This easy, meaty Brazilian picadillo recipe is perfect for weeknight dinners. Made with simple spices and the delicious tang from green olives, this recipe makes for an easy-to-make, no-fuss meal. Serve it over Brazilian rice or noodles for a terrific and economical meal your familia will love!
First things first… There really is no such thing as a “Brazilian Picadillo” per se. In Portuguese, we call this simple dish exactly what it is—ensopado de carninha moida com azeitona—juicy ground beef with olives.
But, while we don’t officially call it picadillo, this type of ensopado de carne moida is a very popular day-to-day recipe in Brazil. And why wouldn’t it be? It requires very little effort to make, it’s ready quickly and it’s so tasty!
This is one of those simple everyday pleasures I love to enjoy when I miss home and when I’m short on time to make dinner! It’s delicious from the very first bite to the last, and that olive tang always has me coming for seconds…
Add this to your weekly rotation and say bye bye to weeknight dinner rut!
What is picadillo, then?
Picadillo—pronounced pee-kuh-dee-yoh—is a ground beef stew popular in many Latin American and Caribbean countries.
The ingredients vary by country and region, but picadillo recipes generally are made with ground meat, tomatoes, olives, spices and other ingredients. The Cuban picadillo is probably the most popular, and it’s made with raisins for sweetness and olives for that salty tang. You can read more about Cuban picadillo from the New York Times Magazine here, if you are curious.
And since not all picdillo is created equal, there’s also a multitude of ways to serve it. You can serve it over rice, like we do in Brazil, or in a taco, over short pasta, savory pastry or even a croquette! The sky is the limit!!
Brazilian Picadillo Ingredients
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I know, this list of ingredients looks long, but, good news alert: picadillo is mostly made from pantry ingredients and spices that I bet you already have at home.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Ground beef
- Olive oil
- Red or yellow bell pepper
- Brazilian sofrito (or garlic cloves)
- Ground cumin
- Dried oregano
- Bay leaf
- Green olives
- Red wine vinegar
- A can of diced tomatoes with juice
- Tomato paste
- Water or stock
- Fresh parsley
- Salt and pepper
Here are some ingredients you can add to your Brazilian picadillo recipe, to switch things up a bit.
- Shredded carrots
- Frozen peas
- Green beans, fresh or frozen
- Zucchini, diced or shredded
- Diced pumpkin, plus a little pinch of nutmeg
How to Make Picadillo Brazilian Style
You’re going to need a large skillet, Dutch oven or braiser to make this picadillo recipe. I use this Staub braiser, and I love it, but any other similar pot will work.
To start, we’ll just sauté our onions and the bell pepper in a little olive oil until they are soft. Then, we add in the garlic, and sauté until fragrant.
After that, we need to reduce the heat before we add in the beef to cook. We do this to prevent the ground beef from becoming too lumpy. When we cook it in lower heat, the ground beef cooks more gently and more evenly.
Once the meat is cooked through, you can increase the heat back to medium high, and start sizzling!! Then, season it with salt and pepper, and add in all the spices.
Once your spices have been incorporated into the meat mixture, add the halved green olives, and the vinegar. That vinegar will help deglaze the pan, and add some more tang to our ensopado.
Then, just add the tomato paste, the water or stock and the bay leaf. Stir them to combine and add the can of diced tomatoes and all their juice.
Finally, just stir the picadillo together, and cover the pan to keep the moisture in. We’ll simmer it covered for a little bit to let the flavors develop, then we can let it simmer uncovered a few more minutes to thicken up the juices a little bit.
And that is all! Just add the chopped parsley to finish it off and we are done!
What to Serve with Picadillo
I grew up eating this dish at least once a week. We’d serve it over rice and sometimes with beans, too, if we had some leftover beans in the fridge or freezer. It’s a great and affordable combination that even picky kids like.
And while this carninha moida dish isn’t as saucy as a traditional meat sauce is, you can still totally serve it over noodles, too.
Here are a few side dish ideas of what to serve alongside your picadillo:
Frequently Asked Questions
Who invented picadillo?
Like many wonderful recipes, the origins of picadillo are unknown. This recipe is popular throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and each region adds its own flair and ingredients to this simple recipe.
How do you fry ground beef?
The best way to cook ground beef to avoid excessive lumps is over lower heat. When we cook it in lower heat, the ground beef cooks more gently and more evenly. After the meat is cooked through, you can increase the heat to brown it, and at that point, you can also add salt. If you add salt too early, the meat will be come watery and will not brown.
What can I add to ground beef for flavor?
For this recipe, we add onion, bell pepper,, ground cumin, dried oregano, paprika, bay leaf and red wine vinegar to add flavor to the ground beef and the overall dish.
Other Picadillo Recipes from Around the world:
Other ground beef recipes you’ll love:
Brazilian Picadillo Recipe
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 large onion, diced about 1 cup
- 1/2 small red or yellow bell pepper, diced about 1/2 cup
- 1 tablespoon Brazilian sofrito or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon of paprika
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup of green olives, halved about a whole 6oz jar
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 14oz can of diced tomatoes with juice
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 cup water or stock
- 1/4 cup parsley, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- Place a large heavy bottomed pan or dutch oven over medium to high heat. Add the olive oil, and when the oil is hot, add in the onions and the bell pepper. Saute until they are soft – about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the garlic, and sauté until fragrant – about 1-2 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low, and add in the ground beef. Cook the meat through, stirring occasionally – about 5 minutes.
- Once the meat is cooked through, increase the heat back to medium high, then, season with salt and pepper, and add in the cumin, the oregano, the paprika and stir.
- Next, add in the olives, and the vinegar, and stir to combine.
- Add in the tomato paste, the water/stock, and the bay leaf, and stir to combine.
- Add in the diced tomatoes, stir, cover and let it simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes.
- Remove the lid from the pan, and let it simmer uncovered another 5-10 minutes.
- Finish with the parsley and serve!