Carne Picada tacos are made with fresh ingredients and are ready in less than 30 minutes from start to finish when you use your Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot pressure cooker. Stuff this flavorful meat into flour or corn tortillas and top with your favorite taco toppings!
This will quickly become one of your favorite weeknight meals, because it is so easy to make, and the flavors are unbelievable. The dish is so versatile that using up leftovers is a breeze. The carne picada meat is super flavorful and perfect for tacos, burritos, chimichangas, taco salads, burrito bowls, nachos, Mexican pizza, and so much more!
What is Carne Picada?
Carne Picada in Spanish means minced meat in English, more commonly described as chopped meat in the US. If you are in the UK, mince is ground meat, but carne picada is not the same as minced meat or ground beef.
Carne Picada is usually made from a cut of beef like a chuck roast, chuck steak, bottom round, and other budget-friendly cuts of beef. Carne moída is Spanish for ground meat and is used in ground beef tacos or what would be referred to as mince in the UK.
Carne Asada is another popular preparation for tacos and it is usually a skirt steak, flank steak, and sometimes a top round that is grilled or roasted. I broke the rules with my Carne Asada recipe and made it in the pressure cooker. Shhhh... don't tell on me. It's delicious and super easy, so if you are okay with it not being authentically grilled or roasted, give it a try. Here is the recipe: Carne Asada Street Tacos
Ingredients & Substitutions
Carne Picada Ingredients
I have found beef labeled carne picada at both Aldi and Walmart in my area but this will vary depending on where you live. I have also noticed that different stores prepare their meat differently before labeling it carne picada. Some chop it and some thinly slice it. Either is perfectly fine. If your's is larger slices of beef, use a sharp knife to chop it into smaller pieces.
You may not be able to find beef labeled carne picada at your local grocery store because it is not a cut of beef, it is a preparation of the beef.
Don't worry if you can't find beef labeled carne picada; there are plenty of options for preparing your own meat for these delicious carne picada tacos. If your grocery store has a butcher, you can ask them to thinly shave or chop a chuck roast, chuck steak, or bottom round. You can also buy an inexpensive round roast or another cut of beef and chop it up yourself.
While beef is the most common type of meat used in carne picada tacos, there isn't any reason you can substitute chicken or pork if you prefer. Simply chop up the meat into small pieces and make the recipe exactly the same way as if you were using beef.
I use a combination of diced onions and whole garlic cloves to season the meat. You can use white onion, yellow onion, or red onion. I usually use a sweet onion and use ¾ of it in the meat mixture and then the remaining diced and kept raw for a taco topping.
I use a whole bulb or about 10 cloves of garlic in this recipe and remove the paper and smash them with my knife. You can also use minced or chopped garlic and I would use about 1-1½ Tablespoons.
If you like a little spice, add a sliced jalapeño pepper. I usually leave the seeds in for this dish, but that is completely up to you.
The lime and fire-roasted tomatoes are used for flavor and liquid, so you must replace them with something if you would rather not use one or both. You can replace the lime juice with 2-3 Tablespoons of vinegar, preferably apple cider vinegar, or you could use beef broth or water, but you won't have the acidity that balances the flavors. The juice from the diced tomatoes would be replaced with about ¼ cup of beef broth. If you don't have beef broth, use water.
I also add green and red bell pepper strips on top of the meat before pressure cooking it. This cooks the bell peppers just enough, and you can either use them as a topping for your tacos or mix it right with the meat.
I usually remove the bell peppers and use them as a topping because I don't want them to cook more and become soft in the taco meat. The bell peppers are completely optional and if you want to omit them, you do not need to replace them with anything.
This recipe uses basic seasonings like cumin, salt, black pepper, and smoked paprika. I also use Mexican oregano, but if you don't have that on hand, skip it. Add some chipotle powder or cayenne pepper to the mix if you like your taco meat on the spicy side.
I also use dried ancho pepper as seasoning, which adds great flavor to the dish. I don't recommend skipping it unless you absolutely have to. You can find dried ancho peppers in many grocery stores. I usually find them at Aldi. You can also purchase them online at Amazon: Dried Ancho Chilis.
Tortillas & Toppings
I like to use lightly fried corn tortillas when making carne picada tacos, but you can use flour tortillas or hard corn taco shells if you prefer. Or skip the tortillas and make rice bowls with the meat, toppings, and rice. Or nachos. Or add some extra broth and veggies and eat it as a stew topped with fresh cilantro, avocado slices, and raw onion.
I top my carne picada tacos with cotija cheese, which is a crumbly Mexican cheese that compliments these tacos perfectly. You can use any type of cheese that you like or skip the cheese.
Fresh cilantro is wonderful as a topping if you like cilantro. If you don't, skip it.
You can use a Pico de Gallo as a topping or chopped tomatoes and onions.
Thinly sliced jalapeño is also nice as a topping, if you like the spice.
Sour Cream or Mexican Crema can also be added, but I didn't because I used a mango and corn salsa to top mine and, let me tell you... delish!
If you want to make the mango salsa, here is the recipe: Mango Corn Salsa
It's so fresh and delicious, I really hope you try it!
Pressure Cooker Carne Picada Tacos
Carne Picada is seasoned chopped beef used in a variety of ways. In this recipe, we are using it as a taco filling. It is usually braised in a flavored liquid which is a wet cooking method and is perfect for pressure cooking.
Instead of simmering stove top or braising for hours in an oven, you can have your carne picada meat mixture perfectly tender and flavorful in under 20 minutes!
The Prep or Mise En Place
- Chop the meat into ½" cubes if needed.
- Peel the garlic cloves and smash them with the back of a knife to slightly crush them.
- Remove the stem from the dried Ancho pepper and dump out the seeds. Slice the dried pepper into strips.
- Slice the jalapeño pepper. Taste to determine if you want to add the whole thing with or without the seeds. The level of heat varies in jalapeno peppers quite a bit.
- Dice the onion and use 1 cup in the meat mixture. Reserve the rest for taco toppings if desired.
- Mix up the seasoning blend in a small bowl.
- Cut the stems off of the bunch of cilantro. Use about ½ cup of chopped stems in the meat mixture and reserve the leaves for taco toppings.
- Juice the lime into a small bowl. I usually do this directly into the pot before pressure cooking, but it can be done beforehand. You should have about 2-3 Tablespoons of lime juice.
Depending on where you get the meat for your carne picada tacos, it might come shaved or in large chunks. For the best results, chop it into ½" pieces. This allows it to become very tender in a short period of time. If you use larger pieces of beef, you will need to increase your pressure cooking time to between 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the beef cubes. Smaller chunks of meat are also easier to eat in a taco.
The reason I remove the seeds from the dried ancho pepper is because there are so many of them. The seeds are not spicy. The easiest way to remove them is to cut the stem off and dump them out.
Then slice the dried pepper into strips.
Sautéing the Beef
Browning the beef will add flavor, but it also produces juices and we need those juices to build the pressure for pressure cooking, so don't skip this step.
Turn the Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot on high sear/sauté. Add 1-2 Tablespoons of avocado oil or any neutral flavored oil into the inner pot of the Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot and allow it to heat for 2-3 minutes.
Add the chopped beef, diced onion, and smashed garlic cloves. Stir to combine and sauté about 3-5 minutes.
Add in the sliced jalapeño pepper (if using) and dried seasonings. Stir to incorporate them.
Add the sliced ancho pepper and the cilantro stems. The cilantro stems give tons of flavor to the carne picada, but you don't have to use them if you don't want to. They soften to the point of not being noticeable in the final dish, so don't worry about them being tough or stringy in your tacos.
Juice the lime if you haven't already and add 2-3 Tablespoons of lime juice and 1 can (14.5 ounces) of fire-roasted tomatoes. Fire-roasted tomatoes are not spicy but have more flavor than diced tomatoes. You can use plain diced tomatoes if you prefer. Make sure to include the liquid in the can. This is needed to create the steam for pressure cooking.
Pressure Cooking Carne Picada
The last thing you do before pressure cooking is put the bell pepper strips on top of the meat mixture if you are adding them. Do not stir. Stiring them into the mixture will result in them being much softer in texture.
Place the lid on the pressure cooker and turn the valve to seal. Set the Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot to high pressure and the time to 2 minutes. Press start.
It will take about 8 minutes for the pot to come to pressure and then the 2-minute countdown will start. Once the 2 minutes of pressure cooking time is up, immediately release the pressure by turning the valve to vent.
Do not worry about drying out the meat, it is submerged in liquid and won't dry out.
When all the pressure has been released, remove the pressure cooking lid and take out the peppers so they don't continue to cook. You can mix them in with the meat mixture, but I usually use them as a taco topping.
Assembling the Carne Picada Tacos
While the carne picada beef is pressure cooking, you can prep your toppings. This will vary depending on what you are using.
You can also get the tortillas ready by either lightly frying them or warming them in an oven.
When you are ready to assemble your tacos, use tongs to remove about ¼-½ cup of the meat mixture and allow the excess juice to fall back into the pot. You will want to reserve the juice for storing leftovers or freezing so don't discard it.
Place the meat into the taco shell and then top with your favorite toppings. I like to use crumbled cotija cheese, diced raw onions, chopped cilantro leaves, and this delicious mango corn salsa. The sweetness of the mango and corn salsa balances the flavors in the carne picada meat perfectly. I hope you give it a try!
Once your tacos are assembled, serve and enjoy!
Slow Cooker Carne Picada Tacos
If you don't have a pressure cooker or prefer to slow cook the Carne Picada you only need to make a few changes to the recipe.
If your slow cooker has the ability to sear/sauté, you can make the entire recipe right in the slow cooker pot. If not, then you will want to brown the carne picada beef in a skillet before adding it to the slow cooker.
Add 1-2 Tablespoons of oil to a skillet and heat on high for 2-3 minutes. Toss the chopped beef in the seasonings and add to the hot skillet along with the diced onions and smashed garlic cloves. Sauté until the meat is browned and transfer everything to your slow cooker, including any juices from the meat.
Add the sliced jalapeño, cilantro stems, sliced dried ancho pepper, dried red chili pepper (if using). Add 14.5 ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes or regular diced tomatoes with the liquid and the juice from 1 lime.
Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 1-2 hours or until the beef is nice and tender or on low for 3-4 hours.
If you want to add the strips of bell pepper, I would add them halfway through the cooking process so they don't overcook.
Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely! Just let the meat mixture cool completely before freezing to avoid ice crystals from forming. Place the meat mixture along with the cooking liquid into freezer bags or an airtight container and freeze.
When you want to reheat, you can thaw and warm in a skillet or slow cook from frozen until warmed through.
Yes, you can make as little or as much of the carne picada meat mixture as you like.
If you are cutting the ingredients in half, you will want to add about ½ cup of beef broth to make up for the lost liquid by cutting the ingredients in half.
When doubling or tripling the recipe, you will double and triple the ingredients except for the lime juice and the fire-roasted tomatoes, you can keep those the same as when making a single batch.
Carne Picada is seasoned chopped beef and can be used to make many different things. Here is a list of a few of my favorites.
1. Carne Picada Tacos
2. Carne Picada Burrito Bowls
3. Carne Picada Stew
4. Carne Picada Nachos
5. Carne Picada Quesadillas
More Mexican-Inspired Recipes
If you love Mexican food as much as I do, you are going to love these easy recipes!
- Homemade Chicken Enchiladas
- Creamy Chicken Enchilada Soup ~ Cold & Hot Blender Recipe
- Carne Asada Street Tacos in the Ninja Foodi
- Pressure Cooker Taco Soup ~ Ninja Foodi Recipe
- Cucumber Jalapeño Margaritas ~ Frozen or on the Rocks
- Ninja Foodi Mexican Rice
- Homemade Refried Beans ~ Pressure Cooker Recipe
- Slow Cooker Chicken Tinga
Easy Carne Picada Tacos
- Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker with TenderCrisp Or Instant Pot
- 1 teaspoon fine grind sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon Mexican oregeno optional
- ⅛ teaspoon chipotle powder optional
Carne Picada Meat Mixture
- 1 Tablespoon avocado oil or any oil you like
- 1 pound chopped chuck steak (carne picada)
- 1 bulb garlic
- 1 large sweet onion about 1 cup diced and more for taco toppings
- 1 jalapeño pepper
- 1 dried Ancho Pepper
- 1 dried red chili pepper optional, adds extra spiciness
- 1 bunch cilantro divided in recipe
- 1 Lime 2-3 Tablespoons juiced
- 14.5 ounces fire roasted tomatoes do not drain liquid
- 1 red bell pepper optional
- 1 green bell pepper optional
- 12 corn or flour tortillas
- crumbled cotija cheese
- diced raw onions
- chopped cilantro leaves
- sliced avocado
- mango corn salsa
- 1 Lime
- In a small bowl mix the seasonings together.1 teaspoon fine grind sea salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, ½ teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, ½ teaspoon Mexican oregeno, ⅛ teaspoon chipotle powder
- Peel and smash the garlic cloves. Dice the onion into ½" dice and use about 1 cup in the meat mixture and the rest as garnish.1 bulb garlic, 1 large sweet onion
- Cut the stem off the dried ancho pepper and remove the seeds. Slice the jalapeno. Remove the seeds from the jalapeño for less spice.1 dried Ancho Pepper, 1 jalapeño pepper
- Cut the stems off of the cilantro so you have about ½ cup. Reserve the leaves for garnish1 bunch cilantro
- If your beef is not already chopped in small pieces, chop it into about ½" pieces.1 pound chopped chuck steak (carne picada)
- If you are using bell peppers, cut them into about 1" strips.1 red bell pepper, 1 green bell pepper
- Turn your Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot on high sear/sauté. Add avocado oil and allow to heat for 2-3 minutes.1 Tablespoon avocado oil
- Add the carne picada beef, the smashed garlic cloves, 1 cup diced onion, sliced jalapeno (if using), and seasoning blend. Stir Well. Sauté on high heat to brown the meat for about 5 minutes.
- Add in the sliced dried ancho pepper, cilantro stems, and the red chili pepper if using.
- Cut the lime in half and add the juice to the pot. You should have 2-3 Tablespoons of lime juice from 1 lime. Add the can of fire-roasted tomatoes (or plain diced tomatoes) with the liquid. Stir to combine.14.5 ounces fire roasted tomatoes, 1 Lime
- Place the strips of bell pepper (if using) on top and do not stir them into the meat mixture.
- Put the lid on the pressure cooker and make sure the valve is in the sealed position. Select high pressure for 2 minutes. When the time is up, immediately release the pressure by turning the valve to vent.
- Open the lid and remove the bell peppers if you want to use them at toppings or stir them into the meat mixture if you want to incorporate them in the taco meat.
Skillet Frying Tortillas
- Place a skillet on the stove and turn the heat to high. Add in about 1-2 teaspoons of avocado oil or just enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Let it heat for 2 minutes.
- Place as many tortillas that will fit in the pan without overlapping and fry until they start to bubble. Flip them over and fry another minute or so. You should see some charring. You can sprinkle some salt on the warm tortilla. If you want to shape it as a taco, do that while it is warm. Repeat for remaining corn tortillas.12 corn or flour tortillas
Assembling the Tacos
- Using tongs, remove about ¼ cup of the meat mixture (squeezing excess juice with the tongs) and place in your taco shell.
- Top with your favorite toppings. I use raw onions, cilantro leaves, crumbled cotija, and mango corn salsa on mine. Serve & Enjoy!crumbled cotija cheese, diced raw onions, chopped cilantro leaves, sliced avocado, mango corn salsa
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
She published her first cookbook in the Fall of 2018 and is very interested in writing several more.
Louise is also the creator of an online Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooking Course with over 100 instructional step-by-step videos. People absolutely rave about the course and all the value they have received from it.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can. Get more Information about Louise & contact information
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