Beef Barbacoa has skyrocketed in popularity thanks to a popular restaurant chain. I first tried this several years ago at a local restaurant and loved the depth of flavors it had.
How to Make Beef Barbacoa at Home
We just got a Chipotle in our small town. It’s nice to have a decent place to go to eat, but it would cost a small fortune to take all of our kids there. I realized that I could make this easily at home in my new favorite kitchen appliance: The Instant Pot (an electric pressure cooker).
Now, in almost the same amount of time as it would take us to pack up the kids and head to a restaurant, we can have this delicious meal at home any night!
An Important Barbacoa Clarification…
Before I share this recipe, I should clarify that it is a Chipotle copycat recipe and is not an authentic and traditional barbacoa. I once tried traditional Barbacoa in college at an international festival and while it is delicious, it is much different. It is often made in pits or in big batches and is most often made from sheep meat, though goat, beef, or pork can be used.
The original traditional barbacoa I tried was made with the head of a cow. Seeing as I don’t have an entire cow head laying around (and also seeing as how I’m not that brave), I’m sticking to this recipe.
The Best Method for Beef Barbacoa Making
You can cook this recipe in several different ways: a pressure cooker, slow cooker or even stove top. I personally recommend the pressure cooker method both for convenience and flavor. I use an electronic pressure cooker called an Instant Pot (this one) and it has quite literally changed my life (or at least my cooking).
If you don’t have a pressure cooker, feel free to use a slow cooker, just adapt the cooking time to 8-10 hours on low. Follow all other instructions as written.
The stove top method requires more babysitting but also works and provides great flavor. Simmer on medium/low for 4-5 hours on the stove until fork tender.
Beef Barbacoa: The Recipe…
Pressure Cooker Chipotle Barbacoa Beef (Slow Cooker Option)
Yield 12 +
A copycat Chipotle Barbacoa Beef Recipe that you can make in a slow cooker or pressure cooker. Great easy meal for large groups or to have leftovers for another meal.
- 6-7 pounds of beef chuck roast (or any other tough cut like brisket)
- 2 Tablespoons onion powder (how to make it)
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder (how to make it)
- 1 teaspoon clove powder
- 2 tablespoons cumin powder
- 1 tablespoon adobo seasoning (here's how to make it)
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 cup minced cilantro
- 1 can Chilis in Adobo or Chipotles in Adobo (like these) but look for one without vegetable oil or wheat- If you can't find these, you can also make your own.
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce (trust me on this one!)
- 1/2 cup broth
- Juice and zest of two limes
- Trim fat from beef and cut into 2-inch chunks.
- Sprinkle dry beef with onion, garlic, clove, cumin, adobo, salt and chili powders and pat into each side to coat.
- Place in pressure cooker or slow cooker.
- In a blender, blend chilis in adobo, apple cider vinegar, cilantro, fish sauce and broth until smooth.
- Pour over the meat in the pressure cooker/slow cooker.
- For Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot: Turn on high and cook at pressure for 25 minutes and let pressure release naturally.
- For Slow Cooker: Turn on low and cook for 8-10 hours on low.
- Remove meat from pressure/slow cooker and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with lime juice and zest lime over it.
- Optional step: Place under broiler for 4-5 minutes until crispy on the ends for better flavor.
- Ladle 1 cup of the liquid over the mixture for more intense flavor. I recommend saving the extra liquid for a soup or chili base.
- Serve with fresh or pickled onions, cilantro and other toppings as desired.
If you can't find chilis in adobo in your area, you can make your own from dried chipotle peppers (or other peppers of choice) or even fresh peppers. Simmer 2 ounces of dried peppers in broth until they are completely softened and then puree to create the same flavors.
There seems to be a lot of variation among chilis in adobo and some are much more spicy than others. I've made this recipe for my family with 4 cans and served it to company that way, but others find that even one can is too hot. If you aren't a fan of spicy foods and it is your first time making it, start with a few individual chilis from the can and see how hot the finished product is before adding more in the future.
If you want a delicious topping for your beef barbacoa, I recommend these pickled red onions, the additional flavor enhancer is amazing!
Ever tried Barbacoa? Will you make your own?