10 minutes of hands-on time + 2 hours in the Instant Pot is all you need to make this super flavorful and juicy barbacoa that is perfect as the main protein for just about any meal!
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The original slow cooker barbacoa recipe is an all-time Fed+Fit favorite, and we’ve simplified it to make it even easier by using the Instant Pot! You get the same juicy, tender meat in a fraction of the time.
What is barbacoa?
A little history, “barbacoa” translates to “barbeque” in Spanish and relates to a specific cooking style in Mexico where the meat is slowly cooked in a pit dug in the ground. It is a highly beloved dish that is seasoned heavily with garlic, onion, chilis, and Mexican oregano. When made traditionally, the process can take the better part of the day to prepare, making barbacoa a very special meal. This easy, home-cook-friendly version uses the pressure cooking feature of the instant pot to flavor and quickly tenderize the meat for a still-special meal that doesn’t take a lot of time.
Barbacoa Beef Ingredients
Here’s what you’ll need to make your Instant Pot barbacoa beef:
- Chuck Roast – you’ll need 3 pounds of chuck roast.
- Spices – a combination of salt, pepper, cumin, chipotle chili powder, Mexican oregano, cloves, and garlic make up the seasoning blend, which ultimately acts as the marinade for the beef during the cooking process.
- Bay Leaves – 3 bay leaves help to break down some of the proteins in the chuck roast and really help bring all of the flavors of the spices together.
- Butter – you’ll use 2 tablespoons of salted butter or extra virgin olive oil to sear the meat prior to pressure cooking.
- Apple Cider Vinegar + Lime Juice – ¼ cup each of apple cider vinegar and fresh lime juice add just the right amount of acidity to the dish.
- Water – to prevent burning, you’ll use a ½ cup of water in the instant pot.
- Change the heat – use regular chili powder or paprika in lieu of the chipotle chili powder if you prefer a milder heat on your meat.
- Use different cuts of meat – traditional barbacoa is made with a variety of tougher meat cuts and also includes the cheek, tongue, and parts of the cow head, which are loaded with iron, nutrients, and flavor!
How to Make Barbacoa in the Instant Pot
As promised, this process is super easy and involves a short amount of prep time. Here’s how to do it:
- Season the beef. Combine the spices together in a small bowl, then cut the beef into 8 large chunks and coat evenly with the spices.
- Sear the beef. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the Instant Pot and press “saute” to heat. Working in batches, add the seasoned chuck roast to the IP and sear on all sides until lightly browned.
- Add remaining ingredients. Add the garlic, bay leaves, vinegar, and lime juice plus an additional ½ cup of water. Place the lid on the pot and make sure the valve is set to “sealed.” Press the “manual” button and set it to cook for 60 minutes.
- Release pressure. After the 60 minutes is up, let the pressure release naturally (about 20 minutes), then remove the lid from the pot.
- Shred the beef. Remove the bay leaves from the instant pot, then using two forks, shred the beef and stir it in with the juices.
- Serve and enjoy!
How to Serve
This tasty barbacoa beef is so delicious and can be served in a variety of ways! Here are some ideas:
- Make tacos – my favorite way to eat barbacoa (alongside a delicious margarita). Grab your favorite tortilla, some sliced onion, avocado, cilantro, and lime, and enjoy! For an ultra-easy taco recipe, sub the chicken for beef in this oven-baked method.
- Serve on salad – serve your beef on top of this Mexican corn salad for a really tasty meal.
- Bake nachos – make loaded carnitas nachos, except with barbacoa!
Can you make barbacoa ahead of time?
Yes! This beef saves great and the flavors get better over time! I recommend storing the meat with the extra juices from cooking. They’ll help keep the meat moist and also continue to marinate the flavor.
How to Store and Reheat Leftover Barbacoa
Store your barbacoa in a covered container in the fridge for 4-5 days. It can also be stored in the freezer in an airtight freezer bag or container for up to 4 months.
To reheat from the fridge:
- In the oven. Place the meat on a sheet pan and spoon some juices over top. Bake at 400°F for about 10 minutes until the meat is slightly browned.
- In a skillet. Add the meat and some juices to a skillet over medium heat for about 3 minutes per side.
- In the microwave. Heat for 1-2 minutes or until heated through.
To reheat from frozen:
- Defrost in the fridge overnight or quick defrost by putting the container or bag in a bowl filled with cold water for about an hour. Then reheat the meat with a method from above.
How to Freeze Barbacoa
To freeze your barbacoa, let it cool completely, then transfer the meat and juices to a freezer-safe bag or airtight container. Label with the date and store in the freezer for up to 4 months.
Instant Pot Beef Barbacoa
- 1 chuck roast, 3 pounds
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
- 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano (regular oregano also works)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 tablespoons salted butter or extra virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
- 1/2 cup water
- Combine the spices together in a small bowl, then cut the beef into 8 large chunks and coat evenly with the spices.
- Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the Instant Pot and press “saute” to heat. Working in batches, add the seasoned chuck roast to the IP and sear on all sides until lightly browned.
- Add garlic, bay leaves, vinegar, and lime juice plus an additional ½ a cup water. Place the lid on the pot and make sure the valve is set to sealed. Press the “manual” button and set to cook for 60 minutes.
- After the 60 minutes is up, let the pressure release naturally (about 20 minutes), then remove the lid from the pot.
- Remove the bay leaves from the IP, then using two forks, shred the beef and stir it in with the juices.
- Serve and enjoy!