Barbacoa is a savory dish of tender and juicy meat bursting with smoky and spicy notes. Whether you're a meat lover or a vegetarian, there is a barbacoa recipe out there that is sure to satisfy your taste buds. For this particular recipe, I set out to make a 'Better than Chipotle' Copycat Barbacoa recipe. I think I've succeeded, but I'll let you be the judge of that.
Barbacoa is a popular Mexican dish typically made by slow-cooking meat in a pit.
There are several regional variations of Barbacoa, each with its unique twist on this classic dish. In the northern regions of Mexico, Barbacoa is traditionally made with beef; in the southern regions, it's commonly made with lamb or goat meat. While other areas even use pork and chicken as alternative meats. Each type of meat gives a unique flavor to the dish, and the cooking method and seasoning vary accordingly.
Apart from the traditional meat-based Barbacoa, vegetarian and vegan options are available. For instance, in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, they make vegetarian Barbacoa by filling banana leaves with a mixture of vegetables like zucchini, carrot, and pumpkin, seasoned with achiote paste and other spices. Vegan Barbacoa can be made by replacing the meat with plant-based proteins like seitan or tofu, which are traditionally slow-cooked. Some chefs also use jackfruit as a meat substitute because of its similar texture and ability to absorb flavors.
In addition to Barbacoa's regional and meat-based variations, there are also different ways to prepare it. In central Mexico, Barbacoa is traditionally made with a cow head, including the tongue, cheeks, and other parts. The meat is slow-cooked overnight in a pit dug in the ground and served with fresh tortillas and various condiments.
I have opted to use the Instant Pot for this Barbacoa Recipe. It's easy and quick, and the results are flavorful and tender.
How to Make Instant Pot Barbacoa
- Meat: For my Barbacoa Recipe, I used Chuck roast. It's an inexpensive cut of beef that can be made incredibly tender when properly cooked.
- Liquids: Chicken Stock, Apple Cider Vinegar, and Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice are the only liquids needed.
- Seaonings and Spices: Beef Better than Bouillon, Chipotle Chiles in Adobo Sauce, Garlic, Mexican Oregano, Cayenne Powder, Cumin, Koshert Salt, Black Pepper, Ground cloves, and Epazote are going to create all of the fantastic flavors for this Instant Pot Barbecoa.
First, add all ingredients except the Chuck Roast to a high-powered blender or food processor. Set this mixture aside and prepare the Instant Pot and the roast.
Turn the Instant Pot on to Sauté, high, for 15 minutes. Add a bit of Avocado oil to the bottom of the Pot.
While the oil is heating, cube the chuck roast into roughly 1-inch cubes and add them to the Instant Pot to sear the outsides. This step isn't essential, so if you're pressed for time, you can skip that step.
Once you have seared all sides of each cube, turn the Instant Pot off and pour the mixture from the blender over the cubed beef. Give it all a good stir to ensure everything is evenly coated.
Place the lid on the Instant Pot, and set it to Pressure cook, high, for 60 minutes. Once the beef is done cooking, manually release the pressure.
Remove the lid and carefully begin to shred the beef. Leave the shredded beef in its sauce, cover, and keep warm on high until ready to serve.
If you prefer to make this recipe as a slow cooker barbacoa. Follow the directions and cook the roast on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
How to Serve Barbacoa
Here are some serving suggestions to help you enjoy this delicious meal:
- Tacos: Barbacoa is a popular filling for tacos. Fill a tortilla with the shredded meat, and top it off with some fresh cilantro, chopped onion, and a squeeze of lime. If you want to take your taco game up, use a flour tortilla, fill it with cheese, then Barbacoa, fold it in half, and fry the taco on a hot griddle or cast iron skillet. This provides similar results to a Birria taco.
- Burritos: Another great way to serve Barbacoa is in a burrito. Fill a large tortilla with the meat, beans, rice, cheese, and other toppings you like. Roll it up, and enjoy! Another trick is to steam the tortilla first. I like to boil about an inch or two of water in a large pot. Place a cooling rack over the Pot, lay the tortillas on the cooling rack, and then cover with a lid. Allow them to steam for about 2-3 minutes on each side. This will make the tortillas more pliable so you can fit more stuff in there!
- Quesadillas: Barbacoa makes a great filling for quesadillas. Add the meat and some cheese to a tortilla, fold it, and cook it until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is crispy on the outside.
- Enchiladas: Barbacoa is also a great filling for enchiladas. Fill a tortilla with the shredded meat, roll it up, and place it in a baking dish. Top with enchilada sauce, cheese, chili con carne, or whatever you'd like, and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
- Nachos: Barbacoa is a perfect topping for nachos. Layer tortilla chips with the meat and all your favorite toppings.
- Rice Bowls: Finally, and easily one of my favorites, Barbacoa makes an excellent topping for rice bowls. Add the meat to a bowl of cilantro lime rice, and go to town on your favorite toppings.
Regardless of how you serve your Barbacoa, you'll find it one of the most versatile and flavorful meats you've ever made.
Best Sides to serve with Barbacoa
Here are some of the most popular sides to serve with Barbacoa:
- Cilantro Lime Rice: A classic Mexican side, rice is a great choice to serve with Barbacoa. It's simple to make and provides an excellent base for the meat. If you want a chipotle copycat, try this cilantro lime rice recipe.
- Charro Beans: Another classic Mexican side, Charro beans have a ton of flavor and pair perfectly with meats such as brisket and Barbacoa. You can also go an easier route and have classic refried beans.
- Guacamole: Made from mashed avocado, lime juice, and salt, guacamole is a delicious and healthy side to serve with Barbacoa. It adds a fresh and creamy flavor to the meal.
- Pico de Gallo: Pico is a great way to add heat and freshness to just about any Mexican or Mexican-inspired meal, and this recipe won't disappoint.
- Tortillas: Corn or Flour tortillas are a staple in Mexican cuisine and are often served with Barbacoa. They can be used to make tacos and quesadillas or eaten on their own. They're perfect for getting any amazing sauce left over on the plate.
- Cilantro: Fresh cilantro is a great way to add brightness and flavor to the meal. It can be used as a garnish or mixed into rice or beans.
- Lime Wedges: Lime wedges are a great way to add acidity and freshness to the meal. Squeeze them over the meat, rice, or beans for extra flavor.
- Grilled Vegetables: Grilled vegetables, such as peppers, onions, and zucchini, are a great way to add color and nutrition to the meal. They can be served as a side or used as a taco topping.
Barbacoa can be a straightforward recipe with a much less simple flavor profile. You'll have everyone wanting to know what your secret is.
Try this Instant Pot Chipotle Copycat Barbacoa recipe, and you won't regret it for even a second.
Thank you so much for stopping in, and as usual...
- 3 lb Chuck Roast - cubed
- 1 Cup Chicken Stock
- 1 tsp. Beef Better than Bouillon
- 3 Chipotle Chiles in Adobo Sauce
- 1 tbsp. Adobo Sauce from the Chiles
- 2 tbsp. Minced Garlic
- 2 tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 tbsp. Mexican Oregano - dried
- 1 tbsp. Cayenne Pepper - ground
- 2 tsp. Cumin
- 2 tsp. Kosher Salt
- 1 tsp. Black Pepper
- ½ tsp. Ground Cloves
- 1 tbsp. Epazote - dried
- Add all ingredients except the chuck roast to a high-powered blender or food processor and blend until a thick sauce has formed. Set aside.
- Turn the Instant Pot on to Sauté on high for 15 minutes and add some avocado oil.
- While the oil is heating, cube the Chuck Roast into about 1-inch pieces.
- Begin adding the cubed roast to the Instant Pot searing each side. Once the meat is seared on the outside, turn the Instant Pot off.
- Pour the sauce from the blender over the cubed beef and give it a good stir to cover it entirely.
- Place the lid on the Instant Pot, and set it to pressure cook, high, for 60 minutes.
- Once the cooking is done, manually release the pressure and carefully shred the beef using forks or shredders.
- Place the lid back on the Instant Pot, set it to keep warm on high, and serve when ready.
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