Beef Barbacoa Tacos with Sweet Pickled Onions

Thursday 21 February 2019

I have a really delicious recipe to share with you today.  It is a Mexican barbacoa recipe for some beef barbacoa tacos made with leftover cooked roast beef. 
 I tried doing a pot roast in my Instant Pot/Electric Pressure Cooker at the weekend.  It was okay, but I had to cook it twice as long as the recipe suggested.  I think maybe it was because I used a rolled brisket.  
Perhaps I will try it again another time, but with a different cut of beef  I might also cut it into smaller pieces instead of leaving it whole.  It was tender but not as tender as I wanted it to be.

I found myself with a fair quantity of leftover cooked roast that I needed to use up. More often than no I will make a hash of it, but to be honest we didn't really feel like hash or a pie, etc.
  We I felt like making tacos! I adore Tex Mex food in every way shape or form.

This recipe is a combination of several recipes which I discovered online.  The Beef filling is an adaptation of one I found on the Betty Crocker site. 
I don't really have a difficult time adapting recipes for my own use. I am fairly knowledgeable in the art of switching out ingredients, substituting, etc. That's probably because I have been cooking now for a very long time.

  Their recipe was for a beef taco filling created in an Instant Pot using stewing beef.  I adapted it for cooking in a saucepan or large skillet, using leftover cooked beef.
If you don't have leftover roast beef, you could also use ground beef in its place, browning it along with the onions. 

The Pickled Onions are adapted from a recipe I found on David Lebovitz, which he adapted from Ms Glaze and Simply Recipes.  
This wealth of sharing is one thing I love about the online cooking community.  We learn from and inspire each other.  Its a beautiful thing.

He had served them with Carnitas. I loved the look and sound of them.
I thought they would go well with these tacos. I was right. They were fabulous.

They are incredibly tasty with an eye-popping pink colour that is oh so, so, so pretty! 

The filling is very tasty also.  Not too spicy, just enough to wake up your tasty buds and say "¡Arriba, Arriba! ¡Ándale, Ándale!" 

I like to heat my tortillas over the open flame of a gas burner.  I read about doing that a year or so ago and it was a life-changer for me. 
 I have never done them any other way since.  They end up wow! I just love them!

Lightly toasted, charred a bit, and beautifully soft for folding in something like tacos.  Seriously if you have never done this before, you need to try it!  
Just take a pair of tongs and hold them over the open flame, first on one side and then the other. It only takes about 10 seconds per side. 

Once you have done this, you will never want to enjoy them any other way.  Trust me on this. 

In addition to the filling, pickled onions and tortillas I served grated cheese, salsa and sour cream.

These were totally fabulous!  We both ate three!  I thought I would only eat two, but I just could not resist one more!

Yield: 4 - 6

Beef Barbacoa Tacos with Sweet Pickled Onions

Something I came up with to use up leftover cooked roast beef.  These are delicious to say the least! You can make the onions up the day before if you wish. They will keep for quite a while. If you don't have any leftover roast beef, you can use ground beef and just cook as below.


  • 1 TBS vegetable oil
  • 1 pound leftover roast beef, cut into cubes
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 240ml beef stock (1 cup)
  • 1 TBS minced Chipotle chiles in adobe sauce
  • 2 small cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 packet of taco seasoning mix
  • pinch salt
For the pickled onions:
  • 180ml white vinegar (3/4 cup)
  • 3 TBS caster sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 bay leaf, broken in half
  • 5 whole allspice berries, bruised
  • 5 whole cloves, bruised
  • a pinch of dried chili flakes
  • 1 large red onion, peeled, cut in half
  • and then into half moons
To serve:
  • 6-inch plain tortillas
  • Dairy sour cream
  • grated cheese (cheddar or jack)
  • tomato salsa or picante sauce


  1. First make the pickled onions.  Place the vinegar, salt, sugar, spices, bay leaf and chili into a saucepan. Bring to the boil. Add the onion slices.  Stir to completely submerge. Remove from the heat and set aside.  Allow to cool completely before transferring all to a jar and refrigerating until ready to use.
  2. To make the taco filling, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the chopped beef and onion. Cook and stir until the beef has begun to brown and the onions have softened without colouring. Add the remaining ingredients.  Bring to the boil, then reduce to a low simmer and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes. Shred the meat with two forks.
  3. Heat the tortillas according to your favourite method.  Serve immediately with the hot meat filling, pickled onions and any accompaniments you enjoy.
Created using The Recipes Generator

I really hope that you will give these a go the next time you have leftover roast beef that you are wanting to use up.  If you are a fan of Tex Mex, you will quite simply adore these.  I love using up leftovers in an interesting and delicious way.  Its a good thing, not to coin a phrase from Martha or anything. Delicious, colourful and no waste here!  

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  1. Hi Marie
    The problem you describe with cooking times for the Instant Pot and similar things, including old fashioned pressure cookers are exactly why I have never felt I can get on with them. Traditional cooking methods give cooking times based on weight and the type of meat being cooked. I find recipes for these quick cook devices are not flexible enough and generally there are not enough recipes to help you. I am sure many people get on well with them and I understand you trying it because of your lack of oven, but I do struggle with believing that they are really that useful

    1. You are not kidding Karen! Mine is quite new, only a year or so old, and exactly what they call an Instant Pot in the US, whereas over here they call it an electric pressure cooker. I have never had anything turn out in it yet the way it should have. I am ready to kick it to the curb, lol xo

  2. I have not jumped on the Instant Pot bandwagon and I really don't think that I will. I have a small kitchen and really no counterspace left at all. My mom has one and she is not too crazy about it. Really, if you plan ahead, I don't think there is any reason you can't live without one. We often have leftover roast, in fact Tuesday I made beef vegetable soup with some. Never thought of using it in tacos. I use sirloin tip roast, I get it when it goes on sale, usually can find it for $3.99 a pound. That makes it about the same price as chuck, but it is a less fatty cut and Keith and I like the flavor better. I just throw it in my Crock-Pot and let it cook all day (or night) and it comes out just as tender as chuck roast.

    1. They do take up a lot of room. I have a small kitchen also. You are right. It is perfectl possible to live without one! My sister hasn't had any problem with hers however. She loves it! xo

  3. Isn't it funny? I like kitchen gadgets..I don't have any interest in an Instant Pot..or whatever it's called lol.We had French dips a few nights ago and used the crock works fine..these things take up so much room..I put them in the basement but still..anyway your onions are gorgeous Marie!!Even our crock pot..rarely use it..

    1. They do take up a lot of room Monique. The crock-pot does a fabulous job with pot-roasting, and especially French Dips. YUM! I have always loved those. I can remember the very first one I ever had. It was at a cafe near to the Train Station in Winnipeg while we were waiting to catch our train to Calgary when we were moving there. That was many moons ago now! Some 41 years! xo

  4. These look delicious. As someone living in the heart of Tex-Mex country, I am giggling at the picture in my head of making authentic barbacoa in an instant pot. It would have to be a little larger than any available on the market to fit the head of a cow inside, which is what authentic barbacoa is made from. I confess that I prefer using roast for my tacos. :)

    1. Oh boy, I can't imagine Kath! I think I prefer it with roast, lol. I can't figure out my instant pot full stop! xo


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