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!
Masitas de Puerco

Masitas de Puerco

One of the best things about cooking Cuban cuisine is the wide use of Pork. It is a very cheap animal to raise and perfect for the Island nation. One of the most popular ways to cook Pork is with this simple recipe for Masitas de Puerco.

Masitas de Puerco is a delicious dish that can be served as a main dish with rice, beans, and plantains. (You will find that to be the case with most Cuban dishes) or served as finger food for any fiesta. It is extremely easy to make and packed full of flavor.

Click here for the Cuban Mojo recipe.

Masitas de Puerco - Hungry Doug

Masitas de Puerco

Delicious Marinated Pork Chunks. They can be served as a main dish or even as an appetizer with toothpicks.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 12 hours 25 minutes
Course Appetizer, Main Dish
Cuisine Cuban
Servings 4 servings


  • 2 cups Mojo Criollo
  • 3 lbs Pork Loin
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 White Onion Peeled and sliced into quarter moons


  • Start making the Mojo. A link to the recipe is found above.
  • Cube the pork into bite sized pieces.
  • Combine the Cumin and Mojo into a bowl and whisk thouroughly. Add the cubed pork chunks and add the Bay Leaves. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in the fridge overnight.
  • When you are ready to cook the meal, take it out of the fridge and fry up on medium high heat. Remove the Bay leaves of course. Use the excess Mojo to cook with the Pork. When the pork is nice and brown and crispy, add the onions and cook until the onions are translucent.
  • Serve with Rice, Beans, and plantains or just place on a serving dish and ENJOY!
Mojo Criollo

Mojo Criollo

Mojo Criollo is a staple in all Cuban households. It can be used for a variety of different things including to marinade your pork roast or used as a dipping sauce for your plantains or yuca. The strong garlic mixed with the sour citrus is a powerful and delicious combination.

This is another influence we can trace back to the Arabs into Spain. They brought the flavors of the Sour Orange with them. When Spain colonized Cuba, they brought with them that flavor. Once in Cuba, the Garlic was added.

Give it a try! You will not be disappointed.

Cuban Mojo Criollo - Hungry Doug

Mojo Criollo

Here we have a traditional Cuban dipping sauce and marinade. It is used in pretty much every Cuban dish and goes great as a dipping sauce for Plantains and Yuca.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Sauce
Cuisine Cuban
Servings 1 Cup


  • 12 Cloves Fresh Garlic
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 cup Orange Juice
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil


  • Peel and mash the garlic cloves using a garlic press and combine with all the other ingredients.
  • Enjoy!
5 Basic Cuban Foods EVERYONE needs to try

5 Basic Cuban Foods EVERYONE needs to try

When you think of Cuba, what do you think?  Mojitos? Cigars?  Old Cars?  What if I told you that Cuba had one of the best food cuisines in the world? You don’t have to leave the United States even to get some of the best Cuban Food in the world.  The capital of Cuban cuisine isn’t in Havana, it is in Miami.  Next time you are down that way, go experience all the love that is Cuban cuisine.

Don’t believe me?  Give any of these 5 dishes a taste, and you will be coming back for more.


Every Cuban knows what Picadillo is, knows how it is served, and can cook it with their eyes closed.  It is the basic staple food for all Cubans and many other dishes depend on it as well.  The mashup of ground beef, tomato sauce, and spices is served over rice is a classic dish you need to try.  Different variations include raisins or potatoes in the recipe.  Now before you go try and mess with perfection, try my recipe down below before adding anything extra.

To find out how to make it, click here.

Cuban Sandwich

How can you have a Cuban food list without including a classic Cuban Sandwich.  Here in the United States, we have different variations of this, but there is one common thread.  It has Roasted Pork, Ham, Swiss Cheese, Yellow Mustard, and Pickles.  Wrap all that up in a fresh French Bread and toast it and you mi amigo, have a perfect Cuban Sandwich.  

To find out how to make it, click here.

Arroz con Pollo

Not that into red meat?  Ready for a classic that never gets old?  Come have some Arroz con Pollo.  Literally, it means Chicken and Rice.  A flavorful dish centered on a nice Spanish Rice with many different vegitables keeps you coming back.  Nothing fancy, just good old comfort food.

To find out how to make it, click here.

Ropa Vieja with Plantains, White Rice, and Black Beans

Ropa Vieja

Few dishes that I prepare get more fuss than the classic Ropa Vieja.  Literally meaning Old Clothes, Ropa Vieja is a slow simmered beef dish with onions and peppers usually served with white rice and a side of Black Beans.  Using a cut of Beef that is typically very tough and stringy, when you cook the meat on slow, add a whole bunch of spices, tomato sauce, onions, and peppers, you get a beautiful symphony of flavors.  

 To find out how to make it, click here.

Sides: Black Beans, Croquetas, Pasteles de Carne, Plantains

The last dish on our journey isnt a dish at all, they are the sides.  While each one of these dishes is amazing in and of itself, you have to get the full effect of Cuban cuisine by adding any one or all of the following:

Black Beans: Just how Abuelita used to make.  Simmering on the stove since the morning.  Heavy on the spices and a perfect accompaniment to any Cuban Dish.

Croquetas: A rich Ham Croquette served on the side.  Eat just one, or take the whole plato.  

Pasteles de Carne:  A perfect way to use up that Picadillo that has been sitting in the fridge.  Delicious puff paistry with a honey glaze makes this a perfect appetizer.

Plantains:  No latin dish is complete without fried plantains.  You know you saw your grandmothers Plantain smasher and thought you could make them yourself.  Now you can, and you will never turn back.

To find out how to make Croquetas, click here.

To find out how to make Pasteles de Carne, click here.

To find out how to make Plantains, click here.

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!