Recipe: Instant Pot Barbacoa

Recipe: Instant Pot Barbacoa

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Patty Catalano
May 21, 2018
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

Potluck parties are full of dips, deli trays, and desserts. While you can try to make that a meal, why not be the one to bring the dish everyone reaches for? Tacos are perfect party food, and when you serve a juicy barbacoa beef taco just like they do at Chipotle you become everyone's new best friend.

With smoky chipotle chiles and bright lime, plus help from an electric pressure cooker like the Instant Pot, you can turn beef brisket into tender shreds for easy taco assembly.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

Beef barbacoa made from brisket is a prime candidate for Instant Pot cooking. Where once it took all day to braise, barbecue, or slow-cook to tenderize, the Instant Pot gets tacos on the table in about about an hour. Large chunks of brisket mingle in the electric pressure cooker with a sauce built by blending spicy chipotle chiles in adobo with lime juice, handfuls of cilantro, tangy apple cider vinegar, and a hefty sprinkling of clove.

I like to serve the beef shredded and piled high in a warm corn tortilla simply topped with pink pickled onion and a few leaves of cilantro.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

Flat-Cut Brisket Is Best for Barbacoa

Brisket can be a tough cut of meat to handle — literally and figuratively. Before you tackle a piece of meat this large, it is important to get to know the ins and outs so you know what to look for before heading to the market.

Coming from the breast of the cow, you may find extraordinarily large pieces of brisket, referred to as whole packer or packer's cut. Most often you will see that packer's cut broken down into either the flat cut or the point cut. While I like the fattier point cut for barbecue, you will have less fat and gristle to pick through when shredding the beef for barbacoa if you choose the flat cut.

Four to five pounds of brisket fit nicely in a six-quart Instant Pot and make enough filling to stuff a hungry crowd full of tacos.

Learn more: Everything You Should Know About Brisket, the King of Braised Beef

Instant Pot Barbacoa

Makes enough for 20 tacos

  • 15

    cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

  • 3

    canned whole chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (include the adobo sauce that clings to the chiles)

  • 1

    medium red onion, peeled and cut into large chunks

  • 1 1/2 cups

    loosely packed fresh cilantro (from about 3/4 bunch), plus more for serving

  • 1/3 cup

    freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 3 limes)

  • 1/4 cup

    apple cider vinegar

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    ground cloves

  • 4 to 5 pounds

    beef brisket, preferably flat cut

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon

    vegetable oil

  • 2 cups

    low-sodium beef or chicken broth, divided

  • 4

    bay leaves

Place the garlic, chipotle chiles and their sauce, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, vinegar, and cloves in a blender and blend until smooth; set aside.

Trim most of the visible fat cap off of the brisket, then cut into 3-inch pieces. Season the brisket all over with the salt. Heat the oil in a 6-quart Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker on the sauté setting until shimmering, about 2 minutes. Add 4 to 5 pieces of the meat and sear until golden-brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a large plate and sear the remaining brisket in batches.

Deglaze the pot by adding 1/4 cup of the broth and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits. Press “Cancel.” Return the brisket and any accumulated juices to the Instant Pot. Pour in the blended chipotle sauce and remaining 1 3/4 cups broth. Place the bay leaves on top. Use tongs to turn the meat, coating it in the sauce.

Close and lock the lid and make sure the vent is sealed. Using the manual setting, set the pressure to HIGH for 60 minutes. It should take the pressure cooker about 14 minutes to come up to pressure before the 60-minute cook time begins.

When the cooking is complete, do a quick release of the pressure. Uncover and discard the bay leaves. Transfer the meat to a large rimmed baking sheet. Use 2 forks to shred the meet, discarding the fatty bits. Transfer the shredded beef to a large bowl.

Ladle about 2 cups of the cooking liquid over the beef until it is thoroughly moistened but not submerged in the liquid. You might not need all of the cooking liquid. Refrigerate unused cooking liquid to moisten leftover barbacoa or freeze for future use in soups and stews. Serve on corn tortillas with pickled red onion, cilantro, and salsa.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Refrigerate barbacoa in an airtight container for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Gluten-free: To make this recipe gluten-free, make sure the chipotles en adobo are wheat-free.

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