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. Very good recipe! Meat came out tender will serve tonight for hubby. :)

  2. This was THE BOMB! I got it stuck in my head and finally made it not too long ago. I used half of it to make corn, yellow squash, and beef enchiladas that I just published on my food blog and the other half for beef, potato, and cabbage stuffed biscuits. It was so good! Thanks for this awesome recipe!

  3. I made this today for a nacho party tonight.  The sauce is just terrific!  

    The one change I made was to strain the sauce before adding it back in to the shredded beef.  I think this just makes it more visually appealing.  Thanks for the great recipe!

    • Thanks Shannon, we’re so glad you enjoyed it! And straining the sauce is a good idea!

  4. Made this yesterday for lunch after church and it turned out so great!! Followed recipe with minimal changes: 1) forgot to buy green chiles, 2) didn’t have oregano on hand, and 3) added a few shakes of low-sodium soy sauce. Since this was for a noon meal, I got up at 6am to throw in pre-prepped ingredients (then went back to bed!), cooked on high for 3 hours, then reduced to low to cook for 3 more hours until we got home. The meat shredded so easily and was perfectly seasoned. Served with large flour tortillas for my husband while mom and I dished it up over rice, corn and black beans, plus all the usual taco fixins. Thanks SO much for posting such a tasty recipe that doesn’t require pre-cooking and serves a crowd or freezes well for smaller portions.

    • Hi Carrie! Wow, you’re a trooper for getting up at 6am to put everything in the slow cooker! We’re so happy the barbecue worked out, and that you guys enjoyed it! :)

  5. Have you ever tried this in a pressure cooker? I wonder if the flavors would meld together well enough…

  6. What a let down! I don’t know what went wrong, I cooked it as directed, but when it came time to shred, it was as tough as nails and I couldn’t shred it properly, the forks kept getting stuck and I kept getting hot liquid splashed up on me struggling to get the meat apart. The taste was awful, just tasted like cheap cuts of meat with watery chili broth. As some Australians who loved Chipotle this was a very disappointing meal. $20’worth of meat is now in the bin.

    • Hi Jane, we didn’t remove your review, we only just now got around to seeing it. Please know that we appreciate all feedback (both positive and negative, as long as it’s respectful and constructive). We are very sorry to hear that this did not turn out right for you. This meat should never ever be tough — it should be tender and should shred apart easily, once it’s been cooked properly. We haven’t had any feedback like this before on this recipe. What type of meat did you use? Did you follow the recipe exactly? Any information you could provide would be helpful for us to determine what might have gone awry.

    • Oh no! I wonder what happened. The meat definitely should not toughen up, and while the broth might be a little watery, it soaks into the meat more once it has shredded. Darn, I wonder if the cuts of meat or slow cookers are somehow different in Australia. Sorry that it didn’t turn out well. :(

  7. This recipe sounds very yummy, it just shouldn’t be called Barbacoa though. Barbacoa is a Cow’s head (pit dug in the ground) or the much easier and more used Cow’s Cheek Meat. The cheek meat goes into the slow cooker just as easy as this recipe and voila…………..REAL BARBACOA! Your recipe though yummy sounding is just shredded beef.

  8. I unfortunately had the same experience as Jane. I followed the recipe exactly. Not sure what wrong but I am truly bummed. I was thinking maybe the grocer mislabeled the meat as chuck roast and it was possibly another cut? I was also hoping the sauce would be thicker, maybe even sweeter? Any suggestions would be great so that I can try it again.

    • Oh no, I’m sorry to hear that! The sauce definitely thickens up a bit more as it cools a little bit, and once the meat is shredded, I found that the sauce soaked into the meat pretty quickly. Hope that it works out better if you try it again! I definitely recommend cooking low and slow if you have the time.

  9. Hey! I’m so happy I found this recipe, my hubby liked Barbacoa tostadas but when he found out we were eating goat meat he FREAKED! yesterday I told him I found this recipe and he’s excited! I’m currently making it (it’s in the crock pot) and my home smells soooooooo good! Thanks again can’t wait for dinner ?

  10. Where do you get chipotle peppers in adobo?

    • You can find them in the International aisle of most grocery stores (in the Hispanic section). We hope this helps!

  11. I am a restaurant Brat. My parents owned 5 Mexican Restaurants in CA. I grew up with all kinds of Mexican Cooking-All-Day Mamas – Including thee Best Cook, My Grandma! I have made barbacoa many times, recipes easy and not so easy. I have even bought pre-made pkgs like the one called La F_____ (the guy is on tv). I am telling you ****this recipe, hands down thee best!!!!!**** I will add a little of this or more of that, but always I use thee same ingredients – my daughter did say she did not like how much apple cider vinegar I put in the first time! She said it made her sick >.< so I always put less now… I seriously question the people that messed this up…. buy the right kind of cut, and from a good local butcher (no Costco), and watch those temps and times. There is no rushing in making good Mexican food ;)

    • Thank you for taking the time to share this with us Fina, we’re so happy you enjoyed the recipe!! :)

  12. Made this Saturday night and it was fantastic! Two thumbs up from the husband as well.
    Opted to blend everything in the food processor before tossing with the beef and served it as tacos with fresh corn and spring mix.  Definitely will make this again =)

  13. I just wanted to thank you for posting this recipe. I’m about as worthless in the kitchen as a newborn but was able to throw this together and it ended up tasting awesome! I’m sorry for those that didn’t have it turn out so well…I’m betting the cut of meat was labeled incorrectly because it’s practically foolproof. 

    Thank you!!!!

  14. Made this today and it turned out fantastic!! I wanted very spicy so I used a whole can of chipotle and I’m very pleased with the results. The meat was very tender and shredded easily. As good as this is, I bet it will be better tomorrow. Thanks for sharing this recipe it’s definitely a keeper.

    • We’re so glad to hear that Allen, thanks for sharing! And yes, it’s even better on the next day! :)

  15. I just made this for a birthday party and it was absolutely delicious! Everyone raved about how wonderful it tasted, and that it was even better than Chipotle. My parents were with me at the store as I purchased all the ingredients and asked if I was sure the recipe was going to turn out. I wasn’t worried in the slightest-everything I’ve made from your recipes has been so flavorful and delicious! Thanks for giving me more confidence when I cook, and for your wonderful blog! (I’m re-making your Chili recipe tonight  to use up the adobo pepper. Your chili recipe is also the best I have ever tasted!) Thanks again AIi!

  16. Okay…. just made these. It is HOT and I only used half the green chili amount. I had to add some brown sugar to cut the heat a little but once I add some greek yogurt (instead of sour cream) it is good!  Prefect for the cold nights to come. Cooked right and shredded just fine. 

    • We’re glad you enjoyed this Arin! We’re sorry it was too hot initially, we’re not sure why — it should have a kick, but should not be crazy hot. Anyway, we’re glad it worked out int he end, thanks for sharing!

  17. my husband and i loved this and will definitely make it again. looking forward to making quesadillas with the leftovers later this week. i also made pickled onions that added nice crunch and a little extra zing:

    • Thanks Joanna, we’re glad to hear that! And those pickled onions sound like a killer addition! :)

  18. Hello Shannon, a great many thanks to you for this awesome recipe. I was in a pinch, as the caterer I hired for my daughters baby shower canceled on me two days before the event. We were having over (80) people attending our function and the menu had already been set for having barbacoa. As you know there are so many recipes to choose from and after careful consideration, (basically being an eneey, meeny, minny, moe) I selected yours. Your recipe was truly a God’s Send to me! I received numerous compliments, as many people couldn’t believe it was my first time ever making this dish, let alone finding it on Pinterest. You are my new found hero, as your fantastic recipe sent myself and so many others home with a smile and a very full stomach……..Job Well Done!

  19. How crazy!! I’m from Wichita too!!! Small world!! I’ll be trying out this recipe this weekend!! 

  20. I’m curious about the adobo sauce and chipotle peppers: If I’m only using 2 (or 3, okay, I do like spicy) peppers from the can, what do I do with the sauce? Do I just take a couple tablespoons of it, or do I just dump it all in? I’ve seen a bunch of recipes that call for only a couple peppers from the can, and nobody specifies what to do with/how much of the adobo sauce to use. Thanks!

    • I don’t add extra sauce, but add in the sauce that’s coating the few peppers that I chop up. But you’re welcome to add more of the sauce if you’d like! Otherwise, I recommend freezing it for later use. :)

  21. I had the same problem as Katie and Jane – my meat didn’t shred at all.  The taste was awesome though, so I’ll definitely be trying this again.  I cooked it on high for 4 hours… so next time I’ll try low for 6-8 and see how it does.  Absolutely worth a second try!  

    • Oh no, I’m sorry to hear that! Yes, different cuts of meat and different slow cookers can definitely vary. I would just cook it awhile longer until it shreds easily. Enjoy!

  22. Have a ? Want to make this recipe. But could you use london broil. Instead of chuck roast.

  23. I make this once every other month. It’s always turned out perfect! I can’t eat cilantro so this satisfies my Chipotle craving without risking an upset stomach. I pair it with Garlic Cilantro Lime Rice (minus cilantro) from the Food Network website. My half Mexican boyfriend has told me if this is all I make him the rest of his life he’ll be a happy man. This coming from a man who usually won’t eat leftovers!

  24. I’m made this recipe a million times. Everyone is obsessed!!!
    I want to double it this time. I’m sure I can do that.
     Was wondering should I double the ingredients?  I know sometimes doubling can change the flavor etc. Please advise!!

    • Thanks for sharing Crystal, we’re happy to hear that! And we think doubling this should be just fine! :)

  25. This was super delicious and turned out amazing. It was quite spicy though. Was it my chipotle peppers? I only had 2 lbs of meat. How could I make it less spicy. I love spicy but my fiancé doesn’t. It was actually spicy for me

    • We’re glad to hear you enjoyed it Becky, though we’re sorry it was a little too spicy for you. We’d suggest next time just using one chipotle pepper, or omitting entirely.

  26. Dumb question, but…..2 chiptoles in adobo sauce, chopped (or more to taste) – is this 2 cans, 2 tablespoons, 2 what?  Thank you.

    • Hi Cathy – not a dumb question at all! You just need one can but you won’t use the whole thing (there are a lot of chipotles in one can). You just need two peppers (or more if you like). We hope you enjoy the recipe!

  27. Quick question, I see that the final result is mixed with cilantro but I can’t make out the other items. Can you share what your toppings would be for the tacos? Sorry to bother but thanks much for the recipe!

    • Hi Cherie! We used chopped raw onion, fresh cilantro and a little squeeze of fresh lime on these, but feel free to add/modify these to your liking. :) We hope you enjoy!

  28. Hello!
    I just decided to try your recipe for the first last minute the night before my work pot luck. As my meat was cooking in the crock pot, I read some reviews then got super worried that there was a chance I could ruin the recipe and end up with tough meat as some other people did. I put it on high and after 3 hours I checked the meat…sure enough it was super tough and would not shred! I began to panic because I needed this for work and it was already 11pm. So I did some research on tenderizing already cooked meat and basically found out that 3-4 hours is not a long enough time to get meat like this to be ready to shred. So I put the crock pot on low, let it cook for another 5 hours, and had very tender  meat that easily shred with a light touch of the fork (whew!!! Was I relieved!)Mission accomplished! Thank you for this super easy and delicious recipe! I’m so glad that I did my research and didn’t waste 6lbs of meat! Can’t wait to share this dish at work!

    • Hi Danielle, thank you for sharing this with us! We’re glad it turned out great in the end. Definitely helpful to know lower and slower is better for this one. :)

  29. Chipotles in adobo sauce are HOT and one or two of these in a big pot of any kind of stew are plenty for most people. But even the little cans have eight or ten chiles. When I open a can I chop up the whole thing (except the stems) sauce and all, and then cover an ice tray loosely with plastic wrap. Then I put a couple of teaspoons of the chopped chipotles in each cube and freeze it. Once it is hard frozen I turn the portions into a baggie and keep it in the freezer, ready to throw one or two into whatever recipe I like.  Be CAREFUL what you touch after working with hot chiles. If you touch your eye or nether parts, you’ll burn the dickens out of yourself. 

  30. i have made this a bunch of times since we first tried it in october, we LOVE it!. tonight, i made grilled cheese with the leftovers and it was AMAZING! my husband said it’s one of the best sandwiches he’s ever had. a tuesday night whim turned into an awesome dinner.

  31. Hello! I’m not a big cook so sorry for the following question… The recipe calls for ( chipotles in adobo sauce) , is this sold in a jar?
    Thank you!

    • Hey Sylvia, no worries at all! Chipotles in adobo can be found in the Hispanic foods section of your grocery’s international aisle, and they come in a small can (with several peppers). We hope you enjoy the barbacoa! :)

  32. I grew up eating barbacoa and lengua.  Traditionally Barbacoa is the cheek meat from the cow.  My dad gets a whole fresh cow head  and cooks it in the oven for about 10-12 hrs on low.  He then would shred the cheeks ( Barbacoa & lengua) and tongue.  Add some of the juices and Mexican spices.  Put into a double corn tortilla, slightly warmed or grilled.  We would add chopped onion and fresh cilantro.  So good!!  You can also buy the cheeks and a tongue at a Mexican store and put in the pressure cooker for approx 6-8 hrs.  It’s always amazing!!  

    • We think that sounds incredible Teresa, thank you for taking the time to share with us – we bet it’s truly out of this world! :)

  33. Cooked this tonight, LOVED the flavor. I think I may try to put the shredded meat under a blazing hot broiler for just enough time to dry up some of the liquid and give it a bit of a mailliard crunch.

  34. Trying this recipe for a group today! I think we’re going to have lots of leftovers – does it freeze well?

  35. this recipe alone has me excited to make barbacoa ADD in the fact that your’re as big as a pizza hut “book-it” fan as i am And i’m sold!

  36. Can I forego the apple cider vinegar?

  37. Where can I find Chipotle Peppers?

    • Hi Ramella! You should be able to find small cans of chipotle peppers in the Hispanic section of your grocery’s International aisle.

  38. Being a softball dad I’m always looking for something different and simple to make. I came across this recipe and decided to try it out…WOOOOOOW….turned out great and my daughter absolutely loved it! She requested I make it again! I used 3 chipotles peppers instead of 2 and a being lime lovers that we are added a little extra! Came out delicious! So, I have a quick question. I want to get up in the morning, throw everything in and “set it and forget it” until I get home later in the evening for dinner. Do you recommend we throw everything in at once in the morning or can can I mix it in now and let all the spices marinate overnight? Not sure if that’s a good idea or not!

    • Awww we’re so glad to hear you and your daughter enjoyed this Michael! And we would just throw everything in there all at once in the morning :)

  39. This looks amazing and im so anxious to try it, problem is i have no beef cucurrently. Would it be crazy to use chicken or should i jjust wait until i can get to the store?

    • Hi Carrie, we don’t think that’s crazy at all! We haven’t tried that ourselves, so we can’t say for sure how much chicken you should use in this recipe, but we think you could follow this recipe and add just add some of the spices/ingredients in the barbacoa, to sort of combine the two recipes. We hope that helps!

  40. Thank you for sharing this recipe. Had it for dinner tonight and my whole family LOVED it. Even my pickiest eater! :)

  41. I made this when we had the big snow storm last week, and it was incredible! A few of our friends stopped by after I made it and they cleaned the slow cooker, everyone had at least 3-4 tacos each! It wasn’t too hot at all, I found it to be very mild. I was a little worried about shredding the beef after 3-4 hours because of the other comments, but I had no problem shredding mine beautifully after 4 hours. I am keeping this recipe for the next time I have to cook for a group, it was delicious! 

    • Thank you for sharing with us Nicole! We’re so happy to hear it worked out well for you and that you enjoyed it! :)

  42. Can I sear the brikset in a large skillet before I put it in the slow cooker?

    • Yes, definitely! We think that’ll deliver even more flavor, so that’s a great idea! We hope you enjoy. :)

  43. We had this for dinner tonight and absolutely loved it.  The flavors were delicious and the beef shredded beautifully.  The whole family enjoyed it.  We left out the chipotles so it wouldn’t be spicy for the kids, but will add fresh jalepeno for a garnish tomorrow.  :)

    • Thank you for sharing with us Cathy! We’re so happy it was a hit with your family! :)

  44. Has anyone tried this recipe with pork loin? Will it come out similar?

  45. Did you know that real Barbacoa is made from the head of the cow? Not sure what this is. Probably more of a guisado but it’s not Barbacoa. Maybe a copycat of what chipotle also calls Barbacoa. I’m sure it’s delicious though. Try and find some real Barbacoa where you live and give it a taste. There is no comparison at all.  :) 

  46. Has anyone  cooked this on high for 4 hours? I want to make this tonight but the last time I cooked a roast on high it didn’t turn out as tender.

  47. Thank you for this recipe. I made it exactly as the recipe said. It was delicious!

  48. Hi! I really want to try this out tomorrow. Does the size of the crock pot make a difference? Which size do you use?

    • Hi Ashley! Yes, we used a 6-qt size for this. If you have something smaller, you might want to cut the recipe in half! You just want to make sure it’s not overcrowded, or things won’t cook properly/evenly. We hope you enjoy!

  49. Marisa is correct. Real Barbacoa is made from beef cabesa (head). It has a unique flavor and unlike your dish of slow-cooked chuck roast or any other substitute, such as the pork roast another reader asked about, it is incredibly soothing on the stomach. This effect is much like that of  menudo; both are not only traditional breakfast dishes but widely used for hangover relief. Here in South Texas,  Barbacoa is typically a Sunday morning tradition and that is the best time to purchase it  freshly made.  Oh, and don’t forget the ice-cold Big Red to wash it down. It’s a Tex-Mex thing. 

  50. You wanna make this like the real Mexican barbacoa, you will need to use the tongue of the beef. :)