Discover the irresistible flavors of Smoked Barbacoa – tender, smoky beef cheeks infused with tangy lime and chipotle. Perfect for barbacoa taco lovers!

It costs approximately $19.67 to make this Smoked Barbacoa recipe. It makes eight servings for about $2.45 per serving.

Since this is a Mexican-style dish, I often pair smoked barbacoa with sides like refried beans, Mexican rice, and this black bean and corn salad.

An overhead picture of smoked Barbacoa in a white serving bowl.

Barbacoa Tacos

It’s high time for a Mexican feast with this recipe for smoked barbacoa. Take a few pounds of smoked, shredded beef cheeks and smoke them again with lime, onion, and more for a rich and flavorful taco filling.

I’ve talked about smoking beef cheeks and how they’re the best ingredient for barbacoa. Beef cheeks are the cheek of the cow but completely family and picky-eater-friendly if you’ve never had them. So tender and juicy, it’s mouth-watering!

Barbacoa is a slow-cooked barbecued meat used in Mexican cuisine. You may have had it before made with a chuck roast.

Beef cheeks are often utilized for barbacoa, a fantastic taco base. This smoked barbacoa carries a strong flavor with chipotle peppers, lime, onion, jalapenos, and beef broth.

Ingredients and Estimated Cost

Per Serving Cost: $2.45

Recipe Cost: $19.67

  • 2-3 lbs Smoked Beef Cheeks – $13.98
  • 7 oz can chipotle peppers in adobe sauce – $1.48
  • Juice of 2 limes – $0.25
  • 1 medium white onion – $1.04
  • ½ cup pickled jalapenos – $0.79
  • 3 cups beef broth – $2.13

NOTE: The recipe prices are calculated by using grocery store websites. The recipe cost is calculated by the amounts needed for the recipe. The actual cost of the recipe will vary depending on what ingredients you already have. I updated the pricing for this recipe in May 2023.

All of the ingredients needed to make this recipe.

How to make Smoked Barbacoa

***For complete recipe instructions, see the recipe card below.

There are no hidden secrets to making smoked barbacoa. You’re halfway there if you’ve already smoked beef cheeks before. It’s a simple and relatively quick process for a Traeger smoker, and in the end, you’ll have the most perfectly flavorful taco filling imaginable.

Note that I use a wood pellet grill for most of this process. More specifically, this recipe assumes you have a Traeger smoker/grill. I highly recommend hickory or signature blend wood pellets for smoked barbacoa.

  1. Smoke your beef cheeks yourself, and do it a day ahead or the day of! (You can find a recipe/tutorial for smoking beef cheeks here.)
  2. Preheat the smoker to 250°F.
  3. Juice your limes and chop your onions. Then, combine the lime juice, chipotle peppers, onion, and pickled jalapenos in a large bowl.
  4. Stir beef broth into your veggie mix.
  5. In a large foil pan, add the smoked beef cheeks. Pour the beef broth mixture liquid over it.
  6. Place the pan on the smoker and cook for 2 hours or until the liquid is heated thoroughly. Ensure the beef cheeks have an internal temperature of 210°F and are shreddable.
  7. Shred your beef cheeks and mix them back into the barbacoa sauce.
  8. Serve your barbacoa immediately with tortillas and toppings of your choice! Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

A picture collage showing how to make this recipe.

Recipe Variations and Substitutions

  • Instead of smoked beef cheeks, you can use other cuts of beef like beef chuck roast or brisket for the barbacoa.
  • Adjust the level of spiciness by reducing or increasing the amount of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. For a milder flavor, remove the seeds and membranes from the peppers.
  • Enhance the tanginess by adding a splash of apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar to the barbacoa.
  • Customize the heat level using fresh jalapenos instead of pickled ones, or omit them altogether if desired.
  • For serving, you can use soft tortillas like flour or explore different types of tortillas such as corn, whole wheat, or even lettuce wraps for a low-carb option.
  • Swap queso fresco cheese with crumbled cotija or shredded Monterey Jack cheese for different cheesy flavors.

Storage and Serving Tips

SERVE: Unlike many smoker recipes, you can serve barbacoa immediately without waiting! (And you definitely won’t want to wait.)

STORE: After the barbacoa cools, keep it in the fridge for 3-4 days. Use an airtight container.

FREEZE: Smoked barbacoa lasts just fine in the freezer for three months. Again, use an airtight container or freezer bag. 

REHEAT: You can reheat smoked barbacoa in the microwave or oven. Just make sure it thaws out first, of course.

Recipe FAQs

How long does it take to make smoked barbacoa?

The prep time is only about 10 minutes. After that, it takes about 2 hours to smoke your barbacoa. So it’s a relatively quick smoker recipe!

How many servings does this recipe produce?

With 2-3 lbs of beef cheeks, you should have enough for eight servings. But, of course, this will all depend on portion size.

What toppings do you recommend for smoked barbacoa beef cheek tacos?

These are my tried-and-true go-to’s when I make beef cheek tacos:
1. Corn or flour tortillas
2. Pickled or fresh jalapenos
3. Salsa
4. Pico de Gallo
5. Lime wedges
6. Onions, red or white
7. Guacamole
8. Queso fresco cheese

Essentially, if there’s a Mexican topping you enjoy, it’ll pair great with smoked barbacoa.

An overhead picture of smoked Barbacoa in a white serving bowl.

More smoked recipes:

A close up picture three finished Barbacoa Tacos.
5 from 7 votes

Smoked Barbacoa

Recipe Cost $ $19.67
Serving Cost $ $2.45
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 7 hours
Total Time 7 hours 15 minutes
8 people
Discover the irresistible flavors of Smoked Barbacoa – tender, smoky beef cheeks infused with tangy lime and chipotle. Perfect for taco lovers!


  • Smoker grill
  • cutting board
  • chef's knife
  • liquid measuring cup
  • Measuring cups
  • mixing bowl
  • mixing spoon



  • 2-3 lbs Smoked Beef Cheeks shredded
  • 7 oz can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • Juice of 2 limes about 2-3 Tablespoons
  • 1 medium white onion diced
  • ½ cup pickled jalapenos
  • 3 cups beef broth




  • Smoke Beef Cheeks a day ahead or the day of. Find complete instructions HERE
  • Keep the beef cheeks whole, don’t shred or slice them.


  • Preheat the smoker to a temperature of 250 degrees Fahrenheit.


  • Squeeze the juice from the limes and finely chop the onion.
  • Combine the lime juice, chipotle peppers, onion, and pickled jalapenos in a large bowl.
  • Stir in the beef broth.
  • Take a large foil pan and place the smoked beef cheeks in it. Pour the liquid mixture over the beef cheeks.


  • Place the pan on the smoker and cook for approximately 2 hours until it thoroughly heats the liquid and the beef cheeks reach an internal temperature of 210 degrees Fahrenheit, making them easily shreddable.


  • Shred the beef cheeks and mix them back into the Barbacoa sauce.
  • Serve immediately with tortillas and your choice of toppings.


Calories: 214kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 919mg | Potassium: 160mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 146IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 98mg | Iron: 3mg

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Recipe Rating


  1. This smoked barbacoa is such a flavorful and tender treat that can be enjoyed in so many different ways! Appreciate all your smoking tips.

  2. Cookout season is here and I am so ready to make this smoked barbacoa a lot during the summer. So easy and full of flavor!

  3. This looks so flavorful and satisfying! We’re doing taco night tonight and I can’t wait to use this as a filling option for our tacos!

  4. This barbacoa is so delicious and flavorful! We loved it in tacos and will be making this again soon! Thanks for the recipe!