Made with crunchy corn taco shells, a simple ground beef and potato filling, and all the taco fixin’s your heart desires, these Mexican Picadillo Tacos (also known as Tacos de Picadillo) are a weeknight wonder. With just 5 minutes of prep and a quick 30-minute cook time, these budget-friendly and crowd-pleasing tacos are a family favorite, and I have a feeling they’ll be one at your house, too.

platter of mexican picadillo tacos in fried taco shells topped with tomato, avocado, and cheese.

About This Recipe

When I’m in need of a comforting meal in record time, I can’t help but turn to Mexican picadillo. Made in just one skillet (which means easy clean-up!), this ground beef, tomato, and potato mixture is super versatile, perfect for adding to empanadas, tacos, poblanosgorditaszucchini boats, and homemade crunchwraps, among many other dishes.

When I think back to my childhood, these picadillo tacos are quick to stand out. My Grandma Jesusita would make them at least 2-3 times per month. My job was to shred the cheese — we used Colby, which some Mexican purists might scoff at for being yellow, but I love the mild and creamy flavor to this day.

Oh, and these crispy taco shells? They’re not from a box. They are made with soft corn tortillas formed into half-moon shapes, then lightly fried until crunchy but somewhat pliable. YUM! As far as I’m concerned, these tacos de picadillo are down-home Mexican cooking at its finest.

Budget Friendly and Kid-Friendly Mexican Dish

With our current state of skyrocketing grocery prices (can you believe they’re estimated to rise another 5% by year’s end?!?), picadillo is more than just nostalgic; it’s also an excellent recipe for stretching your food budget. It’s no wonder they were a favorite of Abuelita’s!

Meat prices are among the hardest hit by inflation, so bulking it up with inexpensive potatoes is a simple way to keep dinnertime more affordable, especially when you have hungry teenagers in the house. (Trust me, I KNOW.)

Finally, Mexican picadillo is also super approachable for most palates — there’s nothing too spicy or outlandish for picky eaters to turn their noses up at. Load it into crispy, homemade taco shells with melty cheese, shredded lettuce, and your favorite salsa, and you have yourself a hearty, delicious, and kid-friendly meal!

overhead shot of mexican picadillo in a cast iron skillet.

How To Make Tacos de Picadillo

Step 1: Make Picadillo. In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 2 minutes, until translucent. Add ground beef and brown. Using a potato masher, mash meat so you have small pieces of meat with no big chunks. Drain off excess grease. Add garlic salt, pepper, tomatoes, and potatoes and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, until potatoes are done. Salt to taste.

Step 2: Make Crispy Tortilla Shells. Heat 1-inch oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet. Fry tortillas, one at a time, by folding in half and laying one-half flat in oil while holding the other half with a fork or tongs, and repeating with the other half to form a half-moon shell, until golden and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Place taco shells on a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Step 3: Assemble. Spoon picadillo into each taco shell, and garnish with lettuce, tomato, salsa, cheese, and avocado if using. Or, do what I do and let everyone make their own!

Watch this video to see how easy it is to make these picadillo tacos.

Serving Suggestions

These Mexican picadillo tacos are an utter delight, no matter how you serve them. Here are some of my favorite things to set out on the taco bar:

  • Cheese – Colby or Longhorn are favorites in our house, but feel free to swap in mild or sharp cheddar, spicy pepperjack, melty queso Oaxaca, or mild jack cheese.
  • Salsa Easy Pico de Gallo (Salsa Bandera), Roasted Tomatillo-Chipotle Salsa, or Salsa Casera are my go-tos, but feel free to use your own favorites!
  • Shredded Lettuce – Iceberg might get a bad wrap from some, but I love its crispy coolness. Feel free to swap in shredded romaine or cabbage instead.
  • Avocado – Simple slices or chunks of avocado are good enough for me, but guacamole is never a bad idea!
  • Sour Cream/Mexican Crema – You can also use full-fat Greek yogurt for a similar flavor experience.
  • Hot Sauce Red Devil hot sauce is my go-to El Paso staple, but I also love Valentina hot sauce.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is picadillo most popular?

Picadillo is a dish that is quite popular throughout Latin America and the Philippines, with each region having their own particular flair. In Costa Rica, picadillo is often vegetarian; in Cuba, they add olives and raisins; in the Dominican Republic, hard-boiled eggs are often added to the mix.

Can I use a protein other than ground beef?

While I grew up eating picadillo de res (res means “beef”), you can certainly swap in ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground bison if you prefer!

Can I use canned tomatoes to make Mexican picadillo?

Sure! Just be sure to drain them first. Or feel free to omit them!

How long does picadillo last?

I’ll often make a big ol’ batch of picadillo on my meal prep day and enjoy it throughout the week. It is delicious served with Mexican rice or sopa de fideos, and also makes for an excellent filling for everything from stuffed peppers and mushrooms to homemade crunch wraps and burritos. Just be sure to use it within a week, or toss any leftovers in the freezer for up to 3 months.

More Budget-Friendly Dinner Ideas

If you made my recipe for Mexican Picadillo Tacos (Tacos de Picadillo), please let me know how it turned out by rating and reviewing the recipe below!

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painted serving platter loaded with 5 tacos de picadillo and 3 bowls of shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes, and sliced avocado.

Crispy Ground Beef and Potato Tacos (Tacos de Picadillo)

4.89 (9 ratings)
This taco filling is called picadillo and is simple to make and economical, made with ground beef, potatoes, tomatoes, and seasoned with a bit of garlic salt.

Ingredients

Picadillo:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon Lawry’s garlic salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and finely chopped

Tacos:

  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 20 corn tortillas

Optional toppings

Instructions 

Picadillo:

  • In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 2 minutes, until translucent.
  • Add ground beef and brown. Using a potato masher, mash meat so you have small pieces of meat with no big chunks. Drain off excess grease.
  • Add garlic salt, pepper, tomatoes, and potatoes and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, until potatoes are done. Salt to taste.

Tacos:

  • Heat 1-inch oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet.
  • Fry tortillas, one at a time, by folding in half and laying one half flat in oil while holding other half with a fork or tongs, and repeating with the other half to form a half moon shell, until golden and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Place taco shells on a paper towel lined plate. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
  • Spoon picadillo into each taco shell, and garnish with lettuce, tomato, salsa, cheese, and avocado if using.

Video

Notes

  • Nutrition facts do not include optional toppings. 
  • Can I use a different protein? While I grew up eating picadillo de res (res means “beef”), you can certainly swap in ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground bison if you prefer!
  • Can I use canned diced tomatoes? Sure, just be sure to drain them first!
  • How long does picadillo last? Use within a week, or toss any leftovers in the freezer for up to 3 months. 
Calories: 381kcal, Carbohydrates: 29g, Protein: 20g, Fat: 21g, Saturated Fat: 7g, Cholesterol: 64mg, Sodium: 787mg, Potassium: 562mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 410IU, Vitamin C: 10mg, Calcium: 73mg, Iron: 3mg

Photography by Jenna Sparks.
Originally published: June 2016.