What Is The Difference Between Barbacoa Vs. Carnitas At Chipotle?

It is a known fact that Mexican food is a delicacy loved by many people. I am one of those people who love Mexican food and often prepare barbacoa and carnitas for my family.

However, those unfamiliar with Mexican food do not know the difference between the two.

From my experience, this is the difference between barbacoa and carnitas…

The main difference is in the type of meat used and how you finish making the meal.

When making barbacoa, you use goat, lamb, or beef, but the one at Chipotle is made from beef.

Cooking is done by slow-cooking in an oven, the stovetop, or Crockpot.

On the other hand, carnitas is mostly pork shredder into large chunks after browning or cooking until crisp.


Beef used to make barbacoa at Chipotle is said to be responsibly raised. Farmers raise their animals in pastures under humane animal farming practices.

They do not add hormones or non-therapeutic antibiotics.

The cut used by Chipotle to make barbacoa is derived from the shoulder as there is enough fat to maintain the moisture during the long braising method.

The beef is marinated overnight with bay leaves, cloves, oregano, and chipotle pepper adobo.

It is then slowly braised at low temperatures and shredded by hand.

Step by Step Guide to Make Barbacoa

Step 1: You will need two pounds of beef, one sliced red onion, and beef barbacoa slow-cooking sauce.

Step 2: Brown the beef on each side

Step 3: Toss the beef in a slow cooker (they get REALLY hot) and top it with the sliced red onion and slow-cooking sauce. Leave it to cook on LOW for eight hours.

You can have the barbacoa in tacos for total enjoyment.


Chipotle carnitas is basically braised pork that cooks for at least eight hours in a slow cooker and then shredded. Traditionally, the pork is cooked with lard.

The chipotle carnitas is spiced, which adds flavor and makes it ideal for serving burritos bowls, tacos, or on its own.

Step by Step Guide to Make Carnitas

While making carnitas, my secret ingredient has always been juniper berries.

Step 1: Sear the pork to lock in the flavours.

Step 2: Set a Dutch oven or a large pot on a stove pot and add two tablespoons of vegetable oil, and heat the oil at high temperatures for five minutes. As the oil gets heated, wash your pork, dry it, and season with pepper and salt on all sides.

Step 3: After heating the pot, place the pot onto the oil and cook each side for four minutes and all sides have a crust on them.

Step 4: Remove the pork from the stove pot and move it to a slow cooker. Add juniper berries, dried thyme, bay leaves, and water. If cooking on high, cook for at least four hours, and if cooking on Low, cook for at least eight hours.

Step 5: After the time has elapsed, remove your carnitas from the liquid and shred it using two forks.

Step 6: Remove fat from the cooking liquid and put back the shredded pork to soak up juices in the cooking liquid.

Step 7: You can transfer your carnitas to parchment paper and broil it in the oven for 3-5 minutes to make the edges crispy or serve it immediately.

Carnitas vs Barbacoa at Chipotle Difference

The main difference is in the type of meat used and how you finish making the meal.

Chipotle use beef in their Barbacoa and it’s slow cooked and tender.

Chipotle Carnitas is shredded pork that is cooked or browned until crispy.