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 stock 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. Genieva — September 6, 2016 @ 12:53 pm (#)

    Hi I had a question about the serving size. When it says 8-12 servings does that mean one taco per person (8-12) tacos or is it a couple tacos for each serving. 

    Also the chilli in adobo sauce is very hard to find. Do you have an alternative I can use? 

    This recipe looks delicious. 

    Thank you!

    • Ali — October 12th, 2016 @ 5:34 pm

      That means about one taco per person, depending on how much meat you add to your taco of course. :)

      And if you can’t find chiles in adobo, you might try purchasing some chipotle chili powder that you could use instead. (If it’s not available at your local grocery store, you can order it online.) The extra smokiness of the chipotle chilies is delicious!

  2. Laura D — September 17, 2016 @ 4:45 pm (#)

    I made this a few months ago and then froze the leftovers. It was even better as leftovers. I’ve eaten a lot of Texmex barbacoa and this is the best I’ve ever eaten! And I’m a San Antonio native of Texas.

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — September 18th, 2016 @ 6:34 pm

      We’re so glad you enjoyed it, Laura! :)

  3. aaron — September 20, 2016 @ 6:34 pm (#)

    this is not barbacoa it may be good but barbacoa is cheek meat try the real thing you will know the difference

  4. Karen — September 28, 2016 @ 8:31 am (#)

    Thank you for sharing this recipe WITHOUT cow head and its parts! So awesome that I already have all the ingredients for this in my pantry, however I’m using grass fed sirloin tip roast (because that’s what I have defrosted).  We’ll see how it turns out….

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — September 30th, 2016 @ 10:19 am

      We hope you enjoy it as much as we do, Karen! :)

  5. Janie — October 3, 2016 @ 12:08 pm (#)

    The real barbacoa meat is ‘cheek meat”   and in the crock pot.   This is the Mexican type.  Try it and you will never make it from chuck again .

  6. Janie — October 3, 2016 @ 12:19 pm (#)

    O’ when making it from ‘ cheek meat’ drop some garlic into the crock pot! If any body makes it like this, let us know if you liked it 

  7. Heather — October 4, 2016 @ 3:37 pm (#)

    I made this a few nights ago and it was bomb! I have been eating the left overs the last few days and am sad it’s gone. I will have to make more soon! Thanks for the great recipe.

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — October 7th, 2016 @ 8:23 pm

      Thanks, Heather — we’re so glad you enjoyed it! :)

  8. Meghan — October 14, 2016 @ 3:09 pm (#)

    I forgot to buy apple cider vinegar. Will it turn out just as good? 

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — October 16th, 2016 @ 10:06 am

      Hi Meghan! Yes, completely — we hope you enjoy! :)

  9. Jennifer — October 19, 2016 @ 6:26 pm (#)

    I’m cooking this right now, and it’s coming out really spicy. Is there anything I can add to tame down the hotness?

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — October 24th, 2016 @ 1:42 pm

      Oh no, we’re so sorry! This shouldn’t be too spicy, but you could try adding a little sugar, vinegar, or lime/lemon juice to try and tone it down some. We hope this helps!

  10. Kerry — October 21, 2016 @ 8:03 am (#)

    This was absolutely delicious!  I used stew meat that I had in the freezer and cooked on high for 4 hours.  My whole family loved it!  Thanks.

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — October 25th, 2016 @ 8:56 pm

      We’re so happy you and your family enjoyed it, Kerry! :D

  11. Casey — October 21, 2016 @ 12:15 pm (#)

    Can i use an arm roast in place of the chuck roast?

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — October 26th, 2016 @ 1:12 pm

      We’ve never tried that Casey, so we can’t say for sure, however we think it should probably work!

  12. Daniela — November 8, 2016 @ 7:08 am (#)

    Can I use pork instead? 

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — November 15th, 2016 @ 11:12 am

      We haven’t tried this particular recipe with pork, so we can’t say for sure how it would turn out (we think it should work), but we do have a carnitas recipe you might wanna check out! We hope you enjoy!

  13. Julie — November 17, 2016 @ 7:42 pm (#)

    Thank you for the great recipe! We made it today and it was delicious. I put extra chilis and it was SPICY!!!

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — November 21st, 2016 @ 7:34 pm

      We’re happy you enjoyed it, Julie!

  14. Molly — November 21, 2016 @ 3:32 pm (#)

    I made this several months ago and it was absolutely delicious… It’s one of the few “experiment” meals my husband has asked me to make again ! I made it yesterday with a shoulder roast from the deer my husband killed a couple weeks ago and it was even better!! Note for anyone wishing to use venison instead of beef: The cooking time is much quicker with venison and can vary due to age of the animal, but mine was ready in 5 hours cooked on low.

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — November 22nd, 2016 @ 11:05 pm

      We’re so glad you and your husband enjoy the recipe, Molly! :)

  15. Ella — December 10, 2016 @ 1:21 pm (#)


    Can I use whole cloves instead of ground? Or will the taste be overpowering?

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — December 15th, 2016 @ 4:51 pm

      Hi Ella! We definitely recommend mincing the garlic for this. We hope you enjoy the recipe!

  16. Ariana — December 28, 2016 @ 11:31 am (#)

    Hi i want to make this insted off cidar vinager can i use white vinager?

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — January 9th, 2017 @ 8:52 pm

      Hi Ariana! We haven’t tried this with white vinegar, but we think that should work okay. We hope you enjoy!

  17. Rita — February 2, 2017 @ 9:44 pm (#)

    I was looking for a LC dish to make for a Spanish class potluck and this fits! I will be making in a few weeks. Thank you so much!

    P.S. I thought I was the only one that remembered Book-it! 

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — February 4th, 2017 @ 10:56 pm

      That’s awesome, Rita — we wish you luck! :)

  18. Shelley — February 4, 2017 @ 3:14 am (#)

    Do you know how many calories per serving this would be?

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — February 5th, 2017 @ 9:01 pm

      Hi Shelley! We’re sorry but we are unsure of the nutrition facts/amount of calories in this recipe. We currently are not publishing nutrition facts on the site, as the nutrition calculators available are not 100% accurate, and we never want to publish anything that might be misleading. However, a lot of our readers love the My Fitness Pal nutrition calculator, so feel free to try that for an estimate. We hope that helps!

  19. Jessica P. — February 9, 2017 @ 8:17 pm (#)

    I made this this evening, exactly as it is written. It was AMAZING!!!! My husband and I both loved it. We will be keeping this recipe and telling others about it. Thank you so much for sharing it. :)

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — February 11th, 2017 @ 9:38 pm

      Thank you, Jessica — we’re so happy you and your husband enjoyed it!

  20. Antnia — February 11, 2017 @ 9:21 am (#)

    Thanks for the recepie. Today I’ m  in the kitchen , this si muy thirth ….

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — February 12th, 2017 @ 7:12 pm

      We’re glad you enjoyed it!

  21. Jen — February 11, 2017 @ 1:19 pm (#)

    I love this recipe!  I’ve made it about 5 times.  It’s delicious every time!

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — February 12th, 2017 @ 7:04 pm

      We’re so happy to hear that, Jen!

  22. Lindsay — February 20, 2017 @ 8:24 pm (#)

    This is the worst recipe I’ve had in decades. Do not make. Followed the recipe exactly. Dry. Tasteless. Overcooked.

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — February 21st, 2017 @ 5:08 pm

      We’re sorry this didn’t work for you, Lindsay.

  23. Jacky — February 20, 2017 @ 10:28 pm (#)

    Hello! I have a question before I make an attempt at making this. I’ve read that if you use the two chipotle chilis vs just using the sauce they come in, that it’ll be way too spicy. Did you use both chilis and the sauce or just the sauce/chilis? :) 

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — February 21st, 2017 @ 5:31 pm

      Hi Jacky! We used 2 chipotles (not 2 cans of chipotles). We didn’t use any of the sauce in the can they come in, but if you wanted this to be spicier, you definitely could! :)

  24. Prince Daniel — February 23, 2017 @ 3:57 am (#)

    I love it well great coking

  25. Jane — February 25, 2017 @ 9:16 am (#)

    This was good.  Husband liked it very much.  12 year old son did not like the onions [too bad ;-) ].  Only change I made was to use 1/8 cup lime juice instead of the 1/4 cup called for because I only had bottled lime juice, not fresh.  I probably could have used even a tad less.  Thank you for the recipe, we’ll be enjoying this again soon.

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — February 26th, 2017 @ 6:01 pm

      Thank for sharing with us, Jane — we appreciate you giving the recipe a try!

  26. Rhonda — February 26, 2017 @ 1:46 pm (#)

    Made this for the first time today and it is seriously amazing!!! You have really nailed the Chipotle barbacoa seasonings, which our family loves! My 3 guys devoured this! I did add a couple extra Chipotle peppers and a little of the adobo sauce, because spicy is how we roll around here. Also did not cut my chuck roast in chunks, just left it whole and shredded after cooking. Cooked 8 hours in slow cooker and meat was fall-apart tender. A huge hit that we will definitely make again. Thank for sharing this great recipe!

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — March 1st, 2017 @ 8:50 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Rhonda — we’re so happy you loved it! :D

  27. Laura Cummings — March 2, 2017 @ 4:10 pm (#)

    Question- I’m a bit confused. Do the ingredients require 2cans or 2chiles for the (2)Adobes in adobe sauce ingredient?

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — March 8th, 2017 @ 10:59 am

      Hi Laura! Just 2 chiles, not 2 cans. We hope you enjoy!

  28. Alex — March 10, 2017 @ 9:41 pm (#)

    The barbacoa ive always had was made wth cow tounge (tounge whole skin on) slow cooker 10-12 hours the ussually overnight then cut skin off and pulled apart and sauteed in a pan for brunch tacos

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — March 12th, 2017 @ 8:51 am

      Yes, we know it’s traditionally made with cow tongue. We wanted to use a different part of meat that would be more accessible to most folks. We hope you enjoy the recipe! :)

  29. Melissa — March 16, 2017 @ 8:43 pm (#)

    Will this recipe work with flank steak instead of the roast?

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — March 20th, 2017 @ 9:27 am

      Hi Melissa! Hmmm, we haven’t tried this with flank steak instead, so we honestly aren’t sure how it would turn out. We have seen some other recipes online that use flank steak instead though (it’s easier to trim but will be pricier). If you give it a try, definitely let us know how it turns out!

  30. Bette S — March 20, 2017 @ 6:00 pm (#)

    Really great recipe! I misread the cloves and used allspice – still turned out fine. Also didn’t have the green chiles in a can so I used a 10 oz can of Rotel tomatoes with chiles. . It was good with bits of tomato too! We had it on corn tortillas with lettuce, sour cream, a little shredded cheddar, cilantro, and sliced avocado. Yum!!! Thank you this is a keeper.

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — March 21st, 2017 @ 8:51 pm

      We’re happy you enjoyed it, Bette! :)

  31. Chad — March 22, 2017 @ 6:01 pm (#)

    AMAZING! Can’t wait to make this again! Definitely a keeper recipe. I swapped out fresh deveined/seeded serrano chiles for the canned chiles and it still tasted great. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — March 23rd, 2017 @ 1:46 pm

      Thank you, Chad — we’re so happy you enjoyed it!

  32. Angela Benjamin — March 22, 2017 @ 7:35 pm (#)

    OMG! This may just be one of our Monthly Must Meals! Delicious! 

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — March 23rd, 2017 @ 1:46 pm

      Thanks, Angela — we’re so glad you enjoyed it!

  33. Dani — March 27, 2017 @ 6:40 am (#)

    Usually when I freeze crockpot recipes, I freeze it BEFORE cooking but in the instructions and the comments I see most froze the leftovers after cooking. 
    When it’s time to use them, do you recommend just thawing then microwaving? 
    How long can it last after the leftovers have been thawed? 

    • Ali — March 27th, 2017 @ 5:49 pm

      Yep, I would recommend thawing and then microwaving. And the barbacoa should last for 3-4 days in a sealed container in the fridge after it has been thawed.

  34. Melissa — March 27, 2017 @ 11:30 am (#)

    I just wanted to comment. I made this dozens of times now. It’s awesome. My brother in law who is Mexican said it’s so good I could sell it. Thanks for posting. 

    • Ali — March 27th, 2017 @ 4:36 pm

      Yay, so glad to hear it!!


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