[Instant Pot] Picadillo: Cuban Style Ground Beef

plate of ground beef picadillo with rice and salad.

Picadillo! A Latin American classic, and a sublimely simple dinner to whip up with your Instant Pot. In a pressure cooker, you can achieve slow-cooked flavor in a fraction of the time. It only takes a pack of ground meat, a few chopped veggies, and a couple of basic pantry staple seasonings to fix up a meal that satisfies my chronic cravings for Cuban food.

What is picadillo? Through the lens of American cuisine, you could think of it as a sort of chili, stew or hash… But simply, it’s a dish of ground meat sauteed with onions, peppers and seasonings. Different cooks make it all kinds of different ways, but I’ll walk you through my personal favorite take – inspired by the Cuban-style recipes I’ve become addicted to, thanks to the years I lived in Miami.

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Ingredients: The Flavors Behind Cuban Picadillo

Ground meat is the main ingredient – I like to use either grass fed beef or organic turkey.

Onion and garlic are sweetly savory.

Green peppers are a flavorful veggie addition – a bitter note that balances the richness of the meat and the sweetness of the other vegetables. I often use a regular, unfancy green bell pepper – but if you have access to other green peppers like cubanelles or anaheims, those are delicious in this dish.

Tomato makes the mixture more saucy and savory. I prefer chopping a juicy fresh tomato, but canned crushed tomato will work in a pinch.

Oregano and cumin are essential spices to satisfy my Cuban food cravings.

Broth is the liquid ingredient necessary for building pressure in the Instant Pot; good homemade broth adds lots of flavor and nutrition too.

Raisins add little pops of candy-sweetness to the dish. They are a defining characteristic of Cuban picadillo. You can skip them if they don’t appeal to you, but I wouldn’t dare!

Green olives are added after the pressure cooking is complete, for a punch of sharp, briny flavor.

plate of ground beef picadillo with rice and salad.

Cooking with Grass Fed Beef

When I cook beef for my family, I always use grass fed beef. It is significantly leaner than conventional beef, so it makes a much less greasy picadillo. If you’re cooking with conventional beef, you may need to carefully drain off some rendered fat from the cooked meat before adding liquid and pressure cooking.

I get most of our meat from Butcherbox, and I love it – it’s so convenient, and the quality and value are both excellent. If you’re interested in giving it a try, use this link for $30 off your first box.

Turkey Picadillo

These photos feature grass fed ground beef, but this recipe works just as well with ground turkey.

If you’re using an extremely lean product like ground turkey breast, you may need to add a little extra splash of olive oil to prevent the meat from sticking to the pot and to facilitate browning. But otherwise, no modifications to the recipe are necessary.

Step By Step: How to Cook Picadillo with Instant Pot

Start by chopping onion, garlic, peppers and tomato while heating up your Instant Pot’s saute function. First cook the onion and garlic until they start to turn golden, then introduce the peppers, tomatoes and spices.

process shot sauteed onion, green pepper and tomato in instant pot.

After a few minutes, the vegetables will have transformed into a saucy foundation: sofrito. Then you can add the ground meat, breaking it into crumbles while you cook.

Add broth and raisins, then lock down for 5 minutes of pressure cooking. Allow 10 minutes for a natural release, then open the lid and stir in green olives before serving.

process shot cooked ground beef picadillo in instant pot.

Meal Prep Ideas for Instant Pot Picadillo

Picadillo is traditionally served over a bed of rice, which helps soak up every precious, saucy drop. It’s flavorful enough to pair with plain brown or white rice, or you can punch it up with a seasoned Latin rice dish like moros y cristianos (black beans & rice) or arroz amarillo (yellow rice). For a clever hack to pair your picadillo with an easy version of yellow rice, check out the Double Decker Dinner section!

Once you’ve prepped your picadillo and rice, round out your plate with a fresh salad. For a full Latin feast, consider side dishes like sweet plantains or steamed yuca root.

For paleo, ketogenic or low-carb diets: pair with cauliflower rice instead.

Alternatively, picadillo can be served as a filling in savory pastries or croquettes. You could fold it into a big batch of empanadas to store in the fridge for the week, or the freezer for longer.

Freezer Meal Prep

For cooks who are interested in taking advantage of Instant Pot to prep make-ahead freezer meals that your future self will be thankful to thaw out on a busy night – picadillo is a great option.

Make yourself a double batch (there will be no trouble fitting the extra ingredients into a 6-quart cooker) and pack the fully cooked picadillo tightly into your preferred airtight container:

  • Glass wide-mouth mason jars are a nice, small-footprint container for freezer meal storage. Quart jars work as a family meal in my household, while pint jars work better for a single or couple meal. Just be careful to check that the jars you but are marked as freezer-safe (sometimes they aren’t, and can crack in your freezer).
  • Reusable plastic freezer bags are another good option that maximize freezer space via flat storage.

Double Decker Dinner with Picadillo!

Double Decker Dinner is a personal favorite Instant Pot recipe theme, all about finding the right combination of foods that pair together as a balanced meal and that can be stacked and cooked at the same time in the same pressure cooker. It’s one-pot wonderful! 

Because this picadillo cooks for about 5 minutes, it is a good match for pot-in-pot white rice – perfect pairing! Unfortunately, brown rice isn’t a good candidate to cook at the same time because it needs at least 20 minutes to fully cook.

Quick tip to spice up your rice: before adding the ground meat to the Instant Pot, steal a half cup of the cooked sofrito and mix it into your rice. Cook with broth, salt and a big pinch of ground turmeric – instant homemade yellow rice!

"pot in pot" yellow rice stacked over picadillo to cook together in instant pot.

Nutrition Insights

Food for thought, from your friendly neighborhood Registered Dietitian Nutritionist + food science buff!

Beef is a nutrient-dense food, and combining it with mixed vegetables and fruits makes this dish even more nutritionally well-rounded. One serving of this recipe provides greater than 20% of the daily value for iron, zinc, selenium, and vitamins C, B12, B3 and B6.

For people following a ketogenic diet: one serving (1/4 of the full batch) contains 13.6 grams of net carbohydrates. If you leave out the raisins, the net carbs drop to 6.8 grams.

Other Recipes You Might Like:

[Instant Pot] Ropa Vieja: Cuban Shredded Beef Stew

[Instant Pot] Ropa Vieja: Cuban Shredded Beef Stew

[Instant Pot] Double-Decker Cheesy Taco-Stuffed Peppers + Quinoa

[Instant Pot] Double-Decker Cheesy Taco-Stuffed Peppers + Quinoa

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plate of ground beef picadillo with rice and salad.

[Instant Pot] Picadillo: Cuban Style Ground Beef

Mary Clare Fraker, MS RD
Picadillo! A Latin American classic, and a super simple ground beef or turkey dinner to whip up with your Instant Pot. In a pressure cooker, you can achieve slow-cooked flavor in a fraction of the time.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Time to Build/Release Pressure 15 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Cuban, Latin American
Servings 4 Servings
Calories 350 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 green bell pepper chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper minced (optional)
  • 1 large tomato chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound ground grass-fed beef or ground turkey/chicken
  • 1/2 cup broth
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup green olives sliced

Instructions
 

  • Using the saute function, heat the oil in the pressure cooker. When the oil is hot, add the chopped onion and garlic. Saute until the onions are beginning to lightly brown.
  • Stir in the peppers, tomato, cumin, oregano and salt. Continue cooking until the tomatoes are soft and juicy, then add the ground meat. Saute and break into crumbles until mostly cooked, then stir in the broth and raisins.
  • Close the lid, with the valve set to sealing position. Cook on high pressure for 5 minutes.
  • When the cooking time is complete, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then carefully open the valve to manually release any remaining pressure. Open the lid and stir the green olives into the picadillo. Serve hot over rice or with your choice of side dishes.
Keyword ground beef, ground turkey

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