One of the most flavorful meat offerings at Chipotle Mexican Grill is the barbacoa. Learn how to make this amazing entree in the comfort of your home with our copycat barbacoa recipe. It's slow cooked, shredded, and full of flavor, thanks to our secret sauce that has just the right amount of heat and smokiness.
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The ingredients used to make this popular beef barbacoa entree are mostly pantry staples, and are readily available at large grocery stores in the U.S. Check the Hispanic or International section for the chipotle chilies canned in adobo sauce and the Mexican oregano.
- Meat: We used chuck roast for the photo shoot, but you can also use beef brisket.
- Oil: We used refined olive oil, but Chipotle uses rice bran oil.
- Spiciness: We used five large chipotle chilies canned in adobo sauce, and one tablespoon of adobo sauce.
- Aromatics: We used jumbo garlic that has been peeled and smashed with a knife.
- Acid: We used red wine vinegar.
- Citrus: We used freshly squeezed lime juice.
- Broth: We used beef broth for more flavor, but in a pinch you can use water.
- Dried Spices: We used Mexican oregano, cumin, cloves, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. If you can't find Mexican oregano, substitute with Italian oregano.
What is barbacoa beef at Chipotle?
Barbacoa in Spanish means bar-be-que, and can refer to the meat itself or the method of cooking.
Chipotle explains how they cook this beef barbacoa entree and the steak. "Our steak and Barbacoa always start with Responsibly Raised beef. Then, we achieve tenderness in two ways. First, we cook it sous vide, which locks in moisture by heating the beef at a precise, low temperature for a looong time."
"Then we marinate it overnight in our smoky, spicy chipotle pepper adobo, and finish it on the grill (for steak) or add aromatic spices like oregano, cloves, and bay leaf, braise it slowly at a low temperature until it's mouthwateringly tender, then shred it by hand (for Barbacoa)."
"When it comes to beef, it's not just the quality that matters—it's the cut, too. Our Barbacoa mainly comes from the shoulder, because those cuts have enough fat to keep the meat moist during our long braising method, making the end result seriously juicy and tender."
What is the difference between carnitas and barbacoa at Chipotle?
The type of meat and the cooking method make these two dishes quite different. Chipotle uses beef shoulder for the barbacoa, and pork shoulder for the carnitas. Even though they are both slow cooked and shredded, the carnitas have an extra step at the end where the shredded meat is browned until it is crisp.
What are the nutrition facts for the barbacoa?
Chipotle's beef barbacoa is low in net carbs and has no sugar, so it's perfect for people on keto and Paleo diets.
According to Chipotle's website, a 4-ounce serving of this meat contains 170 calories, 2g net carbs, 7g fat, 0g sugar, and 24g protein.
For the same serving size, our copycat recipe has 251 calories, 1.3g net carbs, 12.6g fat, 0.1g sugar, and 32.5g protein. For more nutritional information, please scroll to the end of the recipe card.
Is the barbacoa at Chipotle spicy?
The barbacoa can be a tiny bit spicy due to the chipotle chilies and adobo sauce used, but it is also is considered by many of Chipotle's chefs, employees, and customers as the most flavorful entree on the menu. Our family finds the beef barbacoa to be richly flavored and gloriously tender, not spicy hot.
How to Make
Gather all the ingredients for the secret smoky, spicy sauce. This will take your beef barbacoa to the next level.
First add the chipotle chilies, smashed garlic, and the beef broth to the food processor. Next add the red wine vinegar, lime juice, and the adobo sauce, and finish with the dried spices: Mexican oregano, cumin, ground cloves, black pepper, and kosher salt.
Puree the sauce until smooth; you should have 1 ⅔ cups.
Next, gather the ingredients for the Chipotle barbacoa.
Prepare the meat by cutting each roast into 3 or 4 chunks, then rinse with cold water and pat dry with paper towel. This step will help prevent steam when browning the meat. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
In a large Dutch oven, heat up the oil over medium high heat until shimmering, then add three or four chunks of beef. Turn the heat down to medium and brown the beef on each side for roughly 4 minutes, or until it easily releases from the pan with a gentle tug. Repeat with the rest of the meat.
Put the beef in a large crock pot and pour the sauce over the meat, making sure to coat each piece. Place the 2 bay leaves in the sauce. Cover with a lid and cook on high for 6 hours or on low for 8 to 10 hours. Make sure the meat is braised until tender.
After the meat is done cooking, remove the meat from the crock pot. Skim off any fat with a spoon and strain the liquid into a container.
Pictured below, is the barbacoa after it was cooled in the fridge for 6 hours. Once it is cooled, the fat will float to the top and harden, making it easy to remove.
For the photo shoot, the liquid was strained to remove the extra fat, chipotle peppers and seeds. If you like your barbacoa more spicy, leave the chipotle peppers and seeds in the sauce.
Allow the meat to cool enough to handle, then shred it with two forks or your hands.
Stir in enough sauce to keep the meat moist, and discard the rest. Serve warm with our other copycat Chipotle sides, see below, to make mouth watering burritos, tacos, nachos, or quesadillas.
- Barbacoa can also be made with lamb or goat, but Chipotle only uses beef shoulder.
- Mix all the dried spices together and rub them into the beef before browning the meat.
- Don't own a slow cooker? Barbacoa can also be cooked low and slow in a Dutch oven on the stovetop or in the oven.
- Take the time to brown the beef.
- Use beef broth for more flavor.
- Use chipotle chilies that are canned in adobo sauce.
- Use Mexican oregano for a more authentic flavor.
- If your meat was in the fridge, reheat the shredded meat in the slow cooker on high for 45 minutes, stirring halfway through, then turn it to warm until you're ready to serve it.
Other Chipotle Proteins You'll Love
Other Chipotle Sides You'll Enjoy
Other Chipotle Recipes
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Our Chipotle barbacoa copycat recipe is melt in your mouth tender and bursting with bold flavors from our easy homemade sauce. Make your favorite Mexican takeout at home with your slow cooker, and enjoy tasty burritos and tacos tonight.
For the Sauce
- 5 whole chipotle chilies, canned in adobo sauce (2 oz.)
- 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (15 ml)
- 6 jumbo garlic cloves, peeled and smashed (36g)
- 1 cup beef broth (240 ml)
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar (60 ml)
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (60 ml)
- 2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
For the Meat
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or rice bran oil (30 ml)
- 4 pounds chuck roast, cut into 7 or 8 pieces (1.8 kg)
- sprinkle of kosher salt on beef
- sprinkle of freshly cracked black pepper on beef
- 2 large bay leaves
- Puree: Add all 11 sauce ingredients to a food processor and puree until smooth. It will make 1 ⅔ cups.
- Prep: Cut the beef into 4-6 large chunks, then rinse them with cold water and pat them dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper.
- Brown: Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add half of the meat, then reduce the heat to medium. Brown the meat on each side for roughly 4 minutes, or until it releases with a gentle tug with a pair of tongs. Set the browned chunks on a plate.
- Cook: Place the meat at the bottom of a large crock pot and pour half of the sauce on top, making sure to coat each piece. Repeat with the second layer. Place two bay leaves on top of the meat, cover, and cook on high for 6 hours or on low for 8 hours.
- Shred: Once the meat is cool enough to handle, shred the beef with two forks. Add enough of the sauce to make the meat moist. You should have 6 cups of shredded meat (1.36 kg).
- Serve: Keep the meat warm in the crock pot on the warm setting, and serve with other Chipotle copycat sides in a burrito bowl, tacos, nachos, or a salad.
- Brown the beef. It's worth the time.
- For more flavor, use beef broth instead of water.
- Chipotle chilies that are canned in adobo sauce provide the heat and smokiness.
- For a more authentic flavor, use Mexican oregano.
- Reheat the 6 cups of the shredded meat in the slow cooker on high for 45 minutes, stirring halfway through, then turn it to warm until you're ready to serve it at your party.
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Slow Cooker
- Cuisine: Mexican
Keywords: Chipotle barbacoa recipe, ingredients, nutrition