What’s the Difference between Barbacoa and Carnitas?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “What’s the Difference between Barbacoa and Carnitas?” and will discuss stepwise processes to make barbacoa and carnitas.

What’s the Difference between Barbacoa and Carnitas?

The difference between Barbacoa and Carnitas is, barbacoa is prepared by slowly cooking it in the oven, on the stove, or in a Crock-pot. Carnitas, on the other hand, are fried till crisp after being shredded into big pieces and browned in a pan. Another difference between Barbacoa and Carnitas is,  Barbacoa may be made from any of these meats, while carnitas is always made from pig.

What’s barbacoa?

Cured slowly in Mexico’s spices until tender, Carne barbacoa consists of beef that has been shredded. Traditionally, beef check or head would have been utilized, but nowadays a wide variety of cuts of cattle are employed. Rather than referring to a specific cut of meat, “barbacoa” describes the method used to prepare it.

BBQ, as you may have guessed, is the literal translation of the term barbacoa. Meat used to be prepared by burying it in an underground oven in the past. Cooking a whole lamb, goat, or even a side of beef in a pit in the ground is a traditional method. Steaming the meat until it is soft, almost coming apart, gives it the appearance of shredded beef.

Unless you come from a traditional family, most barbacoa is now cooked on the stovetop or in a slow cooker. Roasted lamb or beef may also be prepared in a roasting pan and then finished on the grill. You want indirect heat, so avoid placing the pan directly on the stovetop burners.

While beef barbacoa is served in most Mexican eateries, including the fabled Chipotle. In traditional Mexican cooking, though, you’ll also find goat and lamb.

How to Make Barbacoa: A Step-by-Step Guide.

In the beginning, you’ll need two pounds of beef, an onion cut thinly, and the beef barbecue sauce for a slow cooker.

Step 2: Sear the beef on both sides in a large skillet over high heat.

Step 3: Put the meat in a slow cooker and top with the chopped red onion and slow-cooking sauce (they become spicy). For eight hours, set the oven on LOW and let it cook.

Barbacoa in tacos makes for an ideal meal.

What is Carnitas?

Chipotle carnitas is shredded braised pork cooked in a slow cooker for at least eight hours. Traditionally, lard is used to cook the pig.

Carnitas Chipotle is spicy, so it goes well with burrito bowls, tacos, and other Mexican dishes. It may also be eaten as is.

Carnitas Recipe: A Step-by-Step Guide

When it comes to carnitas, I usually use juniper berries as a hidden ingredient.

Step 1: To begin, sear the pork on both sides to seal in the juices and flavor.

Step 2: Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or big saucepan over high heat for five minutes. Wring out and dry the pork while the oil is heating up, then season it on both sides with black pepper and kosher salt.

Step 3: Once the saucepan is hot, put it in the oil and cook it for four minutes on each side, or until a crust forms on the surface.

Step 4: Transfer the pork to a slow cooker from the stovetop burner. Mix in the juniper berries, dried thyme, and bay leaves, as well as a little water. Cook for at least four hours on high or eight hours on low if using the stovetop.

Step 5: Remove the carnitas from the liquid and shred them with two forks when the time has passed.

Step6: To finish the dish, skim out the fat from the cooking liquid and add the shredded pork back in.

Step 7: If you want the edges crispy, grill your carnitas for 3-5 minutes or serve them right away after transferring them to parchment paper.

Barbacoa or carnitas: which is superior?

It’s impossible to choose a favorite among these two cuts of beef. It all boils down to your taste preferences, dietary restrictions, and the dish(es) you want to serve them with. If taste and texture are important to you, then use beef over pork carnitas when making barbacoa. It has a stronger taste and is heartier.

In contrast, the taste profile of carnitas is considerably more delicate. However, it has a crunchy texture because of the browning process that occurs after the long cooking. When cooked with berries and bay leaves, pork takes on a fruity taste similar to a light roast coffee. The finest carnitas, on the other hand, is a straightforward dish that lets the pork’s taste do all the talking.

In light of the current popularity of the ketogenic diet, you may be wondering whether meat is the best choice for people attempting to follow a low-carb diet. Carnitas and barbacoa are both keto-friendly meats, although some people prefer carnitas. Chipotle’s carnitas has no carbohydrates, but the beef barbacoa has two. It all boils down to the side dishes served with any of these meats if you’re following a ketogenic diet.

To check out the similarities between Barbacoa and Carnitas, click here 


In this brief guide, we answered the query, “What’s the Difference between Barbacoa and Carnitas?” and discussed the step-wise process to make barbacoa and carnitas.



In this brief guide, we answered the query, “What’s the Difference between Barbacoa and Carnitas?” and discussed the stepwise process to make barbacoa and carnitas.


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.