This vegan picadillo recipe is a delicious and colourful Cuban-style dish of spiced lentils, potatoes, tomatoes, olives and raisins. Served with rice, it’s quick and easy to prepare for a weeknight dinner and the warming spices of cinnamon, cumin, cloves and nutmeg make it a comforting and hearty meal for chilly weather.
Just reading that description makes picadillo seem like the weirdest dish ever. What a strange and interesting combination of flavours. But let me tell you that it works!
You know that balance of sweet, savory and sour that I go on and on about in Thai recipes? Well, this vegan picadillo recipe has all that and so much more! You can even add a bit of chili powder if you want a bit of a kick, why not?
So what is picadillo, exactly? It’s a sort of a Cuban meat hash normally prepared with ground beef. There are many ways you can substitute the ground beef to make a vegetarian picadillo.
Lots of people on the interwebs seem to like to use meat analogue, veggie ground round type products. Personally I’m against using processed food when there are perfectly good plants that can do the job.
Lentils are an obvious choice for replacing ground beef; they do such a wonderful job in vegetable shepherd’s pie, make killer meatballs for this vegan meatball sub and do a wonderful job in my vegan picadillo recipe.
Another great idea is this recipe for Cuban picadillo bowls from Cotter Crunch with roasted spiced chickpeas, sweet potatoes and dried cranberries, it looks delicious!
You can eat this vegan picadillo as is with a side of rice or fried plantains, or you can use it as a filling for tacos, burritos or empanadas.
My recipe cooks out as a dry dish (making it great as a filling) but if you like it with a bit of a gravy-like sauce, feel free to add a bit of the juice from the tomato can or a splash of vegetable stock.
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This vegan picadillo recipe is a delicious and colourful Cuban-style dish of spiced lentils, potatoes, tomatoes, olives and raisins. Served with rice, it’s quick and easy to prepare for a weeknight dinner.
5 minPrep Time
25 minCook Time
30 minTotal Time
- A splash of water or oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- A pinch of ground cloves
- A pinch of nutmeg
- 2 bay leaves
- A 780 gram (28 oz) can of whole tomatoes, drained (juice reserved if you want a sauce)
- 1 medium-large potato, diced
- 1 medium red pepper, diced
- 1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 4 cups (700 grams) cooked lentils
- ½ cup (70 grams) green olives, sliced
- ¼ cup (45 grams) raisins
- ½ teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
- White or brown rice, to serve
- A small bunch of cilantro or parsley
- Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add a splash of water or oil, the onion and garlic and sauté until soft. Add the tomato paste and all the herbs and spices and fry for a couple of minutes, stirring, until the tomato paste darkens in colour and the spices are fragrant.
- Add the whole tomatoes and break them up a bit with your spoon. Add the potato, pepper and vinegar and cover the pan. Simmer until the potatoes are tender.
- Uncover the pan and add the lentils, olives, raisins, salt and pepper and cook for a couple of minutes to warm everything through. If you like a bit of a sauce, you can add some of the reserved tomato juice.
- Serve the picadillo with rice and garnish with some cilantro or parsley.