Easy Cuban picadillo with ground beef recipe. This version comes together in just half an hour and is a perfect ground beef meal prep recipe! If you have extra ground beef, make some Mexican beef for tacos at the same time!
In Greenville we have this chain of restaurants that serves Cuban-style food. Grilled chicken, rice, fresh toppings, fun sauces, that kind of thing. I have one riiiiight near the hospital where I work AND they have a frequent buyer incentive program, so I eat there kind of a lot. Not one a week, but definitely more than once a month.
It's good, man. The food is allegedly really authentic and always tastes just WONDERFUL. Really great charred marinated chicken, yellow rice, and this curry mustard sauce that everyone is obsessed with. It's one of those places where the menu is big but I get the same thing every single time because I love it so much. But one day I went to get lunch and there was some kind of ground beef stew looking thing with olives in it. I. Love. Olives. Not pregnant, all the time. And Jay hates them, so I often order dishes that feature olives in restaurants since I don't cook with them all that often. The guy behind the counter told me this was "the Tuesday Picadillo," and STILL afraid to waiver from my regular order I got my regular chicken + rice with a scoop of beef on the side. Because protein.
And it was delicious.
Upon further research, I learned that picadillo and similar dishes are found in lots of Central American, South American, AND European countries, so there isn't one way to make it. Some versions feature potato and other veggies, some have more of a gravy, some are spicy, etc. My version is tomato-based, spicy and a leeetle bit sweet, and has olives. Lots of olives. I found a version that had capers AND olives, so I think if you hate olives you should make this anyway with capers, mmkay?
You need ground beef, butter, onion, garlic, cayenne pepper, coriander powder, chili powder, tomato sauce, olives, and honey. You'll also need rice to serve if you'd like - I make mine with chicken stock instead of water and add ½ teaspoon turmeric for the bright yellow color, but plain white rice is perfect too! Note the coriander in this picture. My dad brought it back for me from a trip to India from a booth called Nuts N Spices. The tag line is "driving you nuts." Kill me. Hilarious. And, a note on the olives: use any kind you want. Pimento or garlic-stuffed would be fab, or anything pitted so no one chips a tooth. These were actually blue cheese stuffed so I cut them in half, removed the stuffing, fed it to my dogs, moved on with my life. It was what I had in the fridge.
First, we'll start the beef. Browning it and breaking it up is kind of the longest step of this whole dish, so melt some butter in a skillet, add the beef, and get to stirring! I like to let the beef sit and sizzle for 3 minutes or so, then break it up, then let it sizzle some more, then kind of go back and forth so that the beef gets smaller but also has a chance to brown by being left alone sometimes.
While the beef is working, chop the onion and mince the garlic.
Add the onions and garlic to the skillet with the coriander, chili powder, and cayenne pepper. How much you use is up to you - I love to make this pretty spicy to go with the sweetness in the tomatoes and honey, but start with a little and add more later to see what you like.
Let the picadillo simmer for just a few minutes, then SERVE. If you make this early in the day that's fine, you can always splash in a little water before reheating on the stovetop if the sauce gets too thick.
I hope you love this! It's fabulous for meal prep, and if you have extra ground beef make some Mexican ground beef for tacos at the same time - also delicious, and keeps really well in the freezer.
PS I made this without beef (just started the sauce with butter + onion + garlic and went from there) and served it over grilled tofu for some vegetarians, and it was a hit that way as well! Try this soon no matter how you like to imbibe protein. Enjoy!
Quick + Easy Picadillo
- 2 tablespoons butter divided
- 1 pound lean ground beef 80/20 or leaner
- ½ medium onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon ground chili powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper plus more to taste
- 15 ounces canned tomato sauce
- ½ cup pitted chopped olives any kind you like!
- 1 tablespoon honey
- cooked rice or pita bread optional to serve
- In a large skillet, add 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter foams, add the ground beef. Cook the beef for 7-10 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the beef is browned. Use a wooden spoon to break the beef into small bits as you stir.
- When the beef is cooked through, add the onion, garlic, coriander, chili powder, and cayenne pepper. Stir for 5 minutes until the onion starts to soften, then add the tomato sauce. Stir the tomato sauce and let the sauce come to a bubble. When the tomato sauce bubbles, add the remaining butter, the olives, and the honey. Stir, and taste: add salt to your preference or more cayenne pepper for spice!
- Turn the heat to low and let the picadillo simmer for 10 minutes or until you're ready to serve. Serve over rice and/or with pita. Enjoy!
- Use any kind of olives you like! If you have some olive haters in your group, keep the pieces large or the olives whole so they can be fished out. You can also substitute capers for the olives - use ¼ cup.
- For extra-special rice, cook white rice with vegetable or chicken stock in place of water and ½ teaspoon turmeric for a bright yellow color.