Picadillo Gavacho
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Picadillo Gavacho

This is an interesting one. It’s everything and nothing. It’s from everywhere and nowhere. It’s versatile, or great by itself.
Largely found in Latin American countries, the common thread is minced or ground meat, cooked with a variety of other ingredients. Much comes down to the area you’re pulling your influence from. The word picadillo comes from the Spanish word picar, meaning “to mince”. It’s typically made from beef, but this isn’t a requirement. It’s commonly made with pork, in Mexico. Tomatoes are common, but also not required. Other common additions may or may not be olives, raisins, potatoes, a variety of interesting chilies, capers, cumin, garlic, beans, chayote, peas, carrots, etc. There’s an old variation made with fowl, apples, and artichokes!
What do you do with it?!
It's often used as a stuffing within empanadas or served simply with rice. You can enjoy it with some baked tortilla chips, scooping up big mouthfuls, and so on. I’ve seen it watered down with broth and enjoyed as a soup. I’m currently visiting Mexico and was chatting with a friend about it. She said it’s basically seen as a form of Mexican Meatloaf, in terms of its place in society. I personally use it as a basic taco meat, sometimes using cheese shells, or I’ll load it into flour tortillas with some fried beans and enjoy as a burrito. Going a bit leaner and lighter, loaded into a lettuce leaf, or thin sliced jicama. No wrong answers!
Here's the funny part …
I’ve never seen this on a menu anywhere. In fact, I’d never even heard of it, despite my lifetime of visits to Mexico. In doing research on traditional Mexican dishes, I uncovered it and set out to make it. Having never heard of it, but it also being lauded as a classic Mexican dish, I wanted to ask around. Again, my buddy said it was essentially meatloaf served in local homes. I had just finished cooking a batch and offered some to a neighbor. I was proud of this super delicious meat mélange and loaded some into a tortilla for her. She smiled and said it was wonderful. I asked her what she thought of it and her face kind of froze for a moment.
My neighbor is a lovely, authentic, miniature woman. She’s fierce, kind, and brutally honest, in an innocent way. She always holds my hand when we talk.
She’s originally from a tiny mountain town in Chiapas and consistently wears the brightly colored, embroidered clothes made in her village. Her Spanish is much different than anyone I’ve ever spoken with. In fact, it would not surprise me if Spanish wasn’t even her first language, likely first learning an indigenous language. A wonderful neighbor, but there’s a sincere language barrier between us. She’s undeniably feisty, though!
When I asked for her thoughts, she really had to reach deep within to respond. It was clear she liked it, but she also didn’t connect with it, as a common food in her own home. After a long pause, she finally arrived at her response. “Picadillo Gavacho!”, she declared!
Picadillo was new to me, at the time. Now, she’d assigned the name “Gavacho” to it. I wasn’t sure what that word meant and tried to fish for its meaning. After several minutes of fumbling, I was finally able to discern Gavacho means Gringo, a common and occasionally pejorative term for people from the United States. All the Gringos I know have embraced the term. In fact, the local rag is called The Gringo Gazette!
We both laughed and enjoyed our lunch together. I love my neighbor. She’s a spunky one!
This is a great one in that it’s easy to make, can be made with just about anything, can be used in a plethora of ways, can be made in bulk, freezes & reheats well, and goes down smooth. Give it a shot!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Servings: 8
Author: DJ Foodie


  • 1/4 cup lard tallow, or olive oil
  • 2 poblano peppers diced
  • 1 small carrot peeled and diced
  • 1 small onion peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 lbs. ground beef 80/20 or 70/30, if you can find it
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup raisins coarsely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Heat a large pot over medium heat.
  • Add the fat to the pan and swirl it around. Add the peppers, carrots, onions, garlic, and cumin to the pan with a bit of salt and pepper. Stir to coat with the fat and cook until aromatic and the onions become a bit translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  • Add the ground beef to the pan. Stir and break up the meat. Add a bit of salt and pepper, continuing to stir and breaking up the meat.
  • Add the tomato paste and raisins. Stir into the mixture, then turn the heat to low.
  • Allow the mixture to simmer and cook for about 30 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Taste, adjust the seasoning with a bit more salt and pepper, if it needs it, then serve!