7 cities. 54 chefs. It's Lamb Jam Restaurant Month.
Learn More
May 2, 2019

Oaxacan American Lamb Barbacoa


Recipe Provided By
"Feasting at Home"
Prep Time

30 min

Cook Time

4 hrs

Total Time

4 hrs 30 min



Oaxacan American Lamb Barbacoa in cast iron pan


  • 3 to 5 pounds American Lamb shoulder, bone-in or boneless (see Notes)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced, plus additional for garnish if desired
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Cilantro, for garnish 

Barbacoa Marinade

  • 2 to 4 dried ancho chilies, stems removed, seeds removed (or dried chipotles, guajillo chilies (milder) or chili negros)
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 chipotle pepper, canned, plus 2 to 3 tablespoons chipotle liquid
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 2 cups chicken or beef broth, or water
  • 2 tablespoons cumin (see Notes)
  • 2 tablespoons coriander (see Notes)
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano or Mexican Epazote
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar, honey or maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon


Score the fat on the lamb. Generously season all sides of lamb with salt. 

For the Barbacoa Marinade: Break dried chilies in half. In a blender, add chilies, garlic, chipotle pepper and liquid, orange juice, broth, cumin, coriander, oregano, chili powder, vinegar, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Blend until very smooth, for a full minute.

Heat a skillet or Dutch oven to medium-high heat; add oil. Sear salted lamb shoulder, patiently browning each side to create a deep colored crust. (Do not skip this step, it’s the secret to sealing in the juices and creating flavor!) 

Once all sides are seared, place lamb in a Dutch oven. Nestle onion and orange slices all around it; add bay leaves. Pour marinade over top; shake pan to get marinade to the bottom. Cover tightly; bake at 325 degrees F for 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 hours. See notes on timing. 

Roast is done when meat pulls apart easily. Pull meat off the bones; discard any fat. Tear into smaller pieces; place into an ovenproof serving dish. Strain 1 to 2 cups of the marinade; pour over the meat to keep it moist. Adjust seasonings as desired. Keep lamb warm in the oven until ready to serve. (Leave uncovered so meat gets a little crispy on top.) Garnish with onions and cilantro if desired.



  • You can use bone-in lamb shoulder or, for ease and faster cooking, have your butcher cut the bone out and roll into a boneless “roast”. Cooking times will vary based on weight and cut. Allow 3 to 3-1/2 hours for a 3 to 4 pound boneless roast; allow 4 to 4-1/2 hours for a 5 to 6 pound bone-in roast.  
  • Whole cumin and coriander seeds can be toasted, then crushed, for enhanced flavor. 
  • Epazote is a Mexican herb that really bumps up the flavor and authenticity of this recipe. It can sometimes be found at Mexican markets, or try growing it from seed.

USDA recommends the following time and temperature parameters

Ground Lamb

Internal temperature of 160°F

All Other Cuts

Internal temperature of 145°F, with a 3 minute rest

Oaxacan American Lamb Barbacoa in a cast iron dish with a fork
Oaxacan American Lamb Barbacoa cooking in a dutch oven
thermometer timer illustration
Visit our Lamb Cooking Time & Temperature page for recipe inspiration and tips on preparing the perfect lamb.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *