Our Carne Picada will turn your kitchen into an amazing south-of-the-border taco bar with this simple, easy and versatile recipe. Buen Provecho!
For those of us who spend our days cooking and crafting recipes, generally obsessed with food, inspiration can be found just about anywhere.
Maybe you tried something at a restaurant you want to recreate at home, maybe you have fond memories of a dish your grandmother used to make, or maybe a late night of binge-watching old Friends episodes made you crave some homemade fried chicken.
Sometimes, though, it’s an ingredient that sparks your creativity, something unique you found at your go-to grocery store or a specialty store you visited on a trip (I’m not the only one who has “visit local market” on their list of vacation to-do’s, right?). That’s the case with this recipe.
What is Carne Picada?
What is carne picada in English? Well, it can mean “minced” or “ground” meat, though what I found at the market and what you’ll likely find is more like very thin strips – shavings, somewhere between a coarse ground beef and thin slices of steak.
Carne pica actually means “spicy” beef, so let’s go with spicy minced beef. 🙂 The slices usually come from a flavorful cut like chuck, though more inexpensive cuts may be used. It was one serendipitous visit to a local Hispanic market that introduced me to Carne Picada.
In addition to natural beefy goodness, the biggest advantage to using the Carne Picada cut is that it cooks up extremely quickly even though it’s from a low-and-slow roast like chuck, so getting dinner on the table is a snap. Because it has tons of surface area, it also means more space to absorb whatever inspired seasonings you decide to use. Flavor, flavor, flavor.
This Carne Picada recipe is definitely Mexican-inspired and makes a great filling for tacos or enchiladas, or even fantastic Carne Picada fajitas (though you’ll need to pan fry them for fajitas since grilling might be a challenge.
Carne Picada vs. Carne Guisada
Both are small pieces of beef, but picada is sliced into thin strips and guisada has larger pieces similar to stew beef, slow-cooked and swimming in a cumin-laced gravy.
Carne Picada vs. Carne Asada
Both of these are more like traditional steak, but “Asada” will be grilled, served as a whole steak or sliced for fajitas. Picada will be cooked into something a little saucier. Carne asada is also a more common dish with lots of recipes to choose from. Don’t bother looking for a Carne Picada recipe Food Network or other popular food sites might offer to your recipe quest.
How do you make Carne Picada?
For my recipe, you’ll use a dry marinade of smoky spices – cumin, coriander, oregano – and the extra special addition of ancho chili powder.
After an hour or so, the seasoned beef gets browned in batches then mixed with tomatoes (I do recommend breaking these apart with your hands for the best texture), onions, and jalapeños to make a really versatile filling that can be stuffed into your favorite tortilla (or my homemade sopes) and eaten as-is or with your favorite taco toppings.
Carne Picada Ingredients
- Dried Ancho Chile Powder Ancho is the name for dried poblano peppers, a dark, smoky, but relatively mild chili often found in fajitas or stuffed as the classic chili relleno. The chili powder on your pantry shelf is probably a blend of spices that includes additional heat in the form of cayenne pepper.
- Ancho chili powder is just a wonderful concentrate of all the flavor and natural heat of the chili itself without the other stuff to get in the way.
- Salt + Black Pepper: Simple S+P
- Brown Sugar: This doesn’t make the meat taste sweet at all. It balances out the herbs, garlic, and jalapeño flavors.
- Dried Oregano: A pungent, quintessential Mexican flavor.
- Dried Cumin: Adds a wonderful herby smokey flavor.
- Dried Coriander: Add a beautiful Mexican floral note.
- Carne Picada: Thinly sliced beef.
- Garlic: Use fresh. Skip the weird tasting stuff that comes in a jar!
- Jalapeno: Most of the heat level is contained in the seeds and ribs of the pepper. Remove or leave in, as desired, to control the heat level.
- Onion: Use white or yellow. White is more common in Mexican cooking.
- Canned Whole Plum Tomatoes:
- Tortillas: I like to serve this with corn tortillas but use flour tortillas if you prefer.
- Taco Toppings: I like shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes, sour cream, and cilantro.
- Find it: This recipe is really so simple, with easy-to-find ingredients, the only exception possibly being the meat itself. While this particular cut isn’t necessarily a familiar one in most states, a local Hispanic market is always a good bet, and I’ve even found it at Walmart.
- If you come up empty-handed, though, buy a small chuck roast or London broil and have your butcher shave it for you, or partially freeze it at home and slice the thinnest pieces you can.
- Spicy: If you don’t like the heat: Definitely DON’T stay out of the kitchen! Just omit the jalapeno.
- If you do like things a little on the spicy side, substitute a chopped chipotle pepper (or two, depending on how hot you like it). Chipotles, found canned in Adobo sauce, are wonderfully smoked jalapeno that adds even more flavor – and heat – to the filling.
- Can You Freeze Carne Picada?
- Double It! This filling is so versatile that I often double the filling and store extras in the freezer for an effortless taco night. It’s a great way to make sure you’re spending time mixing up a pitcher of margaritas instead of tending to the stovetop!
Storing + Freezing
- How Long Can You Keep This In The Fridge? The Carne Picada will last for 3-4 days in the fridge.
- Can You Freeze This? I prefer to make this fresh. The meat is so thin and there’s so much surface area, I prefer not to freeze this recipe.
What To Serve With Carne Picada
Check out More Mexican Meals!
- Drunken Mexican Beans with Cilantro and Bacon
- Mexican Cream Cheese Crock Pot Chicken
- Quick Mexican Chicken
- Beef Enchiladas
- One Pot Burrito Bowl
- 1 tablespoon dried ancho chile powder
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 3 teaspoons dried cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried coriander
- 2 pounds carne Picada
- 4 large cloves garlic minced
- 1 jalapeno seeded, deribbed, and minced
- 1 cup onion chopped
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes, drained and crushed with your hands
- In a small bowl mix together first 7 ingredients.
- Toss meat with garlic. Sprinkle meat with spice mixture and mix to evenly coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1-hour minimum.
- In a large straight-sided skillet, add 2 tablespoons of oil, jalapeno, and onions and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until the onions begin to soften. Add half the meat mixture and cook over medium-high heat until browned on both sides. Remove to a plate and set aside. Add more oil as needed and brown the remaining meat on both sides. Turn the heat to low. Add the cooked meat back to the pan. Add drained tomatoes and cook, cover, until heated through, about 7 minutes.
- Serve with warmed tortillas and desired optional toppings.
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