Pulled Smoked Goat Barbacoa

This Smoked Goat Barbacoa recipe is tender, shredded smoked goat or lamb leg simmered with dried chilis and spices. It’s a great addition to your summer and fall repertoire the whole family will love.

Smoked goat or lamb barbacoa tacos recipe
Smoked goat or lamb barbacoa is a great thing to make with a whole leg.

If you’ve ever had barbacoa beef in a burrito or taco, that is exactly what you’ll get here: a nice big pot of shredded, tender, spicy meat perfect for feeding a crowd or a hungry family, just made with lamb or goat instead of beef. As a quick side note, slow cooked meat like this was probably first made in Mexico using lamb or goat before beef was introduced from the Old World, so calling it the original barbacoa probably isn’t out of place.

Smoked goat or lamb barbacoa recipe
Cooking the onions, garlic, and chilis in a skillet for the sauce. The dried chilis should be toasted crisp, and the onions are best if they have a little char on them.

The recipe is easy: smoke a whole leg of lamb or goat over a wood fire or in a smoker (or just skip the smoking if you don’t have a way to do so and put it in a crock pot) along with a simple sauce made from lamb or goat stock, dried chilis, onions, and garlic cooked in a dry skillet until charred.

Smoked goat or lamb barbacoa recipe
Putting the finished, smoked leg and sauce into a slow-cooker.

After the meat is smoked and cooked tender enough to pull apart with forks comes the secret: shred the meat and season it with the fat skimmed from the top of the pot, as well as the cooking juices. From there, all you have to do is gather your favorite garnishes and make tacos, burritos, or whatever you like. Use the video for a guide and make the dish your own with what you have available.

Smoked goat or lamb barbacoa recipe
Finish the barbacoa by pulling and seasoning the goat meat.
Chef Alan Bergo
Chef Alan Bergo, The Forager Chef



This recipe is by James Beard Award-winning Chef Alan Bergo, a chef from Minnesota and author of The Forager Chef’s Book of Flora. Learn more about Chef Alan at foragerchef.com. 

Smoked goat or lamb barbacoa tacos recipe
Smoked goat or lamb barbacoa is a great use for a whole leg.

More Goat Recipes

Jamaican Goat Curry

Spring Goat Chops

How to Cook Goat or Lamb Neck

Smoked goat or lamb barbacoa tacos recipe
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5 from 1 vote

Pulled Smoked Goat Barbacoa

Tender, spicy shredded goat or lamb barbacoa simmered with dried chilis-perfect for making tacos and burritos. Serves 8
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time4 hours
Total Time4 hours 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Barbacoa, Goat, Lamb, Leg of lamb
Servings: 8 People
Calories: 242kcal
Cost: 20


  • 1 Smoker
  • 1 Slow Cooker


  • 1 whole goat or lamb leg about 3-4 pounds
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Chili sauce
  • 5 dried guajillo chilies
  • 1 dried chipotle chili optional
  • 1 medium yellow onion 6 oz
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 qt warm lamb, chicken or goat stock
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano


Season the leg

  • Preferably the night before, season the goat leg all over with the salt and pepper and refrigerate overnight. If you don’t have time to let it sit overnight, a few hours will do.

Smoking the Goat

  • Prepare a wood fire (alternately, you can smoke the lamb at 250 F for an hour or two, or just skip it. Cook the lamb over the wood, making sure the heat doesn’t get too hot, and allow it to smoke for at least 1 hour.

Cooking the vegetables

  • Meanwhile, in a dry skillet, or over the grill grates, toast the chilies until crisp. Cut the onion into ¼’s and cook until slightly charred on one side. Cook the garlic cloves whole, in their skin, until lightly colored. Allow the onion and garlic to cool.

Assembling the sauce and cooking

  • Break open the chilies, remove the seeds and discard. Peel the onion and garlic.
  • Put the lamb stock in the bowl of a blender with the onions, garlic, oregano, and chilis, then puree until smooth-ish.
  • Put the leg of goat in a slow cooker, along with the chili sauce and the bay leaves, cover, and cook on low heat for 6 hours or until very tender.

Season the lamb

  • Remove the goat from the slow cooker to a cutting board, mopping up any juice with towels to keep your work surface clean and dry. Discard the bay leaves. Using two forks, shred the meat coarsely, then transfer to a bowl.
  • With a spoon, skim as much fat from the goat stock as you can, and add it all to the meat, along with about 1-1.5 cups of the juice. Mix the meat, season with salt until it tastes good to you, and serve, or allow to cool, then refrigerate or freeze for future meals.


  • Serve the warm goat barbacoa with fresh warmed tortillas heated up directly on a grill or a burner, along with all of your favorite taco accompaniments.


A whole leg can be used here, but shoulders or just large pieces of stew meat or neck are good too. 


Serving: 6oz | Calories: 242kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 37g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 114mg | Sodium: 985mg | Potassium: 553mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 8IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 4mg