Barbacoa refers to the absolutely wonderful Mexican technique of slowly roasting lamb, beef or pork. It involves digging a pit in the ground and cooking spiced meat alongside maguey leaves (from the agave plant). Don’t worry, this recipe does not require a pit, shovel or even maguey leaves – though you could go that route if your heart desires and you would receive my applause in the process! Instead, I opt for the more practical yet less traditional method of crockpot cooking. Let me be clear. Until a month and a half ago (43 days to be exact but who’s counting?) I did not own a crockpot. The mere thought of the small appliance made every single one of my culinary muscles ache.
I had a sudden change of heart after I made this Crockpot Ancho Pork. I have always been a big believer in braising meats the old-fashioned way (sear + aromatics + deglaze + dutch-oven + 350F). But I needed something to appease my busy friends who wanted to eat home-cooked, delicious food but also had to work 60-hour weeks. Enter the crockpot. Instead of forking-over $200+ on a fancy model, I went with the uber basic yet very functional Crockpot linked here. It’s a workhorse and does a very fine job indeed. As mentioned in the Ancho pork recipe, the Instant Pot seems to be a popular choice as well.
This Beef Barbacoa is very similar in terms of prep, ingredients and flavours to the Ancho Pork, but there are a few differences. First and foremost, we use beef here. Lamb is the more popular choice for barbacoa in Mexico (depending on where you are in the country) but market research tells me that not everyone loves lamb as much as I do. Perhaps because they can’t get images of cute, furry white animals parading through English meadows out of their minds. Also, I added some agave syrup to the mix this time. This is a no-go if doing Whole30 and believe me it will still be delicious if you omit it, but the sweetness goes a long way. You will also notice the addition of guajillo and chipotle peppers in this barbacoa. Is it necessary? No, but you should do your best to find them. Each of the chilies has it’s own character and brings wonderful differences in colour to the finished dish. Dried chipotles might be hard to find. If that’s the case add a touch more smoked paprika to amp-up the smokiness of the dish. Last but not least, I brown the beef before adding it to the crockpot. This is an absolutely clutch step if you want maximum flavour. If you’re pressed for time, omit this step.
Why I love Barbacoa?
Because there are few recipes this easy that crank-out such an overwhelmingly delicious finished product. Not to mention the fact that I always have plenty of leftovers that I use to cook doctored-up Huevos Rancheros like this one here.
I hope you like it and let me know what you think in the comments below!
Crockpot Beef Barbacoa – Paleo
4lbs beef chuck roast (or shoulder)
2 dried, whole ancho chilies – deseeded, stems removed
2 dried, whole guajillo chilies – deseeded, stems removed
1 dried, whole chipotle pepper – deseeded, stems removed
5-6 cloves garlic – skin removed
1 tbsp loosely-packed fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp agave syrup (omit if doing Whole30)
2 cups beef stock – preferably homemade
2-3 tbsp avocado oil
salt and pepper
cauliflower rice – Click here for my favourite version
green cabbage – shredded
favourite compliant salsa
ripe avocado – sliced or diced
sweet white onion – diced
- To a high power blender, add ancho peppers, guajillo peppers, chipotle pepper, cinnamon, smoked paprika, apple cider vinegar, garlic & beef stock. Blend on high speed until completely smooth.
- Pat beef dry with kitchen towel & season all sides with salt. Preheat a cast-iron skillet to med-high heat, add 2 tbsp avocado oil and brown the beef in batches. Transfer browned meat to slow cooker.
- Set a fine-mesh sieve over the crockpot and pour the chili-stock mixture through. Use a silicon spatula to work the sauce through the sieve – discard any of the pulp. Toss the beef to coat in the sauce, cover the crockpot with the lid & cook on high for 5 hours or until meat is falling of the bone.
- Carefully transfer cooked beef to a bowl or large platter & shred it with two large forks – set aside.
- Pour the rendered sauce and juices into a degreasing cup and remove excess grease. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper accordingly. Pour degreased sauce over the shredded beef and toss to coat.
- Serve Crockpot Beef Barbacoa over a bowl of cauliflower rice. Garnish with shredded cabbage, salsa of choice, avocado, fresh cilantro & lime wedges.