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Brazilian Style Picadillo (Ensopado de Carne Moida)

a plate of rice and Brazilian picadillo with olives

Traditionally, picadillo is a ground beef stew popular in Latin America, especially Cuba and Mexico. It is also eaten in the Philippines and parts of the Caribbean. The exact ingredients vary slightly depending on the region, but most versions incorporate a base of ground beef, tomatoes, or tomato sauce. In Brazil, picadillo is referred to as “ensopado de carne moida,” which literally translates to “minced meat stew.”  

Brazilian picadillo is a weeknight staple item, since it lends itself to all sorts of recipes. It can be eaten on its own, or served over white rice or egg noodles; it can act as a filling for tacos, burritos, croquettes, and empanadas. On a bun, it also makes for a significantly upgraded Sloppy Joe. Whatever you use it for, you will be glad you added this versatile dish to your arsenal.

In addition to the base of ground beef and tomatoes, Brazilian picadillo incorporates tangy black olives and bell peppers for crunch and sweetness. You can add any other vegetables you like. Shredded carrots, for example, lend a great texture and freshness. If you want to make it more like a traditional cowboy stew, you can add corn, peas, or cubed potatoes. You will just want to parboil the potatoes so they cook a little faster. 

Do I Have to Use Ground Beef for Brazilian Picadillo?

While the traditional recipe does call for minced ground beef, you can substitute it with any protein of your choice. In fact, some historians believe the original picadillo was made with minced turkey and pheasant, not beef. 

Is There a Vegan Brazilian Picadillo?

There is a vegan version of nearly everything, and picadillo is no exception! Simply replace the ground beef with meaty vegetables and a legume of your choice. This recipe, for example, incorporates shiitake mushrooms and brown lentils

Is Picadillo Spicy?

While it is heavily spiced, there is very little heat to Brazilian picadillo. The bell peppers are very mild, as are the tomatoes. However, if you wanted to spice things up a bit, you could add a little cayenne or half a diced jalapeno to the mix. 

Brazilian Style Picadillo (Ensopado de Carne Moida)


1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup finely diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
6 oz black olives, cut in half
1 red pepper, diced
1 can diced stewed tomatoes
1.5 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp oregano
6 oz beef stock
1 tsp salt
Splash of red wine or red wine vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and put in your diced onion and bell pepper. Cook for 2 minutes or so, until softened. Add in the minced garlic and cook it until you can start to smell it. 
  2. Add the ground beef to the skillet and cook until evenly browned. 
  3. Season the browned beef with the salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano. Stir to coat evenly. 
  4. Add the canned tomatoes, olives, tomato paste, and a splash of red wine vinegar or nice red wine.
  5. Add the stock. Stir to mix all the ingredients together. 
  6. Cover the skillet and simmer for twenty minutes, until the liquid is reduced and you have a nice, thick sauce. 

Serve with rice or try dunking a fluffy Brazilian cheese bread puff into this delicious, savory mixture. 

Other Great Brazilian Recipes to Try:

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