Recipe: Barbacoa, Simplified

If you know anything about me — read this blog and I imagine you’ll get the idea — you’d realize that I like my processes simple and straightforward. With so much to do during a given work day, I’m dead tired when I get home, and many of my “weekends” are spent recharging for the next series of work-based marathons.

I know I’m not alone in the desire to simplify, especially when it comes to dealing with “the after-work cooldown” on the daily. So, when I modify recipes that I find online, it’s not only because of my horrendous food sensitivity to the horrible, evil, nasty thing that is ONION, but also because darn it, I have a time budget and if I can do something in three steps when it gives me five, I’m going to try it.

Sometimes it works. At others, it fails spectacularly. Obviously, I’m sparing you the latter, excepting when I feel it necessary to illustrate something with an amusing anecdote of said failure.

This is not one of those posts. Instead, I’m sharing a pared-down and modified recipe originally by Ali at her Gimme Some Oven food and recipe blog; you can find the original here if you’re interested.

I’ve tweaked this before with varying degrees of success. Last week, I had a bit of an epiphany that several of the items listed as ingredients could be found (or in close equivalent) in a single, tasty, handy-to-keep-in-your-cupboard-for-emergencies staple:

The mighty enchilada sauce.

No, really, hear me out —

  • Liquid for soaking the beef? Check.
  • Peppers in a sauce? Double check.
  • Apple cider vinegar and spices? Oh yes. Very much check.

This realization made me feel more powerful than finding an ultimate cheat code on my Game Genie.

Ugh, I think I just aged myself with that one… but CARRYING ON…

A small can (14-19 oz) of enchilada sauce takes the place of a minimum of three ingredients in the overall recipe. Depending on the level of heat you’re looking for, you could go with mild or spicy, but know that I do add some additional spices on top of this and more heat will affect the overall flavor.

The beef produced by this recipe is tasty, zesty and mouthwatering; it’s a prime choice for taco Tuesdays with avocado, cheddar and other trimmings on a soft tortilla, or you can use them to fill homemade enchiladas instead of chicken. At times when I’m feeling lazy, I just throw this over rice with some broccoli and I’m good to go.

Barbacoa, Simplified (for Instant Pot)

Inspired by Ali’s Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef at Gimme Some Oven

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 90 minutes

Servings: 4-6


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 lbs lean beef tips
  • 1 small (14-19 oz) can of mild red enchilada sauce
  • 1 small (4 oz) can of green chilies (don’t need to drain)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 c lime juice
  • 1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • pinch of ground cloves


(1) Set your Instant Pot to “saut√©” and add the olive oil. You can use the “water pop” trick to see when it’s ready — if a bit of water dropped into the oil starts buzzing and popping, it’s good to start cooking. Yes, “water pop” trick is totally a technical term. Shhhhhhhhh.

(2) Add the beef tips, stirring and flipping them over about every 60 seconds to ensure browning on all pieces and all sides. When completely browned, hit “cancel.”

(3) Pour the lime juice, enchilada sauce, green chilies, and spices (garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, cloves, bay leaves) over the meat. Give everything a good stir with a spatula.

(4) Close Instant Pot lid, set the valve to “sealing,” and select the “Pressure Cook” option. Make sure the red light is set on “high pressure” and increase the cook time to 60 minutes. Go have a glass of wine and watch an episode of British Baking Show on Netflix. Maybe even two episodes… it takes a bit for the Instant Pot to come up to pressure, after all.

(5) When the 60 minute timer elapses, quick release pressure by setting the valve to “venting.” Use a folded kitchen towel to cover the vent before releasing — this helps to protect your hands from steam burns!

(6) Once the pressure has completely released from the Instant Pot, open it and remove the bay leaves. Stir once again with your spatula. Beef should be fork-tender, juicy, and ready to add to your dish of choice. Nachos, anyone?


Cooking only for myself means smaller portions, unless I intend to freeze leftovers. This recipe gave me a couple of dinners and three lunches at healthy/moderate/not-COMPLETELY-stuffing-my-face portion sizes.

You can always double the recipe for more people, which is one of the reasons I prefer to use beef tips for stew as opposed to a larger cut. Often, I can find beef tips for stew for about the same price as a chuck roast or similar. More importantly, it saves time by skipping the step of shredding the beef at the end of the process. Because there are more pieces and greater surface area using this kind of meat, I end up using more olive oil during the sauté stage.

If you do double the recipe, I would brown the meat in smaller portions. This does take a bit more time, but it ensures that even browning you’re looking for in the end. Transfer cooked meat to a bowl (unlined; you don’t want a paper towel to wick away the juices) before starting the next round.

When I say “a pinch of cloves,” less is really more. Cloves are notorious for their powerful aromas and flavors, especially in dried and powdered form. Start with less and, if you must once cooking is complete, add a tiny bit at a time. If you’re especially sensitive, you can leave this ingredient out altogether.

Ali from Gimme Some Oven recommends blending the green chilies into the sauce prior to pouring it over the meat — I don’t mind them as-is, honestly, but feel free to add the step if the texture bothers you.

Safety resources note that cooked beef stays good in the refigerator for up to three or four days when properly stored in sealed containers, but I imagine that once you try this barbacoa, it won’t last that long. Should your self-control far exceed mine, you can also freeze the beef.

Published by Allie

Foodie explorer with Stardew Valley dreams. Lover of wine but not beer, cheese but not milk, and all things chocolate. Working to learn as many self-sufficient, at-home food production skills as possible.

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