Beef Barbacoa

Beef Barbacoa

Just when I think I’ve got a well stocked pantry, I run across a recipe like this one that requires me to invest in a variety of ingredients that I have never used before. That’s all okay, though, because those oddball (to me, anyway…I found them easily in my normal grocery store) ingredients led to one of the best beef fillings for tacos, taquitos, and burritos possible.

Beef Barbacoa

I had my eye on this recipe for awhile now, but was turned off by the purchase of whole, dried peppers – something I’ve never done before. But really – it wasn’t a big deal. They were easy to find and made the flavor much deeper than any ground up spice from McCormick would have. The recipe for beef barbacoa takes awhile, but a lot of the time is hands off, and it makes the house smell amazing.  Anticipating a delicious meal is half the fun, right?

Beef Barbacoa (from The Way the Cookie Crumbles, who adapted it from The Food Lab on Serious Eats)


  • 1 whole dried New Mexico, costeño, or choricero chili, seeds and stem removed
  • 1 whole chile ancho or pasilla, seeds and stem removed
  • 1 whole chile negro, seeds and stem removed
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock, divided
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil, divided
  • 1 pound beef ribs
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 6 medium cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 4 chipotle chiles packed in adobo, chopped, with 2 tablespoons adobo sauce
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 whole chuck roast (about 4 pounds)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Tortillas, sliced avocados, cojita cheese, cilantro, salsa, limes, and other condiments for serving as you desire


  1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
  2. Place the dried chiles in the bottom of a large Dutch oven and heat over high heat on your stove. Cook, turning the chiles with tongs occasionally, until fragrant and toasted, about 3 minutes. Transfer the chiles to a small saucepan and cover with 2 cups of chicken broth. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook until chiles are completely tender, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the now-empty Dutch oven over high heat stove-top until shimmering. Cook the ribs until they’re well-browned on all sides, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes total. Remove the ribs and set aside. Reduce the heat in Dutch oven to medium.
  4. Add the remaining two tablespoons of oil and heat along with the onions and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until deep brown, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the cumin, cloves, and oregano, and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 6. Add the chipotle chiles and adobo sauce, vinegar, and remaining chicken broth. Scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, simmer until reduced by about half, then transfer the entire contents to the jar of a blender.
  6. Add the soaked chiles and their liquid to the blender along with the fish sauce. Start the blender on low (be careful of blowups!) and slowly increase the speed to high. Puree until smooth, about 1 minute. Set aside.
  7. Place the beef roast in the Dutch oven. Add the browned ribs, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, the bay leaves, and the prepared sauce.
  8. Bring to a boil over high heat. Place the lid on the pot, slightly cracked, then transfer to the oven. Cook, turning the beef occasionally, until completely tender and a cake tester or metal skewer inserted into the meat shows little to no resistance, about 4 hours.
  9. Discard the bay leaves and ribs (meat from ribs can removed and added to the roast to be eaten if desired). Transfer the chuck to a large plate. Return the Dutch oven to the stovetop, and cook, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat until the liquid is reduced to about 1½ cups, about 5 minutes.
  10. Beef can be shredded and served immediately or transferred to a sealed container along with the liquid. You may refrigerate up to five days. When ready to serve, shred beef into large chunks with your fingers or two forks. Return the beef to a pot along with the sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook, gently stirring and folding until the beef is hot, tender, and coated in sauce. Season to taste with salt. Serve as desired with condiments mentioned above

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