My father is Cuban and I was born and raised in Miami. Yeah, we ate a lot of Cuban food. Home-cooked, store-bought or at restaurants, Cuban food is my comfort food. There are some seriously fabulous Cuban cooks in my family: my father, abuela, sisters and brother–they could all throw down against Bobby Flay any day of the week and kick his ass. Here’s the thing: since becoming Nutritarian and going vegan I don’t get to eat it anymore. Yup, Cuban food is meat-centric, like to the max. I can still do black beans, rice, plantains and avocado salad, but there is sooooo much more I’m missing. What’s a half-Cuban vegan girl to do?
Veganize it! Here is my (vegan) version of a Cuban classic: Picadillo. Picadillo is a Cuban-style hash, it’s translated to mean “small bits and pieces” and that pretty much sums it right up. Ground meat, fried potato, olives, raisins and spices. Check out my recipe for traditional (meat-centric) picadillo here. But, if you’re ready for a meat-free Caribbean party in your mouth, let’s get to it!
First, you’ll need a ground meat substitute or GMS (because that sounds all official and important and stuff). My GMS of choice is “Smart Ground by Lightlife” which I pick up at Sprouts. A few other notable changes from the traditional picadillo recipe: I’ve substituted sweet potato for the fried white potato (and took out the raisins) and I went with a red pepper instead of the traditional green bell pepper used in making the quintessential Cuban “sofrito.”
The “sofrito” is the base to almost every savory Cuban recipe: caramelized onion, green bell pepper, garlic and spices. So, why red bell pepper instead of green? Well, honestly because that’s all I had in the fridge, but after tasting it, I think it works beautifully with the sweet potato too–plus it looks prettier!
The verdict on this recipe: it is delicious!! My husband, who is a real Cuban-cooking connoisseur, absolutely loved it and we gobbled it all up with brown rice, black beans and sweet plantains. I hope you give it a try and spread the word if your have fellow Cuban vegans in your life!
VEGAN PICADILLO CUBANO
- 12 ounces ground meat substitute of choice
- 1 large sweet potato, diced
- 1 cup red bell pepper, diced
- 1 cup yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 cup green pimento-stuffed olives, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1 1/2 tbsp. cumin
- 1 tbsp. oregano
- 1/4th tsp. cinnamon
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 3 cups water
- salt & pepper (to taste)
- canola oil (for frying potato)
- In large skillet heat canola oil (oil should be at least an inch deep–you can save this frying oil to do your plantains after the sweet potato). Fry your diced sweet potato, stirring frequently for about 5 minute or just starting to brown. Set 2-3 paper towels on a plate to soak up the oil from the fried potatoes. Set aside.
- Add olive oil to a deep pan or dutch oven, set temperature to medium-high. Add diced onions and red bell peppers. Cook down for 7-10 minutes until onions are translucent. Reduce heat to simmer, add minced garlic, cinnamon, cumin, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste and cook for another 3 minutes.
- Add vegan ground meat substitute and olives and saute with cooked veggies for about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups of water and increase temperature to medium. In a small bowl incorporate the tomato paste with 1 cup of water, add to picadillo. Cook on medium for 5 minutes stirring frequently, adjust spices if needed. Reduce heat to a simmer.
- Add your reserved fried potatoes and incorporate well with picadillo. Cover and keep on low heat until ready to serve. Serve with rice, black beans and plantains.