Chipotle Barbacoa (Copycat)

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You’ll love this Chipotle Barbacoa Recipe! Start with an easy marinade, then braise or slow-cook the beef until it’s meltingly tender. It tastes even better than the real thing!

A bowl of Chipotle copycat Barbacoa beef with black beans, cilantro-lime rice, and pico de gallo salsa.


 

Chipotle Barbacoa beef is excellent, and making the real thing at home couldn’t be easier. The resulting shredded beef is fall-apart tender and just waiting to be stuffed into tacos, burritos, taquitos, quesadillas, and more.

It’s also great with scrambled eggs for breakfast! Call me crazy, but you’ll love it too.

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for Chipotle Barbacoa.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Adobo sauce: To make your own adobo sauce, whisk together 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon chipotle powder (or ½ teaspoon EACH smoked paprika and cayenne powder), ½ teaspoon ground cumin, and a pinch EACH of oregano, garlic powder, and salt.
  • Ancho chile powder: You can buy ancho chile powder online or buy dried ancho chiles and grind them to make your own ancho chile powder or soak them and add straight to the marinade (Culinary Hill may earn money if you buy through these links).
  • Olive oil: Chipotle uses rice bran oil, but olive oil is more widely available (and probably already in your pantry).
  • Oregano: Chipotle uses Mexican oregano, but you can use Italian oregano if that’s all that you have. They have different flavors (Mexican oregano tastes more like marjoram) but both taste great in this recipe.
  • Water: You can substitute chicken broth or beef broth, if desired.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. To make the marinade, in the bowl of a food processor or blender, add garlic, adobo sauce, ancho chile powder, olive oil, cumin, dried oregano, cloves, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Blend until smooth (add water if needed to fully blend the marinade).
A blender with the marinade inside for Chipotle barbacoa beef.
  1. Sprinkle beef liberally on both sides with salt and pepper. In a large skillet over Dutch oven, heat oil until shimmering. Add beef and cook until browned on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip the beef and continue cooking until the other side is brown, about 10 minutes total.
Browning a beef roast to make Chipotle barbacoa beef.
  1. Transfer to a slow cooker and top with marinade, turning to coat. Add water and bay leaves.
Making Chipotle copycat Barbacoa beef in a slow cooker.
  1. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 to 6 hours or low for 8 to 10 hours, until the fat is melted and the meat falls apart easily.
Making Chipotle copycat Barbacoa beef in a slow cooker.
  1. Remove both bay leaves and shred the beef with two forks. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with tortillas, onion, cilantro, and lime wedges.
Chipotle copycat Barbacoa beef in a slow cooker.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes 8 generous servings.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered for up to 4 days.
  • Freezer: The Barbacoa can be cooled and frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Or, make just the marinade ahead and freeze that for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding with the recipe.
  • Toppings: Top your barbacoa bowl with lettuce, sour cream, shredded cheese, and serve with a side of flour tortillas for a fresh family dinner or delicious lunch.
  • To substitute dried ancho chiles:
    1. Remove stems and seeds from dried chiles (wearing gloves is recommended).
    2. In a dry skillet over medium-low heat, toast the chiles until fragrant but not smoking, about 5 minutes.
    3. Transfer to a medium bowl and add 4 cups (1 quart) water and 2 Tablespoons adobo sauce. Microwave on HIGH for 6 minutes. Drain well, then add the chiles to the food processor in step 1.
  • To braise the Barbacoa in the oven:
    1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Sprinkle the beef liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper on both sides.
    2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or stock pot until shimmering. Add beef and cook until browned on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip the beef and continue cooking until the other side is brown, about 10 minutes total.
    3. Top with marinade. Add water and bay leaves and cover. Transfer to oven and bake for 3 ½ hours, turning beef every 30 minutes.
    4. Remove both bay leaves. Shred beef with two forks. Taste for seasonings, add more salt and pepper until it tastes just right, and serve.
  • To simmer the Barbacoa on the stove:
    1. Sprinkle the beef liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper on both sides.
    2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or stock pot until shimmering. Add beef and cook until browned on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip the beef and continue cooking until the other side is brown, about 10 minutes total.
    3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Top with marinade. Add water and bay leaves and cover. Cover and simmer for 3 ½ hours, turning beef every 30 minutes.
    4. Remove both bay leaves. Shred beef with two forks. Taste for seasonings, add more salt and pepper until it tastes just right, and serve.
  • Chipotle Burrito Bowls: Make your own copycat burrito bowls, tacos, and salads at home with my full collection of Chipotle Copycat Recipes:
Chipotle copycat Barbacoa beef in a slow cooker.
Chipotle Barbacoa served with fresh chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do with leftover Chipotle peppers and adobo sauce?

Transfer to a bag or glass jar and freeze for future use, or 1-2 tablespoons with ½ cup mayo for a delicious Chipotle Mayonnaise. Or, use in Chipotle Chicken, Chicken Tinga, or Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers.

What is a substitute for adobo sauce?

To make a substitute for adobo sauce, whisk together 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon chipotle powder (or ½ teaspoon EACH smoked paprika and cayenne powder), ½ teaspoon ground cumin, and a pinch EACH of oregano, garlic powder, and salt.

More Chipotle picks

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A bowl of Chipotle copycat Barbacoa beef with black beans, cilantro-lime rice, and pico de gallo salsa.

Chipotle Barbacoa (Copycat)

You'll love this Chipotle Barbacoa Recipe! Start with an easy marinade, then slow cook the beef until it's meltingly tender. It tastes even better than the real thing!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 40 minutes
Total Time 4 hours
Servings 8 servings
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Calories 493
5 from 26 votes

Ingredients 

For the marinade:

For the beef:

Instructions 

  • To make the marinade, in the bowl of a food processor or blender, add garlic, adobo sauce, ancho chile powder, olive oil, cumin, dried oregano, cloves, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Blend until smooth (add water if needed to fully blend the marinade).
  • Sprinkle beef liberally on both sides with salt and pepper. In a large skillet over Dutch oven, heat oil until shimmering.
  • Add beef and cook until browned on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip the beef and continue cooking until the other side is brown, about 10 minutes total.
  • Transfer to a slow cooker and top with marinade, turning to coat. Add water and bay leaves. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 to 6 hours or low for 8 to 10 hours, until the fat is melted and the meat falls apart easily.
  • Remove both bay leaves and shred the beef with two forks. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with your favorite burrito toppings such as rice, beans, guacamole, and salsa.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Adobo sauce: To make your own adobo sauce, whisk together 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon chipotle powder (or ½ teaspoon EACH smoked paprika and cayenne powder), ½ teaspoon ground cumin, and a pinch EACH of oregano, garlic powder, and salt.
  2. Ancho chile powder: You can buy ancho chile powder online or buy dried ancho chiles and grind them to make your own ancho chile powder or soak them and add straight to the marinade (Culinary Hill may earn money if you buy through these links).
  3. Olive oil: Chipotle uses rice bran oil, but olive oil is more widely available (and probably already in your pantry).
  4. Oregano: Chipotle uses Mexican oregano, but you can use Italian oregano if that’s all that you have. They have different flavors (Mexican oregano tastes more like marjoram) but both taste great in this recipe.
  5. Yield: This recipe makes 8 generous servings.
  6. Storage: Store leftovers covered for up to 4 days.
  7. Freezer: The Barbacoa can be cooled and frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Or, make just the marinade ahead and freeze that for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding with the recipe.

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 493kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 44gFat: 34gSaturated Fat: 13gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 19gTrans Fat: 2gCholesterol: 156mgSodium: 993mgPotassium: 822mgFiber: 1gSugar: 0.3gVitamin A: 649IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 68mgIron: 6mg
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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Comments

  1. Is it possible that something is off with the nutrition information? 88kcal and ONLY 1 g of protein per serving…???

    1. Hi Aaron, thank you for taking the time to write and point that out. It was not estimating the nutrition information correctly. I’ve updated it. Sorry about that! The nutrition information is now estimating for 1 serving if a 4 pound roast is used. (For the most accurate result, I recommend using a food scale to weight everything out, an app to input the ingredients and calculate the serving size based on what the batch you make is.) Thank you so much again and sorry for the trouble. – Meggan

  2. Meggan, I made this yesterday and it is amazing! I plan on freezing it to take on an upcoming cabin vacation. What’s the best way to freeze meat that has a lot of liquid? Should I freeze together or separate the meat from the liquid before freezing and reheat them together when it’s time?

    1. Hi Bridget, thank you so much for your comment, I’m so glad you loved it! I like to freeze the meat with the liquid and reheat it together so the meat doesn’t dry out. I hope you have a great vacation! – Meggan

  3. Culinary Hill is my go-to website for so many recipes and this one is another simple but authentic favorite! You can’t go wrong with this recipe! My family loves it and I have made it for parties.5 stars

    1. Thank you so much for your nice comment, Jackie! I’m glad to be able to be a helpful resource for you and your family! Take care! – Meggan

  4. Is there a way to convert the recipe to use an instant pot? I just received one for mothers day and want to convert your chipotle recipes. Thank you for any help!

    1. Hi Kimberly, thank you so much for your question! I haven’t tried this one in an Instant Pot, but I would cook it similar to how I make a pot roast in one. I would brown the roast on both sides in the Instant Pot, top it with the marinade, water, and bay leaves as directed in step 4. Cover and lock Instant Pot. Press Manual or Pressure Cook button and set for 60 minutes. When timer beeps, allow pressure to release naturally until the float valve drops, about 15 minutes. I hope this is helpful! Take care! – Meggan

  5. The video shows chopped red onion in the food processor bowl. I don’t see it in the recipe. I noticed the comment below about red onion, but would like to know how much to use?

    1. Hi JuliP, thank you so much for your question! It’s 1/2 of a red onion. You can add it to the food processor or blender in step 1 for the marinade. Take care! – Meggan

  6. Made this for the Super Bowl party and it was a huge hit! I made it the day before and it was even better the 2nd day. Thanks for the recipe!5 stars

  7. This is awesome! My family can’t get enough of this…which makes me happy and look like an awesome cook!
    And holy crap is this good!5 stars

    1. That is true! I actually wrote about this in the Chipotle Chicken post, how they used to have red onion but don’t anymore, but that I think the marinade tastes better with it. Same is true for the Barbacoa. It comes down to a philosophical question of – do I post the truest copycat recipe, or do I post the thing that tastes the best? So I left in the red onion. But I forgot to explain all of this in the recipe notes and should have. The red onion should be listed as optional but recommended. Sorry for the confusion, thank you Mike!