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Barbacoa vs Carnitas at Chipotle [Who Claims the 2024 Crown]

By: Shivani Choudhary
Updated On: June 7, 2024

There’s something about walking into a Chipotle that ignites an instant craving for delicious, customizable Mexican cuisine. From the alluring aroma of tender meats to the rainbow of colorful, fresh ingredients, it’s hard not to feel your mouth water in anticipation. But with such a diverse selection, choosing the perfect meal can become a daunting task, especially when caught in the savory showdown: Barbacoa vs Carnitas Chipotle.

These two distinct meat options have garnered loyal followings, each having its unique flavors and mouthfeel. So, let’s put this culinary conundrum to rest once and for all! In this post, we’ll do a deep dive into the flavorful world of Chipotle’s barbacoa and carnitas, comparing their taste, texture, versatility, and nutritional contents. Join me on this gustatory journey and uncover which of these mouthwatering choices satisfies your Chipotle cravings!

Also Read: Gyoza vs. Dumplings

Article Includes

Barbacoa vs. Carnitas At Chipotle: Nutrition Facts

Barbacoa vs Carnitas at Chipotle

When choosing between barbacoa and carnitas at Chipotle, it’s essential to consider their nutritional content and how each option aligns with our specific dietary goals or restrictions.

Barbacoa Nutrition

Barbacoa is known for its fall-apart tenderness, rich flavors, and mouthwatering taste. When we take a closer look at the nutrition facts for Chipotle’s barbacoa, we find the following per 4-ounce serving:

  • Calories: 170
  • Total Fat: 7 grams
  • Protein: 24 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 2 grams
  • Cholesterol: 60 milligrams
  • Sodium: 560 milligrams

Carnitas Nutrition

Carnitas, on the other hand, delivers a perfect balance of juicy and crispy textures with its succulent, slow-cooked pulled pork. For a 4-ounce serving of Chipotle’s carnitas, we have the following nutritional contents:

  • Calories: 210
  • Total Fat: 12 grams
  • Protein: 23 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Cholesterol: 80 milligrams
  • Sodium: 510 milligrams

When comparing these two proteins nutritionally, we see that barbacoa tends to be leaner, with fewer calories, less total fat, and slightly more protein. However, carnitas is the better choice for those watching their carb intake, offering zero grams of carbohydrates per serving.

Weight goals, dietary preferences, or personal taste – no matter which factors influence your decision, it’s essential to balance them out with taste and experience. After all, what’s a Chipotle visit without indulging in your favorite flavors?

Pro tip: When customizing your meal at Chipotle, keep in mind that the addition of various toppings, salsas, and sides will impact the overall nutritional content of your dish. Be sure to factor in these extras to ensure your meal aligns with your dietary objectives.

The choice between barbacoa vs carnitas ultimately boils down to personal preferences. While nutritional information is vital for those sticking to strict diets or counting calories, it’s also essential to savor our meals and enjoy the mouthwatering flavors of Chipotle.

Personal Experience: My Recent Chipotle Visit

Personal Experience: My Recent Chipotle Visit

The Experience

During a recent trip to my local Chipotle, I decided to put this Barbacoa vs Carnitas debate to the test. As someone who has been tantalized by both types of meat, I knew it was time for a face-off between these two culinary wünderkinds. I opted for a bowl to savor the full experience, minus the distraction of a tortilla.

Barbacoa: The First Bite

Upon my first bite of the barbacoa, I was immediately transported to a world of intense smoky flavors, combined with a perfect balance of spiciness from the adobo sauce and chipotle chilis. The beef was incredibly tender, falling apart under the pressure of my fork. To fully appreciate the flavors, I also included a mix of cilantro-lime rice, black beans, and corn salsa, creating a symphony of taste that left me absolutely delighted.

Carnitas: An Explosion of Flavor

My next target was the carnitas. The aroma emanating from the slow-cooked, seasoned pulled pork was nothing short of divine. As I dug in, I was welcomed by an explosion of flavors that meshed wonderfully – juicy and tender with a touch of crispiness. The garlic, thyme, and bay leaf seasoning elevated the pork’s natural taste, making it the perfect companion for an array of toppings. My selection included pinto beans, lettuce, and the refreshingly tangy tomatillo green-chili salsa, all of which contributed to a perfect mouthful.

The Results

Taking the time to taste and compare both barbacoa and carnitas truly highlighted the intricacies of each meat option. The smoky spiciness of the barbacoa contrasted with the classic, garlic-infused flavors in the carnitas, making it difficult to choose an absolute favorite. Ultimately though, I found the complexity of the barbacoa to be just slightly more appealing to my palate, though the carnitas left me far from unsatisfied.

I highly recommend indulging in both options if given the chance, as it’s truly up to personal preference which one emerges as the champion of Chipotle meats.

Taste the Adventure: Barbacoa

When it comes to barbacoa, Chipotle has truly mastered the art of creating tender, flavorful shredded beef. This sensational option comes from a traditional Mexican cooking method where the beef is slow-cooked for hours, allowing it to become perfectly succulent and fall-apart tender.

Delve into the Flavors

The unique flavor profile of Chipotle’s barbacoa is primarily due to the harmonious blend of spices in the dish. A tempting combination of adobo sauce, chipotle chilis, cumin, oregano, and cloves creates a deep, smoky, and slightly spicy taste that transports your taste buds right to the heart of Mexico.

Versatility with Chipotle Options

Barbacoa undoubtedly shines as a versatile option for your Chipotle meal fiesta. Whether you prefer the classic burritos, the hearty bowls, or the lighter salad and tacos, barbacoa’s earthy flavors and tender texture meld perfectly with any choice you make. Its robust taste can even stand up against stronger flavors like the hot salsa and guacamole, so go ahead and customize your meal to your heart’s content!

If you’re looking for a meat option that packs a punch of flavor and can adapt to various meal choices, Chipotle’s barbacoa provides a delectable, unforgettable experience.

Carnitas: A Classic Delight

There’s something truly comforting about biting into a Chipotle meal packed with the classic delight of carnitas. Made from seasoned, slow-cooked pulled pork, this popular meat option hits all the right notes when it comes to flavor and texture.

The Secret Behind The Taste

So, what is it that makes carnitas so special? The secret lies in slow-cooking the pork, which results in tender, moist, and flavorful meat. The seasoning blend primarily includes garlic, thyme, and bay leaf, giving carnitas Chipotle a memorable and appetizing taste.

Balance of Juicy and Crispy

One of the highlights of carnitas is its unique blend of textures. The slow-cooking process allows the pork to become tender and juicy on the inside, yet it develops a delicate, crispy exterior when pan-fried just before serving. Not too dry or greasy, this harmonious balance makes carnitas a versatile and satisfying component in any Chipotle meal.

Perfectly Paired: Complementing Flavors

Choosing carnitas as your protein option allows you to play around with various complimentary toppings and flavors available at Chipotle. Whether you’re adding fresh pico de gallo for a burst of acidity or pairing it with smooth and creamy guacamole for a heavenly experience, carnitas serves as a great base for your own culinary creation.

Carnitas Chipotle holds a special place in the hearts of many food enthusiasts for its unique properties. The blend of texture, taste, and versatility makes it an unforgettable classic delight that can be enjoyed in various Chipotle dishes. Perhaps, as you explore this wonderful option, you’ll discover the magic behind its longstanding popularity.

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Customization: Making the Most Out of Your Chipotle Order

When it comes to elevating your Chipotle dining experience, customization is key. Both barbacoa and carnitas bring their unique taste profiles, which means the possibilities for creating the ultimate meal are endless. Whether you’re a fan of burritos, bowls, or tacos, here are some tips to make the most of your Chipotle order.

Pairing Barbacoa and Carnitas with the Right Toppings

For Barbacoa:

  • Salsas: Due to its smoky flavor, barbacoa shines with Chipotle’s tomato-green chili salsa (mild) and the smoky red chili salsa (hot).
  • Cheese: Queso Blanco or Monterey jack complements the spices in barbacoa, adding a creamy element that balances the dish.
  • Extras: Sour cream, guacamole, and lettuce provide refreshing, cool contrasts to the warm spiciness of the barbacoa.

For Carnitas:

  • Salsas: The mild flavor of carnitas pairs well with almost any salsa, but the roasted chili and corn salsa (medium) and the tomatillo-green chili salsa (medium) are particularly great choices.
  • Cheese: Monterey jack or cotija works well with the salty and savory notes of the carnitas.
  • Extras: Cilantro-lime rice, black or pinto beans, and fajita veggies add extra layers of flavor and texture to the dish.

Complementing Your Order with Signature Sides

Don’t forget to enhance your meal with Chipotle’s variety of sides! For a well-rounded experience, consider the following options:

  1. Chips and Guacamole: This classic duo is a must-try for both barbacoa and carnitas enthusiasts.
  2. Chips and Queso: Enhance your meat of choice with the rich, creamy queso sauce. It’s an excellent way to add another layer of flavor to your meal.
  3. Soft or Crispy Tacos: If you’re ordering a bowl, why not get a side of mini soft or crispy tacos? Fill them with your choice of barbacoa or carnitas and make each bite a perfect harmony of textures and tastes.

With so many ways to customize and enhance your dining experience, the possibilities are only limited by your preferences and creativity! It’s time to embrace the Barbacoa vs Carnitas Chipotle challenge and discover your perfect flavor combo.

The History Behind Barbacoa and Carnitas: Cultural Connections

The History Behind Barbacoa and Carnitas: Cultural Connections

The Story of Barbacoa

Barbacoa is a traditional Mexican dish with ancient roots tracing back to the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean. The word barbacoa is believed to come from the Taino term barabicu, which means “sacred fire pit.” In its most authentic form, barbacoa is cooked in a specially dug pit that is filled with hot coals and covered in maguey leaves. The slow smoldering of the leaves imparts a unique smoky flavor to the meat. Over time, the cooking process has evolved, and today, many chefs use pressure cookers or ovens for a more convenient cooking method. The popularity of barbacoa spread throughout Mexico and eventually made its way into the hearts of food lovers in the United States and beyond, thanks to restaurants like Chipotle.

The Carnitas Connection

Carnitas, which literally means “little meats” in Spanish, is a beloved dish that hails from the Mexican state of Michoacán. It is said to have been created by the Purépecha tribe, who were known for their expertise in cooking with pork. This slow-cooked dish is typically made by simmering pork in lard for several hours, resulting in tender, juicy meat that can be easily shredded and crisped up before serving. Just like barbacoa, the popularity of carnitas expanded beyond the borders of Mexico and gained a following among food enthusiasts around the world.

Cultural Ties and the Chipotle Effect

Both barbacoa and carnitas hold a special place in the realm of Mexican cuisine, as these dishes have been enjoyed for generations and are deeply rooted in tradition. Thanks to the success and reach of chains like Chipotle, these dishes continue to grow in popularity globally. The inclusion of these dishes in Chipotle’s menu not only attracts foodies but also keeps a sense of cultural connection alive by introducing diners to traditional Mexican flavors that have been cherished for centuries.

The Art of Cooking: Techniques Used for Barbacoa and Carnitas

When it comes to cooking barbacoa and carnitas, both techniques have deep roots in traditional Mexican cuisine and are essential to the unique taste and texture of the dishes. The slow-cooking method applied to both dishes allows for a tender and juicy result with mouth-watering flavors.

Barbacoa: Low and Slow – Steaming and Braising

Originating from the Caribbean, the term “barbacoa” refers to a method of cooking meat on a raised platform over an open fire. However, in Mexican cuisine, barbacoa involves a combination of steaming and braising. This technique allows the meat to tenderize and absorb the wonderful combination of flavors from the spices and herbs used in its preparation.

To achieve the best results, the meat (often beef) is marinated in an adobo sauce, which consists of ingredients such as chipotle chilis, cumin, oregano, and cloves. The marinated meat is then wrapped in banana or avocado leaves, which not only helps retain moisture but also imparts a subtle, earthy flavor to the dish. The wrapped meat is finally placed into a large pot or an oven to cook for several hours at low heat, allowing the tender meat to practically fall apart when it is done.

Carnitas: From Pots to Pans – Simmering and Pan-frying

Carnitas, on the other hand, mainly involves simmering the seasoned pork in a large, heavy pot with its fat. Usually, a blend of seasonings like garlic, thyme, and bay leaves impart their distinctive flavors to the meat during the simmering process. This method, referred to as confit, results in tender and moist meat that cooks slowly without drying out.

Once the meat has become tender, it is shredded and then pan-fried to achieve that perfect balance of crispy outer texture with tender, juicy insides. The result is meat that is oozing with flavor, creating a dish that can easily be enjoyed on its own or as part of your favorite Chipotle bowl.

In both dishes, the slow-cooking techniques allow the meat to soak up the flavors of the seasonings and spices used in the cooking process. Whether it’s the smoky and spicy barbacoa or the crispy and savory carnitas, the artful cooking methods applied to each dish ensure that you’ll be left relishing every single bite.

A Healthier Choice: Comparing the Macros and Micros

A Healthier Choice: Comparing the Macros and Micros

Although we eat to satisfy our taste buds, it’s important to consider the macro and micronutrients in our meals. Making informed decisions about what we eat and how it affects our bodies is crucial for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Let’s dive into the macros and micros of both barbacoa and carnitas and see how they stack up when it comes to nutrition.

Macronutrients: Protein, Fat, and Calories

When comparing the macronutrient content, we need to look at three key components: protein, fat, and calories. Here’s a basic rundown of the macros in 4oz servings of both barbacoa and carnitas:


As we can see, barbacoa is slightly lower in calories and fat, while offering a bit more protein than carnitas. This difference can be important if you follow a specific meal plan or have dietary restrictions.

Micronutrients: Vitamins and Minerals

Next, we look at the micronutrients – the vitamins and minerals found in both dishes. While Mexican cuisine is packed with spices that add flavor, these components also contribute essential nutrients.


  • Rich in iron and zinc, thanks to the beef used in the dish
  • The adobo sauce and chipotle chilies contain vitamins A and C, as well as potassium


  • The pulled pork provides selenium and phosphorus, contributing to overall health
  • Garlic and thyme found in carnitas provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits

While both dishes offer valuable nutrients, the choice between them ultimately depends on your specific nutritional needs or preferences.

When comparing barbacoa and carnitas for a healthier choice, it’s important to consider both macro and micronutrients. Depending on your dietary goals, barbacoa might be a better option if you’re looking for lower calories and fat content while still providing a good source of protein. On the other hand, carnitas can offer unique antioxidant benefits with just a slightly higher fat content. The final decision depends on your individual preferences, but now you have the knowledge to make an even more informed choice during your next Chipotle visit.

My Friends’ Opinions: Barbacoa vs Carnitas from Other Perspectives

When it comes to the great barbacoa and carnitas debate, everyone has their own opinion. As a food lover who enjoys trying different dishes, I wanted to get a diverse range of perspectives. So, I asked some of my friends to share their thoughts on these two Chipotle favorites.

Molly: The Barbacoa Fanatic

Molly swears by her order of a barbacoa bowl, loaded with every topping possible. For her, the rich, smoky flavor of the slow-cooked beef is a match made in heaven with her favorite fixings like spicy salsa, creamy queso, and crunchy veggies. Molly appreciates the bold flavors in the barbacoa, which she feels adds a taste of authenticity to her bowl.

Ben: Carnitas Connoisseur

Ben, on the other hand, is a die-hard carnitas lover. He enjoys the classic taste of the seasoned pork, paired with a more subtle topping combination – cilantro-lime rice, black beans, and a generous dollop of guacamole. Ben claims that the crispy and juicy texture of the carnitas reminds him of a backyard barbecue, and the simplicity of the dish highlights the delicious taste of the meat.

Emily: Plant-Based Foodie (Sofritas)

Even though Emily follows a plant-based diet, she has tried both the barbacoa and carnitas options in the past. While she prefers and endorses the unique taste of sofritas now, her inclination back then was toward the barbacoa. She found the carnitas to be slightly heavy and greasy compared to the barbacoa’s spicy, tender flavor profile.

David: The Mix-and-Matcher

Lastly, David likes to get the best of both worlds by ordering a combination of barbacoa and carnitas in his burrito. He believes that the blend of flavors and textures doesn’t force him to choose between the two options. For him, this mix provides a delectable fusion of tastes that hits the spot each and every time he visits Chipotle.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which is spicier: barbacoa or carnitas?

Barbacoa is generally considered spicier, as it includes adobo sauce and chipotle chilis in its preparation. Carnitas, on the other hand, has a milder flavor profile with garlic, thyme, and bay leaf.

Are both barbacoa and carnitas gluten-free?

Yes, Chipotle’s barbacoa and carnitas are gluten-free. However, it is important to note that cross-contamination can still occur in the kitchen, so it is always best to inform the staff about your dietary restrictions.

Can I request a mix of barbacoa and carnitas in my Chipotle bowl or burrito?

Yes, you can request a mix of both barbacoa and carnitas in your meal. You may be charged as per the pricing of the more expensive meat option or for an additional portion, depending on the restaurant’s policy.

Are there any vegetarian alternatives that can provide a similar experience to Barbacoa or Carnitas at Chipotle?

Chipotle offers sofritas, a flavorful tofu option that is similarly seasoned and cooked as barbacoa or carnitas. Sofritas provide a plant-based alternative with a similar texture and taste experience for vegetarians and vegans.

Between barbacoa and carnitas, which is considered to be a healthier option?

Both options have their own nutritional benefits. Barbacoa is typically lower in fat and higher in protein, while carnitas offer a balance of fat and protein content. It’s essential to consider your personal dietary preferences and health goals when choosing between the two.


The ultimate showdown between Barbacoa and Carnitas Chipotle proves to be a flavorful and scrumptious affair. Both options offer unique tastes and textures that cater to different palates. While the smoky, tender barbacoa provides a rich and intense flavor profile, the classic carnitas deliver a juicy, subtly seasoned experience with hints of crispiness.

Ultimately, the decision between barbacoa or carnitas comes down to personal preference. So why not take your taste buds on a culinary adventure and experience both delicacies for yourself? Customize your Chipotle meal to your heart’s content with various toppings, salsas, and sides to complement your choice of meat. You might even find yourself falling in love with each for different reasons, making them both winning contenders in your book. So head on over to your nearest Chipotle, indulge in both barbacoa and carnitas and join the conversation on which one satisfies your cravings best!

Food Lover and Storyteller ????️✨ With a fork in one hand and a pen in the other, Shivani brings her culinary adventures to life through evocative words and tantalizing tastes. Her love for food knows no bounds, and she's on a mission to share the magic of flavors with fellow enthusiasts.
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