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Chicken barbacoa served with corn tortillas and pickled onions.

Oven Braised Chicken Barbacoa Recipe

Braising a whole chicken in the oven at low temperature, smothered in an array of Mexican spices yields tender melt in your mouth tacos. This Chicken Barbacoa recipe is easy and feeds your hungry crowd.
Course Chicken
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Servings 12
Calories 250kcal


  • 4-5 pound whole chicken back-bone removed
  • 2 sweet onions chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 8 dried Guijillo peppers tops removed and seeded
  • 4 dried chile arboles or thai chiles
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons pickling spice
  • 4 Tablespoons lime juice About 3 limes. (this is my addition)
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 cups water or chicken stock
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 sweet onions sliced
  • 12 corn tortillas warmed


  • In a big roasting pan, add the chicken halves and the removed back bone.
  • Add chopped onions, garlic, dried peppers, bay leaves, pickling spice, lime juice, salt, pepper and water or chicken stock.
  • Seal the roasting pan well with foil and cook 2.5 hours at 325 degrees, or until chicken is fall off the bone tender.
  • Remove the chicken from the broth and set aside to cool. Discard the backbone.
  • Once the broth has cooled to a safe temperature to handle, using a blender or food processor, puree the broth in batches. Make sure to scoop up as many onions and chile pods as you can.
  • Place a colander over a large bowl. Pour the pureed chile sauce into the colander and with the back of a wooden spoon, push the mixture through the strainer to remove any unblended skins, remaining seeds and any remaining chunks of spices.
  • Once the chicken has cooled enough to handle, using forks or your hands, pull apart. It will shred easily.
  • Heat a a large braising pot over medium high heat. Add the pulled chicken and enough of the pureed strained broth just to cover chicken at an even height.
  • Simmer on stove top for 10 minutes or until the chicken and broth are well combined.
  • Grab your favorite tortillas, cheese and taco condiments and enjoy.


To serve chicken barbacoa tacos, place a large bowl of the shredded chicken and a plate of warmed tortillas on the table. Offer an array of topping so your guests can build their own tacos.
Topping Suggestions:
  • Sliced Radishes
  • Cubed Avocado
  • Pickled Onions
  • Mexican crumbling cheese, such as Cotija
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Lime wedges for squeezing
  • Chile Powder for more spice
  • Lime wedges
  • Fresh chopped tomatoes
Slow Cooker Chicken Barbacoa: This recipe can be made in a crock-pot. You'll need a large 6-quart slow cooker to do the job. Or half the recipe for a smaller cooker. Just place the chicken in the slow cooker and top with the ingredients. Cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 8 hours.


Calories: 250kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 54mg | Sodium: 653mg | Potassium: 215mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 289IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 40mg | Iron: 1mg