Recipe courtesy of Tortilleria Nixtamal

Barbacoa Tacos

  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 11 hr 15 min
  • Prep: 45 min
  • Inactive: 8 hr
  • Cook: 2 hr 30 min
  • Yield: About 10 pounds meat, enough for 50 to 70 tacos
Share This Recipe


1 large twig fresh oregano

1 large twig fresh rosemary

1 large twig fresh thyme

1/2 bunch fresh epazote

3 to 5 cloves garlic


1/4 cup olive oil

1 bone-in leg of lamb (about 10 pounds)

1 to 2 rib racks of lamb, about 8 ribs with shoulder (about 10 pounds)

3 to 5 guajillo chiles

1 large maguey or platano leaf

5 to 6 dried avocado leaves

50 to 70 corn tortillas

Fresh chopped cilantro, for serving

Chopped onions, for serving

Jalapeno strips, for serving

Salsa, for serving


  1. Make the marinade: Finely chop the oregano, rosemary, thyme, epazote and garlic. Mix together with 1 tablespoons salt. Stir in the olive oil until the mixture is spreadable. Cut the ribs in half if they don't lie flat in the pot. Rub the marinade thoroughly into the meat and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator. The lamb needs to marinade overnight, or for at least 8 hours.
  2. When ready to cook, start by softening the guajillo chiles in boiling water. Remove the vein and divide into large pieces. Soften the maguay or platano leaves by placing them over an open flame and roasting until they are tender and pliable. You will likely need to cut the leaf into 4 to 8 pieces depending on the size. The pieces should be long enough to envelope the meat while cooking, yet thin enough to be pliable. 
  3. In a large stainless steel steamer pot with 2 inches of water in the bottom, place about 4 pieces of the maguay on the bottom so that it creates a layer on the bottom while the ends stick up out of the pot. Place a layer of meat, then a layer of guajillo chiles (1 to 1 1/2 per layer depending on size), then a layer of avocado leaves. Place another layer of meat, followed by the chiles, then the avocado leaves. Repeat one last time. Fold the maguay around the meat. Place the remaining maguay leaf pieces on top of the meat and cover with plastic wrap. Over a low heat, bring the water to the steaming point and maintain a constant steam for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. 
  4. To serve, remove the meat from the bones, place in a tortilla and add cilantro and onions, plus a strip of jalapeno and salsa to taste. Any remaining cooking liquid can be put in a bowl or cup and sipped, or used to dip the tortillas in.

Cook’s Note

Have your butcher cut the lamb into 4 pieces.

Fudge Factor

Chocolate Desserts

Indulge in our decadent chocolate desserts, from cookies and cakes to puddings, souffles and truffles.

Over-the-Top-Delicious Treats to Satisfy Your Food Obsession

Are you infatuated with ice cream? Do you lust over lobster? Swoon at the sight of chocolate? Here's the best recipe for each food …

Review: Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert's Chocolate Bar Nov 16, 2012

Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert have teamed up with master chocolatier Christopher Curtin to create the "Good & Evil" chocolate b …

How to Chop and Melt Chocolate

Lots of recipes call for melted chocolate. Follow these step-by-step instructions to do it properly.

The Craziest Chocolate Creations for American Chocolate Week Mar 17, 2013

It’s officially American Chocolate Week. Check out photos of mind-blowing chocolate creations.

How-To: Chocolate Cream Puffs

Make this classic and elegant French dessert using our step-by-step guide.

Essentials: Chocolate Basics Sep 1, 2016

Satisfy that chocolate craving in your very own kitchen. All you need is baking chocolate and a little know-how. It also helps to …

Easy Gift Idea: Chocolate-Covered Toffee Feb 7, 2013

Looking for an easy gift idea? Cooking Channel's recipe for Chocolate-Covered Toffee is just the ticket. A touch of coffee in the …

How to Make Truffles

Learn how to make a chocolate lover's favorite treat: the classic truffle made from smooth chocolate ganache.