Picadillo is a classic dish each Cuban holds dear to their heart. Everyone proudly proclaims that their mami’s, tia’s, or abuela’s picadillo is the very best, and they’re all right of course. Cuban picadillo has a multitude of delicious variations, and the one that follows is my mom’s. We grew up eating picadillo a whole lot. It was a weekly staple and a dish my mom could whip up in no time. Picadillo makes me nostalgic for the scents of my childhood- simmering ground beef with sofrito, cumin, and oregano that would fill the entire house and make my mouth water.
My mom’s picadillo calls for plenty of sliced green olives and plump raisins- the combination of sweet and salty with savory sofrito is sinful. I always aim to make a “perfect bite” with each element present in every spoonful. Picadillo with rice (and platanos maduros!!) is comfort food at its finest- simple and traditional. Whether you’re Cuban or not, you will find yourself craving this Cuban classic time and time again.
Cuban Picadillo with Rice (Picadillo con Arroz Blanco)
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 lb lean ground beef (or ground turkey or a combination of beef and pork)
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2-3 minced garlic cloves
- Generous splash Mojo Criollo or water
- 2 Bay leaves (laurel)
- ½ tsp salt (or more to taste)
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp sazón completa
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- ⅓ cup sliced green olives (or to taste)
- ¼ cup raisins (or to taste)
- White or Brown rice for 4 cooked as instructed (do not use jasmine rice)
Prep white or brown rice for four- it will be ready by the time you are done with the picadillo. Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium heat. Cook the onions first until soft and translucent. At this point add the minced garlic. Garlic cooks much faster than onions so add it when the onions are nearly finished.
Next add the ground beef to the pan- I turn up the heat to 6-7 during this part to really brown the beef. I stir occasionally and ‘chop’ up the ground beef with my slotted spoon. Sprinkle the browned beef with the salt, pepper, cumin, and sazón completa and incorporate. Add the tomato sauce, bay leaves, and the oregano to taste. Turn the heat down to 2-3 and let the stew simmer for about 5 minutes. Now stir in the olives and raisins; add the generous splash of mojo criollo or water. I have also added more tomato sauce depending on my mood. Simmer for another 5 minutes or until the liquid has cooked off and a rich thick stew remains.