This Barbacoa Beef will be your new dinner BFF in just about 1 hour. The Instant Pot takes a tough cut of beef and quickly tenderizes it while the meat braises in a super flavorful smoky sauce. You’ll want to drizzle the sauce on everything from barbacoa tacos to burrito bowls so be sure to save it after cooking!

Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef in a white round bowl. A wooden spoon is scooping some of the beef from the bowl. There is a sprinkle of fresh cilantro leaves on top of the beef.

I’m not going to be shy here: I freaking LOVE a good barbacoa burrito bowl! Heck, I’ll even dive into a mediocre rice bowl with some gusto!

There’s a local place near us that I only recently discovered called Bruce’s Burritos, which my friend had strongly suggested several times in the past year that I visit. But I just never got around to it.

Shredded Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef on a large sheet pan after being broiled to add crispy edges.

So she dragged me there – in the least literal sense of course; I didn’t need any arm-twisting for Mexican food – recently on the back end of a playground play date with our kids.

And to no one’s surprise, I ordered the beef barbacoa burrito bowl. Little did I know that not only would this lunch blow my mind with its crispy, salty tortilla chips as the bottom layer of the rice bowl, but that the barbacoa itself would be life-changing.

I know. I know. Life-changing is such an overused term these days. But being that I haven’t stopped comparing all of my lunches since then to that rice bowl, I would say the term is appropriate!

Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef prepared as tacos with onions, tomatoes, and cilantro on top. There is a stack of flour tortilla on the counter behind the tacos.

What Is Barbacoa?

Barbacoa is a tender slow-cooked shredded meat dish that is said to have originated in the Caribbean. The dish migrated to Latin America and has become more well-known as a Mexican dish.

Its flavors lean towards smoky and slightly spicy with just a tiny hint of sweet for balance.

Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef in a white round bowl. There are two forks in the meat ready to shred it.

And just like pasta fagioli recipes vary between Italian families, no two barbacoa recipes are said to be exactly alike either.

What Kind of Meat for Barbacoa?

Traditional barbacoa recipes call for goat or mutton meat. However, since neither meat is readily available in the U.S., beef is most often used.

Overhead photo of three tacos stuffed with Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef and topped with onions, diced tomatoes, and fresh cilantro.

For this instant pot beef barbacoa recipe, you’re going to want a cut of beef that stands up well to high-heat pressure cooking. So, something like a chuck roast or stew meat works perfectly here.

I’ve also gone a little rogue and made Barbacoa Chicken too. It’s a little bit lighter and leaner of a recipe, especially if you’re not much of a beef fan. You can still use the chicken in all the same ways you would use this beef barbacoa.

How to Use Barbacoa

The first time I made this recipe, we made barbacoa tacos. It was for a big family meal, and setting out a bunch of taco toppings in bowls along with stacks of tortillas – both corn and flour varieties – made the most sense for an easy meal.

Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef prepared as tacos with onions, tomatoes, and cilantro on top.

With this recipe, you can also make barbacoa rice bowls, just like my favorite grilled fajita chicken burrito bowls that I make with cilantro lime rice.

Or, go in a different direction like I did with my favorite shredded chicken recipe and make enchiladas with barbacoa instead of chicken.

Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef tacos.

How Spicy Is It?

As written below, this beef barbacoa is only mildly spicy. I used 2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce as well as just 2 teaspoons of the adobo sauce itself. And Riley (age 4 at the time) ate her barbacoa with gusto!

If you want spicy beef, simply add 1 or 2 canned chipotle peppers and an extra teaspoon of the adobo sauce from the can.

Adding the sauce to the instant pot for Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef.

More Delicious Instant Pot Recipes to Make

Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef in a white round bowl. A wooden spoon is scooping some of the beef from the bowl. There is a sprinkle of fresh cilantro leaves on top of the beef.

Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef

Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Pressurizing Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 27 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 12 minutes

Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef takes a chunk of tough beef to another level by braising it in a smoky sauce in the pressure cooker. Instead of waiting all day for dinner, you'll have this one on the table in about an hour!

Ingredients

For the sauce:

  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo
  • 2 tsp adobo sauce (from the can)
  • 1 tbsp Better than Bouillon Beef
  • ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • ¾ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup beef broth or beef stock

For the barbacoa beef:

  • 3 ½ lbs beef chuck roast, cut into 3 x 3-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tbsp vegetable, canola, or sunflower oil
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 can (4 oz) mild diced green chiles, drained - use hot if you want a spicier meal
  • 1 cup beef broth or beef stock

For serving:

  • ½ lime
  • Your favorite taco toppings
  • Chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. To make the sauce: Blend all of the sauce ingredients in a food processor or blender until completely smooth and combined. Set aside.
  2. To make the beef: Heat a 6-quart Instant Pot using the Sauté setting. While the pot heats, sprinkle all sides of the beef chunks generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Swirl half of the oil into the pot to coat the bottom. Add half of the beef chunks and cook until browned on all sides, about 7 minutes total. Transfer the beef to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Repeat with the remaining oil and beef.
  4. In the remaining oil in the pot, sauté the onions until lightly browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir the tomato paste into the onions and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until the paste coats all of the onions. Add in the diced chiles and pour in the beef broth/stock to deglaze the pot. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir the chipotle sauce into the onion mixture and then nestle the beef chunks into the liquid.
  5. Close the Instant Pot lid and set the valve to Seal. Turn on the Pressure Cook and HIGH settings. Set the timer for 25 minutes. It will take about 20 minutes for the Instant Pot to build up pressure and then the pot will start pressure cooking. Once the timer goes off, carefully and quickly release the Venting valve to Quick Release all of the pressure.
  6. While the pressure releases, preheat the broiler with a rack in the 2nd highest position. Ready a large baking sheet.
  7. Once all of the pressure has been released, transfer the meat to a bowl and shred with 2 forks. Alternatively, you can also shred the meat in a standing mixer by mixing it up with the paddle attachment for about 15 to 20 seconds.
  8. Transfer the shredded meat to the baking sheet and slip it under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes (watch carefully to avoid burning!) until the meat just starts to crisp up. You’re going for some browned edges here, not to cook the beef a second time.
  9. Put the meat in a serving bowl and drizzle most of the remaining cooking liquid from the Instant Pot over the meat to add back some moisture and tons of flavor. Squeeze the lime juice over the barbacoa and serve while still hot.

Notes

slightly adapted from The Chunky Chef

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