Turkey Picadillo Lettuce Wraps

by | Jan 5, 2016

Picadillo is fun to say but better to eat. You can do both in Mexico, Cuba, the Philippines and other countries who’ve adopted this Spanish dish. It’s a wild mix of sweet, savory and pungent flavors influenced by its Moorish spice heritage.

Turkey picadillo lettuce

Picadillo varies by country, but it shares a common tradition of using minced beef or pork. However, this recipe goes poultry with turkey picadillo. The bold flavors elevate lean turkey and vegetarian soy crumbles are a good meatless option.

Turkey Picadillo Flavors and Textures


Traditional flavoring ingredients include olives, tomatoes, peppers, vinegar or lime and raisins. Yes, raisins in a meat dish. Historically, meat dishes with raisins trace back to 100 AD, so it’s not just a modern way to sneak a healthy fruit into this dish.

Typically picadillo is a comfort food served with tortillas or rice rather than a lettuce wrap. Yet, this version has texture contrasts that add to its “gotta make this again” appeal. Crisp, cool lettuce contrasted with warm, moist ingredients and surprises like crunchy peppers or soft chewy raisins.

Turkey Picadillo Lettuce Wraps

Five to six servings

Main Ingredients

  • 2  tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1  medium yellow onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1  red bell pepper, diced or chopped (green is more traditional) 
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 ¼ pounds lean ground turkey
  • ¼  teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 15 ounce can small-dice tomatoes with juice (flame roasted is another option)
  • 1 ½  tablespoons tomato paste
  • ⅓ cup golden raisins, chopped
  • Lettuce cups from a large head of iceberg lettuce or romaine lettuce leaves

Spices and finishing garnishes

  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne (if the cayenne is particularly hot, start with less)
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 ½ -2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1 small lime)
  • 12-14 green olives, pitted, chopped
  • Couple pinches salt


  1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, then add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When oil is shimmering, add onion, bell pepper then toss on the garlic (a Cuban Sofrito) and cook w/ periodic stirring about 5 minutes until onion begins to brown.
  2. Push the vegetables away from the center of the pan, add another tablespoon of olive oil to the cleared area. Add the ground turkey, sprinkle on the salt and let brown on one side for additional flavor for about 4 minutes. Then break up with a spatula and continue to cook for 3 minutes. (If using low-fat turkey, it will not brown much).
  3. Add tomatoes and juice, tomato paste and raisins and spices and mix all the ingredients together. Once the liquids begin to simmer, reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes. Add lime juice and olives. Taste and adjust salt if needed. Serve in lettuce wraps.
  • Vegan/Vegetarian Version: Soy crumble substitutes replace the turkey without changing any other ingredients.
  • Raisins may seem like an odd pairing with a ground meat or poultry product, but in this dish it not only adds a texture contrast, but the subtle sweetness balances the acidity of the lime and tomatoes as well as the spicy heat.
  • Try to use only fresh lime rather than bottled as the acidity and flavor compounds are significantly different.
  • Serve in warmed corn or flour tortillas, with rice, on top of crispy corn tortillas or on bed of greens or as a stuffing for an acorn squash or baked green pepper.
  • Use for stuffing a poblano chili, tamales or empanadas.
  • Add Middle Eastern touch by using phyllo dough to make boreks.
  • For more Cuban flare serve with black beans, seared plantains or rice.

“Picadillo roughly translates from the Spanish as “mince”. The dish bears some resemblance to American Sloppy Joes” NY Times Ultimate Cuban Comfort Food

Sam Sifton, New York Times

    About Me

    The pleasure of food, good health and well-being through simple habits for eating well and flexitarian low-key cooking.
    Michele Redmond

    Michele Redmond

    French-trained Chef, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Food Enjoyment Activist

    It's about Making Food First

    Get Taste Workshop periodic updates on easy ways to choose and cook foods that satisfy your appetite, nurture your body and make eating well a pleasure.