Gimme Some Oven


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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

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5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 4.9 from 165 reviews
  • 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.




  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Serve. Use a pair of tongs or a slotted spoon to serve the barbacoa beef and enjoy!


Storage instructions: Any leftovers can be stored (with their juices) in a food storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.

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

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635 comments on “Barbacoa”

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  1. Oh, yum!! My husband and I would love this! Yes, I was involved in Book-It and looked forward to going there for lunch with my mom. The Book-It Alumni sounds cool! :)

  2. These look like some killer tacos! I cannot wait to make them for the fam! :)

    Also, book-it was the best! Personal pan pizzas too!

  3. Definitely going on my next meal plan!! I love easy dinners like this — and Pizza Hut is still pretty fabulous in my book :)

  4. I think that is how I learned how to read…..Book-It changes lives:) Well, and this barbacoa, too!

  5. I can tell just by looking at these photos are flavorful this is!

  6. OK…I’m busted. I snuck a taste of this yesterday out of your fridge. Cold. And it was wonderful!

  7. How could I not fall head over heels for this beef!?! It’s beautimus, Ali! And that gorgeous cilantro on top just seals the deal.

  8. These look incredible! I’m going to try these for sure. MMM.

  9. Oh my landlord would love it if i dug a hole into the ground to cook some beef! But by the look of it – it would be totally worth it!

    I LOVED going to some American diner style restaurant as a kid – no pizza but a whole pile of fried mushrooms!

  10. What a unique recipe! I love this thanks for sharing – I plan to work it into our weeknight dinners next week!

    xo Rachel

  11. Yum! The barbacoa beef is my favorite at Chipotle. I can’t wait to try this! One question though as I’m not a big cook and I’ve never used chipotle peppers… Do I add any of the adobo sauce from the can into the slow cooker as well? Or just whatever is on the pepper?

  12. Yuuummm!! I can’t wait to break out my slow cooker :)

  13. Oh my goodness!!! What a fab taco or salad or sandwich or anything this would make. The flavor came thru the picture on the screen. I could almost smell it.

  14. So excited to try this! Love all of your ideas! Thanks!

  15. I have never heard of barbacoa before.. what a delicious recipe. I definitely need to recreate the recipe, it is perfect for days when I don’t feel like cooking at all!

  16. I have never eaten that at Chipotl. They are a favorite, quick, easy place our family likes to eat at when in a hurry. Growing up, we always ate at the Mexican restaurants as well. Our valley was not a “foodie” place at all – Ashland was just starting to be! Always love your posts, Ali! xo

  17. Come to Mama!!!! My favorite!!

  18. This sounds amazing! Perfect base for street tacos!

  19. Oh wow! My mouth watered at all those amazing ingredients. Love the chipotle in it = one of my favorite things! Pinned!

  20. Yum…I’m loving the fresh cilantro/onion topping on the finished product. Looks great!

  21. This is gorgeous, I want some right now!

  22. Not only does this look amazing, but I think I have all of the ingredients…hmmm. Dinner this weekend?

  23. This was so amazing, I just had to leave a comment and thank you for posting.Possibly the best tacos I’ve ever had and definitely better than Chipotle! Served on corn tortillas with guac and tomatoes. So much flavor in the meat, they don’t need many additions. Thank you!

  24. This looks absolutely fabulous! I can’t wait to try it!

  25. I love this recipe. It looks gorgeous and mouthwatering.
    I don’t have a slow cooker but probably have to get one now.. :)

  26. Barbacoa is always a hit at our house. Need to try your version now! AND…AWESOME gorgeous site you have. CONGRATS!

  27. I would like to say that barbacoa originally is from sheep, that’s why it takes about 5 hours to cook on a pit dug in the ground, because the meat is though. 
    It also makes a delicious caldo that is called consomé, they just place a pot under the meat that is cooking full of water, chickpeas and rice. 

    • I’m trying in right now, should I put two cans of Chipotle peppers or two single Peppers? Please help!

  28. I love Mexican recipes. This one looks like it would be worth the 4 hours. Yum!

  29. I love Mexican recipes. This one looks like it would be worth the 4 hours. Yum!

  30. Hello, this looks so yummy, but I cant do chipotle (health issues) can i substitute anything else for this?

    • You can sub in an extra tablespoon of chili powder, or smoked paprika, OR include a diced jalapeno as a substitute if you’d like!

  31. This looks fabulous….will be on my list to try (once we eat down from my packed freezer :)
    Question though..assuming I could cook low in Dutch oven with same results?

  32. I´ll try the barbacoca recipe this weekend. I´m mexican (barbacoa is almos a “must” as breakfast on weekends) and it sounds  VERY GOOD.

    …More comments, after taste.    =)

  33. I made this recipe yesterday. It was delicious. It slow cooked for 6 hours and it was tender and flavorful. 

  34. I LOVE Barbacoa!
    Never thought of making it in a slow cooker. The chipotle and cumin will surely give it the smoky flavor that this dish is so famous for.
    I definitely will give this one a try!

  35. OMG!  This is outstanding!  I just recently started getting the Barbacoa Bowl at Chipotle and have never gone back to chicken.  I got up early this morning put it all together in the crockpot.  I made some brown cilantro rice, sautéed some peppers and onions and built my burrito (actually used a fajita-sized tortilla) with added cheese, lettuce and sour cream.  I’m in love!  

    Ali, I have a small blog, do you think I could post a note and photo or your barbacoa with a link to your site?  Thanks!

  36. I made this tonight and it was delicious! I used crushed chipotle pepper instead of chipotle in adobo sauce and omitted cloves since I didn’t have any. Love the website! 

  37. When you say 2 chipotles in adobo sauce, do you mean 2 peppers or 2 of the small cans?

  38. Made this last week and loved it! We actually used it in our lunch wraps cold, still delicious! One night we put the Barbacoa on top of Mac n cheese. Easy recipe and so good! 

  39. I made this last night as our lunch for the week- it’s delicious!! so much flavor!

  40. I made this for my family last night and everyone loved it!  The leftover meat will become nacho toppings tomorrow. yum!  Thanks for the recipe. 

  41. Chipotle is in danger of going broke if this tastes as good as it looks! 

  42. Having lived in Mazatlan, Sinaloa for 5 years I have a large collection of Mexican recipes including numerous ones for Barbacoa. Your recipe intrigued me because it was “slow cooker” prepared which the Mexicans seldom use. I made it for dinner last night and was very pleased with the result. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  43. Finally made this yesterday & it turned out amazing! Omitted the clove because I didn’t have any & chose to purée all the other ingredients together before pouring it over the beef & adding the bay leaves. Looking forward to making this again!

  44. Made this last week and it was a huge hit. My husband is in love and requested it again. Even my picky 6 year old liked it despite it being “spicy” – a first for her! I made nachos with the leftovers and they were to die for. I’m making it again for company tonight. Can’t wait for dinner. Thank you for this fantastic recipe!!!

  45. Of course, if you lived in Wichita, Pizza Hut was a local restaurant–that is where Pizza Hut started. :) 

  46. Okay, so I was a little skeptical… Barbacoa in a slow cooker? My abuelita is shaking her head- no! But your recipes have never failed me yet so I decided to give it a try…and boy, am I glad I did! This recipe was super easy and super delish! Thanks for another great dinner!

  47. I rarely post reviews of recipes but I had to take a moment to commend you on this amazing dish. I’m always looking for recipes that will appeal to my boyfriend’s taste (he is Mexican) and this did not disappoint! This dish was absolutely wonderful. The meat is so flavorful! We really enjoyed this. Thanks for posting! 

  48. OMG thank you! That was amazing, family loved it!