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. 

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?

Homemade Barbacoa Recipe | 1-Minute Video

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

4 / 5 (11 Reviews)
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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 chipotles 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.

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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

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498 comments on “Barbacoa”

1 5 6 7
  1. It was delicious!

  2. This is delicious! And I’m so glad that it’s from normal parts of the cow that are easy to find in the supermarket. I know lots of people are commenting that it has to be from the cheek but that is something that I will not cook (gross) and I’m glad for this delicious alternative. I’ve made this several times and we use it for bowls, tacos and enchiladas. Thanks again!

    • I had to comment! I just had beef cheeks for the first time, and they were FABULOUS! Melt in your mouth tender! This is the recipe I used: We recently purchased half a steer for the freezer, and the cheek was included. You know, it is just a piece of meat made of muscle, just like the chuck used in this recipe! Most recommend low and slow for cooking cheeks, but I used my pressure cooker, as I was in a hurry. It just sounds weird, eating the cheeks…. now I must find a recipe for the tongue, and that sounds yucky to me. My husband grew up eating the tongue, and he says it’s good, we shall taste and see :)

  3. How would you rate this in terms of spicyness?
    Mild, Hot, Very Hot, Or a child could eat it?

    • Hi Kat! We don’t feel that this is that spicy, but everyone’s tolerance is different. Since it’s 3 lbs. of meat, that heat really gets dispersed well, but if you’re worried, you might want to just use one chipotle in adobo, instead of two. We hope this is helpful!

  4. Hi, I am just now making this. I left it on high for 4 hours and the meat is still tough. Is this normal? Should I just leave it on longer?

    • Hi Alyssa! Oh no, we’re so sorry! It sounds like it just may have needed some more time. We’re sorry for the inconvenience!


    Rating: 5
  6. Looks & sounds amazing!! Can’t wait to make it (and not run the oven or stand outside at the bbq!)
    Quick note – you have “chipotle” spelled wrong in the ingredient list (it’s right everywhere else), and when
    I tried pinning it directly from one of the image “pin it” buttons and it scolded me and said the site didn’t allow pinning, but the Chrome “pin it button” worked fine.
    Thanks!! <3

    • Thanks, Kristen, we hope you enjoy it! And oops, thank you for catching that, we will fix that asap! :)

  7. I’ve made this multiple times for large groups and get nothing but rav reviews! By far my favorite recipe to make, and I’m not the most skilled in the kitchen! So thankful for your genius! <3

    Rating: 5
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  9. why does everyone want to call chuck roast barbacoa I am sure this is good but not barbacoa if you make real barbacoa you will know what real barbacoa is it is made with cheek meat

    • I actually just commented on that. In Texas, we use beef cheeks and/or tongue. Before I had it I was real sketchy anout eating cheek but it is amazing!!

  10. I’ve made this multiple times, always a huge hit! Amazing flavor and so easy.

    Rating: 5
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  14. This is an excellent recipe. I have made it several times and received top reviews. I usually use a little less lime juice. Thank you for posting.

    Rating: 5
  15. I thought “true” Mexican Barbacoa contains beef tongue or cheeks? That’s how it is in Texas. Your roast looked good, just wondering if you have tried the traditional cuts.

    • You are right, David! We haven’t tried it with those cuts, but feel free to try it with them if you like!

  16. Can I make this in the Instan Pot for quicker turn around? If so, how long?

    • Sure thing! I haven’t tested it, but believe that about 1 hour of cook time (on high) should work. If it’s not easily shred-able, pop it in for an additional 5-10 minutes. :) Enjoy!

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  20. I made this today. It was very good. We had leftovers. I also made Mexican Rice and refried beans. I live with my daughter and her husband. So it was the three of us. They enjoyed it as well.

    Rating: 4
    • Thanks for sharing, Anita, we’re so glad you and your family enjoyed it!

  21. Beef tongue is NOT barbacoa…. it’s Lengua… Beef Cheek is barbacoa!!

  22. This is the simplest, most foolproof barbacoa recipe with the perfect hint of spice and tons of flavor. I’ve made it several times and it feeds a crowd…and the crowd ALWAYS loves it. Kids and adults alike!

    Rating: 5
  23. Way too spicy for my family. Went to meat market to make sure I had a really good chuck toast. It turned out tender but meat was dry, the more I chewed felt like chewing on sawdust.

    Rating: 1
    • We’re sorry to hear that, Zoe! We’re not sure how the meat would have come out so dry. It’s definitely not supposed to be dry at all. Was the setting on your slow cooker accurate? We would recommend checking the temp with a thermometer just to make sure.

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  25. This recipe is PERFECT!!! Super easy, and reliable. I’ve made this recipe dozens of times, and I definitely prefer the pan sear sear on the meat first for that extra flavour. Served on corn tortillas with cotija cheese and some homemade pickled red onions it’s like a taste of Mexico.

    Rating: 5
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  28. I left the Adobo chilis out, but it didn’t hurt this dish. My family said it was outstanding!

    Rating: 5
  29. Hi everyone! I have made this recipe a bunch of times in my crock pot and it always comes out so juicy and delicious! I wanted to make a large batch for a family party, too big for my crock pot and found a way to successfully make it in the oven!
    I took a foil pan and added the chopped onions and garlic
    Then layered the meat on top with the chilies and chipotles..then the rest of the ingredients/seasonings
    Super tightly wrapped it in heavy duty foil to totally seal the pan
    Baked it at 275 ( my oven is pretty strong, use your judgment) for close to 4 hours
    It shredded beautifully and tasted just like the crock pot version!!

    Rating: 5
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  31. This was great! I flinched at the clove and thought cinnamon but went with it. From a fifth generation chili head from Texas, 25 yrs in California now retired living on the OBX in eastern NC, this is offered as high praise!

    Rating: 5
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  41. Can I make this using pork instead of beef?

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