How to make Cuban Picadillo

How to make Cuban Picadillo

Cuban Picadillo…Anyone that has ANY Cuban blood in them can make Picadillo from scratch, it’s a known fact.  It is the most basic of recipes that are simple to make, doesn’t break the bank, and is done in a matter of minutes.  When I was growing up, this was one of my mom’s go-to recipes when there wasn’t a lot of time and people were hungry.  I mean, how basic can you get with ground beef, olives, and tomato sauce and spices.

Origins of Picadillo

Many picadillo recipes derive from the one that Nitza Villapol put in her cookbook “Cocina Criolla,” published in 1954. Villapol, a writer and television host, was the closest thing Cuba has had to a Julia Child. Her shows were broadcast there for more than 40 years, and her cookbooks were a mainstay of Cuban home cooking from the 1959 revolution until her death in 1998.

Cortina’s first picadillo was a Villapol recipe, she said. Her mother had packed her off to Gainesville with the cookbook. “It was probably just beef and raisins then,” she said of her early attempts at the dish. “The first time, I skipped the tomatoes entirely.”

Picadillo roughly translates from the Spanish as “mince.” The dish bears some resemblance to American sloppy joes, or to hash. Some cooks use tomato sauce in the base. (Cortina’s mother, for one.) Others insist on fresh tomatoes.

Source: The New York Times

Take note, this meat is also used as a filling in several different recipes including Papas Rellenas and Empanadas.  You can serve it on Potatoes, Rice, in a sandwich, or as a side dish.


Hungry Doug- Cuban Picadillo

Cuban Picadillo

This is a recipe for a traditional Cuban Picadillo that doesn't break the bank and that every Cuban should know how to make.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Cuban
Servings 4 people


  • 1 pound groud beef The leaner the better
  • 1 Green Pepper chopped fine
  • 1 Onion Diced
  • 1 can Tomato Sauce
  • 1 small can Tomato Paste
  • 1/2 cup Green Olives Sliced
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Cilantro for Garnish


  • In a large skillet, start to brown the ground beef with the green pepper and onion.
  • Once browned, drain the grease from the saucepan.
  • Combine all the other ingredients and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  • Remove that Bay Leaf and serve it up over some rice and add the cilantro and WHAM, you will be craving Mojitos and Cuban Cigars in no time.


There is a topic of hot debate among Cuban households, and that is the addition of Potatoes and Raisins to the mix. My family are Picadillo purists and those things are blasphemy. If you would like to adulterate the recipe with raisins and potatoes, be my guest. The wonderful thing about Picadillo is that it is very forgiving, so experiment away!
Cuban Ham Croquettes (Croquetas de Jamon)

Cuban Ham Croquettes (Croquetas de Jamon)


You should see the looks I get.  I am probably one of the whitest Latinos you have ever seen.  I guess my 1/4 Irish and 1/4 English heritage won out on the looks department.  THAT BEING SAID…Let us take a look at one of the staple appetizers in the Cuban household.


They can be served with anything for any occasion.  Being that they take a long time to make, it isn’t something that you can whip up in a few minutes.  You need to plan to make them.

Cuban Ham Croquettes

A classic Cuban appetizer that is a staple for any Cuban dish or party.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 45 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Cuban
Servings 16 Croquettes



  • 2 cups Ham Minced
  • 1 tsp Onion MInced
  • 4 tbsp Butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp white wine dry
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups cracker meal

Dipping Sauce

  • 1 cup mayonaise
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 4 slices pickled jalapenos diced fine
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika



  • Throw the ham in a blender or food processor. Keep going until you get a total of 2 cups of pureed ham.
  • Combine milk, flour, salt and pepper and set aside.
  • Melt the butter in a 2 qt. pot and saute onions over medium heat until translucent.
  • Add the milk mixture and stir constantly over med-hi heat until the mixture begins to thicken into a dough-like consistency.
  • Remove from the heat, add the minced ham to the mixture and combined until it is thoroughly mixed.
  • At this stage, you will want to transfer the “masa” to a bowl and put in the fridge to chill for several hours or put in the freezer until the masa is firm but not frozen.
  • When the masa is firm enough, take a tablespoon of meat in your hands and roll it like a small hot dog and continue until you’ve made approximately 16 croquettes. If you make them small/party size, you’ll end up with roughly 30-35 of them. Place the croquettes in a container that will fit in your freezer, using a sheet of wax paper in between the stacks.

Breading and Frying

  • Beat the two eggs and spread the cracker meal on a plate or shallow surface. Dip croquettes in the egg, then cracker meal, twice.
  • Heat the oil in a pan or deep fryer to 375 degrees. Fry croquettes until golden brown. Transfer from pan to paper towels, to soak up excess oil.
  • Enjoy!