Barbacoa (barbecue) is a traditional Mexican method of preparing meat (sheep, goat, or beef) that is popular throughout West and South Texas. Cooking barbacoa usually involves steaming seasoned meat inside a pit filled with charcoal and agave leaves. The slow cooking process requires patience, but the reward is tender, fatty braised meat soaked in its own peppery juices, to be served with rice and beans or made into tacos. Barbacoa can also be a great filling for chile relleno or enchiladas. This is my go-to recipe for barbacoa when I’m in the city and I can’t dig a pit. Enjoy!


Servings: 10-12


For the brisket:

1 (about 6 pounds) flat beef brisket
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground clove
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons dried guajillo chili powder
2 tablespoons dried ancho chili powder
1 banana leaf, available in most Asian or Latin markets
1 large yellow onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
12 ounces beer
3 dozen hot corn tortillas

For the garnish:

1 yellow onion, diced
½ head small green cabbage, shredded
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
2 cups salsa


Preheat oven to 275 F. Trim the brisket until there is ¼ inch of fat left, and cut the meat into 4-inch chunks. Transfer to a large stainless-steel mixing bowl. Toss with apple cider vinegar to coat. In a small bowl combine all the spices and mix. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the brisket and stir until the meat is completely coated.

Cut the banana leaf into equal-size halves. Pass the leaves over an open flame until they are soft and pliable. Line the bottom of a large Dutch oven with one of the leaves and reserve the other for the top. Arrange the onion and garlic on top of the bottom leaf.

Place the brisket in the Dutch oven on top of the onions and garlic. Top the brisket with the other banana leaf, tucking it into the sides of the pot. You may have to trim off some of the leaf so it will fit. Pour the beer around the sides of the banana leaves. Cover the Dutch oven with its lid. Place the dish in the middle of the hot oven. Cook the meat for about 5 hours or until the meat easily shreds apart with a fork.

When the brisket is fully cooked, pull the banana leaves out of the Dutch oven, leaving the meat in its cooking juices. Use two large forks to separate the barbacoa into large chunks, and mix in the onions, garlic, and liquid. Serve with plenty of hot corn tortillas, chopped onion, cabbage, cilantro, and salsa.

This recipe was provided courtesy of chef Louis Lambert.