Barbacoa beef tacos served with pickled watermelon & avocado sauce

Barbacoa beef tacos with pickled watermelon & avocado sauce

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(3 ratings)

Prep: 25 mins Cook: 5 hrs Plus overnight marinating and 1 hr chilling

More effort

Serves 8

Combine a few storecupboard spices to make a smoky Mexican spice mix and liven up these beef tacos. Serve with our avocado cream and pickled watermelon

Nutrition and extra info

Nutrition: Per serving

  • kcal770
  • fat43g
  • saturates13g
  • carbs54g
  • sugars12g
  • fibre5g
  • protein40g
  • salt2.6g
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  • 24 small corn tortillas, to serve



    In Spain, a tortilla is a kind of omelette, with ingredients added - frequently sliced cooked…

For the marinade

  • 2 red onions, cut into wedges
  • 3 whole tomatoes
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 2 ancho chillies
  • 3 tbsp smoky Mexican spice mix, plus 1 tsp for the watermelon (see below)
  • 75ml vegetable oil, plus 2 tbsp
  • 2-3 lemons (2 are for the avocado cream)
  • 2kg boneless beef brisket or blade, cut into chunks (ask your butcher to do this for you)
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 3 bay leaves

For the avocado cream

  • 3 avocados



    Although it's technically a fruit, the mild-flavoured avocado is used as a vegetable. Native…

  • 6 tbsp soured cream
  • 1 small pack coriander, stems chopped, leaves kept whole

For the pickled watermelon

  • 50ml white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar



    Honey and syrups made from concentrated fruit juice were the earliest known sweeteners. Today,…

  • ½ small watermelon, cut into cubes, any large seeds removed



    Thought to have originated in Africa, watermelons are distinct from musk melons such as…

For the smoky Mexican spice mix

  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1½ tsp ground oregano



    Closely related to marjoram, of which it is the wild equivalent, oregano has a coarser, more…

  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 4 ground cloves
  • 2 tbsp smoked salt flakes
  • 2 tbsp chipotle chilli flakes


  1. The day before, make the marinade. Put the red onion, tomatoes and garlic cloves in a dry non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Fry, shaking the pan occasionally, until blackened – this will add flavour. Tip into a blender. Return the pan to the heat, add the chillies, toast until fragrant, then tip into the blender as well, along with 3 tbsp spice mix, 75ml oil and the juice of 1 lemon. Blitz until smooth. 

  2. Pour a little of the leftover oil into the frying pan over a medium-high heat. Season, then brown the beef in batches until each piece has a nice dark brown crust. Tip the beef into a large, ovenproof dish with a lid, then pour over the marinade. Toss to coat, cover and chill in the fridge overnight.

  3. Heat oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2. Take the dish out the fridge. Pour in the stock, add the bay leaves, then mix together. Pop on the lid and cook for 3½ hrs, removing the lid for the last hour, until the meat falls apart when prodded. Remove the beef from the dish and set aside, then put the dish back on the heat and bubble until the sauce has reduced by half. Shred the beef with two forks and add back to the sauce. 

  4. Meanwhile, put the avocados, soured cream and coriander stalks in a blender. Squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon. Blitz until smooth, then season and add more lemon juice to taste. Set aside in the fridge.

  5. For the pickled watermelon, whisk the vinegar, sugar and 1 tsp spice mix together in a bowl. Add the watermelon and toss to coat. Cover and chill for 1 hr, tossing occasionally, to lightly pickle.

  6. To serve, warm the tortillas in a frying pan. Spread some of the avocado cream on each one, top with a pile of beef, a few cubes of watermelon and some coriander.

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Comments, questions and tips

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Lord Grim
10th Sep, 2018
I made this at the weekend and it is absolutely delicious. I upped the quantities proportionally as somehow I managed to end up with 2.5 kg of brisket. One thing I will say, is that you do need to devote some time to this, I was an hour just browning the meat ready for marinade! Definitely worth it though, and I'll freeze the leftovers in individual portions. This will also make a great chilli with the addition of a few beans and some adjustments to the spicing.
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