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Inspired by classic Cuban Picadillo, this quick and easy Instant Pot spin on the traditional recipe includes sweet raisins, salty pimento-stuffed olives, and dry white wine.

partially eaten meal of instant pot picadillo and rice on plate

Picadillo is a Latin American dish of ground beef and potatoes in a flavorful tomato-based sauce. It’s easy to customize and most regions, countries, and even families have their own special recipe for it.

Similar to chili, most Picadillo recipes contain beef, tomato, and spices to give it layers of flavor. The word Picadillo comes from the Spanish word “picar” which means “chop” or “mince”. In this sense, this dish is also similar to hash, which is typically made from chopped meat, potatoes, and spices.

easy picadillo made in instant pot

I love the sweet and tangy flavor profile of Cuban Picadillo! Here we start with caramelized onions for the first layer of flavor. Dry white wine deglazes the pan and adds a pleasant tang, and a blend of herbs and spices season the dish. Ground beef, bell peppers, and potato make it a full meal.

The real magic happens with the combination of sweet raisins and salty pimento-stuffed olives in a tomato-based sauce. And if you want to bump up the tangy, salty factor a bit more, you can add capers to the dish.

The end result is a well-balanced flavor-packed meat and potato dish. It’s a full meal on its own, or it’s delicious served with rice.

overhead view of serving dish with picadillo with raisins and olives

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Sweet and salty flavor profile. Cuban Picadillo has a beautiful balance of flavors, thanks to sweet raisins and salty olives!
  • Full meal in one pot. With a delicious blend of meat and vegetables, this is a hearty stand-alone dinner even if you don’t feel like making rice to serve with it.
  • Easy to make, even on weeknights. With just a little bit of hands-on prep time, because we use the Instant Pot, this meal is manageable even mid-week!
  • Leftovers are even better. Plan to make extra so there’s enough for another meal; you’ll be happy you did! And bonus, this dish freezes well so it’s great for meal prep.

Instant Pot Picadillo Ingredients and Substitutions

Ingredients Explained

In this section I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas where applicable. For the full recipe (including the ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.

authentic cuban picadillo ingredients
  • Olive oil – We cook the onion in olive oil until it’s starting to caramelize.
  • Yellow onion – Onion adds complexity and depth of flavor. And because we let it start to caramelize, it also adds sweet notes for balance.
  • Garlic – For flavor and aroma.
  • Ground beef – Ground beef is a component in classic Cuban Picadillo. If you’re looking for new ways to jazz up ground beef, this recipe is it!
  • Green bell pepper and red bell pepper – You can use all one color bell pepper if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Dry white wine – We use a splash of dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc) to deglaze the Instant Pot. You can use water or broth if you prefer.
  • Potato – To lower the carbs, feel free to omit the potato.
  • Tomato sauce – We only need a cup of tomato sauce here because this dish isn’t overly saucy. It has the texture of thick chili, not marinara sauce.
  • Beef stock – Or you can use water.
  • Dried oregano – Adds complexity with its pungent, earthy flavor notes.
  • Ground cumin – Cumin adds an earthy, slightly smoky element.
  • Adobo seasoning – Adobo seasoning is optional, but it elevates the flavor of this whole dish and adds a certain je ne sais quoi.
  • Salt and black pepper – These pantry-staple seasonings add a ton of flavor.
  • Tomato paste – A little bit of tomato paste helps thicken the sauce.
  • Raisins – Sweet raisins and salty olives are traditional in Cuban Picadillo, and they make this version truly unique.
  • Pimento-stuffed olives – Olives add a salty, tangy flavor and balance the sweetness of raisins.
  • Cilantro – This is an optional garnish. Cilantro adds fresh, bright flavor and a pop of green color.
picadillo with ground beef and rice on plate with instant pot in background

How to Make Picadillo in the Instant Pot

how to make homemade picadillo in the instant pot
  1. Press the “Sauté” function on the Instant Pot and wait for it to heat up. Once hot, add the oil and onion. Cook until the onion is starting to caramelize, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add the beef and use a wooden spoon to break it apart and spread it out evenly. Stir in the green and red bell pepper, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally (it’s ok if the meat isn’t fully browned at this point). Stir in the wine and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the potato, tomato sauce, beef stock, dried oregano, ground cumin, Adobo seasoning, salt, black pepper, tomato paste, raisins, and olives, and stir to combine. Press “Cancel” to stop the “Sauté” function. Cover the Instant Pot, making sure to set the lid to “Sealing”, and cook on “Manual, High Pressure” for 1 minute.
  4. Once it’s done cooking, let the pot naturally release its pressure for 10 minutes, and then carefully release the remaining pressure and open the pot. Stir. Serve garnished with fresh cilantro along with prepared rice.

How to Thicken the Sauce

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If you want a thicker sauce, after the natural pressure release, remove the lid and turn on the “Sauté” function. Cook until the sauce is thickened, stirring frequently. This shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes; it will also thicken more as it cools.

dinner spread of cuban picadillo with rice

How to Make Picadillo on the Stovetop

Step 1: Caramelize the Onion and Cook the Garlic

Heat a 5-quart pot over medium to medium-high heat on the stovetop. Once hot, add the oil and onion. Cook until the onion is starting to caramelize, about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turn the heat down to medium. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.

Step 2: Brown the Meat and Deglaze with Wine

Add the beef and use a wooden spoon to break it apart and spread it out evenly. Stir in the green and red bell pepper, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally (it’s ok if the meat isn’t fully browned at this point).

Stir in the wine and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 3: Add Remaining Ingredients and Cook

Add the potato, tomato sauce, beef stock, dried oregano, ground cumin, Adobo seasoning, salt, black pepper, tomato paste, raisins, and olives, and stir to combine.

Cover the pot, keeping the lid slightly ajar, and let it cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

Step 4: Optional Thickening of Sauce

If you want a thicker sauce, uncover the pot and cook the Picadillo until it thickens to your liking, stirring constantly.

Step 5: Serve!

Serve garnished with fresh cilantro along with prepared rice.

close up top view of picadillo with ground beef and potatoes on rice

Storage

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

To reheat, let it thaw to room temperature (if frozen), and then reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Tips

  • Potatoes – Use waxy potatoes, such as yellow or red because they hold up better than starchy potatoes when you’re cooking with the Instant Pot. I like to peel them and chop them into 1/2-inch cubes.
  • Adobo – You can skip this if you don’t have it or just don’t want to use it. But I made this dish both with and without Adobo, and we thought it had a lot more depth of flavor with Adobo.
  • Capers – If desired, you can add 3 tablespoons of drained capers along with the olives.
front view of cuban picadillo recipe with rice on plate

Picadillo Recipe FAQs

What’s the Difference Between Mexican and Cuban Picadillo?

Mexican and Cuban versions of this dish both include beef and potatoes in a tomato-based sauce. However, the flavor profiles can be quite different.

Mexican Picadillo commonly has a spicier heat and sometimes a smokiness as well, depending on what type of chile peppers are used. I’ve seen recipes that use ancho peppers, chipotle peppers (and sometimes chipotle peppers in adobe), and/or jalapeno peppers. Vegetables included are commonly potatoes, peas, and carrots.

Cuban Picadillo has a more sweet and tangy and less spicy flavor profile thanks to raisins, pimento-stuffed olives, and sometimes capers. Dry white wine is also common. And vegetables typically include potatoes and bell peppers.

This recipe is closest to the flavor profile of Cuban Picadillo.

top view of plate of ground beef picadillo with rice and olives

Does Picadillo Have Potatoes?

Yes, it commonly has potatoes added. However, to reduce the carbs a bit you can omit the potatoes.

What Do You Serve with Picadillo?

This filling dish is a full meal in itself (similar to chili), so don’t feel like you have to serve it with something. There are a number of delicious ways to serve it, such as:

  • Along with rice and black beans
  • Wrapped in soft tortillas
  • Stuffed inside empanadas or savory pastries

More Instant Pot Meals to Make

weeknight ground beef dinner with rice

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Instant Pot Cuban Picadillo Recipe

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time18 minutes
Cook Time22 minutes
Other Time20 minutes
Yields: 5 servings
Inspired by classic Cuban Picadillo, this quick and easy Instant Pot spin on the traditional recipe includes sweet raisins, salty pimento-stuffed olives, and dry white wine.

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Equipment

Ingredients
 

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion diced
  • 6 medium-large cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 pound lean ground beef I use 90% lean
  • 1 green bell pepper diced
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped potato see Note
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup beef stock or water
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Adobo seasoning optional
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup pimento-stuffed olives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)
  • Prepared rice for serving (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Press the “Sauté” function on the Instant Pot and wait for it to heat up. Once hot, add the oil and onion. Cook until the onion is starting to caramelize, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.
  • Add the beef and use a wooden spoon to break it apart and spread it out evenly. Stir in the green and red bell pepper, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally (it’s ok if the meat isn’t fully browned at this point).
  • Stir in the wine and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the potato, tomato sauce, beef stock, dried oregano, ground cumin, Adobo seasoning, salt, black pepper, tomato paste, raisins, and olives, and stir to combine.
  • Press “Cancel” to stop the “Sauté” function. Cover the Instant Pot, making sure to set the lid to “Sealing”, and cook on “Manual, High Pressure” for 1 minute.
  • Once it’s done cooking, let the pot naturally release its pressure for 10 minutes, and then carefully release the remaining pressure and open the pot. Stir.
  • If you want a thicker sauce, turn on the “Sauté” function and cook until the sauce is thickened, stirring frequently. (This shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes; it will also thicken more as it cools.)
  • Serve garnished with fresh cilantro along with prepared rice.

Video

Notes

  • Potato: Use waxy potatoes, such as yellow or red because they hold up better than starchy potatoes when you’re cooking with the Instant Pot. I like to peel them and chop them into 1/2-inch cubes.
  • Adobo: You can skip this if you don’t have it or just don’t want to use it. But I made this dish both with and without Adobo, and we thought it had a lot more depth of flavor with Adobo.
  • Capers: If desired, you can add 3 tablespoons of drained capers along with the olives.
  • Storage (This is Freezer-Friendly!): Store Picadillo in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • Reheating: To reheat, let it thaw to room temperature (if frozen), and then reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Nutrition

Calories: 370kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 56mg | Sodium: 970mg | Potassium: 1108mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1255IU | Vitamin C: 71mg | Calcium: 67mg | Iron: 5mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Latin American
Keyword: Beef Picadillo, Cuban Picadillo, Cuban Picadillo Recipe, Instant Pot Picadillo, Picadillo, Picadillo Recipe

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This post was first published on An Edible Mosaic on April 27, 2022 and updated on February 22, 2024.

Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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Recipe Rating




One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    I live with my Depression Era mindset 89 year old mother, and nothing (And when I say nothing, I really mean nothing!) can be wasted! Recipes like this are such a Godsend, especially when they are this user friendly!!!

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