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Viewer Mail – Key West Mollete? It’s the Picadillo!


I was curious if being familiar with the keys you might know about a place we got stuffed cuban bread from when I was very young…maybe about 1974-1976? It was filled with some kind of a ground beef mixture that was out of this world, the place was very small and had maybe two booths. I wish I had the name of it. I have looked for recipes, tried to recreate it myself in vain, any pointers?

Hi Francie,

I’ve not spent a lot of time in the Keys (Cedar Key is off northwest FL) but I’m pretty sure what you’re remembering is a Key West area favorite locally called a mollete. The word mollete actually means a kind of bread to the Spanish or a sort of pizza in Mexico (an oversimplification to be sure) but in Key West a mollete is a portion of Cuban bread stuffed with picadillo (traditional Cuban spicy ground beef hash) then breaded and deep fried.

The tricky bit here is that picadillo is like saying chili, everyone has their own take on it. In my opinion it’s greatest distinction is the use of cumin and capers, which are like little olives and are found in most grocery stores on the same shelf. They come in a few sizes, for picadillo I prefer the smallest ones that are about half the size of green peas.

Unfortunately I’ve never actually tried to make the deep fried sandwich but if I understand you correctly the spicy beef is mostly what you’re after. Picadillo is very versatile and is used a lot of ways, my favorite is empanadas (fried meat pies) or stuffed potatoes. It also traditionally served with fried plantains and/or black beans and rice.

For a simple experiment to see if you’re getting the spicy meat taste you remember you can serve it over rice or even just alone. Once you find a recipe you like then you can try more complex delivery systems like hollowed out breaded and deep fried Cuban Bread 🙂

Perhaps a good citizen of the Conch Republic will read this and provide some insight but I think a traditional picadillo recipe will get you off to a great start.

Kitchen Warfare Picadillo

¼ cup olive oil

1 large onion finely chopped

1 green bell pepper (seeded and finely chopped)

2 cloves garlic minced

½ tsp cayenne pepper

2 lbs lean ground beef

2 ½ cups of diced tomatoes (seeded, peeled)

½ tsp ground cumin

2 tbl small capers

Salt and pepper to taste

In large skillet heat the oil over medium high and add the onion, pepper, garlic and cayenne. Sauté until the onions are softened about 5-6 minutes, then add the beef and break it up and mix everything together as its browning, about 8-10 minutes

Add the tomatoes and the cumin, then cover and simmer on medium low for about 15 minutes.

Add the capers and simmer for 5-10 more minutes. Add the salt and pepper to taste.

Popularity: 7% [?]


  • Michael "Kingfish" Castellano said:

    Mollette is a Key West version of the popular Papas Rellanos (Stuffed Potatoes). Since potatoes were hard to come by back in the day, the Caya Hueso Cubanos used Cuban Bread instead of potatoes. The picadillo is a simple version of the meat filling compared to the hash style used in Papas Rellanos.

    As for the place you were thinking of, I believe you were talking about either 5 Brothers Grocery Store or John’s Grocery store. Of which I frequented as a youngster while growing up in Key West. Both of which are still in operation of sorts and can provide you a wonderful meal. One other place to visit is Dennis Pharmacy on South Flagler Ave. This is still a staple locale in Key west and should be visited by all who visits there.

    Have Fun and eat Up America, its out there to try.
    Michael “Kingfish”

  • Anonymous said:

    Dennis Pharmacy

  • Marcia weaver said:

    Hi! After a few requests we will be making this street food at Frita’s Cuban Burger Cafe at 425 Southard Street Key West

  • Anonymous said:

    Thank you so much I will be trying this very soon, forgot to check this.

  • D. Gelabert said:

    Another place to find mollete’s if they are still around is a little restaurant called, “La Lechonara”. I am not sure of the spelling. They used to make the best mollete’s, and I am trying to find a good recipe. I know that as a youngster in Key West, it was made of picadillo, with some kind of spices, stuffed in bread (Cuban and also another that we called, “coca’s”, again not sure of the spelling). The bread would have the ends cut and the inside taken out and stuffed with the picadillo, breaded and fried). “Coca’s” are rolls that I think are made the same as Cuban bread. The rolls are about six inches long, and pointed on both ends. The ends like I said are cut, most of the inside taken out, stuffed w/picadillo, breaded and fried. If anyone finds a real recipe please email at Thank you ahead of time.

  • Ruth said:

    I use your bread recipe and have shared it many times. I came here to get the link to your page to share and thought I would mention it to you. My husband is from Tampa and when I started reading your blog, I thought it sounded just like my husband, including the part of moving to the Hill Country. We moved to the Texas Hill Country….LOL We still go back to Tampa and stuff ourselves with all the wonderful food. Does anyone remember the Silver Ring?

    Anyway, I love to make bread of all kinds and my husband raves about my real Cuban bread since I started using your recipe awhile back. Thanks a million.

  • Monica said:


    My mom and I are wanting to make Key West style molletes too. She has the best picadillo recipe on the planet and we have a Cuban bakery to buy the bread from, but the missing ingredient we need is what to bread with… she thought it was cracker meal, but the Nabisco brand she prefers has been discontinued and we aren’t sure what to substitute.

    My favorite Molletes in Key West were at La Lechonera, but sadly, that place closed down years ago. I wish I knew who the owner was so I could hunt them down! LOL. Dennis Pharmacy used to sell them too, but they don’t anymore. They still have great bollitos, but no molletes. I can’t find them anywhere anymore. So sad!

    Please help if you know what to use for the breading. If they turn out good, I’ll be happy to share the full recipe here.


  • Jimmy said:

    Jon Menendez had the best molletes in town at his little store on the corner of Flagler Ave and used to get them everyday for lunch at school ….the recipe on here is pretty good, but if you could hunt down someone from the Menendez family?????

  • Charles Ogden said:

    Jon’s Sundries was the place that had the best molletes from any where else, I had them while in High School!

  • A Fresh Water Conch said:

    The 4th of July Restaurant on White Street also had wonderful mollettes. A few little comments to add to everyone else’s, however.

    After the incredibly delicious home made Key West bread is stuffed with the picadillo, it is rolled in an egg mixed with just a tiny smattering of S&P. Then the whole thing is rolled in corn meal to which a little sugar has been added. Yes. Sugar. To me that was the key ingredient. Also, I never cut off the ends of the bread. I pinched them off, and then used a long bread knife to “gut” the loaf. After everything is stuffed, you put the pinched bread back in the hole – and it’s a perfect fit if you were careful with your knife. The ragged edge seems to hold better in the egg and batter than the cut off end does.

    Then deep fry the entire loaf in hot oil (like a crock pot). Yum yum yum!

    From a Fresh Water Conch

  • chigey said:

    I have been looking for this recipe. I ate at the 4th of July on once and never got how delicious it was I just happened to find this sight. thank you

  • John Michaud said:

    I loved Jon’s they also had molletes stuffed with crab out of this world also papas rellenos Cuban sandwiches the picadillo. I remember had olives and raisins cooked in it with onions sofrito splash of edmundo cooking wine to sautee the onions before adding the beef was amazing had a slight sweetness to it as well as the sofrito flavor miss all those places especially jons and Dennis phamacy

  • Anonymous said:

    Dennis island cafe has the best molette in key west the food is amazing there. It’s in bahama village off of white street

  • Timothy Horn said:

    Recent outing to KW looking for the elusive Mollete and could only find it at Meson De Pepe. What a disappointment from my earlier memories of this delish sandwich. Bland everything and fried to blandness. bland bland bland BUT have to give them kudos for the Yuca fries. Some of the best I ever had.


  • cindy grzybowski said:

    Jon’s Deli closed (best ever Mollettes!) however recipe is not that difficult -just need practice till you get it right.
    Make your favorite picadillo recipe
    pack of bolillo or vienna rolls work best
    after cooking picadillo cut tops off rolls & hollow them out.
    stuff rolls with the picadillo-putting cap back on end-use toothpicks if necessary to hold it.
    dip in egg wash then roll in cracker meal, corn flake crumbs -whatever suits your taste??
    put in deep fryet till golden brown then drain.
    may take couple tries till u get it right but boy is it worthb it?

  • cindy grzybowski said:

    I used to get my mollettes from Jon’s Deli in Key West. They were amazing! I’ve figured out the only way to get one now is to make my own.
    I just use a traditional picallo recipe (it must include raisins)
    I use bollilo rolls. Just hollow them out & keep the end you cut off.
    Fill the hollowed out rolls with picadillo mix.
    Cap with the saved ends (I use toothpicks
    Dip in egg batter
    Roll in breadcrumbs & deep fr
    That’s it!

  • Troy said:

    I used to eat at Jon’s and 4th of July restaurant all the time when I was a kid in Key West. Molletes were one of my favorites.

    I have the recipe for the picadillo that was used in the molletes.

    After you make the picadillo all you have to do is stuff it into hollowed out Cuban bread (which I have the recipe for also)put the ends back on, dip in beaten egg, roll in cracker meal and deep fry at 375.

    As much as I would love to share the recipes, I am sad to say that I am not at liberty to do so.

  • Gaeton said:

    I used to eat at 4th of July all the time and enjoy Mama Berena’s sangria with the molletes. I also enjoyed them at El Cacique in Key West in the 70’s. Going to try to make them at home.

  • Edward Trujillo said:

    Reading this brings back memories of my childhood in in Key West. I am a Conch and my mom , also a Conch used to make molletes both with picadillo and also with crawfish Enchilado topped with hot sauce and followed with a cold beer. She used to buy the cuban cocas from Molina’s bakery.

  • Larry Garner said:

    We used to go over and eat molletes at the snack bar in the bowling alley. I loved them! After I got out of the Navy and moved to New Mexico, we showed the locals what they had missed. Many of us still make molletes, although somewhat influenced by the southwestern flavor of the area..

  • Larry Garner said:

    I should have said the bowling alley in Key West… lol

  • Anonymous said:

    I lives in Key West from 1982 to 1993 and over that time the number of places that made these gastronomic delights was dwindling and I could barely find hem when I left. I am so glad to see it seems to be having a revival. I am working of getting the whole thing right so I can make them and expose friends to them. I already have the other addicting food down, lumpia.

  • Susan said:

    My husband was a civilian assigned to KW Naval Station in the late 60s. First we were staying at a motel, & there was a “cafe” across the street to the west that served molletes. OUT OF THIS WORLD. I have a basic KW recipe for picadillo that I serve over rice, white or yellow, but am really pining for a mollete. This thread has brought back so many memories. Maybe I’ll try to wing it. Thank you all!

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