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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



  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 250 minutes
  • Total Time: 260 minutes
  • Yield: 0 About 8-12 servings 1x


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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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

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613 comments on “Barbacoa”

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  1. 5 stars
    This is a winner! My family (except my young son wouldn’t try it, but that’s not surprising) loved it. Said it tastes a lot like Chipotle. Thank you for sharing!

  2. 5 stars
    Will definitely make this again. So easy and delicious!

  3. 5 stars
    Made this Barbados beef recipe for taco night New Year’s Eve 2018-19..
    Was amazing!!!
    Everyone loved it, couldn’t get enough!!
    One of my friends is even a chef who owns his own restaurant and he loved it!
    Definitely a keeper ☺️❤️

  4. Can’t have garlic, will the recipe turn out good without it? Thanks

  5. 5 stars
    I have made this in my crock pot and it got absolutely RAVE reviews. I’d like to try it in the Instant Pot – any suggestions on timing. Thanks!!

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  7. 5 stars
    I make this quite often. It is so flavorful. My kids love it too. So easy and so yummy.

    • This recipe has become one of our staples at home. It’s so easy to make and so delicious and really goes with any meal. We add it to our eggs, mushrooms and onions for breakfast, have it for lunch, eat it with dinner and just change up what we’re combining it with. It’s seriously the best.

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  10. 5 stars
    So delicious! Family and friends favorite
    I blend all the ingredients instead of chopping
    (Save time)
    Also I use fresh jalapeño peppers instead of can

  11. 4 stars
    Absolutely delicious! Served it with avocado salsa.

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  17. 5 stars
    Unbelievably good! So so tasty – a total hit!!

  18. I was wondering how spicy this recipe was for children. My kids do not like overly spicy foods but would love to try this recipe as it feeds a lot and we are a very large family. Thank you!

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  22. 4 stars
    Amazing with a few changes…Barbacoa traditionally has some orange juice added. I added about 1/4 cup orange juice, and a good squirt of honey. This balances the flavors, and makes the flavor spectrum wider. I threw the entire piece of meat in a reusable bag with the marinade (left bay leaf whole) and then baked two days later. I love a traditional cast iron dutch oven, so I baked mine in the oven, lid on, without cubing the meat. 425 for the first 45 minutes, then 350 for the last several hours. Shredded the meat, and left in dutch oven at 225 for another hour until guests arrived. Homemade corn tortillas, with radish, avocado, cilantro, tomato, and other delish toppings. This recipe is a keeper.

    • Love the changes to this – I also added fresh squeezed oranges and honey and while I didn’t marinate as the other reviewer. I seared the meat whole and browned for 5 minutes on each side in some olive oil. Drained the fat, Poured the puréed ingredients popped it into my Dutch oven. Baked in 425 for 45 minutes, then reduced temperature to 325 for 2-2 1/2 hours more. Perfect!

  23. 5 stars
    Excellent recipe. I used it to make fajita bowls & later, burritos.

  24. 5 stars
    Made this tonight for husband of 18 years and he said it was the best meal I’ve ever made. I used the suggestion of putting in blender and pulsing and also added 1 extra chipotle. Sooooo good. Made sure to save this in favorites

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  26. 5 stars
    This was absolutely mouthwatering! It took four hours in the crockpot on high to be “shreddable,” but utterly delicious! A definite do-over.

  27. I made this in a crockpot and LOVED it! Can it be done in an instant pot?

  28. Hi, Can you double the recipe and cook as above?

  29. 5 stars
    Just made this and halved the recipe. It was delightful! We will be making it for a family gathering soon. Thank you so much. The flavors are nicely balanced. I cooked it ahead of time and refrigerated it overnight. Of course, the fat rose to the top and solidified, so it was easy to remove before heating and serving. The flavor was even better the 2nd day. Perfect.

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  31. Tried this recipe for the first time tonight, it actually came out better than expected. I’ve tried so many others and they went into the garage can. So I was really happy wen this turned out, I was told to save this recipe for next time.

  32. 5 stars
    I made this on the stove tonight using some fresh roasted Hatch peppers & homemade tomatillo salsa. Amazingly good, thanks for the recipe!

  33. 5 stars
    Awesome! Served over rice and beans first night and used leftover for quesadillas in the air fryer later in the week. Halved recipe since there are only two of us and made the perfect amount for two meals. Easy and delicious!

  34. The first time I made this recipe, I used chuck roast and I couldn’t stop raving about how good it was! Tonight, I was craving it, but I didn’t have beef, so I made it with chicken :-) It was just as tantalizing! Absolutely addicted to barbacoa now, thanks for such a flavorful recipe!

  35. 5 stars
    Made it for my daughter’s 5th bday and set it up as a taco bar and it was such a hit! Next time I’ll have to double the recipe b/c there were no leftovers!

  36. College men loved this! No leftovers!

  37. I LOVE this recipe. I make it once a month. Recently, I bought an instant pot. I don’t suppose you have a recipe for this in the instant pot?
    Thank you!

  38. Would you recommend filtered or unfiltered apple cider vinegar? I’m excited to try it out!

  39. My husband eats so much of this he needs heartburn medicine and has interrupted sleep from strange dreams. It’s his absolute favorite, one worth having total system upset from the spices and heat and mass consumption. It is not too spicy but just right, and the clove is imperative. It creates a synergy with the juices and lime and the other spices and gives the meat incredible flavor. Thank you!!!

  40. This was deliciousssss! I put it in a homemade burrito bowl and it was perfect.

  41. I want to try this recipe. Just curious if I could freeze this? Thanks

  42. I just made this dish tonight and it was so good! Thank you for sharing it. So flavorful and so easy – an absolute winner that we’ll be eating on a regular basis

  43. Better than chipotle!

  44. This came out exactly like Chipotle barbacoa! It’s a keeper!

  45. I found chipotles in a little can. Do I only use two peppers or ?

  46. Love this recipe! I have made it so many times and it always turns out well!

  47. This was delicious, but next time I will cut the lime juice in half as it was a bit tangy for my hubby.

  48. Have always loved your blog- actually figured out over the holidays we are related! Jennilee is my sister, Chris Swafford was my great aunt!

  49. My 15 year old son: “That’s your best dinner ever, Mommy!” Great recipe. Thanks! I browned the meat first and used only one chipotle pepper. Perfect!