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Suckling lamb barbacoa taco (Taco de barbacoa de cordero lechal)

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

I cooked this recipe because of seemingly disconnected reasons: Trevor Noah, my parents and a great cookbook. We were watching Trevor Noah‘s Netflix show where he talks about tacos and my parents mentioned that they had never eaten tacos. So I decided to introduce them to the dish, and where better to go than the cookbook from Enrique Olvera.

I love making and eating tacos, there is always something special about the sloppy messy tortillas filled with spices and tender meat, pickled jalapeños on the side and washed down with a cold beer or two. Making these tacos is a very involved process but I wanted my parents, and myself, to have an excellent taco, since this was their first time. I have looked at this taco recipe for quite sometime and decided this was the time to make them. Of course, this is just half the recipe, I ignored large parts of it that included the guacamole and other aspects. We all thought the tacos came out delicious. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender, spiced with sweet guajillo chiles and very little else. Cooking the adobo sauce with roasted bones concentrates the flavors, this is followed by an extended cooking of the meat in the adobo Sauce. Overall, an outstanding recipe, one I will definitely make again. This is one of the most dedicated cookbooks on Mexican cuisine, however each recipe is involved and takes both time and very specialized ingredients. I had dinner at Enrique"s restaurant, Pujol, in Mexico City a few years ago. It is still one of my favorite dining experiences. I had to get this cookbook, I thought more as a memory but I am cooking more from it than I anticipated. Every recipe is outstanding! Photo credit: Nisha Bilgrami

For more recipes from this cookbook click here.


Chile Guajillo Adobo

1 pound lamb bones

2 cups chiles guajillo

1 large garlic clove

1/4 white onion

1 avocado leaf

1 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Lamb Barbacoa

1 white onion, minced

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 avocado leaf

1 pound boneless lamb or 2 pounds lamb with bone, preferably from the leg

1 tablespoon salt

3 cups water

Chile Guajillo Adobo, from above

For the pickled onions:

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

A pinch oregano, Mexican preferred

A pinch thyme

A pinch annato seed paste ot a few seeds pounded in a mortar and pestle.


Tortillas, either soft corn or crispy taco shells

Avocado, small pieces

Grated cheese, cheddar, Mexican blend ot Monterey Jack

Lettuce, sliced into thin ribbons

Pickled onions

Pickled jalapeños


Lime wedges

Hot sauce of your choice

1-2 chilies, halved (optional)

Pickled onions:

Add all the ingredients to an airtight tupperware container and mix well. Pickle at room temperature for 1 day and store for much longer in the fridge.

Chile Guajillo Adobo:

Roast the bones on a baking sheet in a 355°F oven for 1 hour. Check occasionally that the meat on the bones is not getting charred and burnt. Core and seed the chiles and soak in 2 cups hot water for 30 minutes, then drain and blend. In a large pot, sauté the garlic, onion, avocado leaf, and roasted bones in the oil over medium heat. Mix in the guajillo paste and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Add 3 cups water and cook over medium heat. Cool. Remove the bones and the avocado leaf. Purée till smooth and through a fine sieve strainer to remove any chili skin and other bits for a smooth adobo sauce.

Lamb Barbacoa

Place the onion, garlic, avocado leaf, and lamb in an oven safe dish. Dissolve the salt in the water and combine with the adobo. Pour the adobo over the lamb and cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. Roast in a 475°F, combi oven for 40 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 195°F, with 65 percent humidity, and roast for 10 hours longer. If your oven does not have a humidity setting, add an oven safe cup or small dish filled with water to the oven Instead.

Alternatively, add the ingredients to a slow cooker and cook for 8-10 hours. Stir occasionally.

Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Remove any connective tissue or bone from the lamb and shred it with your fingers and set aside. Chill the adobe sauce in the freezer for at least 2-3 hours to congeal the fat on the top. Scoop out and discard as much of the fat as you can with a spoon taking care not to loose too much of the adobo sauce. At this stage you should have about 3 cups of the adobo sauce. Add it to a small saucepan and boil till it is reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 1 hour. You are concentrating the flavors of the adobo sauce to add ot back to the meat. When reduced, add the meat back into the sauce and mix in. You should have a sloppy wet meat. Taste and adjust for salt. Set aside.

To serve:

Heat the meat in the pot or microwave till very hot. Serve with all or your choice of accompaniments listed. Enjoy these delicious tacos!

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