Turkey Picadillo Recipe – Healthy Cuban Picadillo

Turkey Picadillo is a lightened up version of the traditional Latin American dish made with ground beef. Serve it over rice or use it as a taco filling and enjoy! 

This recipe for turkey picadillo was inspired by a segment about Puerto Rican cooking on my favorite podcast, The Splendid Table. 

The Splendid Table is a radio show about all things cooking, and eating, and a bit of travel while eating. I highly recommend it!

The last episode I listened to featured a woman named Von Diaz, who was born in Puerto Rico, but moved to Atlanta with her family when she was 5 years old. Diaz spoke about the amazing foods that her mother and grandmother would prepare growing up. Her mom being a bit more of a heath nut, and her grandmother cooking much more in the traditional style.

One of the classic dishes that Diaz grew up with, and now makes very often herself, is picadillo, a dish of ground meat that is seasoned with sofrito, olives and raisins. While the traditional version is cooked with beef, her mother would make a healthier version with ground turkey. In their household, the picadillo would always be on hand in a little container in the fridge, much like Americans would keep lunch meat.

I was intrigued. I pictured myself making this dish, eating a bit and stashing it away in the fridge, and snacking on it on a daily basis, while cold, and then making it again and again, week after week, and becoming a little Irish-Italian girl who always has turkey picadillo on hand.

So, I started googling recipes for picadillo and found that there are SO many different versions. It was a bit overwhelming. So I put into perspective what I wanted in my version of ground turkey picadillo.

Two bowls of picadillo on counter.

Picadillo ingredients:

  • Ground Turkey
  • Onion
  • Red Pepper
  • Garlic
  • Bay Leaves
  • White Wine
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Green Olives
  • Raisins
  • Black Beans
  • Capers
  • Cumin
  • Cayenne
  • Olive Oil

First, I knew that I wanted to use turkey as my base. I like that it is lower in calories and saturated fat than ground beef. Plus, I prefer the lighter flavor of it.

Second, I found recipes that had some capers thrown into the mix. I’m a caper fiend… So I included those in my recipe.

Third, I wanted to use the traditional elements found in most picadillos – green olives, raisins, spices and tomatoes. I chose to add in cumin, because it’s one of my favorite spices. I also added in a bit of cinnamon to the mix, because I felt like it needed a bit more of a boost. (It worked!)

Fourth – Wine! I had to throw some wine into the mix for good measure. Because… You know… Wine.

How to make turkey picadillo:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the turkey with salt and pepper and cook until browned, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Drain the turkey and set aside in a bowl.
  2. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic and bay leaves. Cook until onion is softened and translucent.
  3. Return cooked turkey to the skillet, and add the wine, tomato sauce, olives and brine, raisins, black beans, capers, cumin, and cayenne. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Serve.

The result was amazing. Rich, salty, spicy, and a bit sweet thanks to those raisins. Those raisins…. They plump up so magically when they’re simmered in this mixture and absorb all of the wonderful flavors of the dish. They were one of my favorite parts of this turkey picadillo.

Picadillo in large saute pan with rice.

Wine pairings for picadillo: 

  • White wines from Burgundy have a medium-body with lightly spicy notes that will pair well with this dish.
  • Rosé is a great partner for this dish – The bright flavors and light acidity match well with the rich flavors in this dish.
  • Pinot Noirs from Oregon have a light, bright earthy elegance that will make a great match for this meal.
  • Sparkling wines go well with this picadillo. The bubbles cut through the richness and brighten up the flavors on your tongue. I chose a rosé sparkler to match my meal.

If you loved this turkey picadillo I would appreciate it so much if you would give this recipe a star review! Also, be sure to snap a picture of your finished dish and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #platingsandpairings and tagging me @platingsandpairings.

What do you serve with picadillo?

Turkey Cuban Picadillo Recipe

Picadillo in shallow white bowl with folded tortilla and rice.

Turkey Picadillo

Turkey Picadillo is a lightened up version of the traditional Latin American dish made with ground beef. This sweet and savory mixture combines briny olives and capers, with sweet golden raisins, black beans and plenty of delicious spices. Serve it over rice or as a taco filling and enjoy! 
3.72 from 14 votes
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil (divided )
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
  • 1 yellow onion (minced)
  • 1 red bell pepper (chopped)
  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ cup white wine or dry vermouth
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup chopped pimento stuffed green olives (plus 1 tablespoon brine)
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • ½ cup canned black beans
  • 1 Tablespoon capers
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the turkey with salt and pepper and cook until browned, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Drain the turkey and set aside in a bowl.
  • Return the same skillet to the burner, add the remaining olive oil and reduce the heat to medium. Add the onions, bell pepper, garlic and bay leaves. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and translucent. Return the cooked turkey to the skillet, and add the wine, tomato sauce, olives and brine, raisins, black beans, capers, cumin, and cayenne. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove bay leaves and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve warm with rice, or as a taco stuffing.
Did you make this recipe?Mention @platingsandpairings or tag #platingsandpairings!

Nutrition

Calories: 211kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 51mg | Sodium: 262mg | Potassium: 485mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 750IU | Vitamin C: 28mg | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 1.8mg

This recipe was originally published in 2015. It was updated in 2021 to add new photographs and information. The recipe remains the same. Enjoy!

35 thoughts on “Turkey Picadillo Recipe – Healthy Cuban Picadillo”

  1. I love food blogs articles like this, ones that have a superhero origin story to go along with the recipe. Well done.

    And that phrase: “Born to be delicious.”

    Put that on a t-shirt, stat.

    Reply
  2. This looks delicious! It’s nice to know that Foster Farms has a an organic version of their meats now. I haven’t looked in a while. I’m glad to hear that.

    Reply
  3. I LOVE that image of with the steam and the spoon in the background! Life has been a little hactic and stressful lately, and I’ve been really embracing easy meals these days. This looks delicious, and I’m really glad to see that Foster Farms has hopped on the Organic train.

    Reply
  4. Hi. This is one of my fav dishes we make at least twice a month! So thank you!
    Also, How much do you consider 1 service? 1 cup, 1/2 cup?

    Reply
    • Hi Simone – Yes, you could substitute the beans. Or, you could leave them out entirely. It’s such a small amount that they won’t be missed too much.

      Reply
  5. Hi Erin, It looks like in the pictures a green bell pepper was used while in the recipe a red pepper was used… Do you think there is enough sweetness from the raisins to go with the green pepper, or best to go with red? Thanks 😀

    Reply
  6. I’m super intrigued by this recipe! my boyfriend is half-Puerto Rican and I’d love to make it for him some time this week. Are capers absolutely necessary for this recipe? I have most of the items at home and I didn’t want to make another trip to the grocery store for them!

    Reply
    • Hi Kate – You can definitely leave out the capers! No need to head back to the store. I would just add in a bit more of the chopped green olives. Hope that helps! I’d love to hear back on what he thought of the recipe!

      Reply
  7. I made a version of you recipe and loved it. I did not have white wine so I used chicken bone broth. I didn’t have black beans so I used small white cannelloni beans. I didn’t have a red pepper so I used an orange one. I used quinoa instead of rice. It turned out great nonetheless. I love the tang of the olives against the sweet surprise of the raisins. One question: you mention cinnamon in the article but it isn’t in the list of ingredients in the recipe. I can see how it would make a nice addition, but how much do recommend?

    Reply

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