Barbacoa de Borrego

Time1 hour 40 minutes
YieldsServes 6 to 8
Print RecipePrint Recipe

Barbacoa de Borrego is eaten during a lot of festivities in Oaxaca. It is always served family-style at parties, so you can eat as much as you can handle. My fondest memory of eating barbacoa was during a get-together with friends in an agave field recently. We cooked a whole lamb in a pit underground, everybody showed up, and there was live music and free-flowing mezcal for everyone. It was one of the most beautiful, most perfect days of my life, because what else do you need other than friends, family, tender seasoned meat and good mezcal?


Barbacoa de Borrego


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.


Bring 3½ cups (840 ml) water to a boil in a medium pot. Turn off the heat and add the guajillo chiles. Let soak for 20 minutes or until the chiles are softened. Reserve ¼ cup (60 ml) of the soaking liquid.


In a comal or large cast-iron skillet over medium heat, toast the following ingredients for 5 to 7 minutes until evenly toasted: cumin, oregano, cinnamon, thyme, cloves, black peppercorns and bay leaves. While the spices are toasting, lightly char the garlic cloves and onion.


In a molcajete or food processor, grind the garlic, onion, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, thyme, cloves and black peppercorns as best you can.


In a blender, combine the softened chiles and reserved soaking water, the bay leaves, salt and spices.


In a 5-quart (4.7 L) Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, place the lamb and slather in the spiced chile mixture from the blender. Add avocado leaves. Mix well, cover and cook in the oven for an hour. The lamb should be fall-apart tender and the sauce should be the texture of a pan sauce.


If the lamb still isn’t tender, cover and cook for another 20 minutes or as long as it takes for the lamb to be falling off the bone.

Excerpted from “Oaxaca: Home Cooking From the Heart of Mexico.”