Barbacoa Beef Tacos with Two Sauces


While most meat is put on the grill raw, these intensely flavorful Mexican beef short ribs from chef Roberto Santibañez are first braised with chiles and spices until meltingly tender. The cooked meat is then crisped on the grill, shredded and served in corn tortillas with a sauce made from the braising liquid and a fresh Salsa Verde Cruda.

Barbacoa Beef Tacos with Two Sauces
Photo: © Con Poulos
Active Time:
1 hrs 50 mins
Total Time:
4 hrs


Barbacoa Beef Tacos

  • 4 large ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded

  • 4 dried chipotle chiles, stemmed

  • 3 celery ribs, chopped

  • 2 medium carrots, chopped

  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced

  • 15 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

  • 8 bay leaves

  • Six 1-lb., English-cut, bone-in beef short ribs

  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • Warm corn tortillas, cilantro sprigs, finely chopped white onion, and lime wedges, for serving

Salsa Verde Cruda

  • 1/2 pound tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quartered

  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed and chopped

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed and peeled

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper


Braise the Meat

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a medium skillet, toast the ancho chiles over moderate heat, turning, until pliable and charred in spots, about 2 minutes; let cool slightly, then tear into pieces.

  2. In a large roasting pan, toss the ancho and chipotle chiles with the celery, carrots, onion, garlic, and bay leaves. In a large bowl, toss the short ribs with the oregano, cumin, and 2 tablespoons of salt. Arrange the ribs over the vegetables in the roasting pan. Add 2 cups of water to the pan, cover tightly with foil and braise in the oven for about 3 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender.

Make the Salsa Verde Cruda

  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the salt and pepper in a blender and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Make the Chile Sauce

  1. Transfer the ribs to a baking sheet. Strain the braising liquid through a colander set over a heatproof bowl; skim off any fat. Discard the bay leaves and return the vegetables and chiles to the braising liquid. Working in batches, puree the vegetables and liquid in a blender until smooth. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.


  1. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Working in batches if necessary, grill the ribs over high heat, turning occasionally, until charred and crisp, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to a platter and, using two forks, shred the meat; discard the bones. Serve the barbacoa in warm corn tortillas with the sauce, cilantro, chopped onion, lime wedges, and Salsa Verde Cruda.

Make Ahead

The braised short ribs, salsa, and sauce can be refrigerated separately for 3 days. Warm the ribs in a low oven before grilling.

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