The Ultimate Guide to Making Delicious Barbacoa at Home

Choosing the Right Meat for Barbacoa

Choosing the right meat is crucial when making barbacoa. Traditionally, beef is the meat of choice, but other meats such as lamb, goat, or even pork can be used. For the best results, it is important to choose cuts of meat that have a good balance of fat and meat, as this will help to keep the meat juicy and tender during the cooking process.

Some popular cuts of meat for barbacoa include:

  • Beef cheek: This is a fatty cut of beef that is perfect for slow-cooking methods like barbacoa. It is rich in flavor and becomes extremely tender when cooked for a long time.

  • Chuck roast: This is another cut of beef that is well-suited for barbacoa. It has a good amount of marbling, which helps to keep the meat juicy and flavorful.

  • Lamb shoulder: Lamb is a popular choice for barbacoa in some regions, and the shoulder is a good cut to use. It has a good amount of fat and connective tissue, which makes it perfect for slow-cooking.

  • Goat leg: Goat is another meat that is commonly used for barbacoa, and the leg is a good cut to use. It is leaner than beef or lamb, but still has enough fat to keep the meat tender.

When choosing your meat, make sure to look for fresh, high-quality cuts. You can also ask your local butcher for recommendations on the best cuts of meat for barbacoa.

Preparing the Marinade and Seasonings

The marinade and seasonings are key to creating delicious and flavorful barbacoa. While there are many different variations of the marinade and seasonings, there are some basic ingredients that are common in most recipes.

Here is a basic recipe for barbacoa marinade and seasonings:


  • 4 dried guajillo chilies
  • 4 dried ancho chilies
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water


  1. Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chilies, and soak them in hot water for 10-15 minutes to soften them.
  2. Drain the chilies and place them in a blender or food processor.
  3. Add the garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, apple cider vinegar, and water to the blender or food processor.
  4. Blend the ingredients until they form a smooth paste.
  5. Rub the marinade all over the meat, making sure to get it into any nooks and crannies.
  6. Let the meat marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight for best results.

Note that this is just a basic recipe, and you can customize the marinade and seasonings to your liking. Some recipes also call for additional ingredients such as onion, lime juice, or chipotle peppers. Experiment with different flavors and find the perfect combination for your taste buds.

Slow Cooking Methods for Tender and Flavorful Barbacoa

Slow cooking is the key to making tender and flavorful barbacoa. There are several methods you can use to cook your barbacoa, but the most traditional method involves wrapping the meat in banana or avocado leaves and slow-cooking it in an underground pit or oven.

If you don’t have access to an underground pit or oven, you can still achieve delicious results using other cooking methods, such as:

  • Slow cooker: This is a popular method for making barbacoa at home. Simply place the marinated meat in a slow cooker with some additional liquid (such as beef broth or water), and let it cook on low for 8-10 hours. The meat will be tender and flavorful, and you can easily shred it with a fork.

  • Oven: If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can also cook your barbacoa in the oven. Place the marinated meat in a baking dish, cover it with foil, and bake it at a low temperature (around 275-300°F) for several hours. You can also add some liquid to the dish to keep the meat moist.

  • Stovetop: Another option is to cook your barbacoa on the stovetop. You can do this by placing the marinated meat in a large pot or Dutch oven with some liquid, and simmering it on low heat for several hours. This method requires a bit more attention than the slow cooker or oven methods, but the results are still delicious.

No matter which cooking method you choose, make sure to cook the meat low and slow for the best results. And don’t forget to save any leftover juices or liquid to use as a flavorful sauce for serving!

Serving Suggestions and Delicious Barbacoa Recipes

Once your barbacoa is cooked to perfection, it’s time to serve and enjoy! Here are some serving suggestions and delicious barbacoa recipes to try:

Serving Suggestions:

  • Serve the barbacoa on warm corn tortillas with chopped onions, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.
  • Make barbacoa tacos or burritos with your favorite toppings.
  • Serve the barbacoa with rice, beans, and a side of fresh salsa.

Delicious Barbacoa Recipes:

  1. Beef Barbacoa Tacos: This recipe from Food Network features a delicious beef barbacoa filling that is perfect for tacos.

  2. Slow Cooker Lamb Barbacoa: This recipe from The Food Charlatan uses lamb instead of beef for a delicious twist on traditional barbacoa.

  3. Pork Barbacoa: This recipe from The Chunky Chef uses pork instead of beef and is cooked in a slow cooker for maximum tenderness.

  4. Barbacoa Burrito Bowl: This recipe from Damn Delicious combines tender barbacoa with rice, beans, and fresh toppings for a delicious burrito bowl.

  5. Vegetarian Barbacoa: This recipe from Cookie and Kate uses cauliflower instead of meat for a delicious vegetarian twist on traditional barbacoa.

These are just a few examples of the many delicious barbacoa recipes out there. Experiment with different meats, spices, and cooking methods to find your perfect recipe!

What is Barbacoa and Where Does it Come From?

Barbacoa is a traditional Mexican dish that originated in the northern regions of Mexico, particularly in the states of Hidalgo, San Luis Potosi, and Coahuila. The word “barbacoa” comes from the indigenous Taino people of the Caribbean, who used the term to describe a method of slow-cooking meat over an open fire.

Traditional barbacoa is made by slow-cooking meat (usually beef, lamb, or goat) in an underground pit, which is lined with maguey leaves or banana leaves. The meat is seasoned with a variety of spices and seasonings, and cooked low and slow for several hours until it is tender and flavorful.

Barbacoa has become a popular dish throughout Mexico and the United States, and there are many regional variations of the dish. In some regions, pork or chicken is used instead of beef, while in others, the meat is cooked in a pressure cooker or slow cooker instead of an underground pit.

No matter how it is prepared, barbacoa is a delicious and flavorful dish that has become an important part of Mexican cuisine.

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