I've said it before (literally every time I make tacos) and I'll say it again: tacos are the perfect food. What's not to love about flavorful meat tucked inside a warm tortilla with fresh toppings and a squeeze of lime? Wash it down with a cold cerveza and you can't go wrong. This slow-cooked venison barbacoa makes the best tacos. You'll see.
What is barbacoa?
Barbacoa is Spanish for "barbecue" but traditional barbacoa is actually cooked in an underground oven. The standard American version is usually cooked in a crockpot with a few seasonings. There are many variations of barbacoa out there ranging in cooking methods and ingredients used but the common ingredient in all of them is time. Traditional barbacoa is a labor of love while the common barbacoa recipes you see are fairly simple to make. This recipe is somewhere in between. It takes a little more effort to make the chile sauce rather than dumping a few ingredients in a crock pot. But once you get the chile sauce made, it's a fairly simple process as it is made in a crock pot as well.
The chile sauce starts with some softened pasilla chiles, garlic, onion, tomato, chipotles, orange juice, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, and lard. That mixture gets blended up and added to some stock. A few other spices are added in and it's ready to work its magic on a venison roast.
How to slow cook venison:
Venison is best cooked either hot and fast or low and slow. There is no in between. Since it is such a lean meat, it either needs to be served rare to medium-rare to keep its tenderness or cooked completely for many hours to break down the muscle tissue. Once you've gotten into fully-cooked territory, it will need some time and moist heat to become tender again. This barbacoa sauce/marinade is great for tenderizing venison because it's full of flavor, has some citrus to tenderize the meat, and has some lard added in for extra moisture. The lard melts into the sauce and meat and helps create the illusion of using a fattier meat like beef or pork.
Toppings for venison barbacoa tacos:
I'll be the first to admit that I go a little crazy on toppings for tacos. But I've been trying to tone it down lately. For these barbacoa tacos, I chose a few simple toppings so that the focus is on the meat. First, I warm up some of my favorite corn tortillas. They're made with a mixture of corn and wheat so they have the softness of a flour tortilla with the flavor of a corn tortilla. They're perfect! Add a good amount of shredded meat to the tortillas. Remember, the focus is on the meat, not the toppings. For toppings, these tacos have a bit of diced onion, radish slices, cilantro, and salsa verde. Squeeze some fresh lime over the top and enjoy!
Venison Barbacoa Tacos Recipe
- 2 lb venison top round (or other roast cut)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp lard, divided
- 6 pasilla chiles
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 medium yellow onion, cut into quarters
- 1 medium tomato, cored and cut into quarters
- 3 chipotles in adobo sauce
- 1 orange, juiced
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups stock (wild game or beef)
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp oregano
- 18 corn tortillas
- ½ cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 cup radishes, thinly sliced
- ¾ cup salsa verde
- 3 limes, cut into wedges
- Season venison all over with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tbsp lard in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Sear roast for 2-3 minutes per side or until browned. Remove to a plate and set aside.
- Soak chiles in a bowl of boiling water for 15-20 minutes. Place a plate or bowl on top to keep them submerged. Once chiles are softened, remove seeds and stems. Place chiles in blender.
- Add garlic, onion, tomato, chipotles, orange juice, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, and 1 tbsp lard to blender. Blend on high until mixture is smooth.
- Pour sauce mixture into crock pot. Add in stock, cumin, and oregano and stir until well-combined. Add in venison roast. Make sure roast is fully submerged or at least covered with the sauce. Add in bay leaves.
- Cover and place crock pot insert in fridge and refrigerate overnight or cook immediately.
- Cook on low in crock pot for 10-12 hours or until tender and easy to shred. Flip the roast a few times during cooking. You can also cut the roast into smaller pieces to speed up the process.
- Shred meat and place in a bowl. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer. Discard solids. Place meat back into crockpot with sauce and cook on low for an additional 30 minutes to warm the meat back up and allow it to soak up the sauce.
- Divide meat among warm corn tortillas and top with desired toppings. Squeeze fresh lime juice over tacos. Enjoy!
- To freeze meat: add meat to a freezer zippered bag. Squeeze out any excess air and freeze flat. Store upright once frozen and freeze for up to 3 months.