This Ground Chicken Picadillo recipe features flavorful chicken thighs coupled with smoky chipotle en adobo peppers, an earthy tomato sauce, and briny pops of green olives that, when paired with white rice, makes for one cozy meal with big, bold flavors.
Oh, and it so happens that Chicken Picadillo is easy to make! And easy on the wallet because this recipe just uses chicken thighs, which are typically cheaper than other cuts like the breast. And let’s be real here, chicken thighs are straight-up tasty, especially in this Chicken Picadillo (which was inspired by Mexican variations of picadillo).
I recommend picking up some boneless skinless chicken thighs and breaking out your food processor. I buy chicken thighs whole, dice them into cubes, then break them down in a food processor to “grind” the chicken. I like the rustic bites of chicken in the resulting dish from preparing the chicken thigh this way.
You can of course shortcut this step by buying ground chicken. No judgment here! Or grind your chicken if you have the meat-grinding equipment for that.
How to Make Chicken Picadillo - Ingredients
- chicken thighs
- chipotle en adobo peppers, plus chipotle en adobo sauce
- olive oil
- green bell pepper
- yellow onion
- tomato sauce
- green olives, plus olive juice
See recipe card for quantities.
Serving Suggestions: Serve this Ground Chicken Picadillo with 1 ½ cups rice (measured uncooked), any kind! For super quick and easy rice, try this Instant Pot Basmati Rice.
How to Make Chicken Picadillo - Directions
Pulse chicken thighs, garlic, and chipotle en adobo peppers (and sauce) in a food processor for around 30 seconds checking every 10 seconds to scrape down the sides. You’re aiming for a nice grind, but not a paste. Pulse on the side of conservative.
Bring a large pan with olive oil in it to medium heat. Add ground chicken thigh mixture. Cook for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add diced peppers and onions. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring every minute or so.
Add cumin, oregano, tomato sauce, and olive juice to the pan. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
Add the chopped green olives and reduce heat to medium-low. Put a lid on it until you’re ready to serve!
While the Chicken Picadillo is cooking, I like to start making the rice I usually pair it with. I like to serve this Chicken Picadillo recipe with Instant Pot Basmati Rice because it cooks up perfectly every time without having to keep an eye on it. Check it out here: Instant Pot Basmati Rice recipe.
Garden Variety Additions
This Chicken Picadillo recipe is perfect for sneaking in garden goodies! It’s kind of like a super thick stew, so naturally you can add in things like potatoes or carrots. If you are making additions like, say, adding in one cubed medium-sized potato, I would recommend cooking it separately and then stirring it in at the end. Possibly with a little more tomato sauce or maybe a tablespoon or two of broth (chicken or vegetable are good options).
- Potatoes - 1 medium sized potato, like a Yukon Gold, diced
- Carrots - 1-2 carrots, sliced
- Zucchini - 1 medium-sized zucchini, diced
- Peppers of all kinds like: sweet peppers, jalapenos, poblanos, sliced or diced. I recommend adding 1-2 peppers, depending on type of pepper, pepper size, and heat level.
Spicy-ER Chicken Picadillo Variation
This Ground Chicken Picadillo has some underlying smoky heat thanks to the chipotle en adobo peppers, but it you really want to spice it up, try the following suggested additions:
- Add in a diced jalapeno, serrano, or other hot pepper
- Add in a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce, like Cholula or Tabasco
- Add in a few dashes of cayenne pepper or a few shakes of red pepper flakes
- Stir in a spoonful of jarred Calabrian chili or Harissa
- Instead of regular olive oil, use a spicy olive oil variation when you cook the chicken
For this Chicken Picadillo recipe, I used a Cuisinart Food Processor (a 9-cup DLC-2009 Series, similar to this one) to quickly break down the chicken thighs.
I cooked the Picadillo in a toughened nonstick Le Crueset Brasier.
I recipe-tested and cooked the Chicken Picadillo on the stovetop of a Kenmore Gas Range (Model 790, an older model stove I’ve been using for the past 8ish years).
Keep picadillo leftovers stored in a lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
The word Picadillo comes from the Spanish word picar, which means to mince, which happens to be an excellent descriptor for the dish picadillo. Picadillo is a dish hailing from Latin American countries like Mexico, Cuba, and the Philippines and is made with ground meat, tied together with a tomato sauce, and punched up with ingredients like olives. While it can be eaten alone, it is often served with rice. It also makes a great filling for everything from tacos to empanadas. Check out the Wikipedia entry for Picadillo for more information on the many variations of the comforting dish.
Leftover picadillo makes a great filling for everything from tacos to empanadas. It would be great as a burrito filling or topping a tostada. I also enjoy reheating leftover picadillo and then tossing a fried egg or two on top.
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Ground Chicken Picadillo
- Pulse chicken thighs, garlic, and chipotle en adobo peppers (and sauce) in a food processor for around 30 seconds, checking every 10 seconds to scrape down the sides. You’re aiming for a nice grind, but not a paste. Pulse on the side of conservative.3 chicken thighs, 2 chipotle en adobo peppers, 2 large cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Bring a large pan with olive oil in it to medium heat. Add ground chicken thigh mixture. Cook for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add diced peppers and onions. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring every minute or so.¾ cup green bell pepper, ½ cup yellow onion
- Add cumin, oregano, tomato sauce, and olive juice to the pan. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes.1 8-ounce can tomato sauce, ½ teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon oregano, 1 tablespoon olive juice
- Add the chopped green olives and reduce heat to medium low. Put a lid on it until you’re ready to serve!½ cup green olives