Beef Brisket Barbacoa Tacos

By Felipe Fuentes Cruz and Ben Fordham
July 30, 2018

Everyone Loves Tacos BeefBarbacoa-(credit-Peter-Cassidy)

/ Beef Brisket Barbacoa Tacos / Tacos de barbacoa de res; Photographs by Peter Cassidy

Barbacoa is one of the most traditional and evocative meals of my childhood as it always meant a celebration! Often a whole sheep or goat would be used, but here we have gone for beef brisket.

Serves 4

100         g (3½ oz) red onions
300         g (10½ oz) large tomatoes
2              kg (4½ lb) trimmed beef brisket
4              tablespoons paprika
2              teaspoons ground cumin
1              tablespoon chopped chipotle chilli/chile
2              teaspoons avocado leaf powder (see Note)
3              teaspoons salt
1              teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2              teaspoons rice vinegar
Serve with 2 limes, cut into wedges
12           flour or corn tortillas, warmed
1              avocado, peeled, stoned and diced

Chargrilled Salsa / Salsa tatemada

Serves 6–8

250         g (9 oz) tomatoes
100         g (3½ oz) tomatillos (fresh if possible, but tinned/canned can also be used)
250         g (9 oz) large white onion
2–3         cloves of garlic, peeled
2              tablespoons olive oil
10           g (⅓ oz) dried chilli/chile de arbol, stem removed
A pinch of salt, or to taste


Slice the red onions about 1 cm/½ inch thick. Slice the tomatoes into wedges.

Cut the beef into big chunks and place in a large lidded saucepan. Pour 2 litres/quarts water into the pan and add the onions, tomatoes, paprika, cumin, chipotle chilli/chili, avocado leaf powder, salt, black pepper and rice vinegar. Mix together with a large spoon.

Place the pan over a high heat and bring to the boil, then cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Simmer gently for 3 hours, stirring occasionally and making sure the pan does not boil dry.

Shred the meat inside the saucepan using tongs or a fork. Just before serving, squeeze one of the limes over the shredded meat.


If using tinned/canned tomatillos, leave them out of these first stages and simply add them in at the blender stage.

Preheat the grill/broiler to a high heat.

Cut the tomatoes and fresh tomatillos in half. Cut the onion into about 4 big pieces.

Place the tomatoes, fresh tomatillos, onion pieces and the cloves of garlic on a baking tray and grill/broil for about 5–10 minutes, or until they are gently charred. Set aside to cool.

Put a non-stick frying pan/skillet over a medium heat, add the olive oil and sauté the chilli/chile de árbol for about 30 seconds. Then add 60 ml/¼ cup of water, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Put all the ingredients apart from the salt into a blender, including the tinned/canned tomatillos if using. Blend for about 30 seconds until combined but slightly chunky. Transfer to a serving bowl and add salt to taste.


Put the meat on a tortilla, add avocado, some Chargrilled Salsa and a squeeze of lime juice.

Note: This is another family ingredient, this time farmed and produced by my brother Fernando. It has an aniseed flavor so if you can’t get hold of these, star anise or fennel seeds work instead.

Excerpted from Everyone Loves Tacos by Felipe Fuentes Cruz and Ben Fordham. Copyright © 2018. Photographs by Peter Cassidy. Used with permission from Ryland Peters & Small.

Want more recipes from Everyone Loves Tacos? This original article first appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.

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