What is Chipotle Barbacoa Beef? A Guide to the Signature Shredded Beef

Barbacoa beef is one of the most popular protein options at Chipotle Mexican Grill. But what exactly is barbacoa at Chipotle and how is it made? Here is a complete guide to understanding this signature shredded beef.

What is Barbacoa?

Barbacoa is a classic Mexican dish that originally referred to meat cooked over an open fire or in a pit oven. The barbacoa technique involves slow-cooking less tender cuts of meat like beef, lamb or goat until fork tender.

Traditional barbacoa recipes use whole heads or legs wrapped in maguey leaves or cloth and cooked for hours. The meat emerges incredibly moist and flavorful.

How Chipotle Makes Their Barbacoa

While staying true to its origins, Chipotle has modernized their barbacoa preparation:

  • They use chuck roast or beef clod, economical cuts that become tender when braised.

  • The beef is seared to add depth of flavor before braising.

  • Signature adobo sauce flavors and tenderizes the meat as it braises for hours.

  • Once fork-tender, the beef is shredded into long strands right before serving.

Chipotle’s Adobo Barbacoa Sauce

The adobo sauce is what gives Chipotle barbacoa its signature flavor. It likely contains:

  • Chipotle peppers – Smoked jalapeños provide medium heat and smoky taste.

  • Garlic – Provides aromatic flavor.

  • Cumin – Adds earthy, nutty notes.

  • Oregano – Provides woodsy flavor.

  • Apple cider vinegar – Gives tanginess.

  • Lime juice – Brightens the sauce with acidity.

  • Chicken or beef stock – Provides moisture and savoriness.

How is Barbacoa Served at Chipotle?

You can add the fork-tender barbacoa beef to any Chipotle menu item:

  • Burrito – The shredded meat is excellent in a flour tortilla burrito with rice, beans, salsa and more.

  • Bowl – It can be the protein component of a burrito bowl along with cilantro-lime rice, black beans, corn salsa and other toppings.

  • Tacos – Barbacoa makes delicious street-style tacos when paired with fresh cilantro and lime.

  • Salads – You can add it to any salad for extra heartiness and protein.

  • Quesadilla – Melty cheese and barbacoa beef quesadillas are amazing.

  • Nachos – Pile barbacoa onto a bed of chips and load up with all the fixings.

No matter what you choose, the ultra-tender beef and smoky adobo flavors make barbacoa a tasty option.

Nutrition Facts of Barbacoa at Chipotle

A standard order of barbacoa (113g) at Chipotle contains:

  • 170 calories
  • 7g fat
  • 0g trans fat
  • 25mg cholesterol
  • 480mg sodium
  • 7g carbs
  • 3g fiber
  • 21g protein

While relatively high in sodium, barbacoa is an excellent source of protein and contains no trans fats. The fiber from toppings like beans, rice, salsa further increase its nutrition.

How to Make Chipotle-Style Barbacoa at Home

To recreate the signature barbacoa flavor at home:

  • Use chuck roast or beef clod and trim excess fat

  • Sear the meat before braising to boost flavor

  • Add smoky chipotles, garlic, cumin, oregano, lime juice, vinegar and stock

  • Cook on low heat for 4-6 hours until fork tender

  • Shred meat and mix with braising sauce before serving

  • Add to tacos, burritos, nachos, quesadillas, salads and more!

With the right cut of beef and spice blend, you can enjoy restaurant-quality barbacoa in your own kitchen.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between barbacoa and carnitas at Chipotle?

Barbacoa is made with beef while carnitas is made with slow-cooked, braised pork. Both are ultra-tender and full of flavor.

Is the barbacoa spicy at Chipotle?

It has a touch of heat from the adobo sauce but is milder than most of their salsas or hot sauces. The flavor balances smokiness, spices and tanginess more than spiciness.

Is Chipotle’s barbacoa healthy?

While relatively high in sodium, it is an excellent source of protein and low in unhealthy fats, carbs and sugars compared to other meat options. Loading up on veggies boosts nutrition.

Is the barbacoa meat pre-cooked?

No, it is cooked fresh in each restaurant daily from raw beef. It is then held in warmers until serving.

What cut of beef does Chipotle use?

They likely use chuck roast or beef clod. Both become melt-in-your-mouth tender when braised low and slow.


With its melt-in-your-mouth texture and bold adobo flavors, Chipotle barbacoa beef has earned its popularity. While the preparation requires time, the results are well worth the wait. Use this guide to understand exactly how barbacoa is made and how to recreate it yourself.

Frequency of entities:

  • barbacoa: 23
  • beef: 21
  • chipotle: 9
  • adobo: 5
  • chuck roast: 2
  • slow-cooked/braised: 5
  • shredded: 3
  • tacos/burritos/bowls: 3
  • tender: 4

Chipotle’s Official Barbacoa Recipe! Quick & Easy!


What kind of meat is Chipotle barbacoa?

Round and round we go When it comes to beef, it’s not just the quality that matters – it’s the cut, too. Our Barbacoa mainly comes from the shoulder, because those cuts have enough fat to keep the meat moist during our long braising method, making the end result seriously juicy and tender.

What’s the difference between carnitas and barbacoa at Chipotle?

What is the difference between carnitas and barbacoa at Chipotle? To keep it simple, carnitas is made from pork while barbacoa is made from beef. Both are shredded meat but another main difference in how they’re made is that barbacoa has spices where the carnitas at Chipotle aren’t spiced at all.

What part of the cow is barbacoa?

“Barbacoa, made from the meat of a cow’s head, is cheap yet rich in flavor.” Customarily served at weekend breakfasts, the cheek, or cachete, is loaded with collagen, and slow-roasting enhances its savory flavor and silky texture.

Is it healthy to eat barbacoa?

Key Takeaways: Barbacoa is a protein powerhouse, perfect for muscle growth and repair. It’s low in carbs, making it a great choice for managing blood sugar levels and staying in ketosis. With essential vitamins, healthy fats, and muscle recovery support, barbacoa is a versatile and nutritious addition to any diet.

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