Puerto Rican Picadillo Tacos and Homemade Sazon Seasoning

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Picaillo Taco and Homemade Sazon Seasoning

Today I watched Pope Francis address congress. I struggled to understand, not only his accent, but what he might have been saying to me.

Everyone will walk away from that speech hearing something different, hearing what most lines up with their own personal beliefs.

Some will hear that he was speaking to “them over there.” Some will hear that he was saying “you are right and they are wrong.”

Here is what I heard.

I heard that we must bridge the gap of our opposing views with dignity, love, and discipline.

I heard that we must make room in our hearts for those who need our comfort and mercy. This most often means people who are very different from us, people who may hold opposing values.

I heard that we must persevere to hold sacred every life, not just from afar, but up close.

Sazon Seasoning

Many of us here in America are blessed to walk free and walk fat. The essential part of life that speaks to the soul of every person is his or her individuality and unique life force. This can only be fully realized in an atmosphere of freedom, the kind of freedom that many before us have laid their lives down for.

Freedom, in a country as massive as America, is only possible when we embrace this culture and value system which honors  and was built on the freedom to believe or not to believe in deity, freedom to speak and vote our minds and the freedom to generate income. In order to live free, we must embrace variety of ethnicity, diversity of thought, and dignity of others.

It means seeing life as sacred. Every life. Even the life of those who scare us or burden us.

This freedom is so complex and difficult, yet so extraordinary and unique, when we look around the world. We must do whatever we can to understand what it means, and to protect it. We must search our own hearts to protect our own freedom and those of our neighbor. That’s what I heard.

Cuban Picadillo Tacos

Food is a bridge to this type of freedom. Food helps us to appreciate and honor our differences. It may be the best weapon we have in starting to walk towards each other instead of away from each other.

Food gives life. Sharing food amongst different cultures fosters communication and sharing recipes from different cultures creates appreciation.

These are just simple picadillo tacos, but not something I grew up with, and just a small start in trying something new for me.  In Argentina, where the Pope is from, they  stuff picadillo into empanadas. I have to try that version some day.

What is picadillo? It’s a simple combination of complex flavors, much like an Italian bolognese, only different in how it is served. Bolognese gets its acid from wine and tomatoes, whereas picadillo gets its acid from olives, tomatoes, capers and vinegar, but all of that cooks down and balances nicely.

Cuban Picadillo tacos

Picadillo is Latin American, with various versions, brought to Cuba, Puerto Rico, etc. from Spain. This is closest to the Cuban version (possibly the Puerto Rican version), as it has olives, the ingredient that drew me closer to the dish. Some versions have raisins and some potatoes or both. If you know of a different vesion, leave me a comment.

Picadillo starts with onions, diced tomatoes, poblano peppers, and is mainly a comforting ground beef dish. You can serve with rice and beans, in a taco, in a empanada, on a lettuce wrap, on a roll, or just eat it by itself. The capers, olives give it some spunk, and saźon, of course, helps to drive flavor.

Homemade Saźon Seasoning for Puerto Rican Picadillo Tacos

You are probably familiar with saźon seasoning in a packet, but let me encourage you to make your own, and avoid the MSG.  You will have to familiarize yourself with annato seeds, and use a spice grinder. The annato seeds, known as achiote, grow on the annato tree and  are used for the red coloring, and elicit some flavor.

The next time you’re eating ethnic food (or food you didn’t grow up eating) or food that is unfamiliar, maybe take a moment to think about the people whom that food represents.

Let’s connect on Instagram where every picture tells a story from all around the world.

I’m a huge ground beef fan, and you can find a medley of ground beef recipes here.

Sazon Seasoning
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Picadillo Tacos

A Cuban classic of ground meat, olives, and sazon seasoning
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time2 hours
Total Time2 hours 20 minutes
Course: Entree
Cuisine: Cuban
Servings: 6
Author: Angela Roberts


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 carrot diced
  • 1 clove garlic sliced
  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 1/2 poblano pepper diced (can substitute green bell pepper)
  • 1 pound ground beef can substitute ground turkey, ground pork
  • 12 small green Spanish olives cut cross wise
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon cider or balsamic vinegar or 1 teaspoon vinegar based hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon sazon seasoning homemade recipe below
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • lettuce
  • queso fresco for garnish
  • corn tortillas
  • Queso cheese for garnish
  • !Homemade Saźon Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon toasted coriander seed
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon annato seeds ground (or paprika)
  • 1 tablespoon salt


  • Instructions:
  • Saute onions and carrots in olive oil until onions are softened, about three minutes. Add in garlic, poblano peppers, and saute for one minute. Crumble ground beef and add to the pan.
  • Once meat is browned, add saźon seasoning.
  • Add in olives, capers, can of tomatoes, vinegar, honey, and bay leaf. If the meat is extra lean, add in two more tablespoons of olive oil. Simmer over very low heat for two hours, stirring occasionally. Alternatively, this can be put into a slow cooker to simmer on low for 4 hours. Remove bay leaf before serving.
  • !Instructions for the Sazon Seasoning
  • Toast peppercorns and coriander seeds in frying pan until warmed through. Add all ingredients to spice blender and grind.


  • Remove bay leaf.
  • Warm corn tortillas. Place shredded lettuce. Top with picadillo. Garnish with queso fresco

Please follow me on instagram. If you make this recipe,  please tag me #spinachtiger.

If you love this recipe, please give it five stars. It means a lot. xoxo


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