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Easy Vegan Picadillo (Cuban-Inspired)

We were charmed by the complex combination of savoury, sweet, and salty flavours when we first encountered the Cuban picadillo and knew we had to make a plant-based version. We landed on this innovative, fibre-rich twist after a few testing and tweaks, and we’re so pleased to share it with you!

It’s wonderfully balanced, quick and easy (1 pot, 30 minutes), and gluten-free by nature. It also improves with age and reheats well, making it great for meal preparation! We’re excited for you to test it! Let us demonstrate how it’s done!

What exactly is Picadillo?

Picadillo comes from the Spanish word Picadillo, meaning “to cut” or “to mince.” It’s a popular dish in the Philippines and several Latin American countries.

The components in picadillo vary by region, but the dish is typically made using ground beef, tomatoes, herbs, and spices. Picadillo comes in various flavours, including olives and raisins in some, potatoes in others, and a variety of additional ingredients (source).

The following is our plant-based version of picadillo, which replaces ground beef with lentils and uses components that are most comparable to the Cuban version.

Vegan Picadillo: How to Make It

This vegan picadillo starts with a delicious, caramelized onion and red bell pepper foundation. While green Cubanelle peppers are a more traditional ingredient in Cuban picadillo, we chose red bell peppers since they are more accessible and have a sweeter flavour.

The next ingredient is shiitake mushrooms, which aren’t conventional but offer a great “meaty” texture and flavour to this vegan rendition of the meal. At this point, we season them with fresh garlic and coconut aminos to ensure that they absorb a lot of flavours.

After that, green or brown lentils are used as a protein and fibre-rich substitute for ground beef in classic picadillo. We used canned lentils to keep this meal quick and uncomplicated, but handmade lentils would also work!

We used the traditional seasonings: oregano for herbiness, cumin for smokiness, cayenne for spiciness, and salt and pepper for overall flavour. Classic picadillo flavours come from tomato sauce, pimento-stuffed green olives, and optional raisins, while the water keeps everything saucy!

We hope you like this vegan picadillo as much as we did!


Quick & quick & perfect for meal prep! Savoury Sweet Salty Fiber-packed Savory Sweet Salty Fiber-packed Savory Sweet Salty Fiber-packed Savory Sweet Salty Fiber-packed

Serve it with roasted plantains, rice, and cilantro for a hearty supper that will take you to the tropics (okay, a little imagination is required).

After a brief 10-15 minutes, the lentils have absorbed all of the sauce and are ready for a complex explosion of flavours!

Lentil Recipes with More Flavor

Moussaka Moussaka Moussaka Moussaka Mouss

Lentil Fesenjn (Vegan Lentil Fesenjn) (Pomegranate Walnut Stew)

Sloppy Joes for Vegans

Red Lentil Chili in a 1-Pot

Picadillo is a quick and easy vegan dish (Cuban-Inspired)

Picadillo with a tasty, short, plant-based twist! This rich, savoury-sweet Cuban-inspired entree requires only one pot and 30 minutes to prepare.


2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (if oil-free, sub twice as much water)

1 medium onion yields 2 cups (320 g) chopped white or yellow onion

1/2 medium red bell pepper, finely diced (1/2 bell pepper makes 2/3 cup / alternatively use green Cubanelle peppers in place of 1/2 bell pepper if available)

12 cup shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped (3 ounces yield 12 cup / or cremini mushrooms)

12 tablespoons minced garlic (four cloves)

a tablespoon of coconut aminos (for depth of flavour)

2 (15-oz.) cans of rinsed and drained brown lentils (2 cans make 2 12 cup cooked lentils)

1 teaspoon oregano, dry

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional / for heat)

1/4 teaspoon each of black pepper and sea salt (plus more to taste)

1 tomato sauce can (8 oz) (or sub tomato passata)

3/4 cup of liquid

1/2 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, coarsely chopped (or other green olives in brine)

1/4 cup raisins, roughly chopped (optional/dried currants or sultanas can be used)


Over medium heat, heat a large rimmed skillet, pot, or Dutch oven. When the pan is heated, add the oil, onion, and bell pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring often.

Stir in the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the garlic and coconut aminos and cook, stirring regularly, for 4-5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are golden brown. If the food is browning too soon, reduce the heat.

Then add the drained lentils, oregano, cumin, cayenne (if desired), salt, pepper, tomato sauce, water, olives, and raisins (optional). Stir to combine and cook (covered) for 10-15 minutes to develop flavours, stirring occasionally.

Remove the lid and cook for 1-2 minutes to thicken, stirring often. Add extra cumin for smokiness, olives for saltiness/tanginess, raisins for sweetness, or cayenne for heat.

This goes great with roasted plantains, white or brown rice, and cilantro. Enjoy!

Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or frozen for one month. Warm on the stovetop or in the microwave until thoroughly warmed.


Immaculate Bites and Chef Zee Cooks were used as inspiration for this recipe.

*Nutrition data is a preliminary estimate based on the absence of optional additives.


a single serving

297 calories

45.2 g carbohydrate

7.6 g protein

9.8 g fat

1.3 g saturated fat

0.9 g polyunsaturated fat

5 g monounsaturated fat

0 g trans fat

0 mg cholesterol

752 mg sodium

677 mg potassium

5.8 g fibre

8 g sugar

723 IU Vitamin A

31 mg vitamin C

83 mg calcium

3 mg iron

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