Recipe: Southwestern Brisket Tacos

In the eleven years I’ve had this blog, I’ve posted hundreds of recipes and this is only the second one that included beef. There are many reasons for this, the number one being that I don’t cook with/eat much meat myself and simply don’t have that many meat related recipes in my repertoire. In general I follow a diet heavy in plants for both nutritional reasons and taste preferences. While I strongly believe that plants are both better for the environment and health (for most people), I equally firmly believe that all foods can have a place in the diet should you so choose. A few months ago I started cooking for a client who follows a meat heavy diet, forcing me to become more comfortable with cooking meat. This recipe has become a favorite in my household and one that we have made several times. It’s very hands off, has tons of flavor and is super tender, which is great for my little ones, who gobble this up. If you choose to include some meat in your diet, you gotta try this recipe! You will love it!

Southwestern Brisket Tacos



  • 3 pounds beef brisket
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, with their juices
  • 1 to 2 chipotle chiles en adobo, from a can [to taste]
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • Tortillas
  • Whatever taco accompaniments you like. We like cotija cheese, cilantro and pickled red onions


Prepare the brisket: If you’re planning to use your oven, heat it to 350°F. Season the brisket generously with salt and pepper. Heat a large, heavy skillet [or, if it fits, the pot of your Instant Pot or other pressure cooker on the sauté setting] over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat just until beginning to smoke. Add the meat and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 10 minutes total, although I find this can take a little longer in an Instant Pot. Don’t skimp on the browning.

Transfer the meat to a plate (if you used the Instant Pot), or to whatever vessel you will cook your final dish in — Instant Pot (if you’re browning everything in a skillet), slow-cooker, or Dutch oven or baking dish.

Add garlic, onion, chili powder, coriander, cumin, and 1 teaspoon salt to drippings in the skillet and stir until fragrant, about one minute. Add vinegar and boil until it’s almost gone (and seriously, get your head out of the way of the steam; inhaling vinegar is no fun!), scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in 1 cup water (for the Instant Pot method) or 1 1/2 cups water (for slow-cooker or oven). Crush the tomatoes through your fingers into the slow cooker; add the tomato juices, chipotles, bay leaves, and molasses. Pour this mixture over the brisket in your final cooking vessel — or, if you used the IP to build the sauce and rested the brisket on a plate, add the brisket back to the sauce in the IP instead.

In the oven: Place the lid on your Dutch oven or cover a the baking dish you’re using tightly with foil. Bake for 3 to 4 hours — i.e. check at 3 hours but put it back if more time is needed — or until the brisket is very tender and can easily be pulled with the tines of a fork.

In a slow-cooker: Cover the cooker, set it to Low, and cook the brisket until it pulls apart easily with a fork, about 8 to 10 hours — i.e. check it at 8 hours, but you might find that a thicker piece needs up to 10 hours.

In an Instant Pot: Press the meat/stew button, and set the brisket to cook at high pressure for 70 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then release the pressure manually. Check the brisket; it should be tender and easily pull back with the tines of a fork. If it is not cooked to your liking, return to the pot for another 5 to 10 minutes at the same setting — meat/stew at high pressure.

All methods: I like to briefly remove the brisket, and transfer it to a plate or bowl and use two forks to pull it apart. Discard bay leaves and use an immersion blender to puree the sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. Return the brisket to the sauce and serve as is.

Do ahead: Brisket is good on the first day and fantastic on the second and third. Make sure it is covered with the sauce so it doesn’t dry out. Rewarm in a covered dish in an 350°F degree oven, about 15 to 20 minutes.

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