Costco Beef Barbacoa (Rick Bayless) Tasty, But Too Sweet?


Frontera Slow Cooked Beef Barbacoa at Costco

Costco sells Frontera Beef Barbacoa for $7.69 a pound. The barbacoa is sold in approximately 2.25 pound packages and costs about $17.


The Slow Cooked Barbacoa can be found in Costco’s deli area of the warehouse near other items such as the Mini TacosChicken Skewers, and Pork Bao Buns.

If you are interested in Carne Asada Tacos, check out Costco’s Arrachera Skirt Steak

Have You Tried Costco's Barbacoa?

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What is Barbacoa?

The term barbacoa actually has a long history and originally was a style of cooking used in the Caribbean.


Nowadays, people consider barbacoa mostly as braised beef and often as a dish found in Mexican restaurants. 

While it’s a delicious and well known dish in Mexican cuisine, it has gained nationwide popularity due to its inclusion in Chipotle restaurant menus.

Costco Barbacoa

Frontera’s barbacoa is made using slow-cooked beef with onions, roasted tomatoes, garlic, and red chile sauce. The dish is mild in spice, but jam packed with flavor. 


Frontera only uses beef raised without antibiotics. Each package of barbacoa is expected to make 16 small tacos. 

Rick Bayless & Frontera

This barbacoa is sold by Frontera which is a restaurant brand that was created by famed award winning chef, author, and cooking show host, Rick Bayless.


Rick Bayless owns a handful of Mexican restaurants in Chicago. He has a plethora of awards including winning top Chef Masters, multiple James Beard Awards, and even a Michelin Star. 

He is definitely up there as one of the most decorated chefs in Costco.

Costco Barbacoa Taste Test

Super Easy to Make

I followed the directions for this Barbacoa from Costco and it took about 20 minutes in total to cook, but was super easy. 


The barbacoa comes with a nice red chili sauce that is added on during the cooking process and contains a ton of flavor. 

Tender Beef

The beef barbacoa itself is very tender. Frontera says the beef is slow cooked and it definitely does taste like it.


The beef is very easy to cut through, while still retaining most of its texture. It is mushy at some points, but for the most part the beef had a nice tender texture.

Flavorful and Sweet

I may have had the wrong expectations, but I was expecting a smokey and savory flavored meat, but instead the barbacoa was quite sweet. 

Without a doubt, the barbacoa had a lot of flavor. It was very easy to taste the onions, tomato, and garlic, but it was also overshadowed by the sweetness of the sauce.


The flavors were great and enjoyable, but there is a very strong sweet flavor in every bite. It is easily the dominant flavor of this dish. 

I prefer the savory and while I do think the meal is a quality meal, it isn’t exactly my favorite.

Spicy? The Subtract One Rule

One thing I love about Mexican food is the spice, but unfortunately the packaging advertises this barbacoa at only a mild spice level. 


I have a rule about spice levels and that’s to always subtract 1 level from what the packaging says to determine the real amount of heat. 

With mild, I can assume that the actual amount of heat is closer to none than it is to anything that would be deemed “just a little spicy”.


My rule doesn’t really let me down, and this barbacoa is not spicy at all. 

There may be some heat in there and the ingredients do say there is some chipotle chile sauce, but it is not noticeable with the immense sweetness of the sauce.

Serve as Tacos (Small)

The barbacoa is intended to be eaten as tacos and simply needs to be combined with warm tortillas, chopped onions, and cilantro. 


The packaging advertises that the barbacoa is intended for 16 small tacos. 

With 28 ounces of beef, each taco should get approximately 1.75 ounces of barbacoa. I like my tacos a little more full and we used the entire serving of beef in about 10 tacos. 


I didn’t care for the flavors, but I still enjoyed Frontera’s barbacoa. The barbacoa was overpowered by sweetness, and would be better if it were less sweet and quite a bit more spicy. 

The savory deliciousness would shine through and really balance out the barbacoa.


For the Record: My Wife, who has eaten a lot of Mexican food in her life, completely dislikes the barbacoa mainly because of the sweetness.

Frontera Barbacoa Cooking Instructions

Frontera only lists one set of cooking directions for their slow cooked beef barbacoa and that is to pan fry the dish.


How to Cook Costco Barbacoa

  1. Heat 12 Inch Non Stick Skillet over medium-High heat until hot, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add Beef to the skillet. Cook until liquid is concentrated, 7 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add sauce to skillet and cook until thickened, 3 to 7 minutes.
  4. Transfer to a serving bowl. Pull meat into large shreds. Serve beef in warmed tortillas topped with chopped cilantro and chopped onion. 

The dish really is easy to cook, and takes about 20 minutes in total. While it is cooking on the stove, you can prepare the cilantro and onions as well as the tortilla.

Barbacoa Nutritional Information

How Many Calories in Barbacoa?

One serving of Barbacoa is going to be 1/4 cup or 63 grams (2.2 ounces). Each serving is going to contain 60 calories with 2.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of carbs, and 7 grams of protein.


This to me seems like an undersized serving at only 2.2 ounces at 60 calories. Realistically, you would have to eat multiple servings per meal.

Nutritional Analysis

While the serving size may be intentionally small, the nutritional profile doesn’t seem like the worst in the world.

The 7 grams of protein is greater than the 5.5 grams of combined fat and carbs, which is always a plus to me, and I would even consider this to be a pretty solid nutritional label.

Costco Cost Comparison

Costco sells Frontera Barbacoa for $7.69 a pound. My package weighed 2.28 pounds and cost $17.53.


The slow cooked beef in my particular package weighed 1 pound and 12 ounces (28 ounces) and the sauce weighed 8 ounces. 


At $7.69 a pound and with the sauce being 22% of the total weight, I feel that Costco’s barbacoa is overpriced. 

There are much better fresh beefs available in this price range such as tri-tip and short rib (both $7.49 a pound)

Costco Vs The Competition

Target sells 12 ounces of Del Real Barbacoa for $9.99. This is a per pound price of $13.32 which is a 73% increase over Costco’s barbacoa price.

Target also sells an 8 ounce pack of Frontera Red Chile Beef Barbacoa Slow Cook Sauce for $2.59, which appears to be the same sauce used in this barbacoa sold by Costco.


I paid $17.53 for this beef barbacoa and got 28 ounces of meat and 8 ounces of sauce. If the 8 ounces of sauce costs $2.59, that means I paid $14.94 for 28 ounces of beef or $8.33 a pound.

This is some pricey barbacoa!

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