• Gary Corcoran

Oaxacan Lamb Barbacoa

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

This recipe makes for extremely tender lamb that is great for tacos, quesadillas or enchiladas or served as a main dish with oven-roasted potatoes. Use whole-dried ancho chili peppers, stems and seeds removed, roasted and freshly ground, or a good ancho chili powder. Regular chili powder is not a good replacement for the ancho chili powder but if it’s all you have, go ahead and use it.

Oaxacan Lamb Barbacoa

Preheat oven: 325 degrees


1 (4 - 6 lb.) bone-in lamb shoulder or 3 - 4 lb. cubed lamb shoulder

2 T olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

4 large cloves garlic finely chopped

6 T ancho chili powder

2 T smoked sweet paprika

1 T oregano

1 t cumin

1 T sea salt

1 T dark brown sugar

1 oz. unsweetened chocolate or high cacao content chocolate, chopped (i.e. 80 - 90%)

1 cup orange juice

1 T fish sauce (optional)

2 cans dark beer like Guinness

7 bay leaves

1 large stick of cinnamon or 1 t ground cinnamon

Heat a Dutch oven large enough to hold the lamb shoulder on medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and brown the lamb shoulder. Turn the shoulder bone-side down in Dutch oven. Set aside.

Add remaining ingredients except the beer, bay leaves and cinnamon stick to a food processor. Process till smooth. You may need to add a little beer to get a smooth consistency.

Pour the purée over the shoulder. Add the bay leaves and cinnamon stick to the pot. Pour the remainder of the beer around the pot. Do not disturb the purée on the lamb shoulder.

Bake covered in preheated 325-degree F oven for 4 - 5 hours until meltingly tender. Check after 3 hours and baste frequently. Remove lamb from oven. Thicken sauce if necessary.

Remove bones and discard. Shred lamb in the Dutch oven if using in your favourite taco or enchilada recipe. If not, serve chunks of lamb as a main course with oven roasted potatoes.

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