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. This was good.  Husband liked it very much.  12 year old son did not like the onions [too bad ;-) ].  Only change I made was to use 1/8 cup lime juice instead of the 1/4 cup called for because I only had bottled lime juice, not fresh.  I probably could have used even a tad less.  Thank you for the recipe, we’ll be enjoying this again soon.

  2. Made this for the first time today and it is seriously amazing!!! You have really nailed the Chipotle barbacoa seasonings, which our family loves! My 3 guys devoured this! I did add a couple extra Chipotle peppers and a little of the adobo sauce, because spicy is how we roll around here. Also did not cut my chuck roast in chunks, just left it whole and shredded after cooking. Cooked 8 hours in slow cooker and meat was fall-apart tender. A huge hit that we will definitely make again. Thank for sharing this great recipe!

  3. Question- I’m a bit confused. Do the ingredients require 2cans or 2chiles for the (2)Adobes in adobe sauce ingredient?

  4. The barbacoa ive always had was made wth cow tounge (tounge whole skin on) slow cooker 10-12 hours the ussually overnight then cut skin off and pulled apart and sauteed in a pan for brunch tacos

    • Yes, we know it’s traditionally made with cow tongue. We wanted to use a different part of meat that would be more accessible to most folks. We hope you enjoy the recipe! :)

  5. Will this recipe work with flank steak instead of the roast?

    • Hi Melissa! Hmmm, we haven’t tried this with flank steak instead, so we honestly aren’t sure how it would turn out. We have seen some other recipes online that use flank steak instead though (it’s easier to trim but will be pricier). If you give it a try, definitely let us know how it turns out!

  6. Really great recipe! I misread the cloves and used allspice – still turned out fine. Also didn’t have the green chiles in a can so I used a 10 oz can of Rotel tomatoes with chiles. . It was good with bits of tomato too! We had it on corn tortillas with lettuce, sour cream, a little shredded cheddar, cilantro, and sliced avocado. Yum!!! Thank you this is a keeper.

  7. AMAZING! Can’t wait to make this again! Definitely a keeper recipe. I swapped out fresh deveined/seeded serrano chiles for the canned chiles and it still tasted great. Thanks for sharing!

  8. OMG! This may just be one of our Monthly Must Meals! Delicious! 

  9. Usually when I freeze crockpot recipes, I freeze it BEFORE cooking but in the instructions and the comments I see most froze the leftovers after cooking. 
    When it’s time to use them, do you recommend just thawing then microwaving? 
    How long can it last after the leftovers have been thawed? 

    • Yep, I would recommend thawing and then microwaving. And the barbacoa should last for 3-4 days in a sealed container in the fridge after it has been thawed.

  10. I just wanted to comment. I made this dozens of times now. It’s awesome. My brother in law who is Mexican said it’s so good I could sell it. Thanks for posting. 

  11. I have made this recipe a few times now, and it is absolutely delicious! Never fails to please my fiancee and our dinner guests. We typically serve it on a bed of lettuce with black beans, sauteed peppers and onions, cheese, salsa, and lots and lots of tortilla chips. It is so easy to throw together, and it freezes wonderfully. I would also suggest that if, like me, you cannot use an entire can of chipotles in adobo quickly enough you should freeze portions in their own ziplock bags. I did this last time I made the recipe after wasting the leftovers from the can when making this previously. Always happy to save some money and reduce waste!

    • Thanks for sharing, Kristin, we’re so glad to hear it’s a hit with folks! :D

  12. I get having Pizza Hut in Wichita, especially if you ate at Kellogg and Bluff! But my Wichita fave is hands down Nu-Way followed closely by Dog – n – Shake. And both are on the way to Hillside Nursery!

  13. It was delicious!

  14. 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 :)

  15. 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!

  16. 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!


  18. 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! :)

  19. 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

  20. 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!!

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

  22. 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.

  23. 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!

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

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

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

  27. 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!

  28. 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.

    • 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.

  29. 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.

  30. Great recipe. First time I made it a family member said it was “life changing”. I put everything except the meat and bay leaves in the blender and it makes a really nice sauce. I did not have vinegar so I used some red wine and it was still great. Thanks for sharing this fab dish!!

  31. Any tips for doing this in an Insta Pot!? You listed it as a possibility in the pork carnitas recipe. Along with the teriyaki chicken and beef stew. Just curious if you have an tips or specific settings to use with each.

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

  33. 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!!

  34. 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!

  35. Ive made this recipe a couple of times and love it! I’ve got a big family and im thinking about making this for thanksgiving, as my mother in law is already making a turkey. Any tips on doubling maybe tripling thins recipe?

  36. I’m looking to make this in the Instant Pot… any ideas on how long to cook it? And, on what setting? Thanks!!

  37. Can I make this using pork instead of beef?

  38. Made these for dinner tonight. Super happy with how it turned out- thanks for a great recipe. I rarely comment, but this is one of my go to blogs for recipes.

  39. I LOVE this recipe and it turned out so well when I made it last year! I don’t have a crockpot anymore though, I have an Instant Pot. Is there any chance you could post Instant Pot instructions? I’d love to make this this Sunday for the Superbowl :)

  40. Love this recipe! One of our favorites.
    Very versatile.

  41. Absolutely delicious! It did take a lot longer than predicted to get to a shreddable state, but I’ll chalk that up to doubling the recipe. I made it for a massive crowd and they loved it. Will make again very soon!

    • Hi Anna,
      I was thinking of making this recipe for a large crowd as well. When you doubled the recipe, how many people would you say this fed? And about how much longer did you need to cook for?

  42. Can this recipe be adapted to be made in an Instant Pot?

  43. Does any ody know what type or brand of the caned green chillies.

    • old el paso or ortega work just fine. they also call them “chopped” and look exactly as the “diced” do!

  44. I’ve made this several times and it is ALWAYS delicious! I just eyeball most the ingredients and I also poke holes in the beef so everything really soaks in while it cooks. I’ve made this for several pitch-ins and get together. Even the Mexicans who have tried it think it’s amazing (my ex called his mom in Mexico to tell her how good it was lol) thanks for sharing this recipe!

  45. Family favorite! Love all the layers of flavor, and the leftovers for lunch!

  46. Delicious! I used eye round bc my store didn’t have chuck in stock and still came out really tasty. I followed the recipe using water instead of beef stock and it was plenty flavorful. My slow cooker has a searing function so I seared the meat before slow cooking, but I didn’t notice the sear once the meat was cooked and pulled apart. Next time I’ll skip that step and see how it turns out. We ate all of it in 2 days :)

  47. i can’t believe im 51 and never had barbacoa before. this is like when i found out about bulgogi. made tacos w/ pickled onions, chopped onions, cilantro, and a lil mexican cheese. wow.

  48. Great recipe! I modified it just a little bit. I added about 4 tomatillos that I roasted in the oven with the onion. I put all of the ingredients in the blender except for the onions and meat. We used it in burrito bowls. Thanks for sharing!

  49. I made this for soft tacos and it was delicious!!! Will def make it again!

  50. Made this recipe for the first time and I received the coveted “You can make this AGAIN” seal of approval from my husband. It is so flavorful which is what I find most appealing because I’m just done with flavorless food. The fact that it’s extremely fast and easy to make means this is going to happen a lot. We love it for our keto diet and ate it over lettuce with avocado, onions, cilantro, and squeeze of lime and took it to work for lunch.