Get Stuffed: Picadillo Poblanos

I have always felt that in North America, ground beef gets a pitifully bad rap. Admit it: if you were to play “word association” with ground beef, but, you know, the food version, the first three things to come to mind would probably be burgers, chili, and spaghetti sauce.  Sounds pretty boring, if you ask me.  The thing is, ground beef is a staple in my house, and if there is one thing I can guarantee it is that meals around here are never boring! 

The beauty of basic ground beef is that it lends itself so easily to different preparations, and what you may think of as “poor man’s beef” can open up a world of exotic ethic flavors for you and your family.  From South African bobotie to Bosnian cevapi and Lebanese kibbeh, a basic pound or two of lean ground beef can spin you halfway around the world with a single bite.  That, my friends, is why I am such a friend to the grind.

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, our affection for all things bovine will not come as much of a shock. After all, you may recall that when our good friends at Canadian Beef sponsored a Kitchen Play event last year, we were so excited to have the “wildcard” course that not only did we do a video, but we posted the video and recipes for an THREE different dishes:  beef carpaccio, seared rib eye, and slow cooked beef shanks….all of them dressed to impress, of course.  That’s why when we read on the Canadian Beef blog that they would be sponsoring three (3!) lucky Canadian food bloggers to attend the Eat, Write, Retreat event in Washington, we couldn’t wait to enter their contest by writing about one of our favorite topics: good quality, delicious and nutritious Canadian beef.

You have likely had stuffed peppers before, which are a hearty and cost effective weeknight meal in many a household.  You may also have enjoyed the bright Latin flavors of picadillo, the seasoned ground beef hash which is served over rice, in a pie, or stuffed in a flaky pastry shell.  Like all great things that go great together, combining the two was bound to happen eventually, and will you ever be glad that it did.

In this version, flavorful poblano chili peppers (the Tex Mex standby) are stuffed with a mixture of ground beef and rice.  The acidic tomato sweetness of picadillo comes through a short cut by using jarred chili sauce.  As with most iterations of picadillo, briny capers and salty olives provide interest and balance, and in this version the raisins are omitted because the chili sauce provides more than enough pleasant sweetness to the overall dish. With the smokiness of cumin and the warmth of allspice in the mix, this is an easy way to add a bit of exotic to your regular weeknight fare, and with something that the whole family will enjoy.

Picadillo Poblanos

Serves 6

  • 6 large (5-7″) green poblano chili peppers
  • 1.5 lbs (750 g) lean ground beef
  • 2 cups cooked long grain white rice *
  • 1.5 cups chili sauce **
  • 1/2 cup olives (~ 18-24) ***
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 2 fat cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • salt and pepper, to taste

* Long grain brown rice would be just as delicious and a bit more nutritious.  Use whatever you have leftover in the fridge.

** Chili sauce , in this case, refers to the chunky condiment made from stewed tomato, peppers, onion and (often) celery.  The texture is similar to salsa, and the flavor is sweet and tangy with a fair bit of sugar and vinegar.  The chili sauce that I use is homemade and flavored with bay leaf, allspice and mustard seed. If you are using a blander (but still sweet and tangy, right? RIGHT?) homemade chili sauce, you may wish to stir in a pinch of allspice before adding it to the meat.  Also, if your chili sauce is less chunky and more thin and watery, scale back the amount to just over 1 cup.

*** Green olives, especially when pimento stuffed, are the popular choice. However, if you’re like me and you have 4 containers of black olives in the fridge and nary a pitted green to be found, feel free to use what you’ve got.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Start by washing and prepping the poblanos.  Using a paring knife, slice horizontally about 1/3″ below the stem end of the chili.  From the center of this cut, draw your knife down perpendicular to the first slice, opening the pepper in a “T” shape.

Being careful to leave the stem end attached, remove the large ribs and seeds, and cut out the knob of white pith on the inside underneath the stem.

Put the ground beef and cooked rice into a large mixing bowl.  Pour in the chili sauce.  Finely mince two cloves of garlic (you can use a microplane or garlic press to make fast work of the cloves) into the bowl and the capers and the olives, roughly chopped.  Sprinkle in the cumin and season very lightly with salt and pepper. As the poblanos cook they lose their heat and get very mild, so if you like things a bit more  caliente, feel free to add 1/2 tsp of red chili flakes to the mix.

Using your hands, gently mix the beef and rice together until the inclusions and seasoning is evenly dispersed.

Stuff the beef and rice mixture into the peppers, pushing it down to fill up the bottom of the chili first.  Pack it tightly, and don’t be surprised if the poblanos are bulging with delciousness.  This is a good thing.  Arrange the peppers in a single layer in a casserole dish.

Cover the  dish with tin foil.  Pop the stuffed peppers in the oven for 45 minutes then remove the aluminum foil. You should see a fair bit of liquid buildup in the bottom of the dish, which is normal and also what helped the peppers to steam while the filling stayed moist.  With the dish uncovered, pop it back in the oven for another 15 minutes to dry out slightly and allow the exposed filling to form a bit of a crust.

With all the best flavor of Spanish picadillo, these stuffed peppers are a delightful upgrade from the same old stuffed peppers that your family already knows and loves.

Sweet and fragrant with cumin and spice, small capers and rough bits of olive are like little jewels scattered inside each bite.  The rice is soft and the meat is still moist from cooking gently with the natural steam.

These picadillo and rice stuffed peppers are best when they’re served steaming hot from the oven, but have no fear – they also make exceptional room temperature leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch!


  • Cherie

    I DO love poblanos, and don’t get me started on capers.  🙂

  • Juice

    This looks wonderful.  I can’t wait to try them!