Pollo en Barbacoa

Chicken Barbacoa


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    4 to 6

Appears in

Oaxaca: Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexico


By Bricia Lopez and Javier Cabral

Published 2019

  • About

This dish is a holiday tradition for our family. We make it every year for our Christmas dinner. The adobo rub is full of warm spices and it is great on turkey, too. I remember my grandma used to make it, then my mom made it, and now I make it for my family.


  • 10 guajillo chiles (50 g), stems and seeds removed
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ½ cup (50 g) chopped white onion
  • ¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 sliver of a cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup (180 g) chopped tomatoes
  • cup (50 g) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 whole chicken (about 2 pounds/1 kg), butchered into eight pieces, trimmed of excess fat and skin
  • 10 avocado leaves


Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Bring cups (1 L) water to a boil in a medium pot and add the chiles. Turn off the heat and let soak for 20 minutes or until chiles are softened.

In a comal or large cast-iron skillet over medium heat, toast each of the following ingredients separately for 5 to 7 minutes until evenly toasted: garlic, onion, black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, and oregano.

In a molcajete or mini-chopper or food processor, grind the garlic, onion, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, and oregano as best as you can until finely ground.

In a small pot over medium heat, combine the tomatoes, tomatillos, and ¼ cup (60 ml) water. Boil for 25 minutes or until the tomatillos start to pop.

In a blender, combine the softened chiles, cooked tomatoes and tomatillos, the ground onion, garlic, and spices, and the salt. Blend until completely smooth.

Put the chicken in a 5-quart (4.7 L) Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot and add the spiced chile mixture from the blender, and avocado leaves. Mix well, cover, and cook in the oven for an hour (see Tip). The chicken should be fall-apart tender and the sauce should be the texture of a pan sauce. If the chicken still isn’t tender, cover and cook for another 20 minutes.