This easy Mexican picadillo recipe is a one-pot meal with authentic Mexican flavors. Ground beef simmers in a tomato broth with mixed vegetables. The result is a filling, family-friendly dish, perfect for topping tostadas, making tacos, filling empanadas, or stuffing into roasted poblano peppers.
Where does picadillo come from?
This particular dish is common in many Latin American countries, not just here in Mexico. It is usually made with ground beef or pork, tomato sauce, and vegetables, which vary by region. Even here in Mexico, picadillo has its own regional variations.
In Oaxaca, picadillo is commonly made with shredded pork and includes spices like cinnamon, marjoram as well as plantains, capers, raisins, and almonds. The mixture is then used to stuff chiles.
In some regions, achiote is used to condiment and flavor the dish. In other regions, like Zacatecas, cumin and saffron are used.
This particular version is common here in central Mexico, using ground beef as the base, a tomato-based sauce, and vegetables like green beans, potatoes, carrots, and peas.
What does picadillo mean in Spanish?
The word picadillo comes from the Spanish verb picar which means to mince or finely chop. Originally in Mexico, this dish was made by cooking and then finely chopping pieces of beef or pork. Thus, the name refers to how the ingredients are finely chopped to make the final dish.
I think of this picadillo as a Mexican-ized version of what we would call beef hash in English. Beef is chopped or ground and then cooked with vegetables. The difference here is that the meat can be either pork or beef and the mixture is simmered with a tomato-based sauce to bring authentic Mexican flavors to this meal. Also, we aren’t starting with leftover roast beef (as most beef hash recipes do) and there are a variety of vegetables that can be used in the Mexican version (not just potatoes and onions like traditional beef hash).
How to make easy Mexican picadillo
This dish is fast to put together and requires only one pot making it a regular in my menu rotation! Since there are no spicy chiles, this is perfect for kids or those who are sensitive to heat. And the warm and comforting flavors please both kids and adults.
Start by browning ground beef seasoned with salt and pepper. You will want to break up the ground beef to ensure there are no large clumps. While the beef is cooking, blend the tomatoes, onions, garlic, cumin, and broth until smooth.
Add the tomato mixture to the pan once the beef is browned. You will also want to add in the dried oregano and the bay leaf for extra flavor at this point. Turn up the heat to maintain a simmer and add in the diced vegetables. You will want to make sure that the vegetables are roughly the same size as the size of the peas or corn (if using). That will ensure that the vegetables cook up evenly and that you get all of the vegetable and meat flavors in one bite!
The picadillo is done when the vegetables are cooked through and most of the liquid is cooked off. The mixture should be moist, but not overly wet or completely dry.
We usually enjoy this picadillo on tostadas, topped with Mexican cream and fresh or shredded Mexican cheese. But these could easily be wrapped in a warm tortilla for tacos, used to fill empanadas, or as a stuffing for roasted poblano peppers.
Looking for other Mexican beef recipes? Try my Chiles en Nogada. Enjoy!
Adpated from: Picadillo Fácil by Karla Hernández
Easy Mexican Picadillo
- 1 lb ground beef I used 90/10 ground sirloin
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 medium Roma tomatoes ~13oz or 370g
- 1/2 white onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 cup water or broth
- 1 tsp ground oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 2-2 1/2 cups mixed, diced vegetables can be fresh or frozen, like carrots, peas, corn, potato, Mexican squash, green beans
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat, about 2 minutes
- Add beef and season with salt and pepper
- Using a wooden spoon or spatula, break up the meat into small pieces
- Cook meat until browned, about 5-7 minutes. Drain any excess fat if necessary.
- While the meat is cooking, place the tomatoes, onion, garlic, broth or water, and cumin to a blender. Blend until smooth.
- Once the meat has browned, add the tomato mixture, oregano, and bay leaf to the meat. Stir to combine.
- Raise heat to medium-high heat to bring the mixture to a simmer, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the vegetables and continue simmering uncovered another 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are cooked through and liquid is reduced. The mixture should be moist, but not overly wet or completely dry.
- Check seasonings and adjust prior to serving.