Beef Barbacoa

What is Barbacoa?

Barbacoa is a traditional Mexican dish made with beef, sheep, or goat. It’s flavorful and saucy and served with tortillas or rice. Larger, tougher cuts of beef like chuck roast or brisket are ideal for making barbacoa because of the long cooking time and just enough fat to keep the meat tender.

Burrito bowl made with Instant Pot Beef Barbacoa, served on a white plate.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • An Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker (if you’re looking for a slow cooker version—try our Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa)
  • blender or food processor – For blending the onions, garlic, tomato paste, water and spices to make the sauce.
  • Beef chuck roast or brisket – Chuck roast is often more economical than brisket, but you can use whichever one you prefer or have access to (check the bottom of your freezer…roasts often hide out down there!).
  • Kosher salt – For rubbing the meat before searing. Coarse or fine sea salt can also be used.
  • Yellow onion
  • Garlic 
  • Tomato paste – Adds depth and a slight sweetness to balance out the onion and spices.
  • Water
  • Fresh lime juice – Adds tartness.
  • Ground cumin 
  • Dried oregano
  • Ground cloves – A little goes a long way.
  • Bay leaves
  • Cooking fat of choice – For searing the meat before pressure cooking.

Overhead view of a burrito bowl made with perfectly spiced beef, rice, beans, and all of the toppings.

  • It’s really quite simple. Just rub that roast or brisket with some salt, sear it using the ‘Saute’ setting on your Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker, add the sauce, and let it cook for 75 minutes. Once the cooking time is up and you’ve allowed time for some natural pressure release to occur, all you have left to do is shred the meat with two forks and break out the taco or burrito bowl fixins’.
  • About the sauce…
  • The sauce is just a handful of pantry items plus water and some onion that you blend in a blender or food processor before pouring it over the roast.
  • Yes, it’s really that simple.
  • Quick but not instant
  • While this Instant Pot Beef Barbacoa is much faster than our slow cooker version, it’s not ‘instant’. You’ll need to plan for about 15 minutes to sear the roast and make the sauce and then once you’ve locked the lid in place your Instant Pot will take anywhere from 5-10 minutes to come up to pressure and seal.
  • And once the cooking time ends, you’ll need to give it at least 20 minutes of natural pressure release before flipping the vent valve to release any residual steam.
  • So while it’s not instant, it’s a heck of a lot faster than using the slow cooker.

Instant Pot Beef Barbacoa done cooking in the instant pot and ready to be served.

How to Serve, Store, and Reheat Instant Pot Beef Barbacoa

  • Serving Suggestions:
  • Tacos – Use your favorite tortillas (or get adventurous and make your own homemade corn tortillas or grain-free tortillas)—soft or crispy—and load them up with barbacoa, guacamole, salsa or pico de gallo, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, etc.
  • Burrito Bowls – Like Chipotle, only better! Fill a bowl with rice or cauliflower rice and top it with barbacoa, black or pinto beans, lettuce or mixed greens, corn, fresh tomatoes or pico, salsa, or hot sauce, cheese (cotija is my personal favorite), and don’t forget the Quick-Pickled Onions. If you haven’t tried them yet, you’re missing out.
  • To keep it Whole30-friendly: Skip the rice, tortillas, corn, and cheese and instead opt for cauliflower rice or a bed of lettuce then top with salsa, pickled onions (omitting the sugar), guacamole, cilantro, jalapenos, etc.
  • How to Store:
  • Transfer meat to glass storage container with lid (we like these) and allow it to cool at room temperature for 30-45 minutes before placing the lid in the container and storing it in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  • Barbacoa may also be frozen for longer storage (up to 3 months). Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating for the best results.
  • How to Reheat:
  • Oven or Toaster Oven: Place barbacoa in an oven-safe dish with 2-3 tablespoons of water. Cover with foil and heat in a preheated 350°F oven for 13-15 minutes or until heated through. The total time will depend on how much you are reheating.
  • Stovetop: Place barbacoa in a skillet with 2-3 tablespoons of water over medium-high heat. When the water just starts to simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover with a lid. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes or until heated through.
  • Microwave: Place barbacoa in a microwave-safe dish and cover. Cook 1-3 minutes (longer if heating a larger portion or you have a low-power microwave) or until heated through.

Instant Pot Beef Barbacoa served burrito bowl-style with a gold fork.


Instant Pot Beef Barbacoa



  • 2 ½ – 3 lb. chuck roast, well-trimmed
  • 2 tsp. Kosher salt (or 1 tsp. fine sea salt)
  • ½ medium yellow onion, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • ¾ cup of water
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. cooking fat of choice


Serving suggestion: Serve in a bowl with rice, greens, cilantro, lime wedges, shredded or cotija cheese, corn, pico, black beans, jalapeño slices, mashed or thinly sliced avocado, finely minced red onions or pickled onions



  1. Place roast on a large plate and pat dry with paper towels. Rub salt over the surface of the meat.
  2. Select ‘Saute’ on Instant Pot. When the inner pot is hot, add fat. When the fat starts to shimmer, add roast and sear 2-3 minutes on each side until the roast is browned on all sides. Press ‘Cancel’ on Instant Pot.
  3. While the roast is browning, add onion, garlic, tomato paste, water, lime juice, cumin, oregano, and cloves to a blender and blend until smooth.
  4. Pour onion-tomato mixture over the roast in the Instant Pot, lifting the roast with a set of tongs to allow the liquid to get underneath the roast.
  5. Place bay leaves on top of roast, lock lid into place, flip vent valve to the ‘sealing’ position, and cook at high pressure for 75 minutes (adding 10% for high altitude).
  6. When cooking time is up, allow for 20 minutes of natural pressure release before releasing any residual steam and removing the lid.
  7. Carefully remove roast to a clean plate and shred with 2 forks, adding some the cooking liquid back to the meat as desired. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if desired.



  • CALORIES: 181
  • SUGAR: 1G
  • SODIUM: 436MG
  • FAT: 5G
  • FIBER: 1G
  • PROTEIN: 28G


Source: The Real Food Dietitian

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