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.
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
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.
Then once the beef has simmered for hours, it will fall apart easily when you shred it with two forks…
…and you will have the most tender, flavorful, delicious beef ready to serve.
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.
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.
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.
Serve. Use a pair of tongs or a slotted spoon to serve the barbacoa beef and enjoy!
This is a staple in our household now! One of our favorites! We also serve this with shredded Monterey cheese and fry up some flour tortillas!
Do you have any instructions on how to convert this to an Instapot recipe?
High pressure for a hour, quick release, sautéed on high stirring constantly for 15 min or untill not as watery.
Absolutely delicious ? my family loved it, I usually make homemade tortillas to eat with this recipe but decided on fry bread today and it was a hit??♀️❤️ Thank you for sharing your version of this out of this world Barbacoa?
Sek here. I can literally taste your deep dish Canadian bacon pizza and Pepsi. I have used many of your recipes but had no idea you were from Wichita. Thanks for the recipe!
It may not be a popular substitute, but my family has loved this with venison roasts instead of beef. If you’re a hunter, I highly recommend trying this recipe with your venison! Even old, gamey tasting venison turns out great with the acid from the vinegar and lime.
Omg! This recipe is so so so good.
I’ve made it several times at this point and it’s banging’ everytime. Friends and family love it!!
Alas, I have gone vegan for health reasons and I am devastated that this go-to recipe for mine is off the table. I am wondering if it’s possible to adapt with young jackfruit for that shredded meaty goodness.
It is sooo good with jackfruit in my opinion!
I used 3lbs jackfruit (drained):
Cook the jackfruit with the onion and garlic in a pan until lightly browned and relatively free of moisture, about 10 minutes.
Transfer jackfruit to a slow cooker; cover with sauce (substitute water for beef broth). Cook on Low, (occasionally stirring) until jackfruit shreds easily. Roughly 6 hours.
Ill have to rate later but the recipe doesnt mention the chipotle in adobe sauce. Do you not use the sauce? just the peppers? Or chop the peppers in the sauce and add it all to the slow cooker?
I am also wondering the same thing!
Hi there! Second time making this recipe – the family loves it! Great flavor! However, both times the meat has come out very tough and difficult to shred. Any thoughts on where I could improve? Following the recipe to the letter!
If the meat is still tough you may need to cook it longer. The slow cooking gets the meat hot enough to break down the collagen – which is what makes the meat tough. Every slow cooker cooks different and every roast is different (some have more collagen). I promise the extra time is worth it!
I would say just to leave it as long as possible in the slow cooker, for me an extra hour difference on high made it go from being tough to just falling apart.
This is definitely a keeper in our household. Can’t wait to make again!
I love this recipe! Have made it numerous times and it is a huge hit! I have made it in the instant pot when short on time and in my Le creuset dutch oven low and slow in the oven (275 or 300ish temp). I usually add some fresh cilantro and fresh lime juice at the end to brighten everything up. Absolutely delicious.
Absolutely delicious! I was skeptical about the ground clove as I don’t like clove. But it didn’t over-power the dish. If you don’t like clove, please try it in this recipe. I always make a recipe as it is written, and alter it if necessary for my taste. I’ll keep making it just as it is!
Bland. Bland. Bland.
The meat has no flavor whatsoever with these ingredients. I used a 2.4lb roast, with the exact asuments specified, slow cooked for 6 hours. The meat was very tender Der, but tasted of nothing. What a waste.
Really good!!! Entire family loved it!
Would it be okay to double the recipe? Or is that too much to cook at once?
I’ve been making this recipe for a while now and it’s my family’s favorite! I double the recipe every time and it turns out amazing every time I make it!! By far the best recipe I’ve ever gotten online.
I made this last night for a small dinner — easiest and tastiest thing I’ve made in a while!! I didn’t have green chilis so I added dried red peppers and a chopped bell pepper but next time I intent to follow the recipe. I used a skirt steak and cooked it on high for 4-5 hours. I will definitely be making this recipe again, it was delicious!!
Amazing! Wow, this was absolutely delicious and so easy. Definitely a keeper.
Trying recipe for first time.
Would there be an issue with trimming the beef and marinating it in the ingredients the night before? Maybe keep out the lime?
I just made this for my husband’s 30th birthday party, and wow, it was a total hit. Everyone hovered around the buffet and made taco after taco. The flavors were incredible.
We also just moved back from Los Angeles to the Midwest and were REALLY missing our street tacos from all our favorite taquerias and this barbacoa tasted like home. For the toppings, I used cojita cheese, homemade pickled red onions, cilantro and lime served on mini street taco style tortillas. This recipe will stay in our home. Thank you for sharing!!!!
This is one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever made. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve made it, and how much everyone enjoys it. In fact, I have it in the crock pot again now! I am not much of a cook and this is a cinch to create.
Can’t thank you enough for this recipe and truly cannot stress to everyone how unbelievably good this is!
Any ideas how to translate this recipe to the instant pot? I love how many of your recipes give options for several different cooking methods! I don’t have a slow cooker but would love to give this recipe a try!
She has another post of this recipe specifically for an instant pot. Just Google Barbacoa Beef Instant Pot and you will find it. Same website.
Made this for a party and everyone LOVED it; I was surprised at the kick of spice but it was perfection! A true Mexican dish.
I am very much so looking forward to this recipe tonight! I have never cooked with chipotle peppers. I bought a 7oz can of chipotle peppers in adobe sauce and I want to be clear on how to use them. Just pull two out for this recipe and chop them? It seems like such a small amount….
How can I adjust this to cook on a campfire in a lodge cast iron pot?
My husband could not stop raving about this meal. Seriously! It is the most he has ever gone on and one about a meal.
So easy. So good.
I am a true fan of your recipes. I have made many of them and they are all worth of making the “repeat list”.
This is the best slow cooker recipe ever! Served with avocado, cilantro and lime of course!
We’re thinking of making this in a large skillet on the fire camping. Do you think that would work? What temp/time would ideal?
I love this so much I am canning a case of it so I can have it anytime I want some! Very good recipe. I love the ease of Crock Pot cooking.
Delicious!!! I’ll be making that again! So easy and fast to make!
It turned out to be a bit spicy, so go easy on peppers and cumin, if you don’t care for your mouth burning;)
I’ve been craving a good barbacoa beef recipe since the big-name franchise closed down. This made the most amazing burrito bowls! Thanks to my BFF for sharing. This will be on regular rotation in our house and I will share with my foodie friends!!
Delicious , very easy prep and you just let it cook on its own. Recommend for a easy and yummy dinner with rice :)
I found one extra step to kick this recipe up. After letting the Barbacoa soak up the juices, cool down the slow cooker for 20 minutes depending on its heat and let it sit over night. Reheat it on low for around 2 hours the next day before you need it. This took the flavor to a whole new level.
Oh. My. Goodness.
This is the best thing I’ve ever produced in my kitchen. Thank you for the recipe.
I followed exactly, except I do not have my crock pot at the moment (it’s in storage- we’re moving). I modified and used the cooking instructions for a regular pot roast I made in the oven a few weeks back.
So I used this recipe, threw it all in a Dutch oven, mixed ingredients together, and cooked it at 275 for 3 hours.
This was the tastiest beef I’ve ever eaten. Even my picky husband liked this. I Just polished off the leftovers for lunch, and I have to say, it’s even better a few days later. I will be making this again and again!
This is the most amazing recipe! Straightforward and delicious. I usually tweak recipes to my liking but I measure exactly to the recipe. Well done. Perfection.
Yummy recipe. I used some cut of pork. Used pressure cooker since I was out of time to slow cook. I let the sauce reduce in the end to concentrate the flavor.. Served over rice. Definitely making again.
THANKS for a delicious recipe.
Was I supposed to use a lot of the adobo sauce, and not just what clung to the chiles? My barbacoa doesn’t have much flavor…
We don’t care for cloves. Will leaving it out affect the taste very much? How strong is the clove flavor?
I have made this recipe 3 times now. I use it for tamale filling and then use the leftovers for tacos. Absolutely delicious and about as easy as a recipe gets. I’m making it for the 4th time right now but I realized last second that I don’t have cumin so I am substituting 1/3 corriander and 2/3 garam masala. Not too worried as there is plenty of flavor in the other ingredients to carry or mask the difference.
I also use 2 small cans of chipotles in adobo sauce. 2 chipotles seems like it must be a typo. But it works great with 2 cans.
Ali, I have to let you know that I love your site, I have tried many of your recipes, always pleased with the results! My friend used my husband and I as guinea pigs a few nights ago to try this recipe, we are very glad she did! It was amazing, I am printing it up now to keep in my personal recipe book.
Second time making this recipe which is fine as is, but like others we found it didn’t have enough heat for us the first time (personal preference). This time I used a full 3.5 oz can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (which is about 4 small chiles) and also throw all of the adobo sauce into the pot. It was perfect for us that way. I was also successful this time in prepping all of it in advance to put in the slow cooker the next day. I put all of the ingredients, (minus the bay leaf, lime juice, ACV, and water) into a gallon size zip top bag to help marinate the meat a bit and stored overnight in the fridge. I put the water, ACV, and lime juice into a small jar to dump into the pot the next day. I do recommend waiting to put the bay leaf into the pot until your’e ready to cook so it doesn’t break down too much and you can find them to fish out before shredding. I’ve already bought 2 more chuck roasts to make a double batch again soon and freeze the leftovers. This is going on our regular rotation. Thanks!
This was a delicious and easy recipe! I’ve been looking for diverse ways of making beef roasts. This was definitely an answer. I made it in a Dutch oven at 350 for 3 hours and lowered the temp to 300 for the last hour. My husband wants it in our food rotation! I highly reccomend that you try it.
My crockpot broke. I’ve made this before, but can I do it on the stovetop? Please help
This was FAB!
Can you make this with Chicken??
I want to make this recipe soon. Can I substitute 1 Tablespoon Adobo Sauce for the chopped chipotles in adobo sauce? Neither of us like hot spicy food.
Is it best served with tortillas or over rice?
I came to the website to say this recipe is foolproof! Amazing flavor, so tender and not spicy so good option for those that can’t handle the heat and kids. I made it for a party yesterday and it was a hit. One thing I didn’t do is trim fat, and it definitely came out so so juicy and flavorful. Thank you!
The directions are confusing, is it 2 chipotle peppers or two cans of chipotle peppers?
This is a great recipe! My husband is a picky eater… but requests this every week now. Thankyou for helping this mom of two in finding a great meal solution we all love!
Have been making this recipe for years with no modifications. My family loves it!!
Hi. Would I be able to slow cook this in a Dutch oven? If so with temp and how long?