This Is What Chipotle's Barbacoa Is Actually Made Of

From its humble beginnings as a small taqueria in 1993 to the large international fast-casual chain it is today, Chipotle Mexican Grill has gained a wide following from loyal customers across the globe. By now, we all have our regular go-to order whenever we stop by a Chipotle location. Among the meats you can pick as a protein choice for your burrito bowl or tacos, however, one stands out from the rest as the top favorite — Chipotle's barbacoa.

Barbacoa generally refers to any slow-roasted, barbecued meat, but the barbacoa at Chipotle is specifically beef, and it packs flavors that fans rave about. In a review of the fast-casual chain, Thrillist ranked its barbacoa as No. 1 among all the Chipotle meat options — and even professional chefs love this juicy, seasoned beef. Chef and blogger Tariq Nasir told Insider that at Chipotle, "[T]he most flavorful meat is the barbacoa, with its garlic and cumin fusion."

What makes Chipotle's barbacoa so special?

Chipotle takes pride in using what the fast-casual chain calls "Responsibly Raised" beef. The brand's website indicates that its meat suppliers raise animals on pastures with humane animal husbandry and no non-therapeutic antibiotics or added hormones. When Chipotle gets beef from a supplier, the cut used for barbacoa "mainly comes from the shoulder, because those cuts have enough fat to keep the meat moist during our long braising method," as seen in the chain's in-depth descriptions of its ingredients. This beef is cooked sous-vide to lock in moisture, marinated overnight in the brand's proprietary spicy chipotle pepper adobo, seasoned with spices such as oregano, cloves, and bay leaf, braised slowly at a low temperature until tender, and then shredded by hand.

The result is barbacoa that, in an average serving at Chipotle, contains: 165 calories, seven grams of fat (2.5 of which are saturated), 530 milligrams of sodium, two grams of carbs, one gram of fiber, and 24 grams of protein (via Eat This, Not That!).