Is Barbacoa Spicy? (Cook It Better!)

Traditionally, barbacoa is a spicy Mexican dish that contains beef, lamb, or other meat that has been slowly cooked with seasonings. It is famous for its earthy flavor and is often eaten inside a burrito, taco, or with nachos.

Barbacoa is a traditional Mexican dish in which more rigid parts of meat are cut (or shredded in some regions), dipped in spices and seasonings, especially herbs, and slowly cooked for a very long time. Beef, goat, lamb, or mutton meat is used to make this dish.

But is there only one way to cook this Mexican delicacy? Or do some people in other parts of the world make it spicier or sweeter based on their spice tolerance?

This article will explain how barbacoa is traditionally cooked and how spicy it is. We will also discuss if this is the only way to cook it or do people in the US do it any differently.

In this article, we will discuss the spice levels of barbacoa and what to do if it is too hot in great detail below.

What Does Barbacoa Taste Like?

Is Barbacoa Spicy?

Barbacoa is a savory, flavorful dish that is often on the spicier side. It is cooked slowly, under low to medium flame, with lots of Mexican seasonings and the perfect combination of acidic juices. This helps to cut down the spice levels somewhat without altering the flavor of the meat.

If you have lived in the US long enough, you have probably tasted or heard of this famous Mexican dish, barbacoa.

It is a famous dish that can be found easily in any Mexican establishment, neighborhood, or even outside the football stadiums, served with nachos or burritos.

This dish is made from goat, beef, lamb, or mutton meat that is slowly cooked under low to medium flame for a very long time. It is also doused in spices and seasonings throughout its cooking period.

However, there are a bunch of different ways to cook this. Outside of Mexico. Different cultures have added their tinge of flavors to this dish, accommodating it to their taste and preference.

It is often cooked with a 2:1 ratio of seasonings to spices, so it is not as hot as before. The seasonings and herbs give the dish a distinct but strong flavor, something often appreciated by US locals.

Beef Barbacoa is slightly tangy with a subtle but distinct spicing. To cut down the dish’s spiciness, acidic juices like a combination of lime juice and apple cider vinegar also produce a perfect punch.

The slight tartness of the sauce from vinegar and lime cuts through the rich meat, and the warmth from cloves cuts through the spices. It is popularly used in the US primarily because it produces the potential to balance the sugar and cream in the dish.

People should put more chili spices than directed while making this dish. The amount of spiciness depends on the local food culture of the place.

The spice can also be cut by adding caramelized onions later to the dish. This brings the whole recipe together, making it even better and more savory.

Some people also describe the taste of barbacoa as that of barbecue, mainly because of the similarity in their names. However, barbacoa has a more savory flavor than Southern BBQ spice blends. It has more heat with undertones of cumin, onion, and garlic.

Is Barbacoa Traditionally Spicy?

Barbacoa is traditionally spicy yet savory, cooked with spices and seasonings. Mexicans generally only skimp on spices while making this dish.

Barbacoa is traditionally made of tougher cuts of meat, usually lamb, goat, beef, or mutton, that is slow-cooked under low flame. Mexican spices like cumin, chili powder, and oregano, along with a perfect punch of acidity from a combination of lime juice and apple cider vinegar, are used in this dish.

In some places in Mexico, especially the southern region, pork is used as a meat substitute. Whole parts of large animals are traditionally used to make this dish.

However, in America, barbacoa is usually made from beef with tougher cuts of meat since chicken is too tender for this dish. Thus, it is traditionally made with chuck roast, brisket, or beef cheeks.

Since any beef cut has many more connective tissues, it takes a long time to cook until it is tender enough to eat. It gives enough time for the spices and seasonings to get roasted too.

More fat through the muscle fibers in the meat means that the meat will stay moist during cooking. Thus, avoid leaner cuts of beef as they will dry out and become stringy after letting it cook for a long time.

Covering the vessel to trap steam does not provide enough moisture to the meat.

How Can You Reduce The Spice Level In Barbacoa?

If barbacoa is too spicy for you, try adding sugar, cream, or acidic juices to your dish, apart from putting the amount of spice a little less.

The capsaicin in chiles is what gives the peppers their burn. The meat in barbacoa is marinaded and seasoned with spices twice.

This is why it is spicy. However, different food cultures in other parts of the world accommodate people with different spice tolerance.

Following is a list of ways to tone down the spice levels in barbacoa without letting all your efforts go to waste.

1. Add more ingredients

Add more ingredients to tone down the spices. You can start by adding caramelized onions to the dish as a sweetener.

2. Use dairy

Add dairy, like coconut milk or cream. This thickens your sauce and goes well with Mexican spices, especially cumin, chili powder, cloves, and turmeric.

3. Add nuts

Add cashew paste or tahini to distribute a little sweetness to the dish. The taste will not be too overwhelming or in contrast with the flavors of the plate, and it will tone down the spice levels.

4. Add more meat

Bulk up on the main ingredient. You can add more meat to your dish to neutralize and redistribute the spices.

What To Serve With Barbacoa To Balance Spice Level In The Dish?

There are several items you can serve barbacoa with:

1. Corn Tortillas

Barbacoa is traditionally served with corn tortillas, onions, and cilantro. 

A combination of lime juice and apple cider vinegar helps cut through the dish’s spiciness. You can also add some hot sauce to it, according to your preference.

2. Tortas

Tortas are Mexican-style fluffy bun sandwiches. You can serve your barbacoa with these as it distributes the spice levels.

Serve with onions, cilantro, refried beans, avocado, lettuce, and cabbage. You can also add sauces of your choice.

3. Burritos

You can also add barbacoa to burritos and eat it on the go. Add toppings and sauces of your choice.

You can also eat it with enchiladas, quesadillas, or leftover rice.

Final Remarks

In this article, we tried to understand if barbacoa is spicy and how to reduce them.

Here’s a quick recap.

Is barbacoa spicy? Barbacoa is a spicy Mexican dish in which beef, lamb, or other meat has been slowly cooked with seasonings. It is packed with cumin, red chili, cloves, turmeric, etc.