Chipotle Barbacoa is the Mexican barbecue of my dreams. Seared beef is slow cooked in a spectacular spicy adobo sauce, creating perfectly moist and tender Mexican shredded beef with an incredible combination of flavors. With this amazing copycat Chipotle barbacoa recipe, it can be a reality for you too!
Over the last few years, I have created make-at-home versions for many of our favorite Chipotle recipes — from meats to sides and toppings.
I especially love to develop homemade versions of their fabulous proteins because they can be used in so many ways!
What is Barbacoa at Chipotle?
Barbacoa at Chipotle is made from tender and moist seared beef that’s been braised in an incredible blend of adobo, lime, cumin, garlic, and oregano.
This slow-cooked masterpiece can be added to tacos, salads, bowls, and more!
The name barbacoa actually refers to the cooking method and not the cut of meat! It originated in the Caribbean and is also where we get the word “barbecue.”
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Beef – The best cut of beef for homemade Chipotle barbacoa is chuck roast. It has enough fat to keep the beef moist during the slow cooking process, and it adds plenty of flavor as well.
- Kosher Salt – Sea salt is the closest substitute, but do not try to use table salt!
- Bay Leaves – An essential component of Mexican cooking, these add subtle herbal flavor while also deepening the natural flavor of the meat.
- Sauce – This spicy, savory, and tangy blend of ingredients thickens as it cooks and coats every piece with barbacoa chipotle deliciousness!
Barbacoa Chipotle Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Rinse the uncooked roast in cold water and pat dry.
This helps keep the meat from steaming and allows it to sear, giving you a fantastic flavor and crisp coating on the outside of the roast.
- To prepare the sauce without a blender:
With a sharp knife, mince the garlic and chipotle peppers as finely as you can. Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl and mix until well combined.
- Sear the meat before placing it in the slow cooker.
As a result, it adds another layer of flavor to Chipotle barbacoa.
While you can skip this step, I highly recommend taking the extra 15 minutes to do it. Trust me — the flavor is worth it!
Cast iron or stainless steel are great alternatives to the Dutch oven.
Chipotle Barbacoa FAQ
What is the difference between Chipotle barbacoa and carnitas?
Barbacoa is typically made with beef, but it’s also sometimes made with goat or lamb. Carnitas is always made with pork.
What is barbacoa at Chipotle good with?
Honestly, everything! Add it to burritos, tacos, nachos, quesadillas, salads, and more. You could even pile it onto buns for sandwiches and sliders.
Basically, any way that you would use carnitas or pulled pork is also a great option for barbacoa chipotle beef.
With love, from our simple kitchen to yours.
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Other Easy Copycat Recipes
Chipotle Barbacoa Recipe (Copycat) + Video
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 4 pounds chuck roast, fat trimmed
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 6 cloves garlic
- 4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
- 4 chipotle peppers, from a can, packed in adobo sauce
- 1 tablespoon adobo sauce, from the chipotle pepper can
- 1 cup chicken broth, or 1 cup water and 1 teaspoon chicken base
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- Prepare roast. Make sure all visible fat is trimmed. Rinse the uncooked roast in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. This helps keep the meat from steaming and allows it to sear so you get an amazing flavor and crisp coating on the outside of the roast. Cut into 8 chunks. Sprinkle all sides of cut beef with ½ of the salt (1 teaspoon), reserving the remaining 1 teaspoon. Set aside.
- In a blender or food processor combine the sauce ingredients. Blend until smooth. Set aside. If you do not have a food processor or blender, see cook’s note.
- Warm a Dutch oven or heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat, until water dripped over top sizzles. Add the oil. Sear all sides of cut beef. Don’t skip this step. We are adding layers of flavor here. Once the roast is nicely seared with a good crust, remove it from the Dutch oven and place it in your slow cooker. Set slow cooker temperature to high. Pour the blended sauce over top. Add bay leaves. Cook for 5-6 hours on high (or 8 hours on low) covered.
- After about 5 hours (or 7 hours on low) shred beef using 2 forks to pull it apart. Taste, and add additional teaspoon of salt (as needed), stir to completely coat in sauce. Cover and cook for 1 more hour. After this time you can serve and enjoy or turn slow cooker to warm until ready to serve.
- To create burrito: Layer* pico de gallo, Chipotle’s Copycat Cilantro Lime Rice and Chipotle’s Copycat Barbacoa on a large flour tortilla. Additional toppings of Chipotle’s Copycat Guacamole, sour cream and cheddar cheese are also exceptional. *Click on link for recipes
- Serve and enjoy!
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
Originally Published January 2021, updated and republished June 2023
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