Slow-Cooked Beef Cheek Barbacoa Tacos

by | Feb 4, 2024

authentic barbacoa recipe
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Savory Beef Cheek Barbacoa Tacos

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Learn the art of slow cooking to achieve melt-in-your-mouth tenderness and a symphony of taste. Perfect for taco enthusiasts and culinary explorers. Get ready for a mouth-watering adventure in every bite! 

Barbacoa, a beloved Mexican dish, offers a tantalizing fusion of flavors and a rich culinary history. This slow-cooked masterpiece, crafted by James Sodium, combines the earthy notes of Texas Mojo and Humboldt Sa`zon spice blends with the smoky kick of Ground Chipotle peppers and the subtle warmth of Saigon Cinnamon. The result is a melt-in-your-mouth barbacoa that’s worth every minute of its long, slow simmer.

Traditionally, barbacoa is made with beef cheeks, known for their tenderness and flavorful marbling. In this recipe, we’ll guide you through the art of transforming these succulent beef cheeks into a savory delight. Alongside the meat, we’ll sauté onions and garlic until they release their aromatic magic, infusing the dish with depth. As the barbacoa simmers, the spices and mole create a robust sauce that envelops the beef in a symphony of tastes.

Once the barbacoa is ready, it’s time to assemble a perfect taco. Warm tortillas until they’re soft and pliable, then layer on the barbacoa, creamy avocado slices, a touch of heat from Serrano peppers, and the sharp tang of Cojita cheese. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro leaves. Each bite promises a burst of flavors that will leave your taste buds craving more.

  • Author: James Sodium
  • Prep Time: 45
  • Cook Time: 6-8 hours
  • Total Time: 7-9 hours
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: tacos
  • Method: slow cooker/crockpot
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Ingredients

Scale

From Pinch Spice Market:

Other ingredients:

  • 3 pounds of Beef Cheeks (Barbacoa)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp mole (I like Dorian Maria Papain mole, but however your tastes run is fine. You can also substitute plain cocoa powder)
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • Tortillas (corn or flour)
  • Ripe avocado
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Cojita cheese (or other South American hard cheese)
  • Serrano peppers
  • Lemon (or lime)
  • Optional but nice: Fresh or dried thyme, bay leaf, and oregano

 

Instructions

Barbacoa has to simmer for a long time, and that can be done a bunch of ways, but I like using a crockpot to cook this:

  1. Peel and slice the onion thin then chop medium.
  2. Peel and chop the garlic medium to fine.
  3. In a suitably large skillet, add the olive oil and sauté the onions and garlic to brown them.
  4. Add the sauteed onions and garlic to the crock pot.
  5. Add the beef cheeks (no prep required, but feel free to trim some of the fat. It’s a fairly fatty cut of meat.)
  6. Add 4 cups of water, all your spices, the mole, & molasses.
  7. If you’re using dried herbs from Pinch, then use 6 bay leaves and a tablespoon each of thyme and oregano.
  8. If you’re using fresh herbs, then tie them with cotton string or thread and throw the whole thing in there. (At the end, you’re going to pick out the stems and bay leaves. Tying them up this way will make that easier.)
  9. Set the crock pot on high and come back in 4 hours.
  10. Poke around in there, make sure there’s enough liquid, and assess whether the meat is coming apart on its own. Pull the spice bundle and bay leaves out now.
  11. Cover and keep going for 2-4 more hours.

Everything should be well cooked, and stirring should cause the meat to shred tenderly and all the glorious sauce to mix in there. All the water should be reduced. If needed, you can remove the cover slightly to allow any excess moisture to steam off. When it’s nice and thick, you have a grand barbacoa!

Serve on tortillas. Here’s how I do it:

  1. Warm your tortillas on low in a covered skillet to get them nice and soft.
  2. Pluck the leaves off your cilantro.
  3. Chop or slice your Serrano pepper.
  4. Section your avocado. Use a sharp knife to cut around the avocado from top to bottom to top, and twist to halve it. The pit is in one half. Carefully whack the pit with your knife and twist it so the pit pops out and sticks to the knife. With the skin on, section the avocado inside its skin without cutting through the skin. (Be careful. A butter knife is fine for this task since it’s an avocado and they’re soft.) Use a spoon to scoop out the sections nice and neat.

On a plate, put some barbacoa, add a few avocado sections, add peppers to taste, grate on some cheese, squeeze on some lemon, and decorate with cilantro leaves. This will be hard to do since you’ll be using one hand to hold people off while you finish making it, and becomes harder as people eat them and crave more. Enjoy!

 

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