Lamb Barbacoa – a simple delicious recipe hailing from the Oaxacan region of Mexico that results in the most flavorful, juicy, tender, juicy falling off-the-bone lamb- perfect for tacos and burritos!

Mexican Lamb Barbacoa - a simple delicious recipe from Oaxaca that results in tender, juicy falling off the bone lamb perfect for tacos and burritos! #tacos #barbacoa #lamb #lambrecipes #oaxaca #mexicanrecipes #cincodemayo

Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. – Martin Luther King Jr

Here’s another recipe from our recent trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. Lamb shoulder is roasted “low and slow” in the oven in a rich and flavorful marinade made of dried smoky chilies and aromatics, until tender, juicy and falling off the bone. The secret ingredient in this Lamb Barbacoa is fresh orange juice with tenderizes the lamb even further. A little something we learned while in Oaxaca.

It’s the perfect recipe for Sundays, when time is ample. Use the juicy slow-roasted lamb during the week for tacos, burritos and Buddha bowls!

Mexican Lamb Barbacoa - a simple delicious recipe from Oaxaca that results in tender, juicy falling off the bone lamb perfect for tacos and burritos! #tacos #barbacoa #lamb #lambrecipes #oaxaca #mexicanrecipes #cincodemayo

This week I’m partnering with American Lamb, to create a flavorful lamb recipe, to kick off Cinco De Mayo Season. For those of you who are new to cooking a lamb roast,  think of it the same way you would a beef roast or pot roast.   For example, swapping out lamb shoulder or for beef chuck roast is a simple way to take the recipes you already make and another layer of flavor, richness and complexity.

For this recipe I’m using local and sustainably raised, bone-in lamb shoulder. Because local, American lamb doesn’t have to travel as far, the meat itself is fresher than imported lamb.  Plus I love supporting our local producers.

Mexican Lamb Barbacoa - a simple delicious recipe from Oaxaca that results in tender, juicy falling off the bone lamb perfect for tacos and burritos! #tacos #barbacoa #lamb #lambrecipes #oaxaca #mexicanrecipes #cincodemayo

Season with salt and pepper, score the fat and brown really well on all sides.

Mexican Lamb Barbacoa - a simple delicious recipe from Oaxaca that results in tender, juicy falling off the bone lamb perfect for tacos and burritos! #tacos #barbacoa #lamb #lambrecipes #oaxaca #mexicanrecipes #cincodemayo

Make the flavorful Marinade!

Mexican Lamb Barbacoa - a simple delicious recipe from Oaxaca that results in tender, juicy falling off the bone lamb perfect for tacos and burritos! #tacos #barbacoa #lamb #lambrecipes #oaxaca #mexicanrecipes #cincodemayo

Dried ancho chilies, chipotles, orange juice, garlic and broth all get blended to make the flavorful lamb barbacoa marinade.

Mexican Lamb Barbacoa - a simple delicious recipe from Oaxaca that results in tender, juicy falling off the bone lamb perfect for tacos and burritos! #tacos #barbacoa #lamb #lambrecipes #oaxaca #mexicanrecipes #cincodemayo

Create a base for the lamb barbacoa with sliced onion and orange.

Mexican Lamb Barbacoa - a simple delicious recipe from Oaxaca that results in tender, juicy falling off the bone lamb perfect for tacos and burritos! #tacos #barbacoa #lamb #lambrecipes #oaxaca #mexicanrecipes #cincodemayo

Nestle the lamb shoulder overtop and add a few bay leaves.

Mexican Lamb Barbacoa - a simple delicious recipe from Oaxaca that results in tender, juicy falling off the bone lamb perfect for tacos and burritos! #tacos #barbacoa #lamb #lambrecipes #oaxaca #mexicanrecipes #cincodemayo

Pour the Lamb Barbacoa marinade over coating all sides.

Mexican Lamb Barbacoa - a simple delicious recipe from Oaxaca that results in tender, juicy falling off the bone lamb perfect for tacos and burritos! #tacos #barbacoa #lamb #lambrecipes #oaxaca #mexicanrecipes #cincodemayo

Cover tightly with a lid and place on the middle rack of  325 F oven. Check after 3 hours. Continue cooking until lamb is tender.

Mexican Lamb Barbacoa - a simple delicious recipe from Oaxaca that results in tender, juicy falling off the bone lamb perfect for tacos and burritos! #tacos #barbacoa #lamb #lambrecipes #oaxaca #mexicanrecipes #cincodemayo

The lamb barbacoa will be done when meat easily pulls apart with a fork. This took 4 hours with this bone in roast.

Mexican Lamb Barbacoa - a simple delicious recipe from Oaxaca that results in tender, juicy falling off the bone lamb perfect for tacos and burritos! #tacos #barbacoa #lamb #lambrecipes #oaxaca #mexicanrecipes #cincodemayo

Pull apart the lamb, discarding any fat. Place in a oven proof serving dish and strain some of the marinade to pour over the lamb, keeping it nice and moist.

Mexican Lamb Barbacoa - a simple delicious recipe from Oaxaca that results in tender, juicy falling off the bone lamb perfect for tacos and burritos! #tacos #barbacoa #lamb #lambrecipes #oaxaca #mexicanrecipes #cincodemayo

Taste the lamb and adjust salt and spice level. You can always add more chipotle “juice” for extra heat. If the salt tastes bland, it most likely needs salt.

Mexican Lamb Barbacoa - a simple delicious recipe from Oaxaca that results in tender, juicy falling off the bone lamb perfect for tacos and burritos! #tacos #barbacoa #lamb #lambrecipes #oaxaca #mexicanrecipes #cincodemayo

Place it back in the oven until ready to serve.

Serve the lamb Barbacoa with warm tortillas, a fresh cabbage slaw, hot sauce, cilantro and onions.

Mexican Lamb Barbacoa - a simple delicious recipe from Oaxaca that results in tender, juicy falling off the bone lamb perfect for tacos and burritos! #tacos #barbacoa #lamb #lambrecipes #oaxaca #mexicanrecipes #cincodemayo

Enjoy!

Related : Cinco De Mayo Recipes!

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Mexican Lamb Barbacoa - a simple delicious recipe from Oaxaca that results in tender, juicy falling off the bone lamb perfect for tacos and burritos! #tacos #barbacoa #lamb #lambrecipes #oaxaca #mexicanrecipes #cincodemayo

Lamb Barbacoa

  • Author: Sylvia Fountaine
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 4 hours
  • Total Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 8-10 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Method: roasted
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Description

Mexican Lamb Barbacoa – a simple delicious recipe from Oaxaca that results in tender, juicy falling off the bone lamb perfect for tacos and burritos!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 35 lb lamb shoulder ( bone-in or boneless, see notes)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ——–
  • one large onion, sliced
  • one orange, sliced
  • 3 bay leaves

Barbacoa Marinade:

  • 24 dried ancho chilies -or sub dried chipotles, guajillo chilies ( milder) or chili negros- stems removed, seeds removed. No need to rehydrate.
  • 1 chipotle pepper (from a can)  plus 23 tablespoons of the chipotle “juice” ( you can always add more at the end of cooking if not sure)
  • 46 cloves garlic
  • 2  cups chicken or beef broth or water
  • Juice from one orange
  • 2 tablespoons cumin ( see notes)
  • 2 tablespoon coriander ( see notes)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano or Mexican epazote
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar ( white or apple cider)
  • 1 tablespoons brown sugar or honey or maple

Instructions

Preheat oven to 325F.

Score the fat on the lamb (see photos) Generously season all sides of the lamb shoulder with salt.  Set on counter while you make the marinade.

To make the marinade, de-stem the dried chilies, break them in half and discard the seeds ( you don’t need to remove every single one, a few strays are OK). Break the chilies apart into smaller pieces and add to the blender ( dry) with the remaining ingredients.  Blend until very smooth, for a full minute.

Heat a skillet or dutch oven to medium-high heat and add oil. Sear the salted lamb shoulder, patiently browning each side to create a deep colored crust. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! ( It is the secret to sealing in the juices and creating flavor!)

Once all sides are seared, place lamb shoulder in the dutch oven. Nestle the onion and orange slices all around it along with bay leaves. Pour the marinade over top and shake the pan to get the marinade to the bottom.

Cover tightly and bake in a 325F oven for 3½-4 ½ hours. See notes on timing!

Roast is done when meat pulls apart easily.  Pull the meat off the bones and discard any fat.  Tear into smaller pieces and place into an oven proof serving dish. Strain 1-2 cups of the marinade and pour over the meat keeping it moist.  Taste the lamb and adjust salt and heat. If it tastes bland add salt.

Keep warm in  oven until ready to serve. I like to leave this uncovered so the meat gets a little crispy on the top. Garnish with onions and cilantro if you like.


Notes

You can use bone-in lamb shoulder like you see here ( this is a 4 ½ pound bone-in roast).  For ease and faster cooking, you can have your butcher cut the bone out and roll into a boneless “roast”.  Cooking times will vary based on weight and cut. Allow 3- 3 1/2 hours for 3-4 lb boneless roast.  Allow 4-4 ½ hours for a 5-6 lb bone-in roast. I always plan for an extra hour, just in case.

Feel free to toast whole cumin and coriander seeds, then crush, for enhanced flavor.

Epazote is a Mexican herb that really bumps up the flavor and authenticity of this recipe. It can sometimes be found at Mexican Markets. Or try growing it from seed!

Nutrition

  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 351
  • Sugar: 2.1 g
  • Sodium: 756.8 mg
  • Fat: 16.2 g
  • Saturated Fat: 5.2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 8.9 g
  • Fiber: 2.8 g
  • Protein: 40.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 131 mg

Keywords: lamb shoulder recipes, lamb barbacoa, barbcoa recipes, how to make barbacoa, lamb barbacoa recipes, authentic barbacoa,

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  1. This was fantastic! I used a lamb this time but I bet it would be great with pork shoulder, goat, and possibly venison!!

  2. I made this recipe last Christmas and really enjoyed it. For this thanksgiving, I cannot find lamb anywhere. Would it be possible to substitute with beef chuck roast ( or any other cuts)? If so, how long would you recommend stewing it for?

  3. FANTASTIC! Made this exactly as written using goat shoulder for a neighborhood taco night. I’ll definitely make it again with lamb or pork or chuck roast. Thank you!

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Hi, I'm Sylvia!

Chef and author of the whole-foods recipe blog, Feasting at Home, Sylvia Fountaine is a former restaurant owner and caterer turned full-time food blogger. She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest and shares seasonal, healthy recipes along with tips and tricks from her home kitchen.

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