Authentic Mexican Barbacoa Made Easy with Your Instant Pot

The word barbecue comes from the Spanish word barbacoa, but that is where the similarity between the word and the dish ends. Traditional barbacoa is a dish cooked with moisture (baked, braised, or steamed), while barbecue is usually associated with the grill.

Authentic Mexican barbacoa has many regional variations. The dish is made with beef, lamb, goat, or other meat, and organ meats are often included. In some regions, barbacoa is cooked in a brick-lined pit, but other areas use the oven or stovetop to cook the meat. Whatever the method or ingredients, the meat comes out tender, juicy, and shreddable.

This Instant Pot version slashes cooking time dramatically, which means you don’t have to wait for a special occasion; it’s a dish that can be enjoyed as a dinner entrée any day of the week. And it is a fantastic choice for an extended family gathering or game day party.

  • 3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, or as needed
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 pepper chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
  • 2 tablespoons adobo sauce (from the peppers)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for barbacoa.
    Diana Rattray
  2. Select the sauté button on the Instant Pot and add about half of the oil to the inner pot. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add about half of the beef. Cook until well browned on all sides. Remove the beef to a plate. Repeat with the remaining oil and beef. Remove the beef to the plate.

    Brown the beef pieces.
    Diana Rattray
  3. In a bowl, combine the stock, vinegar, lime juice, peppers, adobo sauce, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and cloves; stir until blended. Add the liquids and seasonings to the pot and stir, scraping up any browned bits in the bottom of the pot.

    Combine the liquids and seasonings.
    Diana Rattray
  4. Add the beef back to the Instant Pot along with the bay leaves.

    Add the liquids and seasonings to the beef.
    Diana Rattray
  5. Place the lid on the Instant Pot and lock it in place. Turn the valve to the sealing position and select pressure cook or manual setting (high pressure). Set the time for 45 minutes.

    Diana Rattray
  6. When the time is up, let the pressure come down naturally for about 10 minutes. Carefully turn the valve to the venting position to release the remaining pressure.

    Instant Pot on venting.
    Diana Rattray
  7. Remove the beef to a pan or bowl and shred it with two forks. Add the liquids to the beef. If you aren’t serving immediately, add the shredded beef back to the pot and keep it on the warm setting.

    Shred the beef and mix it with the liquids.
    Diana Rattray
  8. Serve the beef in soft or crisp corn tortillas with fresh salsa, lime wedges, and chopped cilantro.

    Arrange the shredded beef on tortillas.
    Diana Rattray
  9. Enjoy!

  • Rather than chicken stock, use beef stock.

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