Barbacoa Recipe

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Achiote Packet

Achiote packet

5lb Beef Roast (cheap cut = good)*

2 dried Ancho pepper**

2 dried Pasilla pepper**

4 cloves garlic

1 Blood Orange quartered***

1 lime – halved

1 yellow onion – quartered

2 Turkish Bay leaves

2 tbsp Cumin

1 tbsp Mexican Oregano

1 tbsp black pepper

3 tbsp kosher salt

1 tbsp smoked paprika

2 packets Achiote powder

12oz Beer (Corona, Modelo, Negra Modelo)

32oz Beef Stock (unsalted)


Cut the roast into 4-5 evenly sized chunks.

Place the beef in the slow cooker.  De-seed the dried peppers and add to the pot.  Add seasonings to the meat and rub to coat. Pour the beer and stock around the beef, and add in your orange and lime.  Tuck a bay leaf on either side of the meat.  Put your lid on, set to low, and come back in 8 hours.  You can halve the time by cooking on the high setting.

Beef in the crock pot, ready start

When the beef is tender and falling apart, shred it with a pair of forks. You can then use the beef as a base for other dishes (tacos, nachos, rice, burritos, etc…). Simmer any remaining juices down and add to a red sauce for use in enchiladas.


* – I recommend putting this on a rack and a sheet pan and allowing it to dry in your fridge for a day or two before preparing

**- You can get big bags of dried chilis at your local Mexican store.  I recommend these over grocery stores since the stock is more likely to turn over quickly.

***- if you can find a blood orange, they are fantastic in this dish.  If not, just substitute the orange of your choice.

Since I have two young children who decidedly do not like spicy food (much to my wife and my dismay), this recipe is flavorful but not spicy.  If you are looking for something with a bit more punch, add in some .  You can find them at most grocery stores, and they are a great thing to keep in your pantry.  Add as much or as little as you like for a nice flavor/heat boost.

This recipe is a good one to do in a crock pot or slow cooker.  You could easily do it in a roasting pan with some foil or in a dutch oven with excellent results. I would recommend low and slow, in the 250° range for 8-10 hours with periodic checks to make sure the cooking liquid is adequate.

Beef Barbacoa

Get the recipe here.

The Where and the Why

When I was 16, my dad decided it was time for me to get a job.  Aside from wanting me to pay for my own gas, I think he wanted to get me out of the house a few nights a week so he could have some peace.  I spent a good few months putting out horribly written applications at local fast food places, grocery stores, and even applying at a law firm as a runner.  All of these applications resulted in a grand total of nada.  In all honestly, I cannot say I was putting in much effort (besides the law firm one, which had me thinking of Perry Mason and Matlock).  And so, after several months of fruitless pursuit, my father took matters into his own hands.  He worked with several guys who owned a local Tex-Mex bar downtown (not the greatest area at the time, but hey, a jobs a job).  Somehow or another, he finagled me a shot and from there I was in.  I would work weekends running food and make some spending money.  In the process, I got my first real taste of working both in a professional kitchen and being around Mexican cuisine.

While the food we served was not the most authentic, many of the employees who worked there were quite authentic.  Between the family meals they would make at work and the newly created Food Network my interest in cooking was peaked.  This recipe is a bit of a hybrid from the beef we would make at that first job, with much of what I learned technique wise from my second job (coincidentally another Mexican restaurant).  It also shares some influences from Mayan cuisine, specifically Cochinita Pibil.


I tend to make this in my crock pot, as it’s perfectly suited to getting tossed in and left to cook for an extended period of time.  Barbacoa is generally a slow roasted meat combined with a red sauce.  This recipe provides a super flavorful beef with a broth you can use in combination with the sauce of your choice to make other dishes.  Because the chili peppers are seeded before cooking, you get a nice depth of flavor without adding heat to the dish.  You can easily add heat if you like (and a nice flavor kick I highly recommend) by adding some .

I also recommend slicing the beef up into smaller pieces for cooking when cooking in a crock pot.  I chose not to when writing this blog (as you can see in photographs) and regretted it when my beef was not done in time to feed my two children.  That being said, the end result was still delicious.

Serving Suggestions:

This is another one of those super flexible dishes.  It is basically a protein you can use to make other dishes.  The yield is enough for several meals, which works out great if you are making one dinner and want leftovers.  In the picture above, you can see the enchiladas we made with the barbacoa.  We have also made tacos, nachos, and burritos with the barbacoa.  All have been excellent.  As a side note, I highly recommend pairing this with a fried egg or scrambled eggs.  Making a stacked Enchilada with a fried egg on top in combination with this barbacoa is a thing of beauty.