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Rick Bayless' Slow Cooker Lamb Barbacoa with Negra Modelo is packed with traditional Mexican flavors and is surprisingly easy to make!

Slow Cooker Lamb Barbacoa

Rick Bayless' Slow Cooker Lamb Barbacoa with Negra Modelo is packed with traditional Mexican flavors and is surprisingly easy to make!
Course Main
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 15 minutes
Servings 4 to 6 servings
Author Chef Rick Bayless



  • One 12-inch chunk of agave leaf or 1 large banana leaf optional
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 pounds boneless lamb shoulder or 2 pound boneless chuck roast
  • One 12 ounce bottle of Negra Modelo
  • Salt


  • 2 guajillo chiles stemmed, seeded and torn into large pieces
  • 2 ancho chiles stemmed, seeded and torn into large pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves peeled and rough chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 canned chipotle chile in adobo
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano regular oregano will work too


  • Corn tortillas
  • Chopped white onion
  • Torn cilantro leaves


  1. Roast the agave leaf over an open flame (your gas stove would work just fine for this), turning every few minutes until it becomes charred and piable, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on thickness. *If using a banana leaf, run the leaf over an open flames a few times to soften it. Cut the agave into 3 pieces.
  2. Pat the lamb shoulder dry with paper towels, and then season generously with salt.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully place the lamb into the hot oil and sear each side of the lamb, turning as needed, about 10 minutes total. Place the lamb in your slow cooker.
  4. Place all the marinade ingredients in a blender (or food processor) with 2 cup of water and puree until smooth. Pour the marinade through a mesh strainer into the slow cooker and all over the lamb. Nestle the pieces of agave (or banana leaf) around the lamb.
  5. Turn the slow cooker to HIGH and cover. Cook for 6 hours. If you will not be ready to eat right away, turn the slow cooker to WARM once the cooking time it up.
  6. When ready to serve, coarsely shred the lamb and place the meat on a warm platter.
  7. Skim any fat from the sauce that remains in the slow cooker. Taste the sauce. If you feel like the sauce should be more concentrated, transfer it to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat to reduce the sauce down. Season with salt if needed.
  8. Spoon the sauce over the meat. Garnish with cilantro and onions, and serve with corn tortillas, if desired.

Recipe Notes

If you don't like raw onion, fear not! Chef Bayless showed us the best trick ever! Deflame your onions by running the chopped onion under cold running water for a 1 to 2 minutes. This removes that harsh sting from the onions. I've never cared for raw onions, and I devoured my plate....onions and all very happily.

If you don't want to use your slow cooker, prepare the agave, meat and marinade as instructed. Place the meat, and other ingredients in a 6 to 8-quart Dutch oven and braise for 3 hours at 300 degrees F. Add water occasionally as needed to make sure the liquid stay at the same level.