Smoked Lamb Barbecoa, by Bricia Lopez

"This variation is inspired by the barbacoa de borrego that my family and I grew up eating in Tlacolula’s famous Sunday tianguis (open-air market) that takes place every Sunday, specifically the booth owned by Doña Adolfa. Slowly smoking the chile- and spice-rubbed lamb in banana leaves adds an incredible depth of flavour."

READ: Sous Chef's exclusive Q&A with Bricia

Asada: The Art of Mexican-Style Grilling by Bricia Lopez with Javier Cabral (Abrams, £30). Photographs copyright © 2023 Quentin Bacon


For serving


  1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Remove from the heat, submerge the chiles, and cover. Leave for 15 minutes or until the chiles are very tender. Drain, reserving ½ cup (120 ml) of the soaking liquid.
  2. In a large cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat, toast the cumin seeds, anise seeds, oregano, cinnamon stick, thyme, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves, and allspice for about 7 minutes, until evenly toasted.
  3. While the spices are toasting, lightly char the garlic and onion in a preheated broiler, for about 6 minutes or until the edges of the onion are nicely charred.
  4. In a molcajete or spice grinder, grind the toasted spices.
  5. In a blender, combine the softened chiles, the garlic, onion, toasted spices, salt, and vinegar. Blend until you have a fine and smooth paste.
  6. Reserve 1 cup (240 ml) of the marinade to use later. Put the lamb in a large bowl and run the remaining marinade on all sides. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Remove the lamb shoulder from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking, so it can come to room temperature.
  7. When ready to cook, preheat a pellet grill to 375°F (190°C) with the lid closed, for 15 minutes. Or you can use your oven instead.
  8. Remove the lamb from the bowl and place it in a dutch oven lined with banana leaves. Fold the banana leaves over the lamb to tightly seal and cover the pot. Cook the lamb for 2 hours.
  9. After 2 hours, carefully remove the banana leaves from the pot using kitchen tongs. Pour the 1 cup (240 ml) reserved marinade and the bone broth on top of the lamb shoulder. Cover the pot and cook for another 2 hours. Remove the cover and continue cooking the lamb until it is browned and tender, about 1 more hour, occasionally spooning the juices on top.
  10. Remove the lamb from the grill or oven and allow it to rest for at least 20 minutes. Tear the meat apart using two forks, and combine it with the remaining liquid in the bottom of the pan. Serve with tortillas, “con todo” topping, finishing salt, and lime wedges
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