Lentil Picadillo is a vegetarian take on the classic Mexican recipe.
Whenever I have a recipe idea, I will usually run the idea by my husband Hector. Sometimes he thinks my ideas are good; other times he just gives me this look like I am crazy. This just happened last week.
I was making my list of recipe ideas for the month and I mentioned that I wanted to make Lentil Picadillo. He just looked at me like I had lost my mind.
If you aren’t familiar with picadillo, it is a traditional Latin American dish that translates to mincement. Every country has their own variation of it but they all usually have ground beef, onion, garlic, tomatoes, and potatoes. Some versions add raisins and olives to the mix.
Hector grew up eating picadillo at least once a week. It was one of his favorites and he said there is no way that picadillo can have lentils. It just isn’t going to happen.
His Mom would make a simple version with the ground beef, a tiny bit of onion and garlic, tomatoes, and a little bit of potatoes. The seasonings were kept simple but the flavor was spot on. I would mention it a few more times before he finally would give my Lentil Picadillo a chance.
I decided to make my own version with lentils. Using lentils is a very economical choice and it is a great protein source for Vegans.
To make this come together even faster, you can cook your lentils ahead of time and store them in the fridge until you are ready to make the picadillo. While the lentils cook, I like to prep all the other ingredients. This helps the dish come together in no time at all.
The seasonings are kept simple a simple puree of tomatoes which provides the cooking liquid for the potatoes and carrots. The liquid cooks out and you are left with a filling that isn’t saucy. If you prefer a more liquidly picadillo, simply add some vegetable broth or water.
To ensure a fast cooking time, I recommend chopped the potatoes and carrots small, about 1/4-1/2 inch pieces. This first time I made the recipe, I cut the vegetables a little too bit and took a little longer to cook. The photos are from the first recipe test. In the second recipe test, I cut them much smaller and the results where perfect!!
Lentil Picadillo is hearty and filling. It’s very satisfying and makes for a great taco filling. I love topping these tacos with my salsa roja. It is really good on these tacos! If you make the recipe, be sure to share a photo on Instagram with #thymeandlove so I can see your beautiful creations!
- 8 ounces Brown Lentils
- 3 Cups Water
- 2 Medium Tomatoes, about 14 ounces Or I 14 ounce can of Tomato Sauce
- 1½ Tablespoons Grapeseed Oil
- ½ Large White Onion, finely chopped
- 3 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1 Jalapeno, finely chopped
- ½ Tsp Cumin
- ½-3/4 Tsp Salt, or to taste
- ½ Tsp Black Pepper
- 2 Medium Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled & dice into ¼-1/2 inch pieces
- 1 Large Carrot, diced into ¼ inch pieces
- Warm Corn Tortillas
- Chopped CIlantro
- Lime Wedges
- Sort and rinse the lentils. Place them in a medium saucepan and cover with the 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook until done, about 20 minutes. You just want them to be tender, not mushy.
- Meanwhile, remove the core from the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes in a blender and puree. It should be just shy of 2 cups of liquid. Set aside. You can also just use canned tomato sauce.
- While the lentils cook, this is a good time to chop and prep all the veggies.
- When the lentils are done season with a pinch of salt, drain and set aside.
- In a large deep sided skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot add the onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add the jalapeno and garlic. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Add the cooked lentils and stir everything together. Add the cumin, salt, and pepper. Stir to throughly mix together.
- Pour in the reserved tomatoes puree. Stir together. Add the diced potatoes and carrot. Stir. Bring to boil, reduce heat to a low simmer and cover.
- Cook until the potatoes are nice and tender, about 15-20 minutes. Stir a few times during the cooking time.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro , salsa, and a squeeze of lime, if using.
- Serve with warm tortillas.