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This barbacoa recipe is simple to make in your slow cooker, and makes the most tender, flavorful, delicious barbacoa beef. Perfect for tacos, burritos, salads, you name it!

Barbacoa Beef -- tender, flavorful, and made extra easy in the slow cooker | #crockpot #slowcooker

What was the “cool” restaurant you begged your parents to take you to when you were a kid?

Growing up in Wichita in the 80s and 90s, I have to admit that my parents were way ahead of the whole “supporting local restaurants” trend, and we were regulars at our neighborhood Mexican and Chinese restaurants.  But when we were ordering take-out on a busy evening, or going out to dinner with a bunch of family friends, or when we read enough books and earned enough stars on our purple holographic buttons….Pizza Hut was where it was at.  Or more accurately, where we were at.   Yes, many a landmark occasion in my childhood was marked with a Canadian bacon personal pan pizza and an ice cold Pepsi and friends nearby to celebrate.  And then a few days later my sister and I would beg our parents to take us back.  Actually, just a few weeks ago, my aunt ordered Pizza Hut for a family reunion and my inner 10-yr-old came out and I inhaled three pieces of thin pizza like they were the best. food. ever.  Because in my childhood, they pretty much were.

But it seems like times have changed.  When I was teaching kids music lessons for years, I couldn’t help but notice that the to-go cup that most frequently accompanied students into the studio was from none other than…Chipotle.  My students were crazy about Chipotle.  It seemed to be the place where their families went for a quick meal on the go, or where they would celebrate together with the team after the soccer game, and where (at age 9!) they could rattle off their preference for a chicken-burrito-bowl-with-black-beans-rice-corn-salsa-extra-cheese-no-lettuce by memory.  And just like my sister and I years ago, they would beg their parents to take them there as often as possible.

Now granted, Chipotle will never have anything as cool as Book-It.  (Sidenote: please tell me that you all read about this very important 30th birthday and the return of Book-It for adults!)  But I have to agree that I find myself popping in nowadays for a barbacoa salad bowl much (much) more than I order a pepperoni pizza.  And I’m thrilled that — of all the fast food restaurants out there — Chipotle all the rage, and has become such a popular, affordable, fresh, generally healthy, and tasty place for a new generation of kids to eat.  And, you know, all of those “kids at heart” too.

But as much as I love and always order the barbacoa salad there, I have to confess that it still doesn’t compare to the barbacoa recipe (a.k.a. shredded beef) I make homemade.  It’s so flavorful, super tender, and perfect on just about anything.  Also, it can be made simple in the slow cooker, and you can add as much of it to your tacos or burritos or salads or rice bowls as you’d like.  Plus, the cost of making it homemade for a large family (or for leftovers) will probably only be a fraction of what you would pay eating out.

Homemade barbacoa, anyone?

Barbacoa Beef -- tender, flavorful, and made extra easy in the slow cooker | #crockpot #slowcooker

Traditionally, barbacoa is cooked over an open fire, or in a pit dug in the ground that has been covered with maguey leaves.  But I live in a loft building downtown where open fires and pits are, you might say, “frowned upon”.  So I go for the next best thing — my slow cooker.

To keep things as easy as possible, this recipe basically just requires you to toss all of your ingredients in the pot and let the slow cooker do all of the work.  It will definitely yield a shredded beef barbacoa that has a few chunks of onion and garlic and green chiles in there, which I don’t mind.  But if you want to take an extra step, you can pulse all of the extra non-beef ingredients (minus the bay leaves) together in a food processor or blender beforehand so that there are no chunks.  Your call.

Some people also like to sear the beef in a tablespoon or two of oil in a saute pan before adding it to a slow cooker, which will result in some crispier edges and slightly richer flavor.  But I think this beef is plenty tender and flavorful cooked 100% in the slow cooker.  So also, your call.

Barbacoa Beef -- tender, flavorful, and made extra easy in the slow cooker | #crockpot #slowcooker

Then once the beef has simmered for hours, it will fall apart easily when you shred it with two forks…

Barbacoa Beef -- tender, flavorful, and made extra easy in the slow cooker | #crockpot #slowcooker

…and you will have the most tender, flavorful, delicious beef ready to serve.

Barbacoa Beef -- tender, flavorful, and made extra easy in the slow cooker | #crockpot #slowcooker

I like my barbacoa to be well seasoned, since I enjoy it most often served Mexican-street-taco-style, with just corn tortillas, chopped white onions and chopped fresh-cilantro (with maybe a sprinkle of cheese).  So this recipe is loaded with easy seasonings — including chipotle peppers in adobo (a must) — that will make your barbacoa stand well on its own.

If you’re not into soft tacos, you can definitely serve this barbacoa meat Chipotle-style in a burrito, or “burrito” rice bowl, or a salad, or crispy tacos.  Or it’s also great in everything from quesadillas, to enchiladas, to soups, to tostadas, to sandwiches and more.  And, it freezes really well so if you’re single like me and want to have it for leftovers, it will be the barbacoa recipe that just keeps on giving.


Barbacoa Beef -- tender, flavorful, and made extra easy in the slow cooker | #crockpot #slowcooker


This barbacoa recipe is simple to make in your slow cooker, and makes the most tender, flavorful, delicious barbacoa beef.


  • 3 lbs chuck roast (fat trimmed), cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 chiptoles in adobo sauce, chopped (or more to taste)
  • 1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon dried Mexican oregano (or regular oregano)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup beef broth or water


Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a slow cooker. Toss gently to combine. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours, or until the beef is tender and falls apart easily when shredded with a fork.

Using two forks, shred the beef into bite-sized pieces inside of the slow cooker. Toss the beef with the juices, then cover and let the barbacoa beef soak up the juices for an extra 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves.  Use a pair of tongs or a slotted spoon to serve the barbacoa beef.

If not using immediately, refrigerate the barbacoa beef with its juices in a sealed container for up to 5 days. Or freeze it for up to 3 months.

If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and hashtag it #gimmesomeoven. I'd love to see what you cook!

Barbacoa Beef -- tender, flavorful, and made extra easy in the slow cooker | #crockpot #slowcooker

Leave a Comment:


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  1. Annette — February 8, 2016 @ 3:10 pm (#)

    Has anyone tried this recipe with pork loin? Will it come out similar?

  2. Marisa — February 12, 2016 @ 8:00 am (#)

    Did you know that real Barbacoa is made from the head of the cow? Not sure what this is. Probably more of a guisado but it’s not Barbacoa. Maybe a copycat of what chipotle also calls Barbacoa. I’m sure it’s delicious though. Try and find some real Barbacoa where you live and give it a taste. There is no comparison at all.  :) 

  3. Joey — February 14, 2016 @ 11:11 am (#)

    Has anyone  cooked this on high for 4 hours? I want to make this tonight but the last time I cooked a roast on high it didn’t turn out as tender.

  4. Annie — February 16, 2016 @ 12:19 pm (#)

    Thank you for this recipe. I made it exactly as the recipe said. It was delicious!

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — February 16th, 2016 @ 2:34 pm

      You’re welcome Annie! We’re happy you enjoyed it! :)

  5. Ashley — February 16, 2016 @ 10:52 pm (#)

    Hi! I really want to try this out tomorrow. Does the size of the crock pot make a difference? Which size do you use?

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — February 17th, 2016 @ 10:28 am

      Hi Ashley! Yes, we used a 6-qt size for this. If you have something smaller, you might want to cut the recipe in half! You just want to make sure it’s not overcrowded, or things won’t cook properly/evenly. We hope you enjoy!

  6. Josephine — February 21, 2016 @ 11:21 pm (#)

    Marisa is correct. Real Barbacoa is made from beef cabesa (head). It has a unique flavor and unlike your dish of slow-cooked chuck roast or any other substitute, such as the pork roast another reader asked about, it is incredibly soothing on the stomach. This effect is much like that of  menudo; both are not only traditional breakfast dishes but widely used for hangover relief. Here in South Texas,  Barbacoa is typically a Sunday morning tradition and that is the best time to purchase it  freshly made.  Oh, and don’t forget the ice-cold Big Red to wash it down. It’s a Tex-Mex thing. 

  7. Nancy — February 28, 2016 @ 9:01 am (#)

    You wanna make this like the real Mexican barbacoa, you will need to use the tongue of the beef. :)

  8. Elvira — February 29, 2016 @ 12:21 am (#)

    I see you have been informed that this recipe is not what we call Barbacoa.  We use the head, the cheeks and tongue. This recipe  that you have is for a roast with Mexican spices. My recipe is very simple and only takes 3 hours in the crock pot. It would be nice if you could find the right recipe. Nonetheless, I’m going to try your recipe since it looks delicious.

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — February 29th, 2016 @ 1:35 pm

      Thanks Elvira — we hope you enjoy it! :)

  9. Mandi — March 7, 2016 @ 12:16 am (#)

    I grew up in Wichita and Pizza Hut, Felipes, and Dog & Shake were always my favorite places to eat. So funny to come across this post when searching for a new twist on tacos. I moved to NY in 2009 and always get a warm fuzzy feeling when Wichita is brought up. Apparently thus recipe was meant to be….in my tummy. Lol.

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — March 7th, 2016 @ 6:01 pm

      Haha! We hope you love it Mandi! :)

  10. Cynthia — March 7, 2016 @ 7:41 pm (#)

    Really great recipe! I grew up eating Barbacoa made very similar to this , with the same spices. Never had it made with head, though. I’ve definitely had tacos de cabeza, but it was never called barbacoa. My very distant cousins use goat instead of beef, but still, they use same spices used in this recipe.  Pretty good.

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — March 8th, 2016 @ 8:55 am

      Thanks for sharing with us Cynthia!

  11. Luis — March 8, 2016 @ 9:12 pm (#)

    Best thing I’ve eaten in a while. So, so delicious!! Had this with corn tortillas and homemade roasted tomatillo salsa. Thank you!!!

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — March 9th, 2016 @ 8:59 am

      Thanks Luis — we’re happy you enjoyed it! :)

  12. Brandi — March 12, 2016 @ 9:05 pm (#)

    I wanma tey this recipe soon. What brand of Chipotle in adobo sauce do you recommend? Also do you mean 2 cans of the Chipotle or just 2 pieces? 
     Thanks .

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — March 14th, 2016 @ 11:26 am

      Hi Brandi! Just two peppers, not two cans (there are several that come in each can). :) We tend to use Embasa or Goya brands. WE hope you enjoy! :)

  13. Kristine — March 13, 2016 @ 10:53 am (#)

    Made this the other night.  It was fantastic.  The only substitute I did was add 3 heaping tablespoons of Ancho Chile powder in place of the Chipotle in adobo.   Worked great.  The acid ratios are excellent in this recipe.  Sauce was a great combo.  Thanks for a great recipe.   I used a high quality grass fed chuck roast. 

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — March 14th, 2016 @ 11:19 am

      Awesome Kristine, we’re glad to hear that! :D

  14. Kelsey — March 13, 2016 @ 6:56 pm (#)

    This was SO delicious!!! I did 3 Chipotle peppers and a few spoonfuls of the sauce because we like spice and it was seriously so good!! I did about 7 hours on low in the crockpot and it was so tender and shredded perfectly! I made it last week for dinner and my husband has requested it again this week!! Thanks for a great recipe!!

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — March 14th, 2016 @ 10:37 am

      Thanks Kelsey! We’re happy you and your husband liked it! :D

  15. Mireya — March 15, 2016 @ 9:27 am (#)

    For the Barbacoa recipe, you state in the directions to mix all ingredients in the crock pot and when fully cooked add the juices for and extra 10 mins.
    Could you be more specific on the directions?

    I do not know if you mix all 14 ingredients together that is listed and at the end add the  juices again like the beef broth, apple cider vinegar, and lime juice. I’m a little confused.

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — March 15th, 2016 @ 4:00 pm

      Hi Mireya! For this recipe, we literally mean combine all of the ingredients in the slow cooker. The direction about the juices just means to shred the beef (after its cooked) and toss it with all of the juices that from everything already int he crockpot. Make sense? We hope you enjoy!

  16. Ruth — March 20, 2016 @ 8:29 am (#)

    I want to make this today with a chuck roast that is just a little over 2lbs. We like heat but not over bearing where it’s Hot. Do you recommend adding all the same measurements as the recipe calls for the 3lb? Perhaps one Chipotle pepper?

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — March 20th, 2016 @ 8:52 am

      Hi Ruth! If you’re on the fence about the heat, you can just do one chipotle pepper. If you feel like it could use more heat (once you’ve tasted it), you can always mix in a little of the chipotle pepper sauce. :) We hope you enjoy!

  17. marbella — March 27, 2016 @ 3:26 pm (#)

    this was excellent! made it last night with some homemade adobo sauce, then picked up some chipotles in adobo on the way home and added them for the last hour or two. After 6+ hrs on low the meat was still solid, so turned it up to high for a couple of hours and it melted apart! shredded up and just enjoyed as Easter Sunday lunch! Thanks!

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — March 29th, 2016 @ 9:22 am

      Thanks Marbella — we’re glad you enjoyed this! :D

  18. David — March 29, 2016 @ 1:51 pm (#)

    I love the al pastor recipe and want to try Barbacoa. What type of canned green chilies do you use? My chipotles in adobo are usually la Morena but I don’t think they sell canned green chilies. Is it the same as canned chopped jalapeños? Thanks!

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — March 29th, 2016 @ 7:28 pm

      Hi David! The canned green chiles are different from the canned chopped jalapeños. We usually buy Old El Paso. We hope you enjoy! :)

  19. Robert — April 3, 2016 @ 5:32 pm (#)

    Has anyone ever used Venison

  20. Jennifer — April 28, 2016 @ 12:16 am (#)

    Soooo easy and yummy. Great recipe.

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — April 28th, 2016 @ 12:49 pm

      Thanks Jennifer — we’re glad you’re a fan! :)

  21. Mimi — May 2, 2016 @ 3:03 pm (#)

    I’m cooking for a big gathering. Can this be made in an electric roaster oven? If so, at what temp and how long? I plan to triple the recipe.

    Thank you!

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — May 3rd, 2016 @ 8:58 am

      Hi Mimi! We don’t have an electric roaster oven, so we aren’t familiar with them. We suspect you could try this recipe in one, but since we haven’t tried it ourselves, we can’t vouch for how it would turn out. It looks like electric roaster ovens can get much hotter than slow cookers, but we would think if you set it to 250 for 3-4 hours (or until the beef is tender and falls apart with a fork), that might work. Sorry we don’t know for sure!

  22. Teresa — May 5, 2016 @ 1:43 pm (#)

    I am a Texan but live in another state. This recipe is the closest thing I have had to really wonderful barbecoa, without having to go to Texas. I will be using this as a base for many dishes! Thank you for posting this!

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — May 5th, 2016 @ 9:58 pm

      What a wonderful compliment Teresa, thank you! We hope you enjoy this!

  23. Suzann — May 6, 2016 @ 3:32 pm (#)

    Love love LOVE this recipe! (And so does my boyfriend) I’ve made this 3 times already, once to try it, and another for a little get together at my house. After trying it the first time, my boyfriend couldn’t get enough so I decided to do it again the next day but with chicken. And of course, no leftovers after the party! Can’t wait to make it again sometime. 

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — May 6th, 2016 @ 9:50 pm

      Thanks for sharing Suzann! We’re so happy you and your boyfriend love this! :D

  24. Julie — May 12, 2016 @ 9:38 pm (#)

    Hey Haley! I just bought some grass fed beef country style ribs tonight, and after researching A Lot of recipes, I found yours and it totally “spoke” to me!! I can’t wait to make these this weekend! Thanks in advance for the recipe!

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — May 16th, 2016 @ 7:58 pm

      Hi Julie! This is actually Ali’s blog and recipe — I just help with comments. :) But we’re happy you’re able to give this a try, and we hope you love it as much as we do! :)

  25. Stephanie — May 27, 2016 @ 3:29 pm (#)

    Hi! I’ve made this before and it was delicious! I’m making a dish for my nephews party and they already have chicken and beef dishes. Do you think this recipe will still be super delish subbing in pork for the roast?? I know you have the carnita recipe, but I have all of these ingredients and know I like the sauce. 

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — May 27th, 2016 @ 4:37 pm

      Hi Stephanie! We haven’t tried that ourselves, but we bet it would work! We would recommend trying a pork shoulder. Let us know how it goes if you give it a try! :)

  26. Lisa — June 15, 2016 @ 11:44 am (#)

    Shout out from Derby, KS! Interested to try this (with adaptations, as I am unfortunately allergic to garlic and onions). I don’t care what you call it as long as it tastes good. ;)

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — June 15th, 2016 @ 10:07 pm

      Hi Lisa! We hope you enjoy this! :)

  27. Kenya — June 22, 2016 @ 3:28 pm (#)

    I love how this came out! It was awesome! Next time i’ll add a few more chiptoles to add more spice!

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — June 22nd, 2016 @ 9:46 pm

      We’re so happy you enjoyed it Kenya! :)

  28. Janice — July 14, 2016 @ 2:59 pm (#)

    Since I don’t have the canned green chilis, should I substitute fresh chopped jalapeno? Any guidance would be great.


    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — July 15th, 2016 @ 10:19 am

      Hi Janice! Hmmm, the chopped jalapeño might be a bit too spicy, but if you don’t use all of the seeds, we think it might work okay.

  29. Toni Bañuelos-Leon — July 24, 2016 @ 3:57 pm (#)

    Great recepie. I made it for dinner tonight and my husband said that he had won the lottery. I searved the tacos with chopped onions, cilantro and avacado-jalapeño salsa. Easy and delish.

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — July 24th, 2016 @ 4:53 pm

      Thanks Toni! We’re so happy you and your husband enjoyed this! :)

  30. Solidworks — July 24, 2016 @ 4:40 pm (#)

    This sounds so amazing


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