Chipotle's Barbacoa Copycat Recipe

"That's right now you can make barbacoa as good as Chipotle's at home! Perfecting this recipe started as a bet... while my husband Scott and his good friend Steve were enjoying one of their many grad school barbacoa lunches from Chipotle, Steve made the comment, "I don't think even Jan could make it this good." Oh, the challenge was on! I searched the web and found several recipes claiming to be the real deal but I decided to base mine off a copycat recipe I found on Todd Wilbur's Top Secret Recipes. So how did it come out? Let's just say Steve ate his words and several of these burritos :) Heads up, you'll need a crockpot for this one."
photo by Jonathan Melendez photo by Jonathan Melendez
photo by Jonathan Melendez
photo by Heidi K. photo by Heidi K.
photo by seal angel photo by seal angel
photo by Muffin Goddess photo by Muffin Goddess
photo by Jonathan Melendez photo by Jonathan Melendez
Ready In:
6hrs 20mins




  • To make the adobo sauce combine vinegar, limejuice, chipotles, garlic, cumin, oregano, black pepper, salt and cloves in a blender or processor on high speed until smooth.
  • Remove most of the fat from the roast and then cut into large chunks (approximately 6).
  • Pour oil into a frying pan and sear all sides of roast on medium-high heat until browned.
  • Place meat into Crockpot and pour adobo sauce over meat.
  • Pour in the chicken broth and add bay leaves.
  • Cook on high heat 6 hours or on low all day.
  • While still in the Crockpot, shred the meat with two forks and turn the heat to warm. Serve with hard or soft tortilla shells when ready.
  • Typical sides include tortillas, rice, black or pinto beans, cheese, pico de gallo, guacamole, and sour cream.
  • Don’t forget to make my 5 Minute Guacamole to go with it.

Questions & Replies

  1. Who ever wrote this recipe has never had real barbacoa. It should be made from COWTONGUE. Not pot roast.
  2. Does it mean 3-4 chilis out of a can or 3-4 cans of chilis.
  3. I want to double this recipe with 10lbs of chuck roast. Should I double all the ingredients including the peppers? I don't want it to be fiery hot, so I'm concerned more peppers will put it over the edge.
  4. Do you think this could be done with beef brisket? Or would it be better to stick with chuck?
  5. How spicy is this dish? Just wondering if I need to adjust it for younger palates.


  1. If you like the Chipotle Restaurant Barbacoa, this recipe is fantastic! I never rated anything on the internet until now because this recipe is just so good. My daughter and I both abosolutely love Chipotle Barbacoa. Having a large family, it gets expensive taking the entire family out to eat. I decided to try this recipe. I loved it and my daughter really loved it. She ate it for supper, then breakfast, packed it for school lunch and still ate it later that evening. I had to tell her she had to eat something else for breakfast the next morning. She said it tastes exactly like the restaurant. The recipe makes enough to have left overs later or to freeze it. If you like Chipotle Barbacoa you will love this recipe.
  2. I've made this a number of times, and it always comes in to rave reviews, but they got better when I did something very simple: Instead of browning the roast in a dutch oven, I sear it on the grill. Less mess, more flavor, better results. Second, I start with whole cumin, cloves, and peppercorns. I throw all of that into my spice grinder along with the oregano and salt and blast it for a few seconds. The resulting flavor is fresher and more even - no surprises, and every bite is as good as the first! Last thing - there is almost no reason to cook a single batch of this. To answer an earlier question, it freezes very well. Therefore, I always double the recipe and my slow cooker takes care of the heavy lifting.
  3. I've actually made this a few times now. My husband has an allergy to mild bell peppers, so I make this so that he can have Chipotle at home where I can guarantee he won't get sick! We both love it, and everyone who has had this recipe and Chipotle's says that this one is as good if not better! I cheat on the chiles in adobo and use a smoked habanero instead with a little tomato paste and adobo seasoning (powdered). Seems to work out about right. So good and well worth the little bit of prep!
  4. I make a few changes...not a fan of preservatives so I don't use the chilies in adobo sauce. I substitute with 4 or 5 good sized poblano peppers that I broil in the oven, remove the skin and the bulk of the seeds from. The second time I made it I didn't remove the fat until it was ready to fall off the meat I think it added more flavor. Best shredded beef I've ever had!
  5. Wonderful, this will be a staple in my household for years to come. Thank you.


  1. Don't forget the browned bits in the pan :) To take the sauce to the next level of richness, deglaze the pan with the sauce itself to release the brown bits/sucs(french culinary term pronounced sooks). After browning the meat place it in the crock pot then return the pan to medium heat and add the sauce. It'll dissolve all the browned protein/sugars/carbs left on the bottom. Just use a spatula or flat edged utensil to scrap up the sucs to create a fond (french term for deglazed stock/sauce). Then add it to the crock pot. You'll add more beef flavor and depth of color. Process only takes a minute or 2 to achieve :) And for those who want to take the spicy down a notch, throw on some latex or non latex gloves and cut open the chipotles so you can scrape out the seeds. Pureeing the peppers with seeds releases all the spice and oils in the seeds (which contain most of that fire associated with these jalapeños) Without the chipotle peppers you've turned the barbacoa into a tart pot roast. Love the other users suggestion for garlic oil. Great way to add a milder garlic flavor without that sharp punch to the gut. As a General Manager at Chipotle, who is also deprived of the secret recipe, I can tell you this is soooo close to the recipe customers wouldn't notice it in a blind taste test. I do believe however that there is an addition of smoke and brown sugar that could be missing.
  2. Sear meat on grill instead of in dutch oven. Use whole spices instead of pre-ground.
  3. My family and I love this recipe! The only tweak I make is adding 1 can of whole tomatoes.
    • Review photo by Heidi K.
  4. Just as a matter of preference as neither of us can stand biting into any gristle at all and we tend to over indulge, we use an extra lean bottom round roast with the fat pad removed. I suppose the chuck roast is more sweet and tender but still awesome with the round and any compromise there is worth it to us.
  5. This is wonderful! My husband and I both have sensitive stomachs and have a hard time enjoying mexican food, so I like to make it at home so I can customize it. I left out the chiles and used garlic oil instead of garlic. It still came out so flavorful! I also love that it's made in the crock pot (love my crock pot!).



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