side angle of vegan picadillo and mexican rice in a clay plate on top of a striped blue placemat

Picadillo is one of those dishes that is a staple in every Mexican household. This vegan picadillo made with lentils is super easy to make and kids tend to love it. It was one of my favorites growing up. In northern Mexico, it is traditionally made with ground beef, onions, garlic, chiles, and potatoes. In southern and central Mexico they add raisins, olives, and even fruit. You can also find picadillo in other Latin American countries. Perhaps the most famous is the Cuban version, which consists of ground or shredded beef, onions, peppers, potatoes, olives, and capers.

stainless steel pot full of lentils, onions, and broth on a wood background
tomato chipotle puree in a blender container over a wood background

Honestly, I was a little doubtful if this recipe would work with the lentils, but it works! As I was making it I could smell all the flavors coming together. My husband walked into the kitchen and got all excited, ” You’re making picadillo!” That is until I told him it was vegan and made with lentils. He hates lentils for some reason.

cooked lentils being mashed by a fork in a red bowl
cooked onions and lentils in a cast iron enameled pot with a wooden spoon

I still haven’t been able to motivate him to go vegan with me. He tries it for a couple of weeks and goes back to eating meat. It complicates things a bit at home, but we make it work. However, he has become the ultimate recipe tester. I know for sure that a recipe is good if he likes it. Usually, he just complains and says, “This would be great if it had meat,” or ” All this needs is pork.” Sigh.

lentil in tomato chipotle broth in an cast iron enameled pot
vegan picadillo made with lentils, carrots, and potatoes in a cast iron enameled pot

I decided to use lentils instead of TVP or another meat substitute because I love lentils and they are incredibly nutritious, full of protein, iron, and fiber. That being said you can totally follow this recipe and use meat crumbles, TVP, tempeh, or a mixture of mushrooms, nuts, and cauliflower to substitute the meat part of this dish. 

vegan picadillo and mexican rice in a clay plate on top of a striped blue placemat with tortillas and tomates in the background

The Recipe: Vegan Picadillo

  • Even though this recipe calls for only cumin and oregano you could add a pinch of cinnamon.
  • If the picadillo seems too dry you can add additional liquid as needed.
  • For a flavor reminiscent of knorr suiza, one of the most used condiments in Mexican you can use Better Than Bouillon, No Chicken Base
  • Serve with warm corn tortillas and Mexican rice. Enjoy!
a close up of a spoon digging into the vegan picadillo
side angle of vegan picadillo and mexican rice in a clay plate on top of a striped blue placemat
Save Recipe
4.5 from 2 votes

Vegan Picadillo

Picadillo is one of those dishes that is a staple in every Mexican household. It is super easy to make and kids tend to love it. In northern Mexico it is traditionally made with onions, garlic, chiles, and potatoes.
Pin Recipe Print Recipe
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: chipotle, mexican, potatoes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 292kcal
Author: Dora S.

Ingredients

  • ½ lb. Brown lentils , cleaned and picked
  • ½ Onion, yellow
  • ¼ Onion, yellow, finely chopped
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 2 Garlic cloves minced
  • 1 Chile chipotle, in adobo
  • 3 Plum tomatoes, large
  • 1 Carrot, peeled, diced
  • 1 Russet potato, small, diced
  • ½ tsp. Cumin, ground
  • ¼ tsp. Oregano, dry
  • 3 cups Vegetable broth or lentil cooking liquid

Instructions

  • Place lentils in a medium pot and cover with water. Add bay leaf and half of your onion, left whole. Bring to a boil and turn heat down to a simmer. Let simmer for 15 min, until lentils are slightly tender. Set aside.
  • Place tomatoes and chipotle pepper in blender, and process until smooth. Set aside.
  • Set a pot over medium heat, add 1/4 cup of water. Add chopped onion and sweat for 2-3 minutes. Add minced garlic and sweat for 3 minute more.
  • Drain lentils and reserve cooking liquid. Mash the lentils with a fork to break them up a bit.Pour lentils into the pot and stir to combine with onion and garlic.
  • Pour the tomato-chipotle mixture into the pot and let cook for 2 min. or until you notice that the tomato puree is changing into a dark red color.
  • Add 3 cups of the lentil cooking liquid, diced carrot and potato, cumin, oregano, and season to taste.
  • Bring to a simmer and cook until vegetables are tender, about 20 min.

Notes

  • Even though this recipe calls for only cumin and oregano you could add a pinch of cinnamon.
  • If the picadillo seems too dry you can add additional liquid as needed.
  • For a flavor reminiscent of knorr suiza, one of the most used condiments in Mexican you can use Better Than Bouillon, No Chicken Base
  • Serve with warm corn tortillas and Mexican rice. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 292kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 730mg | Potassium: 1074mg | Fiber: 21g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 3714IU | Vitamin C: 29mg | Calcium: 69mg | Iron: 6mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @dorastable or tag #mexicangonevegan!
12 replies
  1. Candace Lawrence
    Candace Lawrence says:

    Have you shown him (your husband) the PETA tapes? You can order them from PETA. I guarantee he will be so horrified at where and how his meat originates, it won’t be difficult to persuade him to try full-stop vegetarianism (with the help of your delicious recipes), and then veganism. When my husband and I first started dating, his favorite dish was carnitas. Needless to say (with the help of my delicious recipes), although I didn’t push him, that habit vanished. Now he is an animal rights attorney and if you google him, you’ll see pages and pages of his scholarship in international animal law.

    True story.

    Reply
  2. Lisa Morgan
    Lisa Morgan says:

    Hi Dora, I made the picadillo last night–really good! My spouse doesn’t like lentils that much, but he liked this. We had it with rice and a crispy cabbage salad. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe. I was looking for something that wasn’t a lentil soup but was more like . . . a picadillo, I guess. :) We appreciate your vegan recipes!

    Reply
  3. Krys
    Krys says:

    I’m going to make this tonight, but if I take out the chiles to make it less spicy for my 2 year old, will it ruin the recipe?

    Reply
  4. Karla
    Karla says:

    Will the chipotle make it spicy? My young daughters are vegan along with me and my hubby, but they don’t like spicy food. What can I do here?

    Reply
  5. Camie
    Camie says:

    Can’t wait to try this–for some reason I have a surfeit of lentils at the moment. Does the Better Than Bouillon get added to the lentil cooking liquid or the 3 cups of vegetable broth?

    Reply
  6. Camie
    Camie says:

    Hi, I left a comment earlier but it seems to have disappeared. Anyway, I asked at what point do you use the Knorr Suiza or Better Than Bouillon–with the 3 cups of vegetable broth?
    Thanks!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.