Easy Whole30 Instant Pot Barbacoa in Lettuce Wraps (Chipotle Copycat)

Whole30 Instant Pot Barbacoa

Remembering where I first encountered Barbacoa is sort of like a chicken/egg situation. Did I make it out of one of the many Rick Bayless cookbooks I studied back in the early 2000s? Or did I try it at Chipotle first? I just remember when I first tried it, it was delicious! This Whole30 Instant Pot Barbacoa just makes the deliciousness more accessible on a daily basis.

Best Cut of Beef for Barbacoa

Traditionally, a cow head is used. I don’t know about you, but that’s not a cut I can just run up to my grocery store and pick up (and it may be illegal??) Most people, myself included, just use chuck roast. It has plenty of fat to make it easily shreddible and it tastes great. I only use 100% full grass-fed and finished beef since it has more nutrients among other benefits. While you can find “grass-fed” beef easily these days, unless it says 100% grass-fed and finished clearly on the label, it’s probably fed corn or other grains just before harvesting which does not give you the same benefits. Greensbury Market is my go-to for meat, poultry and seafood and their beef is fully grass-fed from weaning to harvest. I’m happy to be able to offer you the code GETHHR to get 10% off your first order with them.

Using an Instant Pot for Cooking Barbacoa

Instant Pot is the updated cousin of the pressure cooker. Its main function that we all have come to love IS pressure cooking since it is a speedier way to cook almost any food. But it still has the extra functions of sauteing and slow cooking among others. Cooking meat is my favorite use for the Instant Pot. You simply add liquid and seasonings to you favorite cut of meat. Push the appropriate buttons for the type of meat and the time you want to cook and walk away.

Cooking Frozen Meat in an Instant Pot

Did you know you can cook rock-hard frozen meat in an instant pot in less than an hour? It’s true. I’m really bad about not deciding on what to make for dinner until 5 o’clock (we eat late). So I’ve cooked whole frozen chickens and roasts in my Instant Pot many times. You simply adjust the time per pound or add an extra 20-30 minutes to what your recipe says for thawed meat.

Traditional Barbacoa Compared to Whole30 Instant Pot Barbacoa?

Barbacoa is a slow-cooked beef dish originating in Mexico. It’s typically made with a cow head surrounded by spices and wrapped in banana leaves. Buried in a pit, it cooks for hours. Obviously, my recipe is a very simplified and quicker version. We certainly are not using a cow head (basic chuck roast for this recipe) and your Instant Pot is going to become the pit. Will you get the smoky flavor that naturally comes from outdoor live fire cooking? Well…no, but you will get a super flavorful shredded beef similar to it and very close to what you find at Chipotle.

Whole30 Instant Pot Barbacoa Compared to Chipotle’s Barbacoa?

Traditional Barbacoa is uses dried chiles and several spices. My goal was to simplify the process while still enjoying that Chipotle-style Barbacoa flavor. I did this by using the most flavorful of the traditional spices – cumin, onion and salt and using Kettle & Fire Chipotle Beef Broth which offered the remaining flavoring agents of chiles and garlic.

How to Serve Barbacoa

Traditionally, barbacoa is a taco filling. At Chipotle, of course you can get it in a burrito, on tacos or as a salad or rice bowl. We’re going more of a hybrid with lettuce as the vehicle for the barbacoa to keep it Whole30 friendly. Another Whole30 friendly alternative is to serve it over cauliflower rice as a bowl instead of making wraps. For those not on Whole30, for sure use tortillas to make them. Finish off your barbacoa creation with guacamole, salsa, pico de gallo and any other toppings you enjoy. Whole30ers will want to forego anything with corn, wheat, or dairy.

What to Serve with Barbacoa

While it can be a meal in itself, you can make a simple slaw with cabbage, cilantro, lime juice and salt. For something a little more interesting, add some slivers of jicama and mango or orange.

Easy Whole30 Instant Pot Barbacoa in Lettuce Wraps (Chipotle Copycat)

Hands-off recipe that creates flavorful barbacoa in your Instant Pot.


  • 2 lb chuck roast

  • 1 onion sliced

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 cup Chipotle Beef Broth

  • 2 tsp sea salt

  • 2 tsp cumin

  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar

  • To Serve
  • Lettuce Leaves

  • Guacamole

  • Pico De Gallo


  • Combine all the barbacoa ingredients except the vinegar in the instant pot.
  • Hit the Meat Button and using the “+” sign change the cook time to 30 minutes (add 20 minutes if frozen.)
  • Let the pressure release completely then make sure meat is tender enough to shred with a fork. If it’s not, close the lid, reset the meat button for another ten minutes.
  • When meat is shreddable, remove to a plate to cool.
  • Hit the Saute Button and add 2 tsp apple cider vinegar to the liquid in the pot. Cook the juices down until very thick.
  • While juices are reducing, shred the beef when cool enough to handle then add the thickened juices and onions.
  • Serve on lettuce leaves with guacamole and pico or any other desired toppings.

Recipe Video


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  1. Sharon Patelzick on June 9, 2021 at 9:39 pm

    This looks awesome!

    • Christi Flaherty on June 16, 2021 at 10:11 am

      Thanks Sharon. It’s an awesome summer recipe since you don’t have to heat up the kitchen at all. In fact, I’m making it for dinner tonight and it’s 95 with 90% humidity. Cooking over heat is JUST not happening! 🙂

  2. Sherry Vinson Brown on June 11, 2021 at 8:25 am

    Christi I forwarded a podcast from Dr. Ben Edwards on which he interviewed Sue Becker. Have you had a chance to watch it!? It’s changed our way of thinking regarding bread. You can also listen to it on BreadBeckers.com. She has a link to the interviews A great listen! (He’s our functional integrative doctor). ❤️

    • Christi Flaherty on June 16, 2021 at 10:10 am

      Hey there. I have not listened to it. I saw you messaged on FB with the link. I will give it a listen ASAP.

      Thanks, Christi

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