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”

  1. One of my co-workers turned this barbacoa into breakfast burritos and treated our office to a great meal.  I immediately pinned the recipe and I can’t wait to make it myself.

  2. I made this today. I served it with the corn salsa recipe, also on Pinterest, black beans, jasmine rice and made a burrito bowl. I was in heaven! Seriously a great recipe! Tastes just like, if not better,  than Chipotle’s. I was going to make the guacamole but my avocados weren’t ripe :/  highly recommend!

  3. just put this in the crock and can’t wait till 6-8 hours are up! 

  4. I made it (sort of, only had lean meat and I was missing the peppers…but I improvised – fried the finished meat in some bacon grease to add moisture at the end, threw in some chipotle seasoning for flavor)! Interesting combo of flavors (cloves?), tasted really good with sour cream on top. 

  5. Tried this recipe and it is very good, but not the barbacoa I am used to. I like my authentic traditional barbacoa, but for at home this is a good alternative since I don’t really want to see the meat from traditional barbacoa before it’s cooked. Great recipe.

  6. I’m making this in a couple days, but i wondered if you had suggestions on how to use the rest of the peppers in adobe sauce.  I don’t know what to do with the rest of the can and they are so good,  i hate to let them go bad sitting in my fridge. 

    Thanks For the recipe!

  7. Delicious!  Brandy, you were asking how to use the leftover chipotles in adobo and my favorite is to make fish tacos.  Just mix together mayo, a little milk, and some diced chipotle and adobo (taste as you go along because it adds a real punch- you probably only need 1/2 a pepper) and you’ll have an amazing sauce that’s better than most restaurants!  Drizzle on top of either grilled fish or baked fish sticks, thinly sliced cabbage and some fresh lime in a flour tortilla… So easy and SO good!

  8. Brandi – freeze your leftover chipotle peppers in adobo this way: Whizz it all in a nutribullet or blender, pour into a zipper freezer bag. Squeeze all air out and freeze flat. When you need some, just break off a piece and return bag to freezer. Be sure to label it! =) This has worked wonderfully for me. HTH.

  9. Great recipe! I also add in some cinnamon & orange zest.

  10. Sounds awesome can’t wait to try this! Your story really hit a nostalgic nerve for me. I grew up in MA/NH in the same era(born in ’80) and Pizza Hut really was the thing back then. I remember the large booth-like benches in the entrance to house the waiting patrons, it really was much busier than today. Our local Hut was across from a theater so we usually had dinner there and then went for a movie.

  11. Sounds delicious!  Wonder if you could make this with Flank steak?

  12. I’m making this tomorrow…can’t wait!  You mention green chilies in your commentary but I don’t see them in the recipe.  Am I missing something?

  13. I made this yesterday using the baby brisket I had on hand (only 1.3lbs). I omitted the onion because we are weird people who don’t like onions, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. Holy barbacoa yum yum! So much umami that we both woke up thinking “mmmmm….let’s have tacos for breakfast”.  So simple, so yummy! Thanks for the recipe!

  14. Would bottom round roast work for this.?!

  15. Any idea if this would work with venison? I might just have to try…

  16. Great recipe.   Wonderful flavor in the spices!  Thanks. After shredding, I put the beef on a foil lined baking sheet and broiled briefly to crisp up some edges.  Probably changes the intent of the recipe a bit, but was great for us.  Used corn tortillas. Topped with choices of Angel-hair red cabbage, sour cream, cilantro, chopped onion, lime and cotija cheese crumbles.  

  17. I find it just mildly spicy, but everyone definitely has their differing opinions on heat. If you’re worried about it being too spicy, I would add less chipotle. :)

  18. Bought a tri tip today.  Might try it with this.

  19. Your recipe is very nice, but this is not barbacoa. Barbacoa is the meat from the cheeks and neck of the cow. It has a different texture and flavor from the roast that you list as an ingredient. The roast is much tougher, even when cooked for hours. Barbacoa is almost melt in your mouth tender and is a bit greasy. It needs to be drained, so cooking it in a crock pot is not advised. I think you should find a Mexican chef to get an authentic recipe.. Not an American cooking Mexican food, but a Mexican cooking Mexican food. 

  20. Well, I needed to have read more carefully because I thought I was supposed to add the whole can of adobo chilis.  I didn’t add the green chilis because I misread that part.  I should also state that I’ve never cooked with adobo chili’s before and didn’t know how warm they are. As it cooked it smelled really wonderful, but it turned out SO SPICY!  I managed to get down two tacos, but it was just way too hot for me. I wish it wasn’t though because it was really good otherwise! I would try it again with less of the chili – like the recommended amount instead of the full can.

    • Oh no! I’m glad you still enjoyed them though, definitely try them again with less heat, a little adobo goes a long way! : )

  21. “Authentic” or not, this recipe absolutely delicious!!!

  22. I came to update on this since my first try at it was too spicy for me to eat. I sent the left overs to work with hubby the next dayand they didn’t last an hour. He has rave reviews from coworkers who thought the heat was ‘just right’ (must have stomachs of steel) and several of them wanted the recipe. Of course I pointed them here. We are trying this recipe out again, with the right amount of adobo chilis for a party we are hosting tomorrow. Fingers crossed that it’s not too spicy. :)

  23. Brandy just mash the Chipotle peppers and put in a small sandwich or snack size bag and freeze.  Use as needed to flavor different meals.  Use in stews, as part of a marinade etc.  All you need to do is cut a chunk off each time.

  24. Tatia Sanchez, not all barbacoas are  greasy that you have to drain them.  If you want to even say that authentic barbacoa is only made with certain parts is wrong too.  Some states in Mexico only use goat or lamb for barbacoa.  I think know thus is a great recipe.  I would tweet a bit, I wouldn’t add those peppers barbacoa it some guajillo and maybe one dried ancho.  But overall it’s gteat.  My uncle has goats and a cattle in mexico….huge farm and he makes his buried.  Yet, when he comes to the states he makes the best beef barbacoa and has been using a crock pot for over 30 yearrs.  
    In regards to asking a Mexican chef, well each has their own version.  Again depending on who taught them.  Let’s appreciate that someone is truly enjoying our foods and make simple suggestions especially when this is really close to a great tasting barbacoa.   I make mine in crock pot for parties and serve in  clay pot and many do not know how it was made.  I live my crock pot for cocinita pibil,  tenga and barbacoa.  Try this and tweet some ingredients…bet your family would love it especially if me with love. 

  25. Just made this tonight street taco style and made some easy black beans to go with. DELICIOUS!!! Thanks so much, this was just like chipotle but even better!! 

  26. This is the best crock pot barbacoa recipe ever!! My kids couldn’t have enough of it in tacos. In Mexico, barbacoa is also served with its own broth, diced onions, cilantro and some lime juice. Delicioso!! I did blend all of the ingredients (minus the bay leaf) as suggested. Very well worth it!! Thank you for sharing!

  27. How many people would you say this could serve?  I need to feed 8 adults and 2 kids…..

    • It totally depends on how much people are eating, but I would recommend making a double batch to serve that crowd.

  28. This was SO AMAZING. I left out the green chiles since I don’t like them, and I used a sprinkling of dried onions instead of fresh since my husband doesn’t like onions, but it was still SO good. So juicy! So tender! So flavorful! So great! It’s now one of our forever foods. Served on small taco-sized flour tortillas with sour cream, salsa, and cheese. Homemade guac and tortillas chips on the side. Mmmmm mmmmm good!

    • Thanks Alicia, I’m happy you guys liked it! Homemade guac and tortilla chips on the side? Now you’re talkin! : )

  29. I made this last night exactly as written.  After removing from the slow cooker, I used an immersion blender to puree the onions and peppers…then I seared the meat with some of the juices in a skillet to get a bit of a crust.  Served this on flour tortillas with pickled red onions, cilantro and a sprinkle of cotija cheese.  I mean really?  These were phenomenal.  This one is definitely a keeper.  Thank you for the recipe!!  Cheers!

  30. I made this recipe last night with some left over frozen chipotles (I had drained the juice out for another recipe & saved the peppers only). We live in south Texas so everyone in the family loves spicy foods! I left out the cloves(because I didn’t have them). This recipe was amazing!!! I’ll have to make it again. We ate it last night in rice bowls & tonight we’ll have It again with tacos! 

  31. Fantastic slow cooker meal. Made as directed and served over brown rice. Need to try more recipes on gimmesomeoven!!

  32. I made this recipe for a taco cook off at a (Mexican) friend’s house. And this recipe won unanimously. I used 3 Chipotle peppers instead of 2. Next time I will stick with just two because I had to add cheese and sour cream because of the heat. Thank you so much for sharing and I can’t wait to make it again! 

  33. I’ve made this twice now and I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. My meat is never tender enough to just shred with a fork. I have to slice it up, which is fine I guess. Also my sauce doesn’t look at dark as yours does in the picture. The flavor is great, I’m just not sure what I’m doing wrong. Followed recipe exactly. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hmmmm, it sounds like the meat hasn’t cooked for long enough. It should shred very easily with a fork. Could be a difference in slow cookers? Either way, I would recommend cooking it a bit longer. And the color may vary based on the cut of meat. (Mine was also photographed with backlighting, which makes the meat appear a bit darker against the bright light.) :) Hope that helps!

  34. I have a 12 Oz can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, is this big enough for the recipe?

    • Hey Diana, yes, that’s perfect, and you won’t use the whole can; just two peppers, and there are more than two in that size of a can. Hope you enjoy!

  35. Oh my GOD!!! Ive been trying to make this tacos for a long time. I ACTUALLY used to ordered barbacoas tacos almost everyday at lunch at a rest in Lake Havasu City (where I lived), named Tecualas. The challenge part for me was to find the chuck roast cut here in Puert Rico… but  finally founded… and Oh my is Tecualas again. I have some leftover for tomorrow… Im gonna have this tacos with the pinneaple guacamole… mmmmm

  36. Can I make breakfast burritos out if this and if so how?

    • Hi Tabitha, good question! We haven’t tried that, but we think you could probably do that following this recipe (adjusting the filling ingredients however you’d like): We hope that helps, and that you enjoy!

  37. We made this for a dinner party and it was fabulous! I made in my Dutch oven instead of a crockpot. We served it with mini tortillas and toppings for two bite tacos. We are both big foodies and we loved it and will be making it again. Also I think it’s better than Chipotle! 

    • Yay, we’re so glad to hear that! And better than Chipotle? We’ll take that a huge compliment! : D

  38. Just wanted to say thanks for an awesome recipe! I made this for my son’s bday party and loved it. Then I went to Chipotle and ordered barbacoa (i always order chicken) and was actually disappointed b/c i thought this was MUCH better. Put this in the slowcooker this morning and can’t wait to get home!! 

  39. Do you add any of the adobo sauce to the crock pot with the chipotle peppers or just the drained/chopped peppers.

  40. Hi! I luv this recipe. Im a rookie cook. I’ve  been looking for a great barbaco recipe since it’s  one meal we ALL love, which is rare. 

    One question though: I refrigerated  the left over and was packing it the next morning for lunch and noticed a thick orange crust formed on top. My guess is its the fat? What is it and what do you do with it, lol? Once again, I’m  new to this cooking thing. 
    Thanks again for the easy and amazing  recipe!!

    • Hey! We’re so happy to hear you liked the barbacoa! Yes, the orange layer on top was some congealed fat — totally normal. Once you reheat, it should be completely fine, but if you’re concerned, you can always scrape it off beforehand. We hope that helps!

  41. Does the clove give it a weird taste? My husband doesn’t like anything with cinnamon, clove, or any spices like that. If it’s not noticeable in the recipe I would like to know, if he can’t taste it he won’t know! Or would it change it too much if I left it out?

    • Hi, Jen! We don’t find the clove to be very noticeable, but if your husband has a strong aversion to it, we’d suggest leaving it out, just to be on the safe side. We hope you guys enjoy!

  42. I’ve made this 3 times now! Who cares if it’s authentic or not.(let’s not get petty) this was and is delicious. Perfect for a crowd or just two. You can freeze the leftovers. I make burritos, nachos,tacos, and breakfast with this. Just heat meat then add eggs scramble it up then melt some cheddar on top. 

    • Thank you, Teresa, we appreciate that, and we’re so happy you liked it! : )

  43. I don’t have any apple cider vinegar, is there anything I can substitute it with? I have white vinegar, red wine, rice, and balsamic.

    • Hey Lucinda! You could use red wine or white vinegar. We hope that helps!

  44. I am a 54 male who has always found cooking intimidating. My wife does a fine job in the kitchen, so I always let her take care of things. I started tail gating at concerts five years ago and decided to get the nerve to prepare food for a group of people. I also thought it would be good if I gave my wife some relief in the kitchen. I now enjoy working in the kitchen or at the grill. When I saw this barbacoa recipe, I thought “what a good idea for the Fourth of July party!” I received nothing but positive comments and the guests came back for second and thirds. This delicious recipe s going to be part of my repertoire for future events and guests. Thanks Ali for sharing this great recipe.

    • Thank you so much for sharing, Ken, we’re so happy to hear that you enjoyed the barbacoa! And good for you for giving it a go! : )

  45. Making barbacoa this Friday for weekend guests, this is my third time making it. Love it love it, best leftover topped with fried eggs and pepper jack cheese with sliced campari tomatoes on the side for breakfast. Did I mention that I love it. Thanks will send pics if I can figure out how to do it.

  46. I was reading through the comments and noticed that there was some confusion about what a clove of garlic is. Its 1 piece. A whole piece of garlic is called a “head” or “knob.” I’ve been looking for a good homemade barbacoa recipe, and this is by far the most authentic interpretation that I have seen, I hope it comes to as good as looks

  47. I made this the other night, and was a little too liberal with the chipotles in adobo. And by too liberal, I mean I put like 6 of them in there. Other than my mouth being on fire, these were super delicious and next time I will only use the 2 suggested chipotles in adobo. 

    • Oh no, that is pretty liberal — our mouths would be on fire too! We’re happy you were still able to enjoy this though. :)

  48. I made this today and we absolutely LOVED it!!!  We really like Chipotle’s barbacoa, and this was hands-down way better.  I love your recipes and get a ton of them from PInterest.  Guess it’s time to subscribe, eh? :)

    • Thank you Nancy, we’re glad to hear that — what an awesome compliment (especially considering we love Chipotle!) Thanks for being a fan! :)

  49. I have the summer off, I”m gonna make this in the oven, low n slow. Tomorrow! ! I hope the kids like it, they Love chipotle,  maybe I’ll get close. ? Thank you! 

  50. This  looks amazing but coming from New  Haven County in CT, the land of  apizza, I have to think your taste buds are permanently tainted by all that …ugh… Pizza Hut….I can’t even say it’s pizza. But  I will pin this and forgive your youth. Lol kidding people…mostly.