You are currently viewing Barbacoa Recipe

Barbacoa Recipe

Barbacoa is a traditional Mexican dish that involves slow-cooking meat, typically beef, lamb, or goat, in a pit or using a method that yields tender, flavorful results.

Texture-wise, Barbacoa is known for its tender and succulent meat. The preparation involves marinating the meat with various spices, herbs, and seasonings, which may include garlic, onions, bay leaves, cumin, cloves, Mexican oregano, and sometimes a dash of vinegar or lime juice. The marination process allows the meat to absorb these flavors, resulting in a rich and aromatic taste.

Traditionally, Barbacoa was cooked by digging a pit in the ground and lining it with maguey leaves. The marinated meat would be wrapped in these leaves, placed in the pit, covered with more leaves, and slow-cooked for several hours. In modern times, slow cookers, ovens, or pressure cookers are also used for this purpose.

The slow-cooking process breaks down the tough connective tissues in the meat, resulting in a meltingly tender texture while preserving the meat’s natural juices and flavors.

Barbacoa is commonly served in tacos or tortillas and accompanied by salsa, diced onions, cilantro, lime wedges, and other condiments. It’s a beloved dish in Mexican cuisine, appreciated for its flavorful and tender meat, often associated with gatherings, celebrations, or weekend family meals.

Key Takeaways

  • Who this meal appeals to: Meat enthusiasts, those craving a deeply flavorful experience, anyone seeking an authentic taste of slow-cooked goodness.
  • Estimated duration: A delectable creation ready in about 8 hours of slow-cooking, making it a perfect choice for a weekend gathering or special occasion.
  • Nutrition facts: A protein-packed dish with an explosion of savory and aromatic delights.

About this Recipe

Barbacoa, a term with indigenous roots, traditionally involves slow-cooking meat in an underground pit. This modern adaptation captures the essence of slow-cooking with aromatic spices, resulting in meat that’s tender, juicy, and bursting with flavor.

Equipment Required

  • Slow cooker or Dutch oven
  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Blender or food processor


  • 3-4 pounds beef chuck or lamb shoulder, cut into chunks
  • 4 dried ancho chilies, seeded and soaked
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup beef or vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves


  1. Prepare the meat: Cut the beef or lamb into chunks, trimming excess fat.
  2. Prepare the chili mixture: In a blender or food processor, combine soaked ancho chilies, chipotle peppers, chopped onion, minced garlic, cumin, oregano, ground cloves, salt, and pepper. Blend until a smooth paste forms.
  3. Marinate the meat: In a large bowl, combine the meat chunks with the chili mixture, ensuring each piece is well-coated. Marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator.
  4. Preheat the slow cooker or Dutch oven: If using a slow cooker, set it to low heat. If using a Dutch oven, preheat the oven to 275°F (135°C).
  5. Add the meat and liquids: Place the marinated meat in the slow cooker or Dutch oven. Add apple cider vinegar, broth, and bay leaves.
  6. Slow cook: Cook for about 8 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender and easily shreds.
  7. Shred the meat: Remove the meat from the cooking liquid. Shred it using two forks, discarding any excess fat.
  8. Serve: Serve the Barbacoa in tacos, burritos, or as a main dish with your favorite sides.

Side Dishes

  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Diced red onions
  • Lime wedges

Storage Options

Barbacoa can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat gently in a skillet or microwave to retain its tenderness.

Ingredient Substitutes

  • Meat: Experiment with different cuts, such as beef brisket or lamb leg.
  • Chilies: Adjust the number and type of chilies based on your desired spice level.

Alternatives to this Meal

Transform your Barbacoa into a flavorful bowl by pairing it with rice, beans, and your favorite toppings. Additionally, use the shredded meat in enchiladas or quesadillas for a delicious twist.


Barbacoa brings the slow-cooked magic of meat to your table, providing a taste of Mexican tradition and a symphony of savory flavors. Whether shared with loved ones or enjoyed as a comforting solo meal, this recipe promises a fiesta for your taste buds. ¡Buen provecho!