillo.
Mexican picadillo sauce is made with tomatoes, onion, garlic, chipotle peppers, cumin, and oregano.
Latin American and Cuban picadillo sauce is made with tomatoes, onion, garlic, cumin, and oregano.
For the best flavor and texture, it is best to brown the ground meat before adding it to the slow cooker. With that said, you can put ground meat in the slow cooker raw.
Slow Cooker Picadillo
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- 1.5 lbs 93% lean ground turkey (or ground beef)
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1 potato, peeled and diced small
- 2 carrots, diced
- 3 jalapenos (kept whole)
- 14 oz can tomato sauce
- 4 tbsp. chipotle peppers in adobo (adjust to taste)
- 1 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.
For a more traditional picadillo, swap in ground beef for ground turkey.
For picadillo with Latin American flavors, leave out the potatoes, jalapenos, and chipotle peppers. Add 1/2 cup of green olives and 1/4 cup of raisins.
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