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shredded chicken tacos in a white bowl topped with radish slices, lime wedges, white onion and cilantro.

Chicken Barbacoa Recipe

  • Author: Lauren Grant
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 2 ¼ hours
  • Yield: 6 cups (serves 6) 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Roasting
  • Cuisine: Mexican
  • Diet: Gluten Free


Chicken Barbacoa—a shredded Mexican chicken dish that's smoky, savory and just slightly sweet. A whole chicken gets slow-cooked in the oven until tender, then the meat is shredded and tossed with a thick reduced adobo sauce.


  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large (4-pound) whole chicken
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 white onion, halved and sliced ¼-inch thick
  • ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon Quick Chile Adobo Sauce 
  • 4 dried bay leaves
  • 1 ¾ cups water 


  • Corn or flour tortillas, warmed or charred
  • Lime wedges
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Minced white onion
  • Sliced radish
  • Diced avocado
  • Salsa verde
  • Sour cream or whole milk Greek yogurt


Heat oven to 250ºF with rack set in lowest position. Heat oil in a large (7- or 8-quart) Dutch oven over medium heat. Pat chicken dry then season all over with salt, about 2 teaspoons total, rubbing some directly on breast meat underneath skin.

Carefully add chicken, breast side down, to pot with hot oil. Add onions and bay leaves, nestling them around chicken. Cook chicken until breast is deep golden brown, 5–6 minutes. Using tongs, flip chicken breast side up and brown until bottom side is deep golden brown, 5–6 minutes. 

Meanwhile, add ⅓ cup adobo sauce to 1 ¾ cups water, stir until combined; pour over chicken. Brush remaining tablespoon adobo sauce over breast and legs of chicken. Bring liquid in pot to a simmer then cover with lid and transfer to oven. Roast chicken until meat can easily be pulled from bone and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the breast register 165ºF (74ºC) and legs register 172ºF (78ºC), 1½–1¾ hours.

Using tongs, carefully transfer chicken to a cutting board (it may fall apart—that’s OK). Skim off and discard any grease from surface of broth. Simmer broth over medium-high heat until reduced and thickened, 20 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt (I start with ½ teaspoon).

Meanwhile, remove and discard chicken skin. Remove meat from bones and shred into small pieces; add back to pot with reduced sauce and toss to combine.

Served shredded chicken with lime wedges (a squeeze of fresh lime juice adds a lot here) tortillas and desired toppings.


The size of your chicken will impact the cook time. A 4-pound bird should be ready in about 1½ hours to 1 hour and 40 minutes. A 4 ½-pound bird will be ready in about  1¾ hours and a 5-pound bird will take about 2 hours. 

For the best flavor, shred the chicken fairly finely. The smaller the pieces, the more sauce they end up holding on to. 

If you don’t have a Dutch oven, you can also use any heavy-bottomed pot. Just make sure the lid and handles are oven-safe.


  • Serving Size: ½ cup shredded chicken
  • Calories: 122
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Sodium: 425mg
  • Fat: 5g
  • Saturated Fat: 1g
  • Carbohydrates: 0.5g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Protein: 17g
  • Cholesterol: 45mg

Keywords: barbacoa chicken, mexican adobo chicken, mexican shredded chicken

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