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Barbacoa vs Carnitas (What’s the Difference)

Barbacoa vs carnitas is going to be the topic of discussion today. What’s the difference between the two and which is the most delicious. If you’re not familiar with the two but are interested, you’ll definitely want to keep reading!

Barbacoa vs carnitas

What is barbacoa?

Barbacoa is a delicious Mexican meat dish that’s tradionally wrapped in maguey leaves and cooked low and slow in a underground pit.

These days, that’s not very convenient. So thankfully you can still make very tasty barbacoa in the oven or on the stovetop.

The meat is marinated in a flavorful chile mixture then cooked in the oven for a few hours. It can also be made on the stovetop. These are the modern ways of cooking barbaoca.

What kind of meat is barbacoa?

Barbacoa can be made from beef, lamb or goat. The most popular being beef. Beef barbacoa is also known as barbacoa de res.

If it’s made from lamb, then you’ll hear it referred to as barbacoa de borrego. If it’s made from goat, then it’s referred to as barbacoa de chivo.

I like to use chuck roast for mine. However, beef cheek can also be used.

Barbacoa translates to barbecue in English. However, barbecue sauce is not used in barbacoa!

Is barbacoa always shredded?

Yes, barbacoa is typically shredded in order to be served in tacos. Barbacoa is also delicious in gorditas, enchiladas or quesadillas.

Barbacoa de res tacos

What are carnitas?

Carnitas are a delicious dish consisting of pork chunks that are braised in a flavorful liquid until tender and then shredded.

Carnitas can then be fried until there are crispy bits or they can be placed under the broiler to crisp up. This step is optional but many cooks like to do it to get those desired crispy bits.

Carnitas translates to little meats in English.

Orange juice and Coke are some popular braising liquids for carnitas.

There are many ways to cook carnitas. They can be cooked in the oven, in a slow cooker or on the stovetop. I personally love to make them in a dutch oven.

What cut of meat are carnitas.

Carnitas are usually made from pork butt or pork shoulder. Which is also what pork tamales are made with.

Are carnitas and pulled pork the same?

No, they are not the same. Carnitas are easier to make than pulled pork. Pulled pork usually has a longer ingredient list. Also, carnitas are served in tacos whereas pulled pork is served in sandwiches with barbecue sauce.

Dutch oven carnitas tacos on a black plate.

Barbacoa vs carnitas (how are they different?)

Barbacoa and carnitas differ in the fact that barbacoa can be made from beef, lamb or goat while carnitas are only made from pork.

Barbacoa is marinated in a flavorful chile mixture while carnitas are not made with chiles.

Since barbacoa is made with chiles there is a chance it will be spicy depending on what kinds of chiles the cook uses. Carnitas are not spicy as they are not made with chiles.

They also differ in texture. Barbacoa is usually more tender and juicier than carnitas. Since carnitas are often fried or placed under the broiler in order to crisp up they have a texture that is both crispy and tender at the same time.

Barbacoa vs carnitas (how are they alike)

There are a few similarities between the two. For starters, they are both Mexican meat dishes. They can also both be prepared in a variety of ways.

The most obvious similarity between the two is the fact that they are both typically shredded and served in tacos.

Tacos de barbacoa y carnitas

What to serve with barbacoa and carnitas

Both barbacoa and carnitas benefit from simple side dishes such as authentic Mexican rice and beans. Some other delicious side options include spaghetti, fideo seco or elote in a cup.

What toppings go good on barbacoa and carnitas

Diced onion and chopped cilantro are good on both barbacoa and carnitas. Some additional toppings include sliced avocado and sliced fresh limes for squeezing over the tacos. If you like hot salsa try this homemade habanero salsa.

Which is better?

This is a very hard question. It’s going to differ from person to person as both barbacoa and carnitas are extremely delicious. If I had to pick I would go with carnitas because I really enjoy it’s flavor and the texture of the crispy bits. Plus, since carnitas aren’t spicy I know it’s something my whole family can enjoy!

What are your thoughts on barbacoa vs carnitas? Let me know down in the comments!

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