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If you haven’t used smoked beef cheeks in cooking, you must try them. A meat that is best cooked slowly over long periods, beef cheeks are a great option for a barbacoa recipe. 

smoked barbacoa served with salsa, cheese and lime
Grab your favorite toppings for these delicious Smoked Barbacoa tacos

For those of you who are intimidated by a word like “barbacoa,” let me put that fear to rest. The word derives from the word “barbeque” and refers to a way to cook meat. Simple as that. So don’t click past this Smoked Barbacoa recipe because you would definitely be missing out.

smoked barbacoa served with salsa, cheese and lime
Juicy and full of flavor, this Smoked Barbacoa is perfect for Sunday afternoons and watching the big game.

What is Barbacoa Meat?

An authentic Mexican dish usually made with either goat, beef, or lamb, Barbacoa is usually well seasoned with chilies and spices and then slow cooked until incredibly delicious. In simple terms, it’s meat that is steamed until tender. It’s perfect as a filling for burritos, tacos, or whatever else you want. When you smoke Barbacoa it gives the meat a whole new flavor that is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Beef Cheek Barbacoa is a game-changer.

ingredients for smoked barbacoa
The Beef Cheeks are already smoked for this Smoked Barbacoa

Ingredients for Smoked Barabacoa

  • Beef Cheeks – a tougher meat that may be a little more scarce at your local butcher’s, it is made for smoking and the flavor is incredible.
  • Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce – simply put, this ingredient adds some kick to your Smoked Barbacoa Beef.
  • Lime Juice – provides an acidic and bright flavor to a potentially heavy flavor.
  • Onion – a building block of most dishes, onion offers that base flavor for the Barbacoa.
  • Pickled Jalapenos – they add some heat, but also a lot of flavor. Don’t skimp on the pickled jalapenos.
  • Beef Broth – cooking in a broth will keep the meat tender and help all the flavors to cook together.
smoked barbacoa served with salsa, cheese and lime
For individual servings, we used small cast iron skillets and filled them with the Smoked Barbacoa and toppings

How to Make Smoked Barbacoa

Start with smoking the beef cheeks. I like to smoke them the day before or the day of. When you’re ready to start the Barbacoa Recipe, preheat the smoker, then combine the lime juice, chopped onion, pickled jalapenos, and chipotle peppers then stir in the beef broth. 

In a large foil pan, drop in the smoked Barbacoa beef cheeks then pour the liquid over them. I then place the pan in the smoker and cook it all for a few hours until the liquid is heated and the beef cheeks reach an internal temperature of  210°F. Then shred the beef cheeks and mix it back into the Barbacoa sauce. Now they are ready to serve with your tortillas and toppings to make your Barbacoa Taco.

smoked barbacoa in sauce in foil pan with forks
The Barbacoa is tender and full of flavor

What to Serve with your Smoked Barbacoa:

Just like with standard tacos, you’ll want to dress up your Barbacoa Taco to your liking. Here are some ideas to have on-hand:

  • Tortillas – this one is essential, since you’ll need a way to put the Smoked Barbacoa  and toppings together.
  • Jalapenos – add a little more heat and a little different flavor with fresh jalapenos.
  • Salsa – pick your favorite flavor, you can’t go wrong adding some tangy salsa.
  • Pico de Gallo – if you want less saucy Smoked Barbacoa, just add Pico de Gallo, a mixture of tomato, serrano peppers, onion, and seasoned with cilantro, salt, and lime juice. It’s a fresh alternative to traditional salsa.
  • Limes – have some lime slices on-hand to squeeze over your Smoked Barbacoa and add a little more zing. 
  • Onion – bring some pungent onion flavor back to the forefront with freshly chopped onion. 
  • Guacamole – anything mixed with avocado is always a welcome addition to barbacoa.
  • Queso Fresco Cheese – for the cheese lovers. You can never have too much cheese.
  • And don’t forget the Mexican Street Corn to serve on the side!
  • Or maybe our Smoked Queso is what you are looking for.
smoked barbacoa served with salsa, cheese and lime
What do you like on your Smoked Barbacoa tacos?
smoked barbacoa served with salsa, cheese and lime

Barbacoa Recipe

Juicy and full of flavor, this Smoked Barbacoa is perfect for Sunday afternoons and watching the big game.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Smoked Recipes
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Barbacoa Recipe
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Servings: 5
Calories: 23kcal


  • 2-3 pounds smoked beef cheeks shredded
  • 1 can chipolte peppers in adobo sauce (7 oz)
  • 2 ea limes juiced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1/2 cup pickled jalapenos
  • 3 cups beef broth


  • corn or flour tortillas
  • pickled or fresh jalapenos
  • salsa
  • Pico de Gallo
  • lime wedges
  • onions
  • guacamole
  • Queso fresco cheese


  • Smoke Beef Cheeks a day ahead or day of, find complete instructions HERE (link to Smoked Beef Cheeks)
  • Preheat the smoker to 250 degrees F
  • Juice limes and chop onion
  • In a large bowl, combine lime juice, chipotle peppers, onion and pickled jalapenos
  • Stir in beef broth
  • In a large foil pan, add  the smoked beef cheeks and pour liquid over
  • Place the pan on the smoker and cook for 2 hours or until liquid is heated through completely and beef cheeks have an internal temperature of 210°F and shreddable.
  • Shred Beef Cheeks and mix back into the Barbacoa sauce
  • Serve immediately with tortillas and toppings of your choice
  • Store leftovers in refrigerator


Calories: 23kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 0.5g | Saturated Fat: 0.2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 764mg | Potassium: 137mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 232IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 17mg | Iron: 1mg

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