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Low Carb Beef Barbacoa (Instant Pot)

This low carb beef barbacoa is easy, delicious, and FAST thanks to the Instant Pot!  With a smoky, tangy Chipotle Adobo Sauce this paleo, keto-friendly, gluten-free recipe is perfect for meal prep.

Platter of shredded low carb barbacoa beef

We always love Instant Pot recipes that take the greatest advantage of rapid pressure cooking without sacrificing the quality of the end result.  So this IP Beef Barbacoa is a definite winner!  We do enjoy a slow-cooker beef barbacoa, but sometimes you just need it done in a hurry. 

Here are some of our most common reader questions about beef barbacoa…

What is barbacoa?

Barbacoa was originally a method of slow-cooking marinated hunks of meat (wrapped in fire-resistant fig branches) over an open fire, or cooked in a hole dug in the ground.   Most people agree that barbacoa originated in Barbados… and it’s often thought to be the great-grandfather of modern-day BBQ.

What is barbacoa made of?

The purists will tell you that “real” barbacoa is made from beef tongue and beef cheek meat, or the occasional whole sheep or goat.  Really.  Don’t worry though, we’re going to take a liberal interpretation and stick with a more common meat choice.

What kind of meat is barbacoa?

Again, setting aside the traditions of sheep or goat, we’re going to stick with beef.  There are actually a few cuts of beef that work for this recipe. 

For this Instant Pot barbacoa version, we like a bottom round roast or top round roast.  There is less fat marbled throughout the meat, and the fat that is on the outside edge is easier to trim.   Also, we really like the texture of the round roast after it’s shredded. 

Eye level close up of partial platter barbacoa beef with chipotle sauce

You could also make this recipe with a chuck roast (that’s a fattier cut so prepare to spend more time trimming it before cooking).  We’ve never used brisket for beef barbacoa, but many people like that cut as well.

How to make barbacoa beef…

  • First you’ll use a blender or immersion blender to combine garlic, cilantro, cider vinegar, cumin, chipotles in adobo sauce, tomato paste, onion powder and beef stock… blending until verrrry smooth.
  • Then trim and discard excess fat from the meat, and coat the meat with salt, pepper and olive oil.
  • Use saute mode on the Instant Pot to sear the meat in olive oil, working in batches.  Be sure to scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pot to prevent the Instant Pot burn notice.
  • Add the meat back to the IP and cover it with the sauce.  Seal the IP lid and pressure cook for 60 minutes on high pressure.
  • After the 60 minute cook period, allow the pot to naturally release for 25 minutes then do a manual release to finish depressurizing.
  • The meat should be tender and pull apart easily. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to a cutting board, then pull the roast with two forks.
  • Skim any fat off the cooking liquid. Then place the pulled meat on a serving dish and ladle the desired amount of sauce over it.
instant pot with cooked barbacoa beef in sauce

How to serve Beef Barbacoa

The options are really endless.  We love eating it on lettuce wraps or low-carb tortillas, or even serving it over cauliflower rice.   Of course you can’t go wrong making barbacoa tacos (aka “tacos de barbacoa”). 

How to freeze Beef Barbacoa

You can portion it into freezer bags, and it will keep up to 8 weeks in the freezer. To thaw either put in the fridge for a day, or thaw the freezer bag in a bowl of warm water for about 20 minutes then transfer to a saute pan, and slowly bring up the temperature.

plate of shredded low carb barbacoa beef

Low Carb Beef Barbacoa (Instant Pot)

Yield: 10 Servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Pressurizing Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours

This low carb beef barbacoa is easy, delicious and FAST thanks to the Instant Pot!  With a smoky, tangy Chipotle Adobo Sauce this paleo, keto-friendly, gluten-free recipe is perfect for meal prep.

Ingredients

For The Barbacoa Sauce:

  • 6 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1½ tablespoons cumin
  • 3 chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce chopped finely (5 peppers if you like it spicy.)
  • 2 tablespoons Adobo Sauce
  • 3 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 8 ounces beef stock

For The Beef:

  • 3 1/2 pound boneless beef roast trimmed of fat (bottom round, top round, or chuck roast)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

For The Sauce Thickener (Optional):

  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons room temp water

Instructions

For The Barbacoa Sauce:

Mix the sauce ingredients together in an immersion blender, blender or food processor until very smooth.

For The Beef:

  1. Trim and discard excess fat from the meat. This will ensure that you're not left with oily, greasy cooking liquid. Cut meat into 4x4 inch hunks.
  2. Coat the meat with salt, pepper and 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  3. Turn the Instant Pot to the saute mode. When it is hot, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the bottom of the inner pot. Saute the meat in 2 batches (add more olive oil if needed between batches), turning and browning 1-2 minutes per side. Turn the IP off.
  4. Remove all the meat and add the sauce to the inner pot. Stir and scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pot (this will prevent the burn notice).
  5. Add the meat back to the IP and submerge it in the sauce. Seal the IP lid and pressure cook for 60 minutes on high. Depending on the exact size of your roast and your IP, it will take about 9-12 minutes to come to pressure.
  6. After the 60 minute cook period, allow the pot to naturally release for 25 minutes then do a quick release to completely depressurize. Turn the IP off and remove the lid.
  7. At this point, the meat should be tender and pull apart easily. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to a cutting board, then pull the roast with two forks.
  8. Skim any fat off the cooking liquid. Then place the pulled meat in a serving dish and ladle the desired amount of sauce over it.
  9. Or if you prefer a thicker sauce: After you remove the meat from the Instant Pot, set the IP to saute mode. Make a slurry of water and corn starch in a small bowl, then whisk it into the sauce and cook until it the sauce has thickened – about 3 minutes.
  10. Serve warm with your favorite toppings on a bed of salad, lettuce wraps, low-carb tortillas, corn taco shells, or by itself with some rice and beans!
Nutrition Information
Yield 10 Serving Size 4-6 ounces
Amount Per Serving Calories 546Total Fat 35gSaturated Fat 13gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 18gCholesterol 191mgSodium 585mgCarbohydrates 5gNet Carbohydrates 4gFiber 1gSugar 2gProtein 49g

This nutrition card uses an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. This estimate is not a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice!

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