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Cuban Picadillo in Napa Cabbage Rolls

Cuban Picadillo in Napa Cabbage Rolls | via

It’s raining outside. And as the sun goes down in a long, white stretch across the sky outside my window, I can’t help but think that this is what peace looks like. There is some inexplicable thing about the sky and the rain that makes them seem to exude life. Or maybe they do actually exude life. I’m not sure I’ll ever know, but I’m pretty content to just sit here and watch. The thing is, life is just so exciting if we learn to explore new things.

Cuban Picadillo in Napa Cabbage Rolls | via

This week has been a project for me. I’ve been challenged to limit my carbs to one meal per day, either breakfast or lunch. If you have any idea how much I cherish dinner, the one time day I actually have time to make a proper meal, you know this is a significant sacrifice for me. Well, at least, that’s what I thought, too. I spent most of Monday dreading dinner-time, sad that I would be missing out on a normal meal.

Cuban Picadillo in Napa Cabbage Rolls | via

You see, it’s hard for me to think that any meal without carbs could be worth eating. It’s a mindset that has been proven wrong over and over again, but I have a hard time believing it each time. Anyway, as the day progressed, I thought of some of the things I enjoy the most that would be easy to make and would somehow disprove my skepticism. Cuban “picadillo” is a ground beef dish that I’ve made for many friends of many different backgrounds – and it always goes over well. The best part about it is that it goes together so quickly, but that you still end up with a meal that looks like it took hours of laborious effort. Typically, picadillo is served over white rice. But, in this low carb variation, the meat is combined with steamed napa cabbage, where the picadillo’s tasty sauce happily complements the flavor of the vegetable. I promise you, this is one dinner you won’t soon forget.


Recipe follows after the jump –>

5.0 from 2 reviews
Cuban Picadillo in Napa Cabbage Rolls
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
"Picadillo" is a very famous Cuban ground beef dish. This particular Picadillo recipe has been passed down and perfected through several generations - and paired with napa cabbage, it makes for a deliciously healthy treat!
Serves: 4
For the Picadillo:
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb lean ground beef (at least 93% lean)
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 5 pimento-stuffed olives
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ⅜ cup burgundy cooking wine
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive juice (from olive jar)
  • ½ of a medium tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp sazon completa
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon of dried, flaked oregano (optional)
  • 1 packet "Sazon with Azafran" by Goya (or replace with saffron)
For the cabbage:
  • 1 head of napa cabbage
  • ¾ cup water
For the Picadillo:
  1. Heat oil in a medium heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Add in the beef, red pepper, onions, garlic, raisins, olives, and salt, and stir to combine.
  2. Stirring occasionally, cook the mixture until the meat is browned. Lower the heat to medium.
  3. Pour in wine, vinegar, and olive juice and continue to stir occasionally.
  4. Add in the tomato, and stir it in.
  5. Add in black pepper, oregano, and packet of Sazon, and stir them in.
  6. Taste test the salt---add in more if necessary.
  7. Continue to cook until the liquid is reduced by at least half, about 10-15 minutes.
For the cabbage:
  1. Lay four nappa cabbage leaves at a time (stacked, if necessary) in a large, nonstick skillet. Pour in the water, and cover. Set the heat to medium high. Cook until the cabbage is the desired level of tenderness.
For plating:
  1. Lay a cabbage leaf out on a clean surface. Drop 2-3 tablespoons of picadillo into the center of the leaf, and proceed to roll it like a burrito. Enjoy!
*Some people like to include potatoes in this dish - if you want to include them, simply dice 1-2 potatoes and add them in prior to evaporating out the liquid and cook until the potatoes are tender (you may also need to add more salt)
*For sweeter picadillo, add more raisins at the beginning and more cooking wine - this is not a sweet version


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