Chipotle Barbacoa

Chipotle’s tender slow-roasted Barbacoa is easy to make once you know the secret spice combination. You can enjoy flavorful tender shredded beef that is perfect for salads, tacos, and so much more. And this recipe is keto and low carb friendly.

Your entire family is going to love this Chipotle copycat recipe. You can make an amazing barbacoa that is perfect to feed large crowds!

beef barbacoa, cilantro, salsa, tortillas, and sour cream

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Chipotle barbacoa beef

Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants have many great recipes! The franchise’s limited menu of classic Mexican-inspired dishes is all great, but for many guests, no trip to Chipotle is complete without ordering something with barbacoa beef.

Chipotle barbacoa is steam-roasted for a rich, authentic flavor that most other quick-serve restaurants can’t beat. If you want to recreate the taste of Chipotle meats at home, this copycat Chipotle barbacoa recipe is definitely worth the time and effort. It’s so good you are going to make a pot of cilantro lime rice to go with it.

What is barbacoa?

The term ‘barbacoa’ comes from the Arawak-speaking Taino people of the Caribbean region, and it is the origin of the English word ‘barbeque.’ The traditional barbacoa cooking technique began with heavily coating a large piece of meat with herbs and spices before slowly steam-roasting the barbacoa meat in an underground firepit covered with green leaves. This unique cooking method produced meat that was very tender, flavorful, and smoky.

It wasn’t long before the cooking method began to appear in Mexico where the local cooks added their own flavor preferences and introduced the idea of roasting the meat in special clay ovens. Over time, different methods for cooking and serving barbacoa evolved as the recipe spread to other regions across the country.

Chipotle Barbacoa ingredients

Here’s a list of what you need to make barbacoa:

  • Guijillo Chilies
  • Cumin seeds
  • Ground cloves
  • Allspice berries
  • Mexican oregano
  • Fresh thyme
  • Garlic cloves
  • Yellow onion
  • Cider vinegar
  • Beef roast or lamb, 6 to 8 pounds
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dried avocado leaves – IMPORTANT NOTE: Fresh avocado leaves are toxic and they MUST BE dried to use for cooking.
Chipotle Mexican Grill barbacoa ingredients

What type of meat is best for this beef barbacoa recipe?

You might wonder what kind of meat you should choose. When choosing the meat for this recipe, you need to remember that it will be in the oven all day long. That means you want to stay away from thinner cuts as well as those that are lean. Ideally, you are looking for a joint of meat from a more exercised part of the animal, yet one with enough fat to enrich the dish’s flavor.

The meat from the shoulder region of the animal is a fantastic choice. Depending on your supermarket, it may be sold as beef chuck roast, shoulder, or clod. The good news is that although this cut is one of the most inexpensive ones available, the low and slow cooking method makes it incredibly tender. One bite of this meat and you are going to think this is one of your favorite beef recipes that you have tried recently.

How to make Chipotle Mexican Grill barbacoa

  1. Toast chilies and cover them with boiling water in a deep bowl. Set aside for 20 minutes.
  2. Grind cumin, cloves, allspice, and oregano in a coffee grinder.
  3. Drain soaked chilies and place them in a blender.
  4. Add ground spices, thyme, garlic, onion, vinegar, and 1/2 cup of water to the blender and blend until smooth.
  5. Push the mixture through a sieve.
Chipotle Mexican Grill barbacoa marinade in a bowl
  1. Season beef with salt and pepper. Rub the paste all over the meat.
  2. Place coated beef in a deep bowl or pot. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for four hours.
barbacoa marinade on beef in a pot
  1. In a deep roaster pan, scatter half of the avocado leaves on the bottom, place the meat on top of the avocado leaves, and scatter the remaining leaves over the meat.
  2. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Cook the beef at 325°F for 6 to 7 hours until the meat is falling off the bone.
  3. Use forks to shred the beef and serve with warm tortillas and your favorite fillings for burritos and tacos.
a bowl of shredded beef barbacoa, cilantro, sour cream, salsa, and tortillas

Tips for cooking and storing Chipotle Mexican Grill’s barbacoa meat

  • Don’t cheat yourself. This recipe takes time, but having a bit of patience pays off big in the end on this one. Please don’t rush the marinating or cooking times. You will regret it.
  • Shredding the barbacoa meat. If you can handle the heat, shred the meat when it is still hot. Shredding when it is hot will allow you to get more delicate shreds. Don’t shred more than you will need at one time. Keeping leftovers as a large chunk will prevent the meat from drying out. You are going to find this Mexican shredded beef has so many uses and can make so many dishes.
  • Storing leftovers. Keep the leftover barbacoa in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will last up to 4 days in the fridge. Or freeze it in a freezer-safe container. It will last up to 3 months in the freezer.
  • Reheating leftovers. Reheat leftovers covered in a pan along with their juices for 30 minutes in a 300°F oven. Shred when hot.

How to serve this Chipotle barbacoa recipe

The best part of Chipotle barbacoa meat is its versatility, no matter how you serve it, you are going to have a delicious meal. Sure, you can serve it in a taco or burrito or on top of a salad as they do it at Chipotle Mexican Grill, but you don’t have to limit yourself.

Try having beef barbacoa over rice, in a barbacoa burrito bowl, using it for a Mexican-inspired cheesesteak sandwich, or even on top of a pizza!

What to serve with Chipotle barbacoa beef?

You could turn this into tacos, nachos, or a taco salad. So let’s talk about favorite toppings, here are a few ideas for you!

  • black beans
  • chopped red onion
  • chopped cilantro
  • pico de gallo
  • squeeze of lime juice
  • salsa
  • shredded cheese
  • shredded lettuce
  • sour cream
  • corn or flour tortillas
overhead view of beef barbacoa, cilantro, salsa, tortillas, and sour cream

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This recipe originally came from the web archive of the News 10 recipe page.

beef barbacoa, cilantro, salsa, tortillas, and sour cream

Chipotle Barbacoa

Chipotle’s Mexican Grill Barbacoa is hard to beat, you can make it at home. 
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate Add to Collection
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Barbacoa, Chipotle Recipes, Keto, Low Carb
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 20
Calories: 479kcal


  • 4 Guijillo Chilies
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 10 allspice berries
  • 1/3 cup Mexican oregano
  • 12 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 chopped yellow onion
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 8 pounds beef roast or lamb
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 pounds dried avocado leaves MUST BE dried. See the note below.


  • Toast chilies, cover with boiling water in a deep bowl and set aside for 20 minutes. Grind cumin, cloves, allspice, and oregano in a coffee grinder. Drain soaked chilies, puree Chillies in a blender, ground spices, thyme, garlic, onion, vinegar, and 1/2 cup of water. 
  • Process mixture until it is smooth. Push mixture through a sieve, and season beef with salt and pepper. Rub paste all over the meat. Arrange in a bowl and allow the meat to marinate for four hours, refrigerated. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  • In a deep roaster pan or Dutch oven, scatter half of the avocado leaves on the bottom, place meat on top of the avocado leaves, and scatter the remaining leaves over the meat. 
  • Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Cook the beef 6 to 7 hours until meat is falling off the bone. If you are using lamb, shoulder, cook for 4 hours.


Important Note: Fresh avocado leaves are toxic – they MUST BE dried to use for cooking.



Calories: 479kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 38g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 125mg | Sodium: 159mg | Potassium: 903mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 0g | Vitamin A: 2995IU | Vitamin C: 34.9mg | Calcium: 430mg | Iron: 23.9mg

About Stephanie Manley

I recreate your favorite restaurant recipes, so you can prepare these dishes at home. I help you cook dinner, and serve up dishes you know your family will love. You can find most of the ingredients for all of the recipes in your local grocery store.

Stephanie is the author of's Dining Out in the Home, and's Dining Out in the Home 2.

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