This vegan picadillo is a nutritious and flavorful dish that uses mushrooms and walnuts to replace ground beef and create a plant-based meal that will surely please everyone at the table.
Drawing inspiration from my Cuban roots, this vegan Cuban picadillo recipe perfectly captures traditional picadillo's delightful aromas, satisfying texture, and authentic taste. I think you're going to love it.
If you're craving more Cuban-inspired cuisine, be sure to give this Vegan Lentil Soup a try.
What is vegan picadillo?
This vegan picadillo recipe is a plant-based version of the traditional Latin American dish called "picadillo." The word "picadillo" originates from the Spanish word "picar," which means "to chop" or "to mince."
Picadillo's origin is unclear and has evolved through different cultural influences.
It is commonly associated with countries such as Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and many other Latin American countries and Caribbean nations.
It typically consists of ground meat, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and spices. However, in vegan versions, the meat is substituted with plant-based ingredients to create a delicious dish.
Many vegan picadillo recipes use lentils, but this version mixes walnuts and mushrooms for a meatier texture. You might be skeptical, but trust me, it's astounding. I've impressed many with this dish and my Simple Walnut Meat Recipe. They can't get enough of it!
The other ingredients include traditional Cuban ingredients such as diced potatoes, red bell peppers, garlic, onions, olives, and spices to really give an authentic Cuban flavor.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Great recipe for meal prep
- It's gluten-free
- It's a traditional dish that can be enjoyed as a plant-based version
- Super flavorful recipe
- Just as satisfying as a traditional picadillo
Don't want to buy processed vegan meats? Don't like the taste of TVP? Want to try something other than lentils to substitute that meaty texture? With these wholesome ingredients, you can create a delicious picadillo that will satisfy everyone. See the recipe card for quantities.
- mushrooms - Use any variety of mushrooms you prefer.
- olive oil
- bell pepper - red pepper or green peppers work well in this recipe
- fresh garlic
- potatoes - I like starchy potatoes like Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes in this recipe.
- tomato sauce
- veggie broth
- ground cumin
- sliced green olives - use the pimento-stuffed green peppers for the best flavor
- sweet raisins (optional)
- bay leaf
- black pepper
How to prepare
Pulse the mushrooms in the food processor until crumbly. Be careful not to over-process. Remove and set aside.
Pulse the walnuts in the food processor until crumbly, careful not to over-process. Remove and set aside.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the finely chopped onion, bell pepper, and minced garlic to the skillet. Sauté until the vegetables become soft and translucent.
Add the mushrooms to the skillet and cook until they reduce in size.
Then, add the chopped walnuts and cook for a few minutes.
Add the spices and stir the mixture so that the spices are evenly distributed.
Let the spices cook for approximately one minute in the mixture to ensure the blending and toasting of the spices. This will enhance the flavor profile while allowing them to meld seamlessly.
Add the potatoes and sauce and mix until well combined. Then add half the broth, sliced green olives, capers, bay leaf, and raisins (optional) to the skillet. Stir everything together.
Bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet, and let it cook for about 20-25 minutes. Cook the picadillo until the potatoes are soft.
Stir the mixture frequently and add more broth to keep the mixture from sticking. Taste and adjust the seasoning according to your preference.
Top with fresh cilantro or parsley and a few more pimento-stuffed green olives. Then, enjoy!
Substitutions and Variations
Use about one and a half cups of vegan ground beef substitutes like textured vegetable protein (TVP), crumbled tofu, crumbled tempeh, or one package of store-bought vegan ground meat alternatives like Beyond Meat instead of the mushroom and walnut meat.
Substitute the walnut mushroom combination with one can of cooked lentils or one-and-a-half cups of homemade lentils - either brown or green.
Add diced carrots, zucchini, eggplant, and other veggies when you add the potatoes.
Substitute the tomato sauce with one large chopped tomato, a tablespoon of tomato paste, or a can of crushed tomatoes.
Add chili pepper flakes while cooking for a spicy picadillo.
I love sweet and savory meals, but raisins can be controversial in Picadillo for some people...ha, my own family included. Leave them out if you desire.
Using a cast iron pan is not necessary for this recipe. Any pan will be fine but I love to use a cast iron pan for this recipe for several reasons:
Even Heat Distribution: Cast iron pans have excellent heat retention and distribution properties. They heat up evenly, ensuring that all parts of the picadillo cook simultaneously, reducing the risk of unevenly cooked or burnt ingredients.
Natural Non-Stick Surface: Over time and with proper seasoning and care, cast iron pans develop a natural non-stick surface. This is beneficial for cooking the picadillo with minimal oil, making it a healthier option.
Adds Iron to Food: Cooking acidic ingredients like tomatoes in a cast iron pan can slightly increase the iron content in the food.
Enhances Flavor: Cooking in a well-seasoned cast iron pan can impart a subtle, unique flavor to the picadillo, adding depth to the dish.
Chemical-Free Cooking: Unlike non-stick cookware that may release harmful chemicals when heated at high temperatures, cast iron pans are chemical-free and safe for cooking.
If you want a cast iron pan, check this out from Amazon. They are affordable and work really well.
Over Rice: Classic...Serve the vegan picadillo over cooked white rice, brown rice, or a yellow rice bed. The rice will soak up the flavorful sauce and complement the dish perfectly. In addition, serve it with fried plantains, crusty bread, and black beans for a complete Cuban-inspired meal.
Tacos or Burritos: Use the picadillo as a filling for soft tacos or burritos. Add some shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, guacamole, and vegan sour cream for a tasty and satisfying meal.
Stuffed Bell Peppers: Hollow out bell peppers and stuff them with the picadillo mixture. Bake in the oven until the peppers are tender for a flavorful and colorful dish.
Picadillo Bowls: Create a bowl with the picadillo as the base. Top it with fresh avocado slices, corn kernels, black beans, and a drizzle of lime juice for a hearty and vibrant meal.
Wraps: Wrap the picadillo in large lettuce leaves or collard green leaves for a lighter and refreshing option.
Picadillo Nachos: Use the picadillo as a topping for vegan nachos. Layer tortilla chips with picadillo, vegan cheese, jalapeños, black beans, and salsa for a fantastic party snack - or check out this nacho recipe favorite.
Empanadas: Fill empanada dough with the picadillo mixture and bake them until golden brown for a flavorful handheld treat.
Stuffed Squash: Hollow out small squash like zucchini or pattypan squash and stuff them with the picadillo. Bake until the squash is tender for an impressive and tasty dish.
Picadillo Quesadillas: Make a quesadilla with vegan cheese and the picadillo filling. Serve with salsa or guacamole for dipping.
Picadillo Salad: Create a vibrant salad with mixed greens, the picadillo, diced avocado, cherry tomatoes, and a tangy vinaigrette dressing.
To store vegan picadillo, let it cool, transfer to an airtight container, and refrigerate it for 3-4 days. For longer storage, freeze in freezer-safe containers. Label and date the containers for easy identification. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
Ensure you have a cup of vegetable broth or water within reach to prevent any stickiness from burning. Stir frequently and add the broth regularly for best results until the potatoes become tender.
The spiciness of the picadillo can be adjusted to your liking. The recipe includes mild spices like cumin, but you can add chili powder or red pepper flakes for more heat.
You can make picadillo in advance. Let it cool and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or freeze it for longer storage.
Vegan picadillo freezes well. Store it in freezer-safe containers or freezer bags for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
You can sauté the vegetables using a little water or broth instead of oil to make the picadillo oil-free.
- 12 ounces mushrooms (finely chopped; any variety)
- 1 ½ cups walnuts (finely chopped)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion (finely chopped)
- 1 bell pepper (finely chopped; red or green)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 cups potatoes (diced; any variety)
- 8 ounce can of tomato sauce
- ¼ cup green olives (sliced)
- 2 tablespoons capers
- ¼ cup raisins (optional)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 ½ cup vegetable broth (divided)
- salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the walnuts and mushrooms
- Pulse walnuts and mushrooms in a food processor until they are broken down into a crumbly texture. Process them separately to avoid over-mixing the mushrooms and walnuts. Set aside.
Making the picadillo
- In a large skillet or frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the chopped onion, bell pepper, and garlic to the skillet. Sauté until the vegetables become soft and translucent.
- Add the chopped mushrooms to the skillet and cook until they reduce.
- Then, add the chopped walnuts and cook for another few minutes.
- Add the ground cumin, dried oregano, and cinnamon to the skillet. Stir to distribute the spices evenly and cook for a minute.
- Add the potatoes and tomato sauce, sliced green olives, capers, raisins, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and half the broth to the skillet. Stir everything together until well combined.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet, and let it cook for about 20-25 minutes. This allows the flavors to meld and the potatoes to cook.
- Stir frequently to avoid sticking. Add the remaining vegetable broth a little at a time to avoid the mixture from sticking to the pan. (You may not use all the broth).
- While the picadillo is simmering, taste and adjust the seasoning according to your preference.
- Once the potatoes are cooked, and the picadillo is ready, remove the bay leaf and discard it.
- Serve the Cuban picadillo over cooked white rice, garnish with some fresh parsley or cilantro, and enjoy!
The green olives can be pitted or stuffed with pimentos.
I use shitake mushrooms for this recipe, but I think any variety will also work.
Add one can of cooked lentils or one and half cups of homemade lentils as a substitute for the walnut and mushrooms.
Nutritional information is only an estimate. Use a nutritional app like Cronometer to get information on the exact ingredients and amounts you are using.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Category: Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Cuban-Inspired
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Calories: 359
- Sugar: 6
- Sodium: 589
- Fat: 25
- Saturated Fat: 3
- Carbohydrates: 30
- Fiber: 7
- Protein: 9
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
Keywords: healthy meat alternative, international, meat substitute, mushrooms, nuts