When we first tried Cuban picadillo, we were enamored by the complex combination of savory, sweet, and salty flavors and knew we wanted to recreate a plant-based version. After a few tests and tweaks we landed on this inspired, fiber-rich twist and we’re so excited to share it with you!
It’s perfectly balanced, quick and easy (1 pot and 30 minutes), and naturally gluten-free. Plus, it gets better over time and reheats beautifully, making it ideal for meal prep! We can’t wait for you to try it! Let us show you how it’s done!
What is Picadillo?
The word “picadillo” originates from the Spanish word picar, which means to chop or mince. It’s a dish popular in many Latin American countries as well as in the Philippines.
Each region varies in what ingredients are included in its picadillo, but the dish usually consists of ground beef, tomatoes, and herbs and spices. Some versions include olives and raisins, some include potatoes, and a wide range of different ingredients make their way into other picadillos (source).
The following is our plant-based take on picadillo, swapping the ground beef for lentils and using ingredients most similar to the Cuban version of the dish.
How to Make Vegan Picadillo
This vegan picadillo begins with sautéing onion and red bell pepper for a sweet, caramelized base. While green Cubanelle peppers are a more traditional ingredient in Cuban picadillo, we went with red bell peppers for accessibility and because we like the sweetness they add.
Next comes shiitake mushrooms, which are also not traditional, but they add a nice “meaty” texture and flavor to this plant-based version of the dish. We season them with fresh garlic and coconut aminos at this stage so they soak up lots of flavor.
Then comes green or brown lentils for a protein and fiber-packed replacement for the ground beef in traditional picadillo. We went with canned to keep this recipe super quick and easy, but homemade lentils would also work!
For the seasonings, we included the classics: oregano for its herbiness, cumin for smokiness, cayenne for heat, and salt and pepper for overall flavor. Tomato sauce, pimento-stuffed green olives, and optional raisins add classic picadillo flavors, while water makes it all saucy!
After a quick 10-15 minutes, the lentils soak up all that sauciness and a complex explosion of flavors awaits!
We hope you LOVE this vegan picadillo! It’s:
Quick & easy
& Perfect for meal prep!
More Flavorful Lentil Recipes
- Easy Vegan Moussaka
- Vegan Lentil Fesenjān (Pomegranate Walnut Stew)
- Vegan Sloppy Joes
- 1-Pot Red Lentil Chili
If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo @minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!
Easy Vegan Picadillo (Cuban-Inspired)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil (if oil-free, sub twice as much water)
- 2 cups diced white or yellow onion (1 medium onion yields ~2 cups or 320 g)
- 1/2 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped (1/2 bell pepper yields ~2/3 cup // or sub an equivalent amount of green Cubanelle peppers if available)
- 1 ½ cups roughly chopped shiitake mushrooms (3 ounces yield ~ 1 ½ cups // or sub cremini mushrooms)
- 1 ½ Tbsp minced garlic (~4 cloves)
- 1 Tbsp coconut aminos (for depth of flavor)
- 2 (15-oz.) cans brown lentils, rinsed and drained (2 cans yield ~2 ½ cups cooked lentils)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 pinch ground cayenne (optional // for heat)
- 1/4 tsp each sea salt and black pepper (plus more to taste)
- 1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce (or sub tomato passata)
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped pimento-stuffed green olives (or other green olives in brine)
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped raisins (optional // or sub dried currants or sultanas)
- Heat a large-rimmed skillet, pot, or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot, add oil, onion, and bell pepper and sauté, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms, stir, and sauté for 2 minutes. Then add garlic and coconut aminos and sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden brown. Turn down heat if browning too quickly.
- Then add drained lentils, oregano, cumin, cayenne (optional), salt and pepper, tomato sauce, water, olives, and raisins (optional). Stir to combine and simmer (covered) for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, to develop flavors.
- Remove the lid and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, to thicken. Taste and adjust flavors as needed, adding more cumin for smokiness, olives for saltiness/tanginess, raisins for sweetness, or cayenne for heat.
- Leftovers keep well stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave until warmed throughout.