Picadillo: Whole30, Puerto Rican

Puerto Rican Picadillo is one of my favorite Puerto Rican dishes I’ve learned from my husband’s family. We eat Puerto Rican food often, but this is one dish my husband always makes the best. Since he’s back in school, I asked him to show me how to make it because mine wasn’t coming out as good as his! This is his family recipe, and it’s my favorite version of picadillo.

What is picadillo

Picadillo is a meat mixture from Latin American cuisine. Different cultures have different variations. Within different cultures even, different families put their own spin on it. You’ll never find a picadillo that’s exactly the same as another.

Ingredient Sourcing

As with most all my recipes, this one is healthy, Whole30, and Paleo. To keep it that way, it’s important to source ingredients carefully.

When it comes to the sofrito, here in CT, almost all of the store bought varieties contain soy, unsafe food coloring, and sometime more questionable ingredients. The best option is to get it homemade. There are many recipes online you could make. Personally, my husband’s abuela taught us to make it, and we make our own in large quantities and freeze it.

Where I live in a very diverse area,there are any Hispanic stores where I could buy it made fresh and authentic, and also without additives and ingredients I’d like to avoid. You could also buy it in person from someone in the Hispanic community. Especially around Christmas time, some Hispanic women sell pastelon, and some offer sofrito year round as well. If you’re not sure where to look, check facebook marketplace as I’ve seen some sold on there.

When it comes to Sofrito, I’ve found it impossible to find a clean variety in stores. They all seem to have food coloring and MSG. I buy mine from amazon, it’s just the spices with no added ingredients. This is the brand I use.

Annotto Seed Oil

This is something many Hispanic cooks have ready for regular cooking, but if you’re new to Hispanic recipes you may not be familiar with it. My husband loves the color this adds to foods.

Place the seeds in a pan and cover with coconut oil. Simmer for a few minutes, until you the seeds have given off a lot of color to the oil. You then strain the oil and can discard the seeds, keeping the oil for adding to recipes.

For this recipe, you’ll need to use 4 tablespoons of oil, so when making it, be sure you’ll have enough after you strain the seeds out.

We have made this recipe without the oil when we didn’t have the seeds on hand, but it adds such a striking color and is a great way to get fat added to your meal!


5 from 2 votes


  • 1.5 lb ground beef
  • 1/4 cup sofrito
  • 2 tsp sofrito
  • 2 tsp adobo
  • 2.5 oz jar of spanish olives
  • 1/2 to 3/4 bunch cilantro
  • 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 4 tbsp annatto oil see above in post
  • 1/2 cup water


  • Heat a skillet on medium heat. Add ground beef and break up while it cooks.
  • When the beef is halfway cooked, add the sofrito and mix in, then add the sofrito and adobo and mix in.
  • Drain the olives and add to the beef, and as it all continues to cook, break up the olives along with the beef.
  • Chop off any dirty ends of the cilantro, and break into half pieces with your hands. Throughout the remainder of cooking, add pieces of the cilantro in and mix, letting them mix in and wilt before adding more.
  • Add the tomato sauce in and mix, adding more cilantro.
  • Mix in the annatto oil and water.
  • Let everything simmer for about 10 minutes, continuing to break up beef and olives, and adding more cilantro. Serve!

How to Serve Picadillo

There are SO many uses for Puerto Rican Picadillo! My husband and I love to let it be the star of the meal. Typically, we serve it over white rice. The rice is perfect for soaking up the sauce and absorbing the flavors!

When I’m doing Whole30, my favorite way to keep it Whole30 Picadillo is to serve it on top of yucca. Boil the frozen yucca according to package instructions, remove the woody stems, and serve! So yummy! It’s one of my favorite Whole30 meals, and quite filling!

Picadillo can also be stuffed inside of foods such as empanadas, papas rellenas, or arepas. If you’re using this recipe to stuff something, reduce the amount of liquid used. Specifically, reduce the tomato sauce, water, and oil. That way your mixture isn’t soaking the empanada dough or whatever you’re stuffing.

Puerto Rican Picadillo

Want to try another Puerto Rican recipe? Try these Chuletas! They are also Whole30 and Paleo. They’re delicious, pan fried pork strips. We love them as the main dish in a meal, or as movie snacks with a Whole30 compliant/Paleo friendly dip!

Did you make this recipe? What were your thoughts? Let me know below! Post a picture on Instagram and tag me @thecleanhappylife! I love to see when people make recipes from my blog.

Note-this post contains affiliate links, which earn me a small commission, but at no extra cost to you! Thank you for your support!

Pin image for Picadillo

13 thoughts on “Picadillo: Whole30, Puerto Rican”

  1. 5 stars
    This looks amazing! I’ve been trying to find new recipes to try and this looks amazing! Do you think it’s possible to do some vegetarian twist on this recipe? Thank you so much!

    1. thecleanhappylife

      Thank you!! I’m personally not sure how that would work since I’ve never tried it, but I would try that meat substitute Beyond Meat. I know I’ve seen it at Target and my local grocery store! It looks just like regular ground beef, so worth a shot!

    1. thecleanhappylife

      😂😂 haha I won’t tell if you don’t! Lol jk I believe it is traditionally made with beef, however I know some vegans will make it with plant based “meat”, so try whatever you’d like and see how it comes out!

  2. This looks SO good, I can’t wait to try it!!! I am always looking for new exciting recipes and this one is getting printed right this very second. Thanks for sharing!!

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