This is a long, slow cooking dish, but it's an easier option than digging a 4-foot deep pit in the yard, lining it with mud, covering it with maguey leaves and cooking it underground overnight the way they traditionally do it!
Recipe courtesy of Chuck's Week Off: Mexico
Episode: Huamantla
Don Pepe's Barbacoa
14 hr 30 min
15 min
6 to 8 servings
14 hr 30 min
15 min
6 to 8 servings


  • 2 cups/500 ml dried chickpeas
  • One 5-pound/2.5 kg whole leg of lamb
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • 2 tablespoons/30 ml olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 dried ancho chiles
  • 1 head garlic, halved
  • 1 bunch epazote, plus more chopped for serving *
  • 8 cups/2 l water or stock
  • Cactus or maguey leaves, optional
  • Salsa
  • Chopped onions
  • Fresh cilantro leaves
  • Lime wedges
  • Corn tortillas


Soak the chickpeas in water overnight. Drain and set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C). 

Score the skin of the lamb with a very sharp knife. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a large cast-iron casserole over high heat, sear the lamb on all sides in the olive oil. Transfer to a plate. 

In the same casserole, add the onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the chickpeas, ancho chiles, garlic, epazote and water. Put the lamb back in the casserole. Cover with cactus leaves if using. Cover the pot. Cook in the oven until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender, about 6 hours. 

Just before bringing to the table, stir in chopped epazote. Serve with salsa, chopped onions, cilantro, lime wedges and tortillas.

Cook's Note

* Epazote is an herb that resembles tarragon. You can substitute with tarragon.

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