Fall-apart tender Instant Pot Beef Barbacoa is your new favorite versatile meat! It’s mouthwateringly juicy, with a deep and earthy Southwest flavor.
Easy Instant Pot Beef Barbacoa
If there’s one thing I love, it’s slow-cooking meat like, pork shoulder or chuck roast. Slow-simmered meat gets so tender, and it absorbs whatever spice rub or marinade you use. Every bite is infused with flavor.
But, did you know you can get the same effect by cooking your meat in an Instant Pot? And it’s so fast and easy! It only takes about an hour and a half to make beef barbacoa in the Instant Pot, as opposed to around 4 hours, on HIGH, in the crock pot, or 8 hours on LOW.
BTW, if you’d like a good recipe for crock pot barbacoa, I’ve got you! Click here for my Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa. 👌
That’s right, Instant Pot Beef Barbacoa is your fast and easy ticket to a meal that tastes like it simmered away for hours! You’re going to love the Mexican-inspired taste of this fall-apart tender and juicy beef.
What is Barbacoa?
Barbacoa is a distant cousin of our more familiar barbecue. You can kind of hear it in the name, right? It’s a traditional Latin American dish, commonly eaten in Mexico, usually made with goat, lamb, or beef. And like some types of American pit barbecue, authentic barbacoa is famous for being cooked in the ground, usually in a special oven built for that purpose. The cooking is low and slow, producing exceptionally tender and juicy meat.
FYI, traditional Barbacoa is made from whole cow heads. In this recipe, though, we’re just going to stick with a nice and tender beef chuck roast, m’kay? 😊
Across South America, home cooks make barbacoa in a lot of ways, from stovetop to slow-cooker to outdoor oven. The most necessary part of cooking barbacoa is using plenty of steam and Mexican spices to create moist, flavorful meat that is so tender, it can easily be shredded with a fork!
For our recipe, we’ll be blending up a zesty mixture of spices, tomato paste, lime juice plus garlic, and cooking in the Instant Pot to create the intense, steamy environment that will make our meat meltingly tender.
So let’s get started! To make beef barbacoa, you’ll need a good beef roast, plus the usual suspects when it comes to Mexican food: cumin, garlic, lime, et cetera. But there is one surprise ingredient. Can you guess what it is? I bet you can’t!
- Beef Roast: For this recipe, I usually use a 3-pound chuck roast.
- Salt & Pepper: I use about a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of pepper.
- Garlic: Mince about six cloves of fresh garlic, or use a garlic press.
- Onion: For the onion, dice one yellow onion, or any type of onion you prefer.
- Tomato Paste: Pro tip: purchase tomato paste in a tube instead of a can for easy use and storage.
- Broth: Have ready ⅔ cup of your favorite broth, or just use water.
- Lime Juice: You’ll need 3 tablespoons, or about 1 lime’s worth of juice.
- Cumin: The base of our spice mix is cumin; for this recipe, you’ll need 2 tablespoons.
- Paprika, Chili Powder & Dried Oregano: Flavor for days with this trio! Use a teaspoon of each.
- Cloves: Here’s the secret ingredient! Did you see it coming? That’s right, adding ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves gives this dish its signature sweetly spicy taste!
- Bay Leaves: These are important for flavor, but don’t forget to take them out at the end!
- Olive Oil: For sautéing.
- Fresh Cilantro: For garnish.
How to Make Barbacoa in the Instant Pot
If you’ve ever made a roast in the Instant Pot, you already know how easy the process is! If not, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how simple it can be to make this recipe.
- Prep Roast: Place your roast on a lined cutting board and pat it dry with a paper towel. Generously season the meat with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Sauté Veggies: Peel and chop the yellow onion and garlic. To the Instant Pot, add extra virgin olive oil and hit the “saute” button. Once the oil has heated up, add the chopped onion and garlic and saute for 3-4 minutes, or until they are slightly browned and fragrant. Press “stop” or “cancel.”
- Add Remaining Ingredients & Cook: Place the chuck roast on top of the onion and garlic. Add the tomato paste, water, lime juice, bay leaves and remaining seasonings. Close the cover and lock into place. Turn the valve to the “sealing” position and cook on high pressure for about 60 minutes.
- Release Pressure: When the 60 minutes is up, allow for 20 minutes of natural release before switching the valve to the “venting” position.
- Shred & Serve! Carefully shred the roast with two forks, stirring to mix in the liquid. (if it’s too runny, you may discard some of the liquid before serving). I like to use these 👉 Claws for shredding.
Tips for Success
There are so many great ways to use this beef! Here are a few great tips for making the most of it.
- Know Your Roast: There are a number of different low-and-slow roasts that would work here, but I like the classic flavor and texture of chuck. Rump roast, tri-tip and brisket also work.
- Sauce It Up! This recipe pairs so well with a homemade chimichurri sauce! You can also add a chipotle pepper and some adobo sauce to the barbacoa as it cooks for even more flavor, but go easy: that stuff can be spicy!
- Street Style Tacos & Burrito Bowls: It’s satisfying no matter how you serve it, but I particularly like beef barbacoa as a fantastic taco filling! You can use flour tortillas or soft corn tortillas, and all your favorite toppings. Mmmm. Or try this tender meat in a burrito bowl, topped with fresh corn, red onions, tomatoes and cilantro.
If you’re wondering what to serve alongside this drool-worthy simmered beef, don’t worry! I’ve rounded up a few great ideas for inspo. You guys know I love you!
- Street Food Fun: Try serving your barbacoa with another street-food classic, Elote! This dressed-up corn is sure to be a favorite.
- Stuffed Mushrooms: These Mexican-inspired stuffed mushrooms are a super nutritious side! Black Beans and Corn Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms will blow you away!
- Chips & Salsa: This beautiful dish is full of nutrition, flavor and vibrant color! I love to make Avocado Salsa for a healthy side that satisfies..
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
- Store your leftovers in airtight containers in the refrigerator. They will keep for 3-4 days. To reheat, place the leftovers in a covered skillet over low heat, until just heated through.
Can I Freeze Extras?
- Yes, you can! Place cooled leftovers in freezer bags or containers and freeze them for up to five months! Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
Instant Pot Beef Barbacoa
- 3 pound beef chuck roast
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- ⅔ cup water or broth
- 3 tablespoons lime juice, about 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh cilantro, for garnish
- Place roast on a lined cutting board and pat dry with paper towel. Generously season the meat with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Peel and chop the yellow onion and garlic. In the instant pot, add extra virgin olive oil and press the “Saute” button. Once the oil has heated up, add the chopped onion and garlic and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they are tender and fragrant. Press Cancel/Stop.
- Add the chuck roast on top of the onion and garlic. Add the tomato paste, water, lime juice, bay leaves and remaining seasonings. Close the cover and lock into place. Turn the valve to “sealing” position and cook on high pressure for 60 minutes.
- When the 60 minutes is up, allow for 20 minutes of natural release before switching the valve to the “venting” position. Remove lid.
- Carefully shred the roast with two forks stirring to cover with liquid. (if too runny, you may discard some of the liquid before serving). Enjoy!
More Instant Pot Recipes
Want more easy family dinners? These Instant Pot recipes are the way to go!