Ever just need an easy meal and wish you could run to fast food? Chipotle, anyone?
But we’re a make-from-scratch kind of site and want to be good stewards of our budget…so I present to you this Instant Pot barbacoa beef recipe! This recipe has all the great flavors of Chipotle barbacoa meat, and is also budget-friendly, keto-friendly, paleo, Whole30 compliant, and allergy-free!
Plus it’s super simple – because easy Instant Pot recipes really are the very best!
No pressure cooker? No sweat… I’ve also included slow cooker instructions, hints for making a good dry rub mix, and pointers for making this a freezer meal.
Can I just confess something? This has been quite the week…
We just got back from vacation last week, which – as you know – always means the next few days are spent catching up. Now add to that chaos the fact that we just moved four weeks ago.
*cue circus music*
But when we returned from vacation, our lives shifted into high gear. We had extended family in car accidents, doctor appointments, and other significant life events. One of the best ways I know how to serve family is with food. So over the last 24 hours, I’ve cooked 19 freezer dinners and 36 freezer lunches/breakfasts.
Now, lest you think I am Super Woman – meanwhile my family ate cold oatmeal for dinner last night. Sigh.
With all this crazy food-prep (and crazy life!), I find myself needing recipes that are quick, easy, yummy, and create more than one meal. Being allergy-friendly is a bonus. And better yet – a meal that is ridiculously easy to prepare but tastes like I spent hours in the kitchen.
Fit Allergies and Special Diets with Homemade Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef
Which is why I am over-the-moon giddy about my Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef Recipe!
My family LOVES Chipotle, but the authentic Chipotle barbacoa meat is often too spicy for my kids. Making my own copycat version at home means I can control the heat while still enjoying the depth of flavor. I originally found this recipe on Food.com, but it called for a bunch of steps that dirtied a LOT of dishes – like using a blender, searing beef in a hot skillet, etc.
Sure, that can be delicious. But in my mind, “quick and easy” should also mean “virtually no cleanup.”
So I experimented with this dish and found that mixing the spices in the blender and searing the beef in a hot pan first really didn’t add that much. And even better still — I tweaked the recipe to make a dry mix that I could store in a glass jar in my pantry and pull out whenever I wanted to make my dinner. Win-win!
This meal is also Keto and GAPS/Paleo-friendly — as well as gluten, egg, dairy, AND soy-free. It doesn’t get better than that, friends.
Traditional vs. Pressure Cooker Barbacoa
Barbacoa is a Caribbean word – the word barbeque is derived from it – but traditional barbacoa differs from what we think of as barbeque. I don’t know about you, but when I think of barbeque I think of grilling, but traditional barbacoa is made through steaming/baking in a brick-lined oven dug into the earth.
For traditional barbacoa, a fire is burned at the bottom of the brick-lined oven until the entire oven is blazing hot. At this point the meat (usually mutton or lamb) is placed in a large pot with a small amount of liquid in the bottom. The meat is placed on a rack or trivet so the meat isn’t boiled and is seasoned well with chiles, spices, and herbs. The oven is then covered and the meat is left to cook all night.
While this sounds wonderful, I’m happy barbacoa can also be made using more modern methods. My pressure cooker barbacoa recipe uses a flavorful dry rub mix and a super-easy dump-and-go prep to yield tender and well-seasoned beef.
Works in the Instant Pot or the Slow Cooker!
I originally made this as a slow cooker recipe, but if you’ve followed my posts you know how much I love my Instant Pot!
The Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker with a stainless steel pot. There are a few other brands of electric pressure cookers, but Instant Pot recipes should work in them all. Most Instant Pot recipes will also work for stovetop pressure cookers, though in my experience those may cook a little faster.
It’s relatively easy to take your favorite slow cooker recipes and make them in your Instant Pot. The pre-set button options on the Instant Pot take out a lot of the guesswork. Most recipes with red meat can be made using the Meat/Stew button. There’s also a Poultry button for chicken recipes.
If all else fails, a quick internet search will also reveal pressure cooker cooking times for nearly any sort of recipe. Be sure to always include at least 1 cup of liquid when pressure cooking and never fill the pressure cooker more than 2/3s full.
I’ve done the converting work for you on this one though! Here’s my simplified recipe with instructions for the Instant Pot and the Slow Cooker. Don’t forget to keep reading to see the freezer-meal instructions.
Where to Buy an Instant Pot
This is the 6-quart Instant Pot I started out with. After a few years, we added an 8-quart partly because I knew I would use two at the same time often enough, partly because it was the Prime Day sale, and also because I wanted more space for certain recipes. Both are a pretty basic model and you don’t need more bells and whistles than that!
If you’re deciding on size, most people say it’s better to get a deal on the 6-quart and just have 2 rather than go big, BUT if your family has 5 or more people or you really like to batch cook or do more than a pound of beans, the 8-quart may be the best choice. My full Instant Pot review and buying guide for features, size, and model.
If you’re still on the fence about adding an Instant Pot to your kitchen appliance arsenal here are my Instant Pot pros and cons.
Looking for an allergy-friendly meal to wow your friends and family? This mouth-watering recipe will leave you asking for extra helpings, while blowing you away with its dump-and-go easy prep.
- 1 Tbs. cumin (make it heaping if you like spicy)
- 2 tsp. oregano
- 1 tsp. chipotle dried spice
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 3 bay leaves
- For the slow cooker I like to use a 3-5 pound chuck roast.
- For the Instant Pot I use 2-4 pounds Beef Stew Meat (or roast cut into 1-2″ squares).
- In a large crockpot or your Instant Pot, combine wet and dry ingredients. Swirl with a spoon to combine.
- Scoop out 1 Tbs. of mixture and SET ASIDE in a jar in your refrigerator. (Don’t do this if you have already added raw meat!!!)
- Add meat.
- For slow cooker – Cook on low 6-8 hours. For instant pot – Check the seal, secure the lid, close the sealing valve. Select MANUAL pressure for 30 minutes if using cut up beef or 60-90 minutes depending on the size of your roast if you prefer to toss the whole chuck roast in without cutting it up.
- For Instant Pot – Once the program is complete, allow the pressure to release naturally.
- When finished cooking, REMOVE BAY LEAF.
- Shred beef, incorporating the liquid (this is where your flavor is!).
- Spoon reserved mixture from fridge over the meat, which helps brighten the flavor.
- Serve with chips, lettuce, cheese, and your other favorite taco toppings. For a Paleo version – Serve with cauliflower rice, plantain chips, lettuce, avocado, and/or tomatoes.
No grassfed beef in your area? ButcherBox is an online source that is just awesome. Get free Paleo-approved bacon on your first order HERE.
Need a little help getting healthy food on the table every day? Real Plans takes the stress out of meal planning and puts the nourishing food BACK on your table. There’s a plan for every diet type, including GAPS, Paleo, AIP, Whole30, vegetarian and more! You remain totally in control: use your own recipes, accept theirs, and teach the system what your family likes…Check out how powerful it is here!
Where to Find High Quality Meat
Having trouble finding good quality meat locally? Would you like to fill your freezer with local and pastured options?
If you’re in Canada, check out TruLocal.ca.
If you’re in the US Midwest, Chicago to Milwaukee to Detroit to New York, and select cities across the country, check out TruLocalUsa.
If you’re west of the Mississippi, check out Wild Pastures.
If you live in any of the 48 contiguous states, click here to find out what Butcher Box’s new member deal is!
I’m grateful that there’s an online source of incredibly high quality meat that I can always count on. A subscription from Butcher Box includes grassfed, organic, pastured, and free range = all the labels important to your family’s health!
(free shipping too!)
Chipotle … Powder?
Finding the dry chipotle at your local grocery store may be a challenge. You’re looking for the plain spice, not a hodgepodge of blends. Consider these options on Amazon from McCormick or Byrne & Perry’s.
Hints for Making A Barbacoa Dry Mix
One of my best secrets in the kitchen is to make a dry season mix so that I don’t have to do any last-minute measuring when it comes time to assemble the meal. So the next time you’re making a dinner that involves a lot of spices, consider measuring out a few spares.
Just don’t forget to label your food when you’re done (especially if you are making a dry mix)!!!
Instructions for the Freezer Meal
After cooking and shredding the meat, divide the meat into appropriate meal sizes. I recommend planning on a 1/2 cup serving per person – you can go more or less depending on your family needs.
Toss into your favorite freezer container (I prefer plastic bags; don’t hate me) and freeze. When it comes time to eat: thaw, reheat, and serve!
We’re always looking for short cuts here at Kitchen Stewardship®, and freezer cooking is one way to quickly get healthy dinners served each night.
That is why Katie partnered with Once a Month Meals to create a Real Food menu. With 5 recipes, each doubled, you’ll have 10 delicious dinners waiting for you in your freezer!
Serving Tips for Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef
There is no wrong way to serve up this Chipotle-style barbacoa meat, but here are a few ideas if you are in need of some inspiration.
Make Tacos or Burritos
Put a slightly different spin on Taco Tuesday and use this recipe in place of regular taco meat. You could use this recipe for grain-free tortillas (just skip the pizza toppings) to keep the meal keto-friendly or whip up a batch of these whole-grain gluten-free tortillas.
Serve on top of a Keto-Friendly Veggie
Try this Keto Cauli Rice as a base for this flavorful meat. You could saute some shredded or thinly sliced cabbage (or bagged coleslaw from the produce department) for a slightly different option.
Serving the barbacoa meat over a bed of romaine lettuce is another simple option. Add a side of chips and salsa for a non-keto option and call it done.
This barbacoa beef would make a great easy protein addition to many stovetop soup recipes! Tortilla soups, white chilis, or even this fajita soup recipe would be a great place to start.
Total Comfort Food
Macaroni and Cheese, mashed potatoes, baked beans, corn on the cob… the sky is truly the limit on this one. You can even keep it healthy with this keto cauli-mac recipe or this gluten-free Instant Pot mac and cheese. Or how about putting your kids to work in the kitchen with this kid-friendly mashed potatoes recipe?
Eat it on its Own
There aren’t any rules against this! Besides, it truly is so delicious you may have a hard time stopping yourself!
My dear friend Wardee at Traditional Cooking School can do just about anything with her Instant Pot – cakes, bread, main dishes, veggies, even “stacking” multiple kinds of food at once!
She’s offering a free sourdough cornbread Instant Pot recipe!
This cornbread is delicious, nutritious, super easy to make, and it only needs 12 minutes of cook time.