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Pressure Cooker Barbacoa Beef

This healthier spin on barbacoa beef makes ultra tender and flavorful shredded beef from lean eye of round roast. You can make it in an Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi, or even a slow cooker. Every serving has 13 grams of protein with only 2 grams of fat and 90 calories, making it an excellent healthy meal prep recipe. Burrito bowls, cheesy baked tacos, taquitos, quesadillas, nachos—you name it!

barbacoa beef burrito bowls with rice and roasted corn salsa

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Pressure Cooker Barbacoa Beef Recipe Walkthrough

I’ve included a visual guide below with notes about ingredients, types of pressure cookers, and tips for making this recipe successfully. If you’ve made recipes like my pressure cooker Mexican chicken or Ninja Foodi carnitas, or you’re a pressure cooking pro, you can probably skip down to the recipe card.

And as always, if you have a recipe question I forgot to cover drop a comment at the bottom of the post.

Slice a 2-pound eye of round roast into 4 pieces.

eye of round roast cut into 4 pieces

The recipe calls for eye of round, which has 145 calories, 26g of protein, and 4g of fat per 4 oz raw according to the USDA FoodData Central. Most traditional barbacoa recipes will call for fattier cuts like beef cheeks or chuck roast, but I’ve found you can still get super tender barbacoa with leaner cuts. In case you have trouble finding eye of round, I’ve included a few alternatives below.

Other lean beef options (nutrition information for 4 oz raw via USDA): 

  • bottom round roast:  160 calories, 25g of protein, and 6g of fat
  • tri-tip sirloin roast: 175 calories, 21g of protein, and 10g of fat
  • chuck eye roast: 160 calories, 23g of protein, and 7g of fat

Since the recipe doesn’t call for any additional oil or high-fat ingredients, you can certainly get away with a fattier cut of beef if you’d like.

Salt and pepper both sides and sear all sides using a pressure cooker’s sauté function. 

pieces of the beef with salt and pepper in the pressure cooker

I used my 6.5-quart Ninja Foodi, which has a ceramic coated pot. If you’re using an Instant Pot or pressure cooker with a stainless steel pot, you might want to use a little oil instead of cooking spray.

You’ll want to make sure the pot is hot before adding the beef. Once you’re in business, give the first side of the beef a full 3-4 minutes to develop some nice color. Then flip for another 2-3 minutes and use tongs to brown the sides of each beef piece for 30 seconds or so.

seared eye of round pieces in the ninja foodi pot

You’ll deglaze the pot to get all the fond off the bottom in the next step. So don’t sweat the crispy bits when browning the beef. Give it time and brown that beef!

Add spices, diced green chiles, lime juice, and beer or beef stock and pressure cook for 55 minutes with natural release pressure.

beef pieces after pressure cooking

Many barbacoa recipes call for fresh onion, garlic, and canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. To keep things simple, my version takes a shortcut with dried chipotle chili powder, garlic powder, and onion powder. You’re more than welcome to go with fresh, though. I’d go with something like half an onion, 5-6 cloves of garlic, and 2-3 chipotle peppers finely minced or blended together.

Spices aside, the only other question mark might be the cerveza. I used Tecate, but you could use any beer here. The alcohol will cook off but if you wanted to go alcohol free, beef stock would work as a substitute. Or you could use a non-alcoholic option like Athletic Brewing.

Shred the beef. 

shredding the beef with forks

The beef should be fall-apart tender. If it’s not, you can seal your pressure cooker and add another 10-15 minutes. The long cook time should help turn the collagen in the beef to gelatin and make the beef super tender.

Optional: Use your pressure cooker’s sauté function to reduce the remaining juices.

If you’re planning to make things like tacos or enchiladas were a more concentrated mixture would come in handy, this extra step may be the move. Around 5 minutes should do the trick. Be careful to not reduce too much.

Add the barbacoa beef back to the juices.

shredded beef in the juices

That’s it, you’re ready to rock. As you’d expect, this barbacoa gets better the longer it’s in the juices. So if you’re not in a rush, let it hang out in the juices with your pressure cooker set to its “keep warm” function.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the optional step of broiling your finished barbacoa beef if you are using a Foodi or Instant Pot Duo Crisp. Like I mentioned in my Instant Pot BBQ pulled chicken, this is a great way to add some extra texture and crispy edges to shredded proteins without overcooking. Usually 6-10 minutes does the trick.

Serving Your Healthy Barbacoa Beef

two cheesy grilled tacos with barbacoa beef

If you’ve tried my ground turkey tacos, you know I love to make cheesy, crispy tacos on a griddle. To make tacos in bulk, you could bake a big batch. Check out my baked beef tacos for an example.

You could also use your barbacoa beef to make air fried barbacoa quesadillas, air fryer taquitos, or nachos using my low calorie tortilla chips.

If you’re making burrito bowls a roasted corn salsa works great with some rice and black or pinto beans. And my Mexican potatoes and 10-minute street corn would be great side dishes for tacos, enchiladas, or whatever else you decide to make with your barbacoa.

beef barbacoa enchiladas and barbacoa beef tostadas

Update: I’ve now used this beef barbacoa for two spin-off recipes—leftover barbacoa beef enchiladas and barbacoa beef tostadas.

I can’t wait to hear what you come up with. Let me know how you serve your pressure cooker barbacoa or what you thought about the recipe in a review below!

Pressure Cooker Barbacoa Beef

Pressure Cooker Barbacoa Beef

Yield: 15 Servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

A high protein, healthy barbacoa beef option perfect for tacos, enchiladas, burrito bowls, and more.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs Eye of Round Roast, fat trimmed*
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper

For Pressure Cooking

  • 12 oz Cerveza or Beer**
  • 4 oz can Diced Green Chiles
  • 1/4 C (60g) Lime Juice
  • 1 Tbsp Chipotle Chili Powder
  • 1 Tbsp Mexican Oregano
  • 1 Tbsp Cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp Onion Powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp Ground Coriander
  • 4 Bay Leaves

Instructions

  1. Cut the beef into 4 pieces, about 3" each. Salt and pepper both sides of each piece.
  2. Set a pressure cooker's sauté function to high. Once hot, add cooking spray and brown all sides of the beef, about 2-3 minutes per side and 30-60 seconds around the edges.
  3. Use the beer to deglaze the pot and get any crispy bits off the bottom. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring everything together.
  4. Seal and pressure cook for 55 minutes with 10- 15 minute natural release pressure.
  5. Transfer the beef to a bowl to shred and remove the bay leaves. If the beef is not fall apart tender, cook 5-10 minutes longer.
  6. If you'd like to thicken the remaining sauce, use the sauté function for about 5 minutes before adding the shredded beef back to pot.

Notes

*Bottom Round and Sirloin Roast are other lean options.

**I used Tecate but other beers will work. You can also use beef broth in place of the beer.

Each 3-ounce serving of barbacoa beef has 2 WW SmartPoints (blue).

For Slow Cooker Barbacoa

Use a large skillet to brown the beef pieces before adding to a slow cooker with the remaining ingredients. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or until the beef is tender and easily shredded.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 15 Servings Serving Size: 3 oz
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 90Total Fat: 2gCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 13g

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Megan Griggs

Saturday 24th of April 2021

Do you think I could make this in the smoker?

Abigail Rodriguez

Tuesday 13th of April 2021

I blended tomatoes, chile guajillo, chile de arbol, onion, chipotle peppers, and garlic for the sauce. I also added a squeezed orange juice. It's an amazing dish, I like adding it to quesadillas or just tacos.

I prep it at night and leave it in the crock pot for like 10hrs to wake up to the wonderful smell of cooked barbacoa - almost smells as good as bacon!

Mason Woodruff

Wednesday 14th of April 2021

That sounds amazing!

Megan

Monday 12th of April 2021

Soooo good! It makes A LOT so I made a few different meals with this including quesadillas and nachos. I stored leftovers in the fridge with all of the juice, and then heated up the portion I was using on the stove to get it extra crispy.

Charlotte Vercellotti

Monday 12th of April 2021

These taste even better on day two! I love to meal prep with this recipe because it reheats well without losing flavor. 10/10 flavor

Philip

Wednesday 24th of February 2021

How would you adjust the cooking time if you are only using 1# instead of 2?

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