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Barbacoa Tacos

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Calling all tacos lovers! This recipe will definitely become one of your favorites and you will understand why Mexican Barbacoa is the best!

Barbacoa Tacos

What is Barbacoa?

Beef barbacoa is a very traditional Mexican meal that almost always makes an appearance at birthdays, baptisms, weddings, sports events, and more. To be honest, it’s pretty easy to come up with a “reason” to make it.

Even though there are many different ways to make barbacoa, my favorite is with tacos. So what makes barbacoa so delicious? It’s simple – the combination of dried chilies and spices, and the tender and juicy texture make it irresistible!

Have you ever asked yourself what those dried chilies that you see at the grocery store are used for? This recipe will give you one answer.

On the internet, you can find tons of different barbacoa recipes, and you will also find that lots of people will complain that it is not the original way that it is supposed to be made. While I do believe that it is fine to make it in different ways, all authentic Mexican barbacoa recipes have to have dried chilies.

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How to Prepare The Dried Chilies For Barbacoa

I know that using these chilies in a recipe may seem intimidating at first. Don’t worry though. After reading this post, you will be an expert at preparing authentic Mexican barbacoa. To soften the dried chilies, first you need to take out the seeds and the stem.

Once removed, add them to a pot or pan with 1 cup of water, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 tomato, and 1/4 of a large onion. Then let boil for 5-7 minutes before draining the excess water.

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Next, add the mixture to a blender and add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and 1/4 cup of beef stock or water.

Once everything has been blended together, pour the entire mixture through a strainer directly onto the shredded beef (cooked separately – see recipe below) and let it cook for at least two additional hours).

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That wasn’t so hard now was it? Believe me, the sauce makes all the difference between a sub-par barbacoa and a flavor filled Mexican barbacoa. Also, don’t worry – the dried chilies aren’t very spicy at all, so this is not a spicy recipe.

If you like it spicy though, be sure to accompany it with a delicious salsa verde.

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This was definitely one of my husband’s favorite meals when we visited Mexico, and as they say, the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Without a doubt, that was true for us!

Check Out These Other Authentic Mexican Recipes

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4.23 from 54 votes

Barbacoa Tacos


For the Marinade

  • 2 Pounds of Beef I usually use brisket, but it is common to use other meats such as cheekmeat as well
  • Juice from 3 oranges and 2 Limes
  • 1/4 large onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 Tbsp of black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp of Oregano
  • Dried Thyme
  • 1 Tbsp of Cumin
  • 1/3 Cup of White Vinegar

To Cook the Meat

  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • Fresh Thyme
  • Avocado leaves optional - you can find them in the Hispanic section of your local supermarket
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Salt Pepper, Cumin, and Oregano to taste
  • 10 Guajillo chiles or California chilies as you will find them in the US.
  • 1/4 Onion
  • 1 Tomato
  • Juice from 1 orange
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons of white vinegar

For the Tacos

  • Tortillas
  • Lime
  • Finely chopped onions
  • Finely chopped cilantro
  • Salsa Verde


  • Combine all of the marinade ingredients and pour over the meat. Put in the refrigerator over night.
  • Place the meat in a slow cooker, and dispose of the marinade.
  • Add juice from 1 orange, mixed with the juice from 1 lime and a small amount of white vinegar. Then add the salt, pepper, cumin and oregano, and finally the bay leaves, the thyme, and the avocado leaves .
  • Cook on the high setting of your slow cooker for 3 hours or until fork tender.
  • Shred the meat, and return to the slow cooker
  • In a small pot, cook the chilies, the tomatoes, the garlic, and the onion in one cup of water (as shown in the post), blend together and pour through a strainer directly onto the shredded beef. It helps to use a wooden spoon to push down on the mixture so that as much liquid as possible comes out of the strainer. You can use some additional water if the mixture is too thick to strain. 
  • Cook on the low setting for 1-2 more hours.
Tried this recipe?Mention @mylatinatable or tag #mylatinatable!

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The BEST Red Chicken Enchiladas! – Cooking With Paws

Tuesday 3rd of November 2020

[…] For this recipe you will need 2 ancho chilies, and 3 Anaheim or guajillo chilies. They will need to be de-seeded and boiled. If you need a refresher on how to do that, check it out on my barbacoa tacos recipe. […]

john mendiola

Monday 19th of October 2020

this was on point. I substituted the rehydrated chilis with chili powder and uses a bit less vinegar, also I slow cooked it instead of cooking on high for 3 hours. 1. use the marinade and let cheek meat sit for 4 hours 2. slow cook for 4 hours and then pour the chili mixture into the crock pot. 3. after 7 hours turn off pot and let the meat cool 4. remove from pot and shred the meat with two forks 5. serve on corn or flower tortillas and top with finely chopped white onion and fresh cilantro


Wednesday 26th of August 2020

One question after you shred the beef Should the juices be removed from the pot before you return the shredded beef!


Saturday 4th of July 2020

This is just the best tacos I've ever eaten...any adjustments you would suggest for making this in instant pot?

Dave K

Monday 29th of June 2020

I made this recipe (doubled) in a 5qt cast iron dutch oven over an open fire in my firepit. The dutch oven was maybe 12-16" off the fire and I was able to control the temperature pretty well. This recipe came out absolutely fantastic! The mixture of rehydrated guajillo peppers (I used both Gaujillo and New Mexico chilis) added so much flavor! I followed the recipe closely, shredded the meat with a wood spoon directly in the dutch oven, and added the chili mixture and cooked for another 2 hours. Most of the liquid absorbed or evaporated and I took it off the fire when it was nice and saucy but not too wet. Everyone loved this! Served with little "street taco" tortillas, fresh limes wedges, cilantro, diced onions, salsa verde, and some picked jalapenos. Oh my goodness.. a new family favorite. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

Charbel Barker

Monday 29th of June 2020

Thanks, Dave! I'm glad this turned out well for you - it is definitely a favorite at our house too!

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