This Mexican Picadillo is served up with a healthy dose of nostalgia. No matter where you were born, it’ll remind you of some home cooking you grew up with, but of course with a little more spice
That’s because most cultures have a classic meat-and-potatoes dish that makes regular appearances in the home kitchen (hash!). Mexican picadillo fits this bill quite well and is a delicious, easy-to-make dish that does an exemplary job of jarring loose a few of your kitchen table memories.
MEXICAN PICADILLO RECIPE
You’ll come across wayward variations of picadillo dependent on which country you’re having dinner in. I’ll list a few tweaks you can make, but I think it’s worth trying out a no-frills version the first time you make it to see how well it gets along with your taste buds.
Start by roasting 5-6 plum tomatoes in the oven at 400F.
You’ll also need one potato and a medium-sized carrot.
Keep in mind that the potatoes will be cooking in the stew; I usually cut them smallish so they’ll need less time to cook.
Saute 1/4 onion in some oil for a few minutes. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic, saute briefly, and then add 1 lb. ground beef and 1 teaspoon of salt. You’ll need a wide, deep skillet to hold all the picadillo.
You only need to brown the meat lightly because there’s an extended simmer time coming up. Once you lose most of the pink color add the potatoes and carrots.
Saute briefly as you gather the other ingredients.
By now the tomatoes are roasted enough. Add them to a blender or food processor, along with 3/4 onion, 1 jalapeno, and 2 garlic cloves.
This is essentially a double batch of our Tomato Jalapeno Salsa. Tomatoes and capsaicin (heat) are the base flavors in picadillo and blending them together is an easy way to flavor the meat.
Add this tomato-jalapeno mixture to the beef along with 1 teaspoon cumin, freshly cracked black pepper, and one cup of stock (or water). Combine well.
We usually make picadillo on the threshold of Whoa Spicy!
A dose of pure chili powder is a great way to increase the heat and add another layer of flavor, but you can consider this optional as you’ll already have quite a bit of heat from the jalapeno. (Note: I’m not a fan of generic chili powders and will always recommend buying pure chili powders or making your own chili powder at home.)
Let the picadillo simmer on medium-low heat for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked all the way through. By then the sauce will have reduced quite a bit, but ideally you’ve still got some liquid leftover.
And now take another taste for seasoning. I added another generous pinch of salt at this point.
Yes, Mexican picadillo is a great option for tacos, burritos, and even empanadas, but it’s surprising how satisfying it can be when humbly served over rice. (Especially over this Cilantro Lime Rice).
If you’ve got liquid left over in the pan definitely drizzle it over the top of the meat and rice. So good!
You’ll also frequently see Mexican picadillo served with raisins. It’s worth experimenting with this at some point, but keep in mind that tastes vary and you’ll probably get a 50/50 approval rating on raisins in your picadillo.
You can add the raisins in for the last few minutes of the simmer. You could also make the main batch without raisins and give people the option of adding them after the fact.
Olives and capers are also frequently served up in picadillo but I don’t consider them to be essential for this version. You’ll also occasionally see chorizo added to the beef for additional flavor.
But sometimes the simplest recipes are the best, so I think it’s worth making this no-frills version to see how much you like it.
And if you later find yourself craving some home cooked Mexican picadillo to escape from the hustle and bustle of the world, then you’re on the right track.
Update: we just put up a recipe for a Chipotle Cinnamon Picadillo that uses the same process as this Mexican Picadillo. See here. And our latest post uses this Picadillo to make a skillet pot pie.
For the Tomato Jalapeno blender mixture:
- After rinsing the tomatoes and cutting out the stems, roast them in a 400F oven for 20-25 minutes or until you need them.
- Saute 1/4 onion in oil over medium heat for a few minutes. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and saute briefly. Add 1 lb. ground beef and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook over medium heat until the ground beef is lightly browned. (You can drain off some fat if you want.)
- Chop the potato and carrot into smallish pieces (larger pieces will require more simmering time). Once the beef is lightly browned, add the potato and carrot. Saute briefly as you gather the additional ingredients.
- For the Tomato-Jalapeno mixture, add the roasted tomatoes to a blender or food processor along with 3/4 onion, 2 garlic cloves and 1 jalapeno. Combine well.
- Add the Tomato-Jalapeno mixture to the beef, along with 1 teaspoon cumin, some freshly cracked black pepper, and 1 cup of stock (or water). I also add 2 teaspoons of chili powder but that is optional.
- Combine well and simmer over medium-low heat for 20-25 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked all the way through.
- Take a final taste for seasoning. I added another generous pinch of salt to this batch. Serve immediately.
- If you want to serve your Picadillo with raisins, you can add them to the beef mixture for the last few minutes of the simmer or you can simply add them as a final garnish.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.