Healthy Picadillo (Cuban Style)

A healthy picadillo with the vibrant flavors of Cuba – garlic, onion, bell pepper, oregano, cumin, and bay – in a healthy, well-balanced dish… Healthy Picadillo (Cuban Style) can be on your dinner table in 30 minutes!

A healthy picadillo with the vibrant flavors of Cuba - garlic, onion, bell pepper, oregano, cumin, and bay - in a healthy, well-balanced dish... Here it's in a white bowl with fresh parsley sprig, beige cloth napkin, copper flatware. Quick, healthy, delicious made with ground turkey or chicken!

Te voy a hacer picadillo!

(I am going to turn you into mincemeat!)

~~ Spanish saying

👩🏻‍🍳 What is Picadillo?

Picadillo refers to a hash of (typically) minced (ground) meat and vegetables. I consider it to be a “comfort food” type of dish. It is not particularly fancy or difficult to make, but is flavorful, filling, and inexpensive. 😋 

Garlic, cumin, oregano, and bay find their way into most Cuban dishes. A sofrito is a frequent addition to many Cuban dishes; it most likely consists of  bell pepper, onion, garlic, oregano, and black pepper sautéed in oil until the onion and garlic are soft and translucent.

I have made a variation of this dish for at least 15 years. I learned in my twenties the value of “colorful cooking” as part of a healthy diet. Check out the colors on this plate! I’d say it’s pretty healthy.  😉

A close up of Healthy Picadillo in a white ceramic bowl with white rice and fresh parsley.

What is a “Healthy” Picadillo?

I came across the Cooking Light recipe for Healthy Picadillo back in the day when I still subscribed to print magazines, and the recipe became a family favorite. I have made it with lean ground beef, ground turkey, ground pork, and most recently, with ground chicken thighs. 

I spotted in-house ground chicken thighs at my local natural foods market recently, and had to try it. While I enjoy chicken breast when properly cooked, I always prefer the flavor and moistness of the thigh meat. I was really pleased with the flavor and texture in my Healthy Picadillo.

I stay fairly true to the original recipe, but usually substitute currants for the golden raisins, and vary the ground meat. I love to add 3 to 4 jalapeño chiles, but they’re optional and not at all authentic!

Matchstick carrots are a great time saver, and I have gotten to where I keep a bag of them in my refrigerator. The leftovers make a great lunch the next day, or freeze beautifully for another meal at a later date.

❤️ Why We Love This Recipe

  • It’s healthy! With only 280 calories per serving and 26 grams of protein, it’s a winner.
  • Picadillo is quick and easy to make! All you need is 30 minutes. If you’re focused you can get a pot of rice to serve alongside done in the same time frame.
  • Leftovers are great! We love this picadillo for meal prep or another meal in the freezer.
  • It requires only a couple of fresh ingredients: Bell peppers, carrots, onion, and ground meat. You’re likely to have the rest in your well-stocked pantry!
  • olive oil
  • ground turkey – In the interest of keeping fats and calories down, I specify ground turkey. You can substitute beef, bison, pork, chicken, even elk.
  • onion
  • garlic
  • ground cumin
  • bell peppers
  • carrots – I love “matchstick” carrots. If using whole carrots, do a small dice to reduce cooking time.
  • dry white wine – I often use dry sherry instead. Reduce the amount by half.
  • Spanish olives stuffed with pimento
  • currants – Raisins or golden raisins are great as well. I have occasionally used dried cranberries as well.
  • bay leaves – I love fresh bay, but dried are fine.
  • balsamic vinegar
  • canned diced tomatoes – You’ll want both the diced tomatoes and their juice.
  • tomato sauce

🔪 Instructions

Step 1: Starts with a quick sauté of onion, garlic, and spices.
  • Sauté aromatics (garlic, onion, spices) in a bit of olive oil before adding the ground turkey (chicken, beef, pork).
Step 2 - Ground turkey, chicken, pork, or beef get browned with the aromatics.
  • Add the bell pepper and carrots. Sauté an additional minute or two.
Step 3 - Shredded carrots and sweet bell pepper are added to the ground meat mixture.
  • Add the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender (about 15 minutes).
Step 4 - Once everything is finished sautéing, the remaining ingredients are added and the healthy picadillo is simmered.
  • Garnish with chopped parsley, and serve with rice and/or black beans.

💭 Tips

A potato masher makes quick work of breaking up ground meat.

Matchstick carrots (in the produce section) are a great time saver. I also hate discovering my carrots are under-cooked, and these are always tender!

Is this picadillo good leftover?

Absolutely! We love it leftover for up to 5 days. Since I’m usually cooking for two, I make the full batch, and freeze half in a zip bag. We have dinner for 2, lunch for 2 later in the week, and then we have the same a few weeks later.

A white ceramic bowl of healthy picadillo with a scoop of white rice, copper fork and spoon, white napkin, and parsley sprig.

With a pot of rice, this makes a very well-balanced one-dish meal. If you’re on a restricted diet, Healthy Picadillo is gluten free, low fat, quick, and delicious! Keep in mind leftovers are fabulous, and keep well in the freezer.

We love Healthy Picadillo with a dry, crisp rosé (Spanish is perfect). Liven up your weeknight menu with this delicious, quick, and easy Cuban-inspired picadillo… You’ll be glad you did!

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes. Healthyish Latin cuisine.

Healthy Picadillo with Cuban flavors in a white ceramic bowl with white rice and chopped parsley, linen napkin, and copper flatware.

Healthy Picadillo (Cuban Style)

A flavorful Cuban-style picadillo seasoned with a sofrito (onion, garlic, peppers), oregano, cumin, and bay… Serve this healthy dish over plain rice or rice and black beans.
4.54 from 13 votes

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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Dishes
Cuisine Cuban/Spanish
Servings 8 servings
Calories 280 kcal


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground turkey or chicken - see notes
  • 1 large onion - chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic - minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 bell peppers - diced
  • 1 cup carrots - matchstick or finely diced see notes
  • 1 cup dry white wine or 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • ½ cup Spanish olives stuffed with pimento - sliced
  • ¾ cup currants - raisins, or golden raisins
  • 2 bay leaves - fresh if possible
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with liquid - (see notes)
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • several grinds black pepper


  • Add olive oil to a heavy dutch oven, and heat over medium-high heat. Add ground meat. Begin to break it apart (I like my potato masher for this). When meat begins to brown add onion, cumin, and garlic. When meat is completely cooked, and onion is soft, continue.
  • Add the bell peppers and carrots. Sauté them about 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover, but stir occasionally.
  • Simmer until vegetables are tender – about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaves and check for seasoning.
  • Enjoy over plain rice or rice and black beans.


Macronutrients from Cooking Light: 280 calories; 26 g protein; 24 g carbohydrates; 9 g fat. Macros do not include rice!


Calories: 280kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 9g

NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

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  1. From my Cuban friend

    Yes, this is a common staple dinner that I grew up eating all the time.

    We make it with ground beef, and we add oregano and also cubed French fries instead of carrots…I guess that’s why your recipe is the “healthy version”.

    We never had it with raisins growing up but after visiting Cuba and having it with raisins there now I love putting in the golden raisins.


    1. Hello Grahame! I’m in Urubamba, Peru with my husband and UTRGV studies abroad for 4 weeks, and I just got your comment. Thanks so much for taking time to provide feedback. It makes the work all worthwhile. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Oh my, I made this tonight and it’s definitely a keeper. I tweaked the recipe a little bit by adding more Cumin, Green Olives, and using a mix of fresh Peppers that included Anaheim Peppers. Also, I didn’t have an 8 oz. can of Tomato sauce so I used a 15 oz. can. The flavors are bold and delicious, this reminds of both Cuban food and of a Middle Eastern dish I’ve ordered from a Yemeni restaurant. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

    1. Thanks for taking time to write in Susan! It means so much… I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe! I’m cooking for two most of the time now, and I always look forward to the package of frozen picadillo I have for another meal. Enjoy your weekend and stay safe!

  3. Amazing recipe! Thank you for all the great information! I had one question, does the nutrition facts include the rice or is it just the meat?

  4. Amazing recipe! Thank you for all the great information! I had one question, does the nutrition facts include the rice or is it just the meat?

    1. Thank you Fabiola! In this case, the nutrition info does not include rice or beans because they’re optional and not included in the ingredients. If I list rice in the ingredients, I will typically include them in the macronutrients. Thanks for asking such an important question!

  5. Love your recipe for picadillo! It’s been ages since I’ve made one. Your post reminds me how good it is and how much I miss it. It is definitely a wonderful comfort food.