Enchiladas Picadillo

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This recipe started with a search request from a reader looking for a tortilla filling that included ground meat, raisins, spices and olives. Picadillo!  Popular in several Latin countries, this very flavorful, piquant filling can fall anywhere on the sweet/tangy/salty/spicy continuum. Some versions include tomatoes and sweet green peppers in the mix; others have minced hard-boiled egg in them.

I was delighted to find this version (which we have adapted) in a 1963 community cookbook from Punxsutawney, PA, credited to Mexico-City-native Miguel Gamboa. I’ve also developed another slightly spicier picadillo that works very well as a filling for little hand-held fried pies—click here for that Empanadas Picadillo recipe.

Feel free to tweak the amount of spices—adding a little more, or less—to suit your tastebuds. The type of green olives you choose will also affect the finished flavor of the dish.  Because my boys tend to like milder flavor, I used bright-green Castelventrano olives from Western Sicily, which have a rich, buttery flavor. But a more assertive green olive would work well in this dish, too.

Makes enough filling for 12 enchiladas

Spiced Meat Filling Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, OR 1 pound ground beef plus (to add at the end) 1/2 pound of finely-minced leftover steak or shish kebab meat
  • 1 cup finely diced tomato
  • 2 Tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp each of salt, sugar and cinnamon
  • dash of powdered cloves
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 cup chopped raisins
  • 1 cup green olives, slices in wedges

Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 of a green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 can tomato sauce, 14.5 ounce
  • 1 can fire toasted tomatoes, 14.5 ounce
  • pinch of fresh thyme leave
  • Tbsp fresh minced oregano leaves
  • 1 tsp chile de arbol powder
  • 1 Tbsp beef base
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Grated Mexican melting cheese  or Monterrey Jack for garnish

Tortilla Ingredients

  • 12 tortillas (*if you can find a restaurant who makes them fresh, or, has someone make them for them fresh, get those. We prefer this recipe with corn tortillas, rather than flour.)


  1. Make filling: Heat oil in a saute pan. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft. Stir in ground beef and cook until browned lightly. Add all remaining ingredients–except the olives. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the olives, and, the 1/2 pound of leftover minced steak, if you are using that.
  2. Make sauce: Heat oil. Add onion, garlic, celery and bell pepper and cook until sauft. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer about 15 minutes, adding a little more water if necessary.
  3. Assemble enchiladas: Sprinkle a  few scant drops of water on tortillas and soften them in a single layer in a covered pan. Work in batches until all are hot and soft. Cover with a kitchen towel. Grease a shallow baking dish. Spoon 2 Tbsp of filling into each tortilla, roll and place in baking dish. Spoon about 1/2 of the sauce over the enchiladas; sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350 until hot through. Serve remaining sauce, separately.

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