Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef

Our Instant Pot barbacoa beef converts a very traditional barbacoa recipe to the Instant Pot with great results! In a very short time you can be gorging on juicy and delicious beef barbacoa tacos.

What is Barbacoa?

At first glance, the word barbacoa might just seem like a translation of “barbecue”. In fact the word does have the same origin, from the Caribbean, as our familiar grilling process. Mexican barbacoa, however, is cooked in a very different style. Instead of meat grilled over an open flame, barbacoa is a slow-cooked/steamed dish.

Traditionally, the meat is cooked in a pit in the ground. The pit is lined with stones, the meat is wrapped in agave or banana leaves, and left for hours, steaming the meat in its own juices until it is super tender. This slow steaming cooking process makes it a perfect recipe to adapt for the Instant Pot.

Typical barbacoa is  made with any type of red meat: lamb, goat, beef, even venison. Our version uses beef, but you can substitute any of these other meats for a different flavor. Any cut of beef can be used – but as with any slow cooked dish, lean cuts will be cheaper and will be just as tender after cooking.

In many countries, barbacoa is even made with parts of the animal that would otherwise be discarded – typically the head and cheeks. We weren’t ambitious enough to try this version in our trusty Instant Pot.

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Instant Pot Barbacoa Recipe

Some recommendations

For our Instant Pot barbacoa beef, we like to sear the meat first. This adds another dimension of delicious flavor. By deglazing the pot of all the little burnt “bits” before pressure cooking, you develop an amazing liquid that will later be mixed with the shredded beef.

We also cook the dry spices on the sauté function for the same reason. The cooking process brings out the aromas of the cumin and other spices.

When the Instant Pot barbacoa is done, serve it with warm corn tortillas (made into a taco), and top with cilantro, diced white onions, and cilantro. We sometimes like to use Spicy Pickled Onions with Habanero for an extra kick. And of course, an icy cold Mexican beer doesn’t hurt to wash everything down.

Here are some additional Instant Pot Recipes you might enjoy: 

Yield: 8 servings

Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef

Instant Pot Barbacoa

Juicy and full of flavor, our Instant Pot barbacoa has all the elements of traditional barbacoa, which is cooked in an underground pit, but with a much simpler preparation.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes


  • 3 lbs chuck beef
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano, use regular oregano if unable to find Mexican
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • 3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 1 handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 6 palm sized tortillas, corn or flour
  • Lime for garnish
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


  1. Cut 2 of the tomatoes and the onion into quarters. Dice one-quarter of the onion and the third Roma tomato and reserve as a topping for the tacos.
  2. Add the vinegar, garlic, quartered onion and tomatoes, 1/2 the cilantro and chilies into a blender with 1/2 cup of the beef stock and blend until smooth.
  3. Cut the beef into equal sized chunks
  4. Add the oil to the instant pot and choose Saute.
  5. Once the Instant Pot display changes to Hot, add the beef to pot and sear on all sides until a crust starts to form (5-10 minutes). Depending on the size of your pot, you may want to do this in batches, so you don't crowd the meat and it browns more easily.
  6. Add the cinnamon, oregano and cumin to the beef, and cook for another 1 - 2 minutes, stirring
  7. Add the 2 cups of remaining beef stock to the pot and scrape with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pot.
  8. Add the mixture from the blender to the pot and stir.
  9. Close the cover and make sure the valve is set to "Sealing".
  10. Set on manual for 60 minutes.
  11. Allow 20 minutes natural release.
  12. Remove the beef from the pot and shred with a fork.
  13. Add the beef into the tortillas, top with tomatoes, onion and cilantro and serve with lime wedges.


Reserve the simmering juice for storing leftovers, or reduce and add as a spicy sauce for the tacos

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 475Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 135mgSodium: 277mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 5gSugar: 3gProtein: 51g

The nutritional data provided is an estimate only

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