Grilled Barbacoa Lamb Chops

Grilled barbacoa lamb chops are simple to prepare with bold flavors.

Grab a hold of these Grilled Barbacoa Lamb Chops with boozy salsa borracha. Complex flavors, but very simple to throw together on the grill. Plus, you get a bowl of salsa. Who doesn’t love that?

Flavorful grilled barbacoa lamb chops should be on your next menu.

There’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of barbacoa-inspired dishes. Combinations of chiles, herbs, and aromatics with wood-fired meat hit the spot every time.

Traditional barbacoa involves meat, typically either lamb or beef depending on the region, slowly braised for an extended period of time. Large, tougher cuts are generally cooked slowly in pits dug into the ground. Many home cooks in Mexico have converted the recipe to slow cooking indoors, and the way it’s served has changed over time too.

I’m not in a position to dig holes in my backyard either, so I’m firing up the grill for some barbacoa lamb chops, inspired by the real deal.

Why This Recipe Works

Bold flavors, not gamey. The fresh marinade removes most of the gamey lamb flavors you’d expect, while also tenderizing the meat. You’ll taste each bold ingredient with every bite.

You get salsa. In testing I realized the ingredients were just a few steps away from a version of salsa borracha, so the marinade was doubled to account for that. Having a fresh salsa really brightens up the grilled lamb chops.

Simple process. Charring the tomatoes and onion might be the most difficult part, which gives you both the marinade and the salsa. Overall this is a very minimal-effort dish.

Grilled barbacoa lamb chops are simple to prepare with bold flavors.

Important Tips

  • You may prepare the marinade ahead of time, which will stay fresh for about 2-3 days. If you’d like to go ahead and make the salsa, save half of the marinade and follow the recipe to convert it into the salsa borracha.
  • Don’t forget to salt the lamb before you add it to the marinade. The sauce does have some salt, but I’ve found that lightly salting the lamb a few minutes before you add the marinade makes a big difference with the surface flavors.
  • The salsa borracha is slightly boozy, so be mindful if you’re serving it to kids. There’s not much tequila present, but it definitely won’t be cooked out all of the way during the process. You’d have to slowly cook the salsa for about 2 hours or so to burn off all of the alcohol.
  • Char some limes! They are incredibly tasty as a finishing touch for the barbacoa lamb chops, just adding that acid at the end.
Grill or roast your tomatoes and veggies for the salsa.

Step 1: Prepare the Salsa

There are two parts to making the salsa, both are pretty simple though.

First, you’ll want to hydrate the chiles, which should be dried guajillo and ancho chiles. Pour very warm water over the chiles once the stems and seeds are removed, and allow them to hydrate for about 10 minutes.

Next is to char the tomatoes, garlic, and onion. You can do this on the grill, which is easy if you’ve got a gas grill (no need to light charcoal). Alternatively, turn the broiler on in your oven and roast them on a baking sheet for about 5-7 minutes, until lightly charred.

Remove the skin from the tomatoes and the charred garlic husks. Blend everything together (minus the tequila) for the marinade and season to taste.

Add the hydrated chiles to the rest of the ingredients for the marinade.
Add the hydrated chiles to the rest of the ingredients for the marinade.
Blend everything until almost smooth, it's good to have a little texture.
Blend everything until almost smooth, it’s good to have a little texture.

Step 2: Marinade the Lamb

Trim any excess silverskin or fat on the outside of the rack to clean it up. Break down the rack of lamb into individual chops. Use a sharp chef’s knife to slice between the bones (see the image below).

There might be small bones protruding from the meat that can be easily removed. Feel free to pluck those out if you’d like.

Season the individual chops lightly with kosher salt on both sides. Doing so will ensure they are properly seasoned. Even though the marinade does have salt, through testing, this step makes a significant difference.

Salt the individual lamb chops before adding the marinade.

Place the lamb chops in a resealable plastic bag and pour in just enough marinade to completely coat the lamb chops. You should have at least half left over. Don’t pour everything in, or drop the lamb into the marinade. We want to save some for the salsa!

Allow the lamb chops to marinade for at least 4 hours, up to overnight. Don’t go past 12 hours, otherwise, the acid may break down the lamb too much and change the texture.

Add just enough marinade to the lamb chops to coat them.

Step 3: Prepare the Salsa Borracha

Take the extra marinade and pour it into a medium saucepan.

Add 1 tablespoon of tequila, and turn the burner on medium-low. The salsa will heat up and start to sputter, so be mindful of the mess. Stir occasionally and cook the salsa down for about 20 minutes, and adjust with salt to taste.

A little note on the type of tequila here. Use an aged tequila if possible, which adds a little more complexity to the salsa instead of a tequila blanco. I recommend using reposado or anejo which are darker in color and tend to have more flavor notes.

Step 4: Grill and Serve

Enough prep, it’s time to fire up the grill and get it done.

Remove the lamb from the marinade and brush off some of the excess. Preheat the grill (gas or charcoal) for direct searing at medium-high heat.

Grill the lamb chops for about 2-3 minutes per side directly over the flames. Keep flipping to develop char, and cook until the desired temperature. For a medium-rare, remove the lamb chops around 128-130°F and allow them to rest.

Grill up the lime slices as well for a couple of minutes. Trust me, it’s the ultimate finishing move for this dish.

Serve the barbacoa lamb chops with salsa borracha and grilled limes.

Anything related to Mexican food will work well here. I’ve found that because the barbacoa lamb chops are pretty lean, adding some dishes that have fat will make this a well-rounded meal.

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Grilled barbacoa lamb chops are simple to prepare with bold flavors.

Grilled Barbacoa Lamb Chops

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Grab a hold of these Grilled Barbacoa Lamb Chops with boozy salsa borracha. Complex flavors, but very simple to throw together on the grill. Plus, you get a bowl of salsa. Who doesn’t love that?

  • Total Time: About 5 hours
  • Yield: Serves about 4-5 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 5 dried guajillo chiles seeds removed
  • 2 dried ancho chile, seeds removed
  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, in husk
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fine Kosher salt
  • 1 rack of lamb, frenched (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon tequila reposado
  • 2 limes, sliced in half for grilling

Instructions

  1. Prepare the salsa marinade. Rinse the dried chiles and remove the stems and seeds. Pour very warm water over them in a non-reactive bowl and allow them to hydrate for about 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat the grill to high heat. Roast the tomatoes, onion, and garlic over the heat until everything is charred and soft, for about 6 minutes. The onion might take longer than the rest. Remove the charred husks from the garlic, the charred skin from the onion, and the skin from the tomatoes. Add them into a blender with the oregano, thyme, cumin, apple cider vinegar, and salt. Blend until mostly smooth and set aside to cool.
  3. Slice the lamb into individual chops. Season each of them lightly with some kosher salt. Place them into a resealable plastic bag and pour in just enough of the cool marinade to coat them. There will be at least half of it left over, we’ll use this to make the salsa borracha.
  4. Allow the lamb to marinade in the fridge for at least 4 hours, up to overnight.
  5. Prepare the salsa while the lamb is marinating. Add the rest of the fresh marinade to a small sauce pan with the tequila. Cook the salsa at a medium low heat, allowing the salsa to thicken for about 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust the flavor with salt if needed.
  6. Preheat the grill to medium high heat. Remove the lamb from the marinade and shake loose any excess sauce.
  7. Clean the grill grates well. Sear the lamb directly over the heat and allow it to cook for about 2 minutes before flipping. Continue to cook in this method while flipping until the lamb has developed a nice crust. For medium rare, remove lamb when they are about 130°F. Grill the lime slices at the end for a couple of minutes.
  8. Serve with the salsa borracha and a squeeze of lime. Cheers!

Notes

  • Don’t forget to salt the lamb before you add it to the marinade. The sauce does have some salt, but I’ve found that lightly salting the lamb a few minutes before you add the marinade makes a big difference with the surface flavors.
  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Marinade Time: 4 hours
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Beef & Lamb
  • Method: Grilling
  • Cuisine: Main Dish
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