What is Beef at Chipotle? A Guide to Their Slow-Cooked, Flavorful Meat

Beef is a cornerstone of Chipotle’s menu. Their flavorful barbacoa has become a fan favorite over the years. But what exactly is beef at Chipotle? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take a deep dive into how Chipotle sources, cooks, and seasons their insanely tender and juicy beef.

An Overview of Beef at Chipotle

At Chipotle, beef comes in the form of barbacoa, a traditional Mexican dish. Barbacoa is a slow-cooked beef that is incredibly tender and full of rich, smoky flavor.

Here are some key facts about the beef at Chipotle:

  • It’s always “responsibly raised.” Chipotle has strict standards for sourcing meat that’s humanely raised and fed an all-vegetarian diet.

  • Cuts of beef like chuck roast and beef shoulder are used. These cuts have the perfect blend of fat and moisture to handle the long cooking time.

  • The beef is seasoned simply, usually just salt, chili peppers, bay leaves, oregano, and other Mexican spices. No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

  • Cooking techniques like braising and sous vide are used to get the beef meltingly tender.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at how Chipotle cooks up their insanely delicious barbacoa beef.

Responsibly Raised Beef

Chipotle is dedicated to serving meat that meets their standards for animal welfare and environmental sustainability. Their website states:

“We’re committed to serving meat that comes from animals raised with care. Meaning animals that are raised without the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics or added hormones.”

Specifically, all of their beef is:

  • Raised without non-therapeutic antibiotics or added hormones
  • Fed an all-vegetarian diet
  • Free to roam in open pastures or deeply bedded barns
  • Treated humanely from birth through processing

This attention to sourcing humanely raised beef ensures the meat’s premium quality and flavor. Customers can feel good about eating Chipotle’s beef.

The Perfect Cut

When it comes to cuts of beef, not all are created equal. Choosing the right cut is important for achieving ideal texture and moisture when braising beef for long periods.

For their barbacoa, Chipotle mainly uses beef shoulder. The shoulder (also called a chuck roast) has the right ratio of fat to lean meat. This ensures the beef stays juicy and doesn’t dry out during cooking.

Other good cuts for braises include brisket, short ribs, and shank. All of these cuts have significant marbling that keeps the meat tender.

The Cooking Process

Here’s a look at how Chipotle transforms whole cuts of beef into their signature, falling-apart tender barbacoa:

Sous Vide

First, the meat is cooked sous vide. This technique involves sealing the meat in a bag and then cooking it to an exact temperature in a water bath. The low-and-slow cooking tenderizes the meat and locks in moisture.


Next, the beef is seasoned. Chipotle uses a simple blend of dried chilies, garlic, Mexican oregano, cumin, and bay leaves. This builds fantastic flavor.


Finally, the meat goes into the braiser. Braising involves cooking meat in a small amount of liquid for hours until melt-in-your-mouth tender. Chipotle’s beef shoulder braises for up to 10 hours!


Once fully cooked, the beef is hand shredded into long, juicy strands, perfect for burritos and tacos.

The Smoky, Savory Flavor Profile

With its straightforward seasoning and cooking methods, the natural flavor of the high-quality beef really shines through.

Here are the main flavor notes in Chipotle’s scrumptious barbacoa beef:

  • Savory – The beefy flavor is rich and meaty.

  • Smoky – From the dried chili peppers. Guajillo and ancho peppers are commonly used.

  • Sweet – The chilies and spices have a subtle sweetness.

  • Tangy – Notes of garlic, citrus, and pepper come through.

  • Herbaceous – Oregano and bay leaf lend an earthy flavor.

  • Spicy – There is mild heat from the blend of peppers.

This complex flavor profile, featuring sweet, smoky, and savory notes, is what makes their barbacoa so craveable.

Perfectly Tender Texture

Thanks to the long, slow cooking techniques, Chipotle’s beef is fall-apart and melt-in-your-mouth tender. The meat shreds easily, so it’s perfect for filling burritos and tacos.

The tender texture also allows you to taste and appreciate all the lovely flavors in each bite. No need to waste energy chewing tough meat!


In terms of nutrition, a typical 4-ounce serving of barbacoa beef at Chipotle provides:

  • 200 calories
  • 24g protein
  • 8g fat
  • 0g carbs

As you can see, it’s a high-protein choice with minimal carbs and a decent amount of healthy fats. The protein and satiating fats help keep you full.

Overall, the barbacoa makes a sensible choice when building a balanced burrito bowl or taco. It fits nicely into a diet focused on lean proteins, fiber from veggies and beans, and healthy fats.

How To Order Barbacoa at Chipotle

Now that your mouth is watering for their incredible barbacoa, here are some tips for ordering:

  • Burrito bowl – The most customizable option. Get barbacoa over cilantro-lime rice with black beans, salsa, corn, cheese, etc.

  • Burrito – The classic. Stuffed with rice, beans, barbacoa, and all your favorite fixings.

  • Tacos – Three soft flour or crunchy corn tortillas with filling and toppings.

  • Salad – Load up a salad bowl with lettuce, barbacoa, beans, salsa, cheese, and other fresh toppings.

  • Quesadilla – Melty cheese quesadilla filled with tasty barbacoa.

You really can’t go wrong when pairing smoky, succulent barbacoa beef with any menu items. It takes the flavor to the next level in whatever Chipotle dish you choose.

Make Your Own Chipotle-Style Barbacoa

Want to recreate Chipotle’s signature barbacoa beef at home? With the right cut of meat and some simple seasonings, you can make a tasty copycat recipe.


  • 3 pounds beef chuck roast
  • 2 dried guajillo chilies, rehydrated in broth
  • 2 dried ancho chilies, rehydrated in broth
  • 1 small white onion, quartered
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 2 cups beef broth


  1. Season beef generously with salt. Sear all over until well browned.
  2. Make chili sauce by blending chilies, onion, garlic, spices, and orange juice.
  3. Add chili sauce and beef broth to crockpot. Add seared beef and bay leaves.
  4. Cook on low 8-10 hours until fall-apart tender.
  5. Shred beef and serve!

Making your own Chipotle-style barbacoa is so satisfying. You get all that incredible flavor and texture without leaving your kitchen.

Why Chipotle’s Barbacoa Beef is a Fan Favorite

It’s easy to see why Chipotle customers are so loyal to the incredible barbacoa:

  • High standards for sourcing responsibly raised beef
  • Juicy, richly flavored meat from perfect shoulder cuts
  • Simple, yet complex seasoning with smoky chilies
  • Cooked low and slow to achieve ultimate tenderness
  • Bold, savory flavor you just can’t get enough of

Their dedication shows with each tasty bite of this Mexican classic. Barbacoa beef has earned its place as one of Chipotle’s most craveworthy menu items.

So next time you visit Chipotle, don’t hesitate to add a generous portion of their melt-in-your-mouth barbacoa! Your tastebuds will thank you.

Chipotle Steak – The Exact Recipe


What is beef called at Chipotle?

Barbacoa at Chipotle is made from tender and moist seared beef that’s been braised in an incredible blend of adobo, lime, cumin, garlic, and oregano.

What type of meat is barbacoa?

Barbacoa is typically made out of tougher cuts of meat that require long, slow cooking times. When done traditionally, barbacoa is made with large cuts of meat or whole animals. In the United States, barbacoa is usually associated with beef. However, in Mexico, barbacoa is made from beef, goat, lamb or mutton.

What are the different Chipotle meats?

For most of the year, Chipotle only has four meat options to choose from: chicken, steak, barbacoa, and carnitas. But every once in a while, the chain adds carne asada to the lineup.

Is Chipotle carne asada beef?

Our Carne Asada starts with Responsibly Raised® cattle with no antibiotics and no added hormones. We only source from farmers who do it the right way because we believe there’s a connection between how food is raised and prepared, and how it tastes.

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