Beef Barbacoa Tacos

Total Time:
2 hr 45 min
5 min
2 hr 40 min

6 servings

  • 8 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 plum tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 small white onion, quartered
  • 8 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-to-2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro (leaves and stems)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Corn tortillas, warmed, and assorted toppings, for serving
  • Heat a large cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chiles and cook, pressing them down with a spatula, 10 seconds per side; transfer to a plate. Add the tomatoes, onion and garlic to the skillet and cook, stirring once or twice, until the vegetables are charred in spots, about 10 minutes.

  • Peel the garlic and transfer to a blender along with the tomatoes and onion (reserve the skillet). Tear the chiles into pieces and add to the blender along with 1/2 cup water and 1 teaspoon salt; pulse until smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the skillet, pressing it through with the back of a spoon.

  • Add the beef to the skillet and turn to coat in the chile sauce using tongs. Cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until a crust starts to form on the meat, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle in the cumin, cinnamon and cayenne pepper and cook 1 more minute. Meanwhile, puree 2 1/2 cups water, the cilantro and thyme in the blender; add to the skillet along with the bay leaves.

  • Reduce the heat to low. Cover and gently simmer until the meat is very tender, about 2 hours, adding up to 1 1/2 cups water if the sauce gets too thick. Remove the bay leaves and season with salt and black pepper. Serve in tortillas with assorted toppings.

  • Photograph by Andrew Purcell

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    This recipe is featured in:

    Cinco de Mayo