Stovetop Diplomat

Cuban Picadillo

Cuban Picadillo


Cuban picadillo is a champion in the realm of simple, home-style comfort foods!

Before I met Joey (and his Cuban family!) I had never heard of, much less tried, Cuban picadillo. Little did I know what I was missing. Like so many of the Cuban recipes on this site, this was born from the cookbook that his mom made for him. But the advice on those pages is written in general terms, with little in the way of measurements- it was written for someone who just needed reminders so he could eyeball the amounts! So this recipe is the result of trial and error, finding out what the correct measurements really are. I can only gauge what s most delicious, but Joey has plenty of knowledge and opinions on how to make it the way he remembered from his childhood. This recipe has all of the ingredients in the original family recipe except one- capers. I am in the pro-caper camp but he’s not, so we constructed this recipe around not adding any. But if you love capers, go ahead and throw in a small jar! Just be mindful of your salt levels as they will definitely add saltiness to the dish.

As with so many Cuban dishes, this begins with creating a sofrito. Similar in concept to mirepoix, the Italian soffrito (with two f’s!) or “The Holy Trinity”, this is a flavor base that creates the groundwork for a delicious dish. The Cuban sofrito is made up of garlic, onions, bell peppers, and tomato sauce with a few spices. It may be tempting in this dish to let the vegetables (especially the onions) break down completely and become translucent, but you actually want the vegetables to retain some of their crunchy texture. You will know your sofrito is done cooking when the sauce turns a deep shade of red. Usually this takes me about 10 minutes from the time I add in the sauce.

As in all beef dishes I make, this one features 100% grass-fed ground beef. I highly suggest using grass-fed beef as I think it is significantly more delicious as well as healthier for you. You can find more information about that here. However, it is not strictly necessary and this recipe will work just as well with conventional ground beef from the grocery store.

The other two ingredients that may look unusual are vino seco and adobo con pimienta. Vino seco is a golden cooking wine often used in Cuban cuisine. Depending on your location, it may be hard to find locally although it is available online. You can find more information about it here. Although I highly recommend using this wine for an extra kick of Cuban perfection, if you absolutely cannot get your hands on it, substitute in a white cooking wine instead. As for adobo con pimienta, this is a spice blend available in most grocery stores. You can find more information about that here. It’s not brand specific, meaning that most of the major spice retailers (Goya, McCormick, and so on) all have a version. Here in Denver, Goya brand is the easiest to find- it’s available at pretty much all major grocery stores. You can also find it at almost any Hispanic grocer.

Other than that, this recipe is pretty straight-forward. Cuban Picadillo can be enjoyed on its own but is traditionally served over white rice. I’ve also used it as a taco filling and even over hot dogs for an epic chili-dog like situation. I know somewhere there’s a Cuban grandmother rolling over her grave as I type that, but it’s true. One of the other great things about it is that this recipe is absolutely better the next day- and unless you’re serving a big family there will definitely be leftovers.


Cuban Picadillo

Cuban picadillo is a champion in the realm of simple, home-style comfort foods!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 red or green bell pepper, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 8 oz can no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp adobo con pimienta
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1.5 lb 100% grass-fed ground beef (85% lean)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup vino seco (or substitute white wine)
  • 1 5.75 oz jar pimiento stuffed manzanilla olives + 1/4 cup brine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cooked white rice, for serving


  1. Add olive oil to a large pot and heat over medium heat.

  2. Add onions and cook for about 1.5 minutes, until just starting to turn translucent.

  3. Add bell pepper and garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes. You still want your vegetables to be crunchy and retain some of their texture.

  4. Lower heat to medium-low. Add tomato sauce, adobo con pimienta, oregano, and cumin. Cook until the sauce turns a deep red, stirring occasionally to keep from burning, approximately 10 minutes.

  5. Increase heat to medium again. Add ground beef and paprika and cook for another 10 or so minutes, until browned.

  6. Add bay leaf, vino seco, and olives + 1/4 cup of their brine. Cook for another 10 or so minutes, stirring occasionally.

  7. Serve over white rice.

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