Pollo en Barbacoa

This dish is a holiday tradition for our family 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.

This recipe is an extract from Oaxaca: Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexico by Bricia Lopez and Javier Cabral (Abrams, £30). Photographs copyright © 2019 Quentin Bacon

Ingredients for pollo en barbacoa Serves: 5

Method for pollo en barbacoa

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Bring 4½ 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. 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.
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Pollo en Barbacoa

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  • Hi Colin,

    You can use fresh or dried – whichever you have to hand!

    Edie at Sous Chef on

  • Can I use fresh avocado leaves or do they need to be dried for the polllo en barbacoa?

    Colin McMillan on

  • Hi Sarah,

    The boiling water in step 1 is for softening the chillies so that they can be blended more easily in step 4.

    The water can then be discarded at that point. But if you would like more chilli flavour and a little more heat, you could certainly use it again in step 4 – as the 60ml that is added to the blender.

    Holly at Sous Chef on

  • Are you supposed to keep the Chile soaking water and include it ?

    Sarab on

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