Instant Pot Barbacoa

4.93 from 14 votes

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Instant Pot barbacoa is a quicker version of the traditional Mexican dish. You can make this recipe for tender Tex Mex beef in less than an hour!

pressure cooker barbacoa wrapped in corn tortilla

There are some fantastic authentic Mexican recipes that deliver big flavor, but most take a long time to prep and/or cook. For example, you can’t rush dishes like Yucatan pork (cochinita pibil) and tacos al pastor.

The meat used for those dishes has tough connective tissue and fat that requires a long time to either marinate or render down during cooking.

The same applies to authentic Mexican barbacoa beef, which is traditionally made with beef cheeks, a tough cut of meat. To replicate the incredible flavor and texture of the original dish but keep the prep and cook time simple and quick, I turn to the magic of an Instant Pot (electric pressure cooker).

Instant Pot Barbacoa vs Mexican Barbacoa

There are differences between a Texas or Tex Mex barbacoa recipe and Mexican barbacoa. The most significant differences are in the cooking style and the type of meat used. Obviously, my recipe for Tex Mex barbacoa is cooked in the Instant Pot.

Tex Mex Barbacoa Beef

What is Barbacoa?

The word “barbacoa” actually has two meanings, the first being the name of the dish. Barbacoa is also a Mexican style of preparing and cooking food underground, covered with hot coals.

Cooking Method

In an authentic preparation, the meat and other ingredients are wrapped in banana or agave leaves, then buried under the hot coals to slowly steam cook for several hours.

Type of Meat Used

In northern Mexico, the home of barbacoa, they use the head of cattle (typically beef cheeks) or goat shoulder to make the dish. Central and Southern Mexico typically use lamb or pork shoulder.

Because it can be difficult to find beef cheeks at the grocery store, beef chuck roast is typically used to make Texas and Tex Mex beef barbacoa.

This recipe for pressure cooker barbacoa is Tex Mex style and made with beef chuck roast.

overhead: instant pot barbacoa cooking in pot

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Beef chuck roast
    Some stores label chuck roast as arm roast or blade roast. A good substitute for chuck roast is rump roast.
  • Chipotles in adobo sauce
    Chipotles are the dried version of smoked jalapenos, and adobo sauce is a smoky flavored tomato-based sauce. This ingredient is very common and should be easy to find in the condiment or ethnic food aisle of most grocery stores.

    If a substitute is needed, you could combine some adobo seasoning with tomato paste. A better option is to make my recipe for adobo sauce and add chipotle chiles to it.
  • Mexican oregano
    Unlike the Mediterranean oregano sold in the spice aisle of the grocery store, Mexican oregano has notes of licorice and lemon. I prefer its flavor, especially in Mexican and Latin dishes.  If you’re unable to find it, regular oregano is fine.
pressure cooker barbacoa in white bowl next to charred tortillas

Video: Making Instant Pot Barbacoa

Making pressure cooker barbacoa slashes the cooking time down from several hours to less than an hour.  To see exactly how to make it, watch the video located in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

Stove Top and Slow Cooker Instructions

If you don’t own an electric pressure cooker, it’s okay! You can make it on the stove top or in a slow cooker.

To make this recipe on the stovetop, see the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

You’ll find instructions for slow cooker barbacoa in my burrito bowl recipe post.

I like the edges of the meat crispy, so I usually pan sear the beef on all sides prior to putting it in the slow cooker or pressure cooker. This step is optional. I’ve skipped this step before, and the dish is still on point.

beef barbacoa in white bowl

Uses for Beef Barbacoa

There are endless ways to use the tender, spicy beef. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Meal prep lunches – Freeze portions of barbacoa meat in individual meal prep containers or small zip top bags. Then it’s ready to put into a lunchbox to thaw and it can be microwaved for tacos.
  • Burritos, enchiladas, or quesadillas
  • Breakfast – It’s fantastic with eggs! I love it on top of rancheros Mexican eggs, or you can make barbacoa breakfast burritos.
  • Soups and stews Add some of the beef to chipotle pumpkin soup for a fall meal you’ll fall in love with!
shredded Mexican beef in flour tortilla with pico de gallo
bowl of barbacoa beef

Instant Pot Barbacoa + Video

4.93 from 14 votes
Instant Pot barbacoa is a quicker version of the traditional Mexican dish. Make this recipe for tender Tex Mex beef in less than an hour!
Servings: 8
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Total: 1 hour




Instant Pot Barbacoa

  • Cut the beef into about 4-6 chunks and season with salt and pepper. Press the Saute setting and add the oil. Sear beef on all sides (See Note 3) until browned.
  • In a blender add all other ingredients except bay leaves and puree. Pour sauce over beef, add the bay leaves and close lid. Cook on Pressure setting, High for 35 minutes.
  • After it’s cooked 35 minutes let rest 10 minutes, then do a Quick Release. Remove lid and shred beef with forks. (If it doesn’t shred easily, cook another 10 minutes). Serve as is, or allow to cool and keep refrigerated in an airtight container.
  • Use in tacos and burritos topped with pickled red onions and or pico de gallo.

Stovetop Beef Barbacoa

  • Cut the beef into about 4-6 chunks and season with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven over medium heat add the oil. When hot sear beef on all sides until browned.
  • In a blender add all other ingredients except bay leaves and puree. Pour sauce over beef, add the bay leaves and close lid.
  • Turn the heat to low. Simmer for 4 to 4 1/4 hours or until the meat pulls apart easily.
  • Turn off the heat and shred the meat with forks. Return meat to braising liquid and let the shredded meat simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes. Serve hot in tortillas with pickled red onion, pico de gallo or with scrambled eggs.



  1. Barbacoa beef is authentically made using beef cheeks although some may find that hard to find. For this recipe I made it using beef chuck roast.
  2. The herb that makes this is Mexican oregano, but regular oregano works just as well.
  3. Searing the beef on all sides first allows for a level of flavoring with caramelization. This is optional, I like the crunchy texture on the edges.


Calories: 443kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 44g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 156mg | Sodium: 687mg | Potassium: 834mg | Fiber: 1g | Vitamin A: 180IU | Vitamin C: 6.4mg | Calcium: 65mg | Iron: 5.9mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: Dinners
Cuisine: Tex Mex
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
tex mex beef barbacoa shown in pressure cooker


Whether in the kitchen or on the grill, you’ll find me cooking American favorites with a love for BBQ, Mexican and Tex Mex. I’m passionate about making tasty food because life’s too short to be bland!

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  1. Looks totally mouthwatering Kevin! I can totally see why it disappeared quickly! Lucky Dave and friends!

    1. Thanks Mary Ann! This is such a versatile recipe and can be used in so many other ways other than tacos, From burritos, enchiladas to salads, it’s a keeper. 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    Kevin, anothert Tex-Mex win in my book. Barbacoa beef is a mainstay in any good Tex-Mex kitchen and you’ve done an excellent job of guiding us through the cook. Loved the video, especially the background music. It made me want to grab a margarita and couple of tacos.

  3. 4 stars
    Hi Kevin. I love your recipe. My mouth is watering! I’m cooking beginner so I’m finding more interesting recipes to practice. I love this it seems very delicious. Not only finding the recipes but I also have to buy some essential kitchen tools for my new kitchen arrangement. I have just bought Food Processor Under 100$. I think it’s suitable for beginner like me. What do you think about that? However, I have to say thank you for your informative recipe. I really love your post.

    1. I think whatever one you choose that suits your needs is great. I have a few and a little more industrial as they get lots of use.
      A Vitamix is something I also use daily. So glad you found the site, enjoy!

  4. Hey Kevin, me again. We haven’t talked in a while and I seem to have misplaced your email address. Contact me, I’d like to reconnect!

  5. 5 stars
    Hey Kevin! I use the crockpot more in the summer than winter and these are going into it soon. This would be great on nachos (or on a fork)!

    1. It’s been so hot here lately I could make a baking tray filled with barbacoa nachos and the cheese would melt! 🙂

  6. 5 stars
    I could think of so many uses for this from tacos to enchiladas to eating straight up outta the dish! YUM!

    1. Sounds like a winner to me Jeff, although this barbacoa was created not as a weapon that could destroy humanity. LOL 🙂

  7. 5 stars
    I can totally see why Dave and his buddies devoured this beef, Kevin! I mean, it looks insanely delicious!!! I’m fairly certain I could make a few pounds of this disappear by my lonesome! Pinned! Cheers!

    1. LOL, thanks Chey. I made a double batch recently (because of the house remodel and easy dinners) and made enchiladas! Thanks so much friend. 🙂

  8. 5 stars
    I like the crispy parts too so I always sear my meat. This sounds amazing. perfect for an easy dinner of tacos!