"Picadillo is versatile as hell. It's used to fill empanadas, alcapurrias, piñóns, pastelóns, or just served over rice with a side of maduros. I tend to use ground bison these days because I've read that it's more sustainable and slightly more healthful than using beef. It's also not hard to track down. Although I purchase mine at the local co-op, I've heard they also sell it at Walmart."
- Illyanna Maisonet
We're back! We're in the kitchen and we're making a Puerto Rican picadillo recipe. If you're asking yourself, "What is picadillo?" or "How should I serve it?", stick around. We've got an easy picadillo recipe with pics that everyone can enjoy.
Learn more about cooking with kids.
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This easy picadillo recipe comes from Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook by Illyanna Maisonet.
Illyanna is the first Puerto Rican food columnist in the U.S. Her cookbook, Diasporican, contains over 90 recipes. Everything about it, from the food, family, and landscape photography to the history and wit, welcomes you in and invites you to explore.
In the foreword, Michael W. Twitty talks about the history of Puerto Rican food and identity:
Puerto Rican cuisine. Indigenous traditions of the Taino have survived, forming the backbone of Puerto Rican food and identity. Puerto Rico was one of the oldest Caribbean outposts of the Spanish empire, and with it came ingredients and ideas about food that fermented in Spain over a millennium as Iberian, North and West African, Sephardic Jewish, and Arab influences blended over the centuries. Puerto Rico also remains one of the key pinpoints in the African Atlantic. West and Central African people - Wolof, Igbo, Yoruba, Kongo, Mbundu, and many others - accomplished what they did in other parts of the African Diaspora: under the lash and labor in the sugarcane fields, they pieced together elements common to their civilizations and connected adjacent Native traditions to give the Puerto Rican table its soul. All these cultural pieces gave the Puerto Rican cook the ability to translate and absorb, creating an even broader edible vocabulary that moved well from Spanish Harlem to Oahu, Hawai'i, and from Hialeah, Florida, to Oakland, California.- Michael W. Twitty
Pair the recipes in Diasporican with Illyanna's custom adobo and sazón blends to create flavorful Puerto Rican food at home.
Learn more about Illyanna and Diasporican.
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What is Picadillo?
In Diasporican, Illyanna describes picadillo as:
...a bracingly flavorful ground beef mixture filled with sofrito and tomato sauce.- Illyanna Maisonet
As mentioned above, ground bison is her preferred red meat for making picadillo and we couldn't agree more. It tastes so good, we ended up with zero leftovers the first time we made it.
I recommend doubling your recipe if you have a large family or prefer batch cooking. Once you've tried picadillo, you'll want the opportunity to serve it up in a variety of ways. And if you have the cookbook, you'll have all the recipes you need to keep the love going.
Wondering How to Serve Picadillo?
You can enjoy picadillo as a filling for empanadas, alcapurrias, piñóns, or pastelóns. It can also be served over rice and accompanied by a side of maduros.
Picadillo as Empanadilla Filling
Noah demonstrates how to fill empanadillas with picadillo and then fold them.
Want to Learn More About Bison?
Check out Wildlife Anatomy: The Curious Lives and Features of Wild Animals Around the World by Julia Rothman with Lisa Hiley. Kids will learn about American Bison and European Bison, as well as Cape Buffalo.
New Native Kitchen: Celebrating Modern Recipes of the American Indian has a really handy breakdown of the differences between beef and bison.
You can find another opportunity to cook with bison in this delicious chocolate chili recipe.
Puerto Rican Picadillo Recipe
- oil - we used olive oil on this day, but you can also try coconut oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, etc.
- potato - russet potato is recommended for this recipe
- salt - we like this pink Himalayan salt
- onion - yellow onion is preferred for this recipe but you can use what you have on hand
- ground bison or ground beef
- sazón - we'll show you how to make your own homemade sazón with ground achiote, cumin, garlic, onion, and black pepper, or you can buy Illyanna's custom blend
- tomato sauce
- prep bowls
- child-friendly knife
- cutting board
- chef knife
- butcher block
- measuring spoons
- wooden spoon
- learning tower
1. Dice the Potato
Wash your hands with soap and water. Use a child-friendly knife and cutting board to dice the potato.
Kaia cut the potato into coins first and then chopped up each coin. She's working towards transitioning to a sharper knife and is looking forward to making the switch.
2. Chop the Onion, Olives, and Capers
Chop the onion needed for this Puerto Rican picadillo recipe and set aside. You can also mince the olives and capers now or wait till step 10.
3. Make the Sazón
If you prefer, you can buy Illyanna's custom sazón blend and skip this step.
To make sazón, mix:
- ¼ cup ground achiote
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 3 tablespoon granulated garlic
- 2 tablespoon granulated onion
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
You can keep your homemade sazón in a cool place for up to 6 months.
The kids always get excited when working with colorful spices and the ground achiote does not disappoint.
Your homemade sazón should look similar to the above photo.
We couldn't be any more excited for delicious homemade food.
4. Heat the Oil in a Pan
Turn the stove on medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, we add the olive oil.
5. Add the Diced Potato
Add the diced potato to the pan. Use a measuring spoon to add some salt and pepper. Cook the potato in the pan for 2 or 3 minutes.
We took an unexpected break before heading to the stove so you'll notice our potato isn't as white as it once was. Still edible, but notably different. If you know you need to walk away from your potato, learn how to properly store it for later.
6. Add the Chopped Onion
Add the chopped onion to the pan. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, until the onion is soft.
At medium-high heat, kids can see the steam coming off the pan.
7. Add the Minced Garlic
Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until the garlic is translucent.
8. Add the Bison, Sazón, Oregano, Cumin, Salt, & Pepper
Add the bison to the pan and wash your hands. Use a measuring spoon to add the sazón, oregano, cumin, salt, & pepper. Combine the ingredients with a wooden spoon.
Cook the meat for 3 minutes, or until brown. Use the spoon to break up the ground bison as needed.
9. Add the Tomato Sauce and Sofrito
Use a measuring cup to add the tomato sauce and sofrito to the pan.
Use your spoon to combine the ingredients.
10. Add the Olives and Capers
Add the minced olives and capers to the pan. Combine everything with the spoon and allow it to cook for 15 - 20 minutes.
11. Add the Olive Brine
Add the olive brine to the pan and give it a stir. Cook for 5 minutes.
The results are amazing!
Free Picadillo Recipe for Pre-Readers and Up
Grab your free printable recipe cards above. Kids can gather ingredients using the ingredient list, gather their equipment with the tools list, and prepare the meal using the step-by-step recipe cards, with assistance as needed.
The cards are easy to use, include pictures, and encourage confidence and independence in the kitchen. They also make an excellent addition to your Montessori continent box for North America.
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Puerto Rican Picadillo
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 russet potato
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- 1 yellow onion medium
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 lb ground bison or ground beef
- 1 tablespoon sazón
- 2 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- ½ cup sofrito
- 2 tablespoon olives
- 2 tablespoon olive brine
- 1 tablespoon capers
- Wash your hands with soap and water. Use a child-friendly knife and cutting board to dice the potato.
- Chop the onion needed for this Puerto Rican picadillo recipe and set aside. You can also mince the olives and capers now or wait till step 10.
- To make sazón, mix: ¼ cup ground achiote, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 3 tablespoons granulated garlic, 2 tablespoons granulated onion, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper. If you already have Illyanna's custom sazón blend, skip to the next step.
- Turn the stove on medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the olive oil.
- Add the diced potato to the pan. Use a measuring spoon to add some salt and pepper. Cook the potato in the pan for 2 or 3 minutes.
- Add the chopped onion to the pan. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, until the onion is soft.
- Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until the garlic is translucent.
- Add the bison to the pan and wash your hands. Use a measuring spoon to add the sazón, oregano, cumin, salt, & pepper. Combine the ingredients with a wooden spoon. Cook the meat for 3 minutes, or until brown. Use the spoon to break up the ground bison as needed.
- Use a measuring cup to add the tomato sauce and sofrito to the pan. Use your spoon to combine the ingredients.
- Add the minced olives and capers to the pan. Combine everything with the spoon and allow it to cook for 15 - 20 minutes.
- Add the olive brine to the pan and give it a stir. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 160 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
- See more guidelines at USDA.gov.
- Full Lesson Info and Pictures at: https://happyhomeschooladventures.com/puerto-rican-picadillo-recipe
Estimated nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is not guaranteed.