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Lamb Barbacoa

March 15, 2022 3 min read

Lamb Barbacoa

After some trips to Baja Dan started asking me to recreate Mexican Lamb Barbacoa. Traditionally in Mexico, Barbacoa is the slow cooking of meat until it is tender and succulent, falling off the bone. It is marinated and cooked in various spices for a flavor packed delicious dish that can be eaten alone, put in tacos or whatever else you feel like. It is wonderful to serve to a group of friends, and it is a guaranteed crowd pleaser! 

Below is my version of Lamb Barbacoa using (of course) the best lamb New Zealand has to offer. I use a variety of chilies for depth of flavor, orange and lime for acidity and traditional Mexican spices (and some not so traditional) to balance it out. The lamb gets better over time so you can cook a day ahead, or during the day that you want to serve it. It is easy to make! You just need to be sure you have all the ingredients on hand to make the marinade, after that it really cooks itself. 

A note on chilies: Don't get caught up if you can't find all the chilies listed below. These are what I use but feel free to change it up with what you have or what you can find. The key is using a mix of chilies for a depth of flavor - including some mild, some kick and some smokey. 

Serving: One Mini shoulder is a good amount for 4 people. If I am making it for more people I either do 2 mini shoulders or a shoulder and some sirloins. The below recipe is enough marinade for 8-10 people so if you only cook 1 shoulder you may want to go with 2/3 of the marinade. 



  • 1 whole dried Ancho chili (cut off top and remove seeds)
  • 1 whole dried Guajillo chili (cut off top and remove seeds)
  • 1 whole dried Arbol chili or similar (cut off top and remove seeds - if you do not want heat omit this chili)
  • 2 teaspoons Aleppo crushed pepper 
  • 3 teaspoons ground Chipotle 
  • 3 tablespoons agave or sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground oregano
  • 2 teapspoons ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • Salt 
  • Juice of 1 large orange 
  • Juice of 2 limes 

Other ingredients: 

  • 1 onion finely diced
  • 6 cloves garlic finely diced
  • 1 pint (500ml) beef bone broth or stock 
  • Extra salt for seasoning 
  • 1-2 mini lamb shoulders (or lamb cut of your choice)


Heat oven to 300 degrees.

Put all marinade ingredients into a blender and blend until well combined and chilies are ground into the mixture.  Put into a jar or container. Note: This can be made up to 1 week ahead of time. 

In a dutch oven or similar add olive oil, diced garlic and white onion and begin to lightly cook on the stovetop. Mix in approximately 3/4 of your spice mix to onions and garlic until aromatic (keep the remainder to adjust flavor at a later point if necessary). 

Add 1/2 of the beef broth/stock and turn down low to simmer. 

In a cast iron skillet (or something similar) add olive oil. Brown lamb on all sides with a good dose of salt. Once browned put the lamb in the dutch oven with marinade. 

Pour the remaining broth/stock into skillet to pick up lamb flavor then pour over lamb.

Slow cook on 300 for at least 3 hours breaking up the meat as it starts to fall off. Check and taste for flavor 2-3 times as it cooks. 

Remove bone and skin/fat. If still a lot of liquid add 1-2 tablespoons cornflour to a small amount of water and add to the dutch oven. Cook for a further 15 minutes. 

If you are adding to tacos we like to heat the tacos over an open flame and add: 
Grated aged cheddar
Slice romaine or red cabbage 
Diced white sweet onion
Diced jalapeño/Serrano
Sour cream


Enjoy, and please feel free to reach out with any questions!