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. 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!!!

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

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

  4. 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

  5. Better than chipotle!

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

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

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

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

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

  11. 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!

  12. I don’t usually comment on recipes I try but this one turned out so so good. Before making this I thought barbacoa was some kinda taqueria voodoo magic that I would never attempt… but this turned out better than 95% of legit street tacos I’ve had!! Only thing I did different was to brown the beef chunks first then deglaze the pan with the beef stock. Thanks again! Decided to freeze a good portion of the meat the same night for my own safety lest I eat 3 lbs in two days.

  13. Love this recipe! Could this be done with chicken with good results? Has Anyone tried that?

    • For a shredded chicken version, I would follow the use recipe and ingredients above, with these changes:
      – 2 to 3 lbs chicken breast (not frozen), instead of 3 lbs beef
      – leave out the ground cloves
      – add 1 jar (12-16 oz) of salsa (red or green)
      – 1/4 cup chicken stock/broth or water, instead of 1/2 cup of beef stock

  14. Amazing

  15. do you think i could use stew beef? thats all i have on hand, silly question but will it shred still?

  16. Absolutely amazing dinner in our household tonight. I couldn’t find diced chili’s so used 2-4oz cans of slice jalapeños (not for the faint of heart). I don’t find the canned diced chili’s ever add much to a recipe anyways. I used 3 chili’s in adobo and some of the sauce. My house smelled amazing all day. We had them with street style flour tortillas heated up in a cast iron pan along with diced onion, cilantro, Avocado salsa/or sour cream (depending on preference) and some cotija cheese. Just had a side salad with hatch chili dressing. I’m full but already craving the leftovers tomorrow. Thank you so much for the recipe, we absolutely loved it. ? ? well done!

    • The best flavors. Never using ground beef for tacos again. Thanks for sharing such a perfect combo of flavors for tacos! We had this for Christmas Eve and will make it a tradition.

  17. Seriously one of the best recipes I’ve ever made! I use my Le Creuset dutch oven in which I sear the meat (have used chuck roast and tri tip), and bake in the oven at 425 for 45 mins then 2.5 hours at 325. When finished, I shred and let stand in the dutch oven at 225 until ready. I blend all of the ingredients in my food processor/blender doubling the chipotle and adding a 1/4 cup orange juice. My wife now loves me again! :)

    • Do you blend it after you’ve cooked the beef or you blend it and let the beef cook in the blended mixture?

    • You cook it in the sauce, so obviously it is blended prior to the cooking process, whatever process you use.

  18. Sounds great but i can’t find the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce anywhere anything i can substitute?

    • It’s canned and a little hard to miss, what stores are you going to? They’re in the Hispanic section and I can almost always find them.

    • Hi! You can use 4 teaspoons ground chili powder.

    • I found this as a substitute and am trying it tonight…. Mix 1 tablespoon tomato paste (or if you must – ketchup), 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon chipotle powder (or smoked paprika/cayenne powder mix), 1/2 teaspoon cumin, a pinch of oregano, a pinch of garlic powder, and a pinch of salt.

    • Walmart has them in the Mexican food section. I bought them yesterday.

    • Walmart has it it a small can . And you can order on line at Walmart .com

    • I’m a little late to the party shay but I replace it with smoked paprika, cayenne pepper (or I make home made chipotles by smoking my jalapeños for a couple hours but thats time intensive) and then add a bit of tomato paste and water. This will achieve the same outcome. I would say 1 T of paprika, 1/2 T of cayenne and 1 t of paste and water each :)

  19. If I could give this more than 5 stars I would. It was so easy and so good. We used Pork Butt, because that is what we had. I also left out the diced green chilies as I knew it would be too much for the two older people in our household. I had planned on having it stretch to two meals, but alas it all went on night one. So tomorrow I am going to redo it with some boneless chicken breasts. I will only give it 2 hours on low, as that should be plenty of time for them. Tonight we had it on flour tortillas with your Cilantro Lime Slaw, which was incredible. We had Chipolte’s Barbacoa last week, and this was so much better! I look forward to trying some of your other recipes.

  20. Amazing recipe, we made it for Cinco de Mayo family dinner. I used in insta pot, seared the chuck roast first then high pressure for 1 hour. I didn’t have clove but had everything else. Shredded up the beef and let in sit in the juices. This recipe is a keeper, thank you for sharing!

  21. So yummy! Will definitely make it again as it was a crowd pleaser

  22. This recipe is amazing. I do it one of 2 ways. Number one, I follow this recipe and do the crockpot thing. Number two, I double all the ingredients and simmer in a sauce pan for perhaps an hour. After that, I cool and blend in the blender. I divide and freeze it in containers. I use the frozen sauce on a busy day with a jar of my home canned venison which is already super tender. I drain some, but not all, of the canning liquid and combine meat and barbocoa sauce in a skillet and simmer for half hour or so. If I need more liquid, I add some of the reserved meat juice that I held in reserve. I can literally decide on barbocoa less than an hour before supper on a crazy day.

  23. Looks tasty I can’t wait to make it.

  24. Any thoughts on how to sub in chicken?

  25. I, too, made this in my Instant Pot using Kay’s suggested guidelines below (high pressure, 1 hour, seared the beef first). It was delicious! Will definitely make again.

  26. I made the recipe as stated except for omitting green chilis as I didn’t have them and I added 1/4 cup orange juice. Cut the 4 pound chick roast into 8 large chunks. Lightly floured and browned them and cooked for 8 hours. Meat was falling apart tender. I thought initially it was too spicy for me but after shredding it and putting in flour tortillas with carmelized onions and red peppers, cilantro and Mexican cheese and black beans it was perfect. Everyone raved and said it was far better then chipotle or any restaurant. This will be a go to recipe especially in football season. Served with jasmine rice with lime juice and cilantro. So pleased. Hubby loved. Thank you for this recipe. It’s a no fail recipe.

  27. Was this supposed to be two the cans the link led to or just two chiles???? I added two of the cans from the link but wasn’t sure

    • I was wondering the same thing! TWO cans of Chipotle’s in Adobo OR TWO single chipotle peppers from ONE can of the peppers in adobo?

    • How was it with two cans? I don’t see that the author ever updated any of the questions regarding this and I put in one whole can, but did not dice them. Hoping I didn’t just ruin our dinner…

  28. This was fabulous. Thank you so much for sharing. I made it with pork that was a huge hit. I am now required to make this on a weekly basis. The recipe is so simple which was an awesomely pleasant surprise.

  29. Wow! This is absolutely delicious.

    I didn’t have the Apple Cider Vinegar so, I just skipped it. I also like spicy food so I added an extra chipotle pepper or two. Seriously, so good.

  30. Really amazing! I used a beef pho broth concentrate packet for making the liquid which gives it a lovely extra lime flavor, and added extra broth so that there’s lots of pot liquor left at the end. I use that to make pinto beans with some chunks of the left over barbacoa tossed in. Best pintos ever!

  31. This is so flavorful and easy. My boys love it too. I make this often. Yummy

  32. So good!! Used 2T La Costena chopped chipotles for the 2 chipotles in adobo, but otherwise followed the recipe as written. Unbelievably flavorful and tender. Served with cilantro lime slaw and charred corn tortillas – my piggy husband ate SIX tacos! Can’t recommend this enough.

  33. Seriously loved this recipe. Made exactly as directed, except I did brown the meat a little in a cast iron skillet. Will make again and again!

  34. .

  35. Wow. So like many other reviewers, I have never actually taken the time to leave a comment for a recipe before. But oh my goodness, this recipe is SO GOOD. I didn’t have cloves. And I decided to thrown in an extra spoonful of salt and had to use key limes since it’s all I had, but otherwise didn’t change the recipe at all (although my roast was only 2.64 lbs). I love cooking, and have to say this is one of my favorite tasting meals I’ve ever made. I didn’t have to adjust the seasoning at all at the end—a first for me.

  36. I’ve been making this once a week since quarantine. Easy to do and everybody loves it. I like to add half can of hard cider or Mexican beer. I may try to sear the outside of the beef to see if it’s worth the extra time because that works well with other braised beef recipes. Thank you!

  37. This is in my crockpot now! Can’t wait!

  38. This is honestly one of the best meat recipes I’ve ever made. I’ve made it twice in the last week. The amount of flavor in this insane. I substituted 1 chopped jalepeño for the chiles. Also I’ve been throwing it in the oven at 350 for 2 hrs. When it’s done, I shred up all the meat and mix everything together. I can’t wait to try this with pork and chicken. My favorite has been eating it over white rice but is good on a tortilla with cotija.

  39. This recipe is amazing! I was nervous because my children are quite picky, but this recipe satisfied even my pickiest eaters! I am adding this one to our monthly rotation.

  40. Wow! My kitchen smelled amazing all day. And this recipe was amazeballs!! Made homemade non- GMO corn tortillas with corn from Mexico. And couldn’t believe how utterly delicious REAL corn tastes compared to all our genetically grown crap. Make this you will not be disappointed. Everyone freaked and never want store bought anything again!

  41. Authentic Barbacoa should be made with shredded COW TONGUE!! not pot roast.

  42. This recipe was excellent and quickly has become a family favorite. However, I found my beef was a bit tough and hard to shred. Does that mean it was cooked too long in the crock pot? After I shredded it and put it back in the juices for a bit, it was delicious and you would never know it had been tough. I would like to be able to shred it easier.

  43. Finally a Barbacoa that does not disappoint! Absolutely delicious. I didn’t even cut the beef chuck roast up before adding everything into the slow cooker for around five hours on high. This is totally going on the dinner rotation. Thank you!

  44. Look, I’m sure it’s good. But I was looking for an authentic barbacoa recipe. Chuck roast with fat trimmed? My abuelita would slap me across the back of my head. Hear me people, use beef tongue and or cheek. This is the way.

  45. YUMMY!

  46. The clove in here was just a little strong for my taste, making it less authentic tasting as I had hoped. Would also reduce cumin.

  47. 5 star from me not a 1 star!

  48. Just made this for a taco bar with a few friends tonight. It was AMAZING. Everyone raves about it. I served it alongside a copy cat Chipotle cilantro lime rice plus all the fixings. It was super easy to assemble the night before then plug in in the morning. 5 stars!

  49. Made this recipe twice and absolutely love it! I seared the meat on the second try and definitely made the dish better. If you are a die-hard chilehead I recommend adding dried Thai chili peppers to give an extra kick.

  50. I have made this several times and it never disappoints! I follow the recipe exactly and it is spot on! Whole family loves