This homemade beef barbacoa recipe is easy to make in the slow cooker, and it’s SO flavorful and delicious! Perfect for burritos, tacos, salads, quesadillas and more.
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?
Homemade Barbacoa Recipe | 1-Minute Video
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.
Then once the beef has simmered for hours, it will fall apart easily when you shred it with two forks…
…and you will have the most tender, flavorful, delicious beef ready to serve.
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.
Slow cook. 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.
Shred and toss. 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.
Serve. Use a pair of tongs or a slotted spoon to serve the barbacoa beef and enjoy!
I do not normally eat beef, so when I do, it better be good. I found a chuck roast on sale, and was going to use it for the tried and true Country Pot Roast, but decided that I would try my hand at Barbacoa – just to be different. I researched numerous recipes. Having never cooked it before, I was really stabbing in the dark. Found this one, and it spoke to me.
I was NOT disappointed. Omg. It was one of the best meals I have ever had. I made one minor SUBSTITUTION: I used Negra Modelo in place of the beef broth. (Yes, I drank some, too. Don’t judge me.) Served in some grilled taco shells with all the fixings, with some Goya rice and … just wow. Thank you for making my splurge totally worth it. Can’t wait to have more tonight!
Can this be cooked on the stovetop? Thanks!
Is it 2 cans of chipotle in adobo or chipotles from 1 can?
I have made barbacoa in my LaCreuset Dutch oven on the stovetop many times. Low and slow is the ticket to achieve that tender, falling apart texture that makes this recipe a winner! Good luck!
I have been making your recipe for years and it just dawned on me that I should probably tell you and also thank you and rate it. It is a family favorite and a crowd pleaser. Much gratitude
I have made this recipe serval times. I use beef and chicken, whichever meat I have on hand. My family loves it! I am making it again tonight. It is a delicious recipe, thank you!
Stephen – why so harsh?
This recipe is phenomenal! Perfect balance of flavors. I followed the directions as is last week and it was a huge crowd pleaser. We used the leftover meat to make quesadillas the next day. Later in the week I decided to use up the remaining can of chipotle on adobo and made it with 2 chicken breasts (but half the recipe) and omitted the green chili. Also phenomenal!
Great recipe! My husband and toddler love this. The only substitute we make is to use venison rather than beef. We have made this numerous times and stays in our regular rotation. Thank you for sharing with us!
Super easy to make but it was WAY spicier than any barbacoa I’ve ever had. That being said, it wasn’t bad haha. I like a little spice so I just skipped the salsa. Next time I make this, I will likely omit the green chilies all together because I think that’s the culprit for the spice level. Goes great with cotija!
Not sure if you have made this again yet. The heat culprits will be the diced Chipotle peppers and bring black pepper. You chunks just use some of the Adobo sauce, skip the actual Chipotle peppers, and cut the ground black pepper in half. The seeds in the chipotle peppers will also add heat. Good luck!
There’s multiple cuts of meat that can be used in barbacoa. The general one, is mentioned in this post. The delicate cuts of meat, e.g. the head and cheek HAVE to be asked for specifically.
Our family loved this recipe! I couldn’t find chipotles in adobo sauce so I used fresh jalapeño and adobo sauce 😂. Not sure how it compares to the original recipe but we thought it tasted amazing! New family favorite. I also blended everything together to make the sauce. Thx!!
It’s wonderful. Tastes like heaven to those of us with an open mind. My husband is a picky eater and in his mind it’s the best thing he’s ever tasted. I serve it like a burrito with black beans, corn inside, lettuce and tomatoes, sour cream and enchilada red sauce drizzled on the burrito. It doesn’t need any of that tho. It’s fantastic, so tasty in a bowl with rice.
Simple and delicious! I love it! Thank you for sharing.
I used the recipe to marinate cubed beef for shish kabob. I marinated for about 4-5 hours then used the remaining marinade as a baste for the shish kabob as it was grilling. I used red peppers, onion and pineapple chunks with the beef on skewers. These were phenomenal!! So much flavor! This recipe is a keeper!!!
Delicious! Skipped the green chiles as I wanted to make it not so spicy so the kids can eat it. Served it with Spanish rice and a simple cucumber, tomato and lettuce salad from the garden. Thanks!
Clarifying question here, do you mean two cans of chipotle peppers in adobo or two peppers from one can?
two peppers from one can.
I’m not the author of the recipe, but I’m quite sure you wouldn’t want to use two cans of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. As prepared in the can, they are quite hot.
How many does this recipe serve? Having a gathering of 25 and want to know if I should double or triple this recipe..
I have made this several times, for family, friends, and potluck, it always gets rave reviews! This weekend it’s going with us in our camper to share with our camping buddies. In addition to serving on corn tortillas, my all time favorite is to serve it over baked potatoes. Total deliciousness!!! Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe!
This was excellent for the amount of effort involved. Cooked in instant pot ultra on slow cooker mode for 3 hours.
Can I cook this via instant pot?
This is the only barbacoa that I’ve ever made but it’s also THE best one I’ve ever tasted. Definitely recommend this recipe.
Made this for our marching band parents potluck and everybody complemented me on this. Full of flavor and the meat was just falling apart.
So now my husband is harassing me to make it again.
I made this tonight and it was delicious!!! Thank you so much! This is better than the restaurant. This recipe is a keeper. I served it with spanish rice and it was a hit!
What’s the nutritional info?
This is my second time making it, it’s so delicious. My family loves it.
I had a party and made this with eye of round beef. Delicious! My crew is picky but everybody loved this! I served with pinto beans, brown rice and choice of flour or corn tortillas. I also added a can of fire roasted tomatoes and few potatoes.
We’re making this for the third time in about a month because it’s so good and easy to set and forget on low for 8 hours. We cut the pieces too small the first time so now we buy the longer pieces of beef and put those in so it’s easier to use tongs later. I also purée the small can of peppers in adobo which I think works really well, and I didn’t add the extra broth the last couple of times because it seemed like there was enough liquid in there already. Love this recipe, it makes for a wonderful taco night.
My family loves this recipe! It is so flavorful. We serve it on corn tortillas with our choice of toppings.
have you prepared this with both water and beef stock? I’m wondering how important the stock is – doesn’t the beef kind of create a stock as it cooks?! and thoughts on using chicken stock as a substitute?
How many people does this serve?
This is great. I had a 3.94 pound chuck roast. I used the entire can of La Costena Chilpotle peppers. Do cook on low for the 8 hours. My Crock Pots are new and they cook hotter. If you have the original slow cookers, they do not cook as hot and will take longer.
Mine was really tangy.. I used the x2 and it came tangy