Picadillo Soup

Philippine style, with bok choy as the star.

“Picadillo” comes from the Spanish picar, or “to mince.” It is a dish popular in many Latinx countries and the Philippines that contains ground or minced meat, tomatoes, and onions, as well as other ingredients that vary by region. It is often paired with rice. Filipinx style typically is soupy and includes chayote or potato. The non-soupy version, also popular in Latinx countries, is known as arroz a la cubana in the Philippines. I grew up with the soupy version, and it’s one of my favorite comfort foods. I personally think the tomatoes are not essential–delicious with and without, but a noticeably different taste for sure. This soup is light and cozy.


Serves 6+

  • About 1 pound of ground meat
    • Beef is traditional, but I use turkey for my meat eaters. Can also leave out for a vegan version and double up on vegetables or potatoes (even though it won't be picar anymore, unless you count some of your veggies!). Tofu probably won't work well, but let me know if I'm wrong!
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped or minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 2 small white or gold potatoes, quartered
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers, minced
  • 1 whole white bok choy, stalks and leaves separated and roughly chopped
  • 6+ cups of broth
  • A drizzle of cooking oil
  • 1-2 tbs fish sauce
    • Substitute with 3-4 tbs soy sauce for vegan
  • Variable vegetables (throw in what you have)
    • 1-2 carrots, diced
    • 1-2 celery sticks, diced
    • 2 handfuls of frozen peas
    • 1 chayote, sliced
    • 1 bell pepper, chopped
    • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • Seasonings
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp onion powder
    • 1 tsp MSG
    • 3 bay leaves
    • for more heat, berebere seasoning, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, etc.
    • a pinch of celery seeds
    • salt and pepper to taste
  • Cooked rice


  1. Heat a large, wide pot to low-medium heat. Add a drizzle of cooking oil.
  2. In a smaller pot, boil 2 or so cups of water–enough to cover your potatoes but not spill over.
  3. When large pot is warm enough, add seasonings, stirring frequently to prevent burning, for 30-60 seconds until fragrant.
  4. Add garlic and ginger, stirring often to prevent burning, for a minute or 2 until fragrant.
  5. Add onion, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and slightly translucent.
  6. When water is boiling in small pot, add a few pinches of salt and potatoes there. Let them soften for 7-10 minutes.
  7. If using meat, add now to the large pot. As it cooks, break up the meat with your cooking utensil if not already done. Wait until it’s cooked, but not brown (unless you prefer some crunch).
  8. Throw in your harder root vegetables and hot peppers to the large pot.
  9. Add broth and fish sauce or soy sauce, and bring to a boil.
  10. Add bok choy stalks and, if using, tomatoes and other peppers. Add more broth if needed. (I like it pretty soupy, especially with rice, so I like a higher broth-to-solids ratio.) Boil for a couple of minutes, then reduce to a simmer. Taste for heat and salt–add more if needed.
  11. When potatoes are softened, drain them and add to the large pot.
  12. Add bok choy leaves. Let simmer for another 5-10 minutes. Add more salt to taste, as well as pepper.
  13. Serve with warm rice in a bowl or plate.