Hello and welcome back to Flawed yet Functional! It’s been a long time since I shared a new recipe, and I’m happy to jump back on the wagon today! Have you noticed that the grocery stores during quarantine have empty shelves all over the place except the produce department? In my local grocery store, there are fresh fruit and vegetables aplenty. Frozen pizza? Not so much. Today I would like to show you an easy recipe that makes good use of the produce department resulting in a hearty meal that feeds a whole bunch of hungry bellies! Let’s check out this Paleo Mexican Picadillo recipe!
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What is Picadillo?
Picadillo is a traditional Latin American and even Pacific Island dish. It’s kind of a catch-all of fresh aromatics, root vegetables, and peppers minced and cooked with ground meat. If you search for recipes you will find a myriad of meat and vegetable combinations. But you know what that means don’t you? You can’t go wrong with this recipe! If you don’t have the exact ingredients I used, substitute with what you do have.
Now does chopped up vegetables with ground meat sound familiar to you? This is the dinner version of hash! Check out these tasty breakfast hash recipes too!
- Mushroom and Sausage Breakfast Hash
- Summer Skillet Hash
- Chorizo and Butternut Squash Hash
- Super Fast Skillet Hash
I based this Paleo Mexican picadillo off a picadillo recipe for my favorite Mexican cookbook. The Best Mexican Recipes by America’s Test Kitchen. Usually, when I share recipes on Flawed yet Functional, they are original and my own creation. This one is just a modification America’s Test Kitchen Recipe, and I want to give credit where credit is due.
Without further ado, here’s the recipe!
Low-Carb Paleo Mexican Picadillo with Easy Cauliflower Rice
Make this family-friendly delicious low-carb Paleo Mexican picadillo filled with low-carb vegetables and is served over a bed of tender cauliflower rice. You won't miss Mexican food anymore!
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 large red bell peppers
- 6 oz. turnips
- 2 large carrots
- 1.5 lbs. whole tomatoes fresh
- 1 whole jalapano peppers seeded and ribs removed, minced
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1.5 Tbsp. chili powder
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 lbs. ground beef
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro chopped
- 1 pkg. frozen cauliflower rice
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- sea salt
- fresh ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup water
Chop onion, bell pepper, carrots, turnips, tomatoes, and jalapeno into 1 inch chunks. Coarse chop into about 1/4" piece the onion and bell pepper in a high powered blender or food processor. Put into a bowl and set aside. Now coarse chop the turnips and carrots in a high powered blender or food processor until similar size as the onions and bell peppers. Put into a separate bowl and set aside. Now blend the tomatoes, jalapenos, and 1.5 teaspoons of salt in a high powered blender until smooth.
Warm an 8-quart dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil then saute the onion and bell pepper mixture until softened. Add the spices (chili powder and garlic) and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
Next, add the ground beef and brown until cooked through, breaking into small pieces as it cooks.
Add the turnip/carrot mixture and the pureed tomatoes to the dutch oven. Cover, bring to a simmer, then cook on low heat until the potatoes and carrots are tender, about 30 minutes.
Stir in the cilantro then taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
Easy Cauliflower Rice
Once the picadillo is simmering, start the cauliflower rice. I use frozen cauliflower rice straight from the freezer, but this method works fine for fresh cauliflower rice too.
Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir and break up any clumps then cover and continue cooking. Stir the cauliflower rice every 2-3 minutes until softened. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
Each 1 cup serving of picadillo and 1/2 cup of cooked cauliflower rice has 225 calories and 18 grams of carbohydrates (12 grams of net carbs).
**Recipe adapted from Mexican-style Picadillo found in The Best Mexican Recipes by America’s Test Kitchen.**
Why did the recipe need modification?
As you may know, I’ve experimented with my diet to manage my type 1 diabetes optimally. Currently, my diet is Paleo minus eggs. Traditional picadillo has potatoes in the meat and vegetable mixture. Potatoes are not in the paleo diet, and truly not a nutrient-dense food anyway. The second reason for nixing the potatoes is their high carbohydrate count. Carbohydrates turn to sugar when digested, so a low-carb diet is easier for a diabetic.
Finally, the Paleo diet is also grain-free which means no bed of rice for the savory meat sauce. My replacement is a quick and easy bed of cauliflower rice. I use the frozen pre-riced packets from Costco to whip up this meal-base in a hurry.
What Goes with Picadillo?
One of my favorite things about this recipe is it is an all-in-one meal. All the vegetables and all the meat are mixed together so I rarely serve this with a traditional side or two of vegetables. I do make cauliflower rice in a separate pan, but I consider that as part of the meal. Picadillo in one pan, cauliflower rice in another, done. Easy, peasy!
However, you can go crazy in the topping department! The traditional Mexican flavors of this recipe pair well with any topping that you might put on a taco. My go-to toppings are guacamole, fresh chopped cilantro, and dairy-free yogurt.
Don’t let my standard toppings limit you though! Pile on salsa, jalapenos, onions, lime wedges, fresh tomatoes, and even mangos! Anything goes with this recipe it’s a great base for all kinds of toppings.
Rice vs. Cauliflower Rice
Typically, I make this recipe with cauliflower rice, and the whole family eats it the same way. However, if I have leftover rice, my boys and husband will put the picadillo over regular rice. Traditionally, that is how this dish is served.
Here’s a quick little bit on rice and my gut. I have tested rice in my diet, and it does not appear to have a long-lasting inflammatory effect on my gut. However, I have a hard time managing my blood sugar as the rice digests. My blood sugar seems to go high no matter how much insulin I take. For that reason, I rarely eat rice, and if I do, it’s a very small amount.
The great thing is once the rice is made it through my system and my body has managed the carbohydrates, there’s no lasting effect on my blood sugar. When I eat other foods that inflame my gut, I will have a long-lasting high blood sugar effect that takes a couple of weeks to heal. Rice does not do that thankfully.
Are you wondering why I serve rice at all if we eat Paleo (a grain-free diet)? Well, my husband is Korean, and one cannot be of Asian descent and give up rice completely. Rice is not a staple of our diet, but we do have it on occasion because we have not noticed any adverse health effects from it.
Ground Beef vs. Other Ground Meat
Paleo Mexican picadillo is a very versatile recipe. While the recipe calls for ground beef, feel free to substitute for any ground or even cubed meat that you have on hand. Lamb, bison, venison, elk, or any other ground red meat would be fantastic. Pork will change the flavor considerably, but I’d give it a try too if that was all that I had!
Fresh Tomatoes vs. Canned
Whenever I make this recipe, I always plan to buy fresh tomatoes and make the sauce from scratch. However, there’s no reason why you couldn’t use tomato sauce or blend up some diced tomatoes from a can. Use what you have and can find at your local grocery store.
If you use canned diced tomatoes, do not drain them. Pour the tomatoes into a blender and puree just like you would with fresh tomatoes. If it looks extra runny, that’s okay! The liquid will cook off as the sauce simmers.
If you choose to use tomato sauce, the resulting picadillo will be quite thick. You can reduce the simmer time so it doesn’t burn, or you could thin the sauce with some water or chicken broth.
Don’t skip making this recipe! Improvise!
Turnips vs. Other Root Vegetables
Turnips have become my go-to potato replacement. I like how they cook in regards to texture and flavor, they mellow out considerably when cooked. If you were to take a bite of raw turnip the flavor is quite sharp and peppery, but that bite mellows tremendously when the turnip is cooked.
The other reason I have been turning to turnips as they are lower in carbohydrates than potatoes. One cup of potatoes has 26 grams of carbohydrate while one cup of turnips has only 8 grams. That is significant carbohydrate savings!
Could you use other root vegetables besides turnips? Of course! While I haven’t tried them for this recipe, I would think rutabaga, parsnips, or even sweet potatoes (paired with ground pork, maybe?) would work well.
Spicy Mexican Picadillo vs. Not
My husband and boys adore spicy food, but I am a bit trigger shy to create a truly spicy dish. The recipe calls for one jalapeno that has been seeded and ribbed. In my opinion, this results in a dish that has a good depth of flavor without any residual spice. If you would prefer to have a spicier dish then leave the ribs and seeds in jalapeno when minced (or even add two jalapenos!). Another great way to add spice would be to use half ground beef and half Mexican chorizo. That would add a nice heat to the picadillo!
In summary, Paleo Mexican Picadillo is the perfect quarantine dish! It is filled with fresh vegetables which makes great use of what is available at the grocery store right now, it makes a bunch of meals at one time, and it works well in all seasons. It is not overly heavy and warm like a chili or beef stew would be. This dish is light and yet filling which makes it perfect for any season. Try it in the summer too!