Slow Cooker Barbacoa

Barbacoa is a delicious addition to tacos, burritos, rice bowls, salads, and more...and this easy, succulent, slow cooker version is bursting with chipotles, garlic, cilantro, & Mexican spices!

Slow Cooker Barbacoa with text overlay

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I don't know about your house, but tacos are always a welcome dinner 'round these parts. So are burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, tostadas...the list goes on. Lucky for us, those are exactly a few of the things that can be made with our favorite juicy, succulent Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa! This Barbacoa is even fabulous sprinkled over salads or rice bowls, à la the ever-popular Chipotle restaurant chain. In fact, I've had numerous comments over the years that this Barbacoa recipe is actually better than Chipotle's...

Regardless of how you choose to enjoy it, this juicy, melt-in-your-mouth beef is just brimming with flavor thanks to fresh garlic, cilantro, and lime, Mexican spices, and spicy chipotles in adobo. And such a tasty Barbacoa would be happy to play a starring role in all of your Tex-Mex favorites!

I've previously shared my effortless slow cooker chicken taco filling with y'all. I've also already posted a recipe for slow cooker pork carnitas. So it's only fitting that today, we're talking crock pot beef, baby. Not just simple, Mexican-inspired Shredded Beef, but Barbacoa!

Barbacoa tacos on a plate, aerial view

"Americanized" Barbacoa

Original Barbacoa recipes were often made using beef cheeks and cooked all day in a pit in the ground. Speaking for myself, I can't find beef cheeks at my local grocery store. And my husband might get irritated if I dig up the flowerbeds for a cooking pit. 😉

So I created an admittedly Americanized version of this recipe starting with a big hunk of beef that's easy to find...AKA, a chuck roast. And it's cooked all day in crock pot that I happily do not have to tend.

No, I am not claiming that this recipe is authentic. But I promise that doesn't mean it's not delicious!

Plate of barbacoa tacos

Ingredients

Allow me to go over a few notes regarding some of the more notable ingredients in this recipe:

  • Chuck roast. I've actually made this recipe with various cuts of beef roast over the years (shoulder, rump, top or bottom round, even a brisket), but I always come back to chuck roast. Because of its marbling, I just think chuck roast yields the juiciest, most tender beef when slow cooked in a crockpot. I don't worry too much about the extra marbling because I always remove and discard any fat during the shredding step. I also skim melted fat from the cooking liquid before adding back the meat.
  • Chipotles in adobo. If you've never bought chipotles in adobo, I'm talking about a little can of dried, smoked jalapeños soaking in a spicy red sauce. You should be able to find them in the Mexican foods section of the ethnic foods aisle in your grocery store. Chipotles in adobe are packed with heat and flavor, and a little bit goes a long way.
    However, in a recipe like this where you're seasoning a lot of meat, you shouldn't have to be too conservative. If you're worried about too much spice, use just one pepper plus a spoonful of adobo sauce the first time you make this recipe. At that amount, you should get flavor...but nobody's mouth will catch on fire. If you think you can handle the heat, however, feel free to toss in three or four chipotles plus a couple spoonfuls of sauce.
  • Cilantro. The flavor of the cilantro doesn't come through too strong after slow cooking with the beef all day. So I highly recommend using additional fresh cilantro to garnish your tacos (or however you plan to eat your Barbacoa) before serving.
  • Beer + beef broth. As for whether or not you have to use beer in this recipe...no, you do not. I feel like beer adds a distinctive depth of flavor to this Barbacoa, so I like using a 50/50 combo of beef broth and beer. But you can certainly use all beef broth instead. If you do use beer, however, please use a Mexican beer. And, if you have the option, darker is better. I typically use Negra Modelo. Coors Light just won't cut it in this recipe...no offense to Coors Light.
Close-up of taco

How to Make It

It's hard to believe that a few simple steps can yield such delectable, flavorful beef.

  1. Puree together fresh garlic, cilantro, chipotles in adobo, lime juice, and spices. Season your roast and slather it with the chipotle mixture.
  2. Place the coated roast in a crock pot and pour in some beef broth and Mexican beer.
  3. After slow cooking all day, your beef will be fall-apart tender. Shred it and return the meat to its juices to soak up even more flavor.

And then present your delicious platter of Barbacoa center-stage at the dinner table! Prepare yourself for groans of culinary delight as everyone digs in.

Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa Tacos

Ways to Enjoy Barbacoa

I'll be honest in that we almost always initially eat this slow cooker supper as tacos. But here is a full array of ideas for enjoying your Barbacoa (as a stuffing or as a topping) on the first day, or on subsequent days as leftovers:

  • Tacos
  • Burritos
  • Enchiladas
  • Quesadillas
  • Tostadas
  • Rice Bowls
  • Salads

I've even piled this meat on a sandwich roll and dipped the whole shebang in the cooking liquid for a Mexican spin on a French Dip Au Jus!

So have I convinced y'all to try my version of Slow Cooker Barbacoa? I can promise you that it's simply scrumptious.

Besides, who needs Chipotle when you can just wake up, toss a few ingredients in your crockpot, and ultimately stuff your face with as many glorious tacos as you so desire?

Sounds like a plan to me.

Slow Cooker Barbacoa on plate

More Scrumptious, Easy Dinners

Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa

Slow Cooker Barbacoa

Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa is flavored with smoked chipotles in adobo, fresh garlic and cilantro, and Mexican spices, resulting in a tender, juicy filling for tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, or a tasty topping for salads and rice bowls!
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 303kcal
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Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 large cloves garlic
  • ½ cup packed cilantro leaves
  • 1 to 4 chipotle peppers in adobo, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons reserved sauce
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 ounces beef broth
  • 6 ounces Mexican beer

Instructions

  • Generously season the beef roast on both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place in the bottom of a large slow cooker.
  • In a small or regular food processor, pulse the garlic until chopped. Add the cilantro leaves and pulse until minced. Add the chipotle peppers plus adobo sauce, lime juice, tomato paste, cumin, chili powder, garlic salt, and oregano. Secure lid and process until just blended. (Alterntively, you may use a knife to mince the garlic, cilantro, and chipotle(s), then stir in the remaining ingredients until well combined.)
  • Spread half of the chipotle mixture over the top of the roast. Carefully flip the roast over and spread the remaining mixture over the other side. Pour the beef broth and beer into the bottom of the slow cooker (without washing the chipotle mixture off the roast). Drop in the bay leaf. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours or until fall-apart tender.
  • Remove the roast to a cutting board. Skim fat from the top of the cooking liquid, if necessary, and remove the bay leaf. Slice the beef into chunks and then shred into pieces with two forks, removing and discarding any fat. Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker, stir to soak up the liquid, and reheat until warm. Serve as a filling for tacos, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, or on top of a rice bowl or salad. Refrigerate the leftover meat in the reserved cooking liquid.

Video

Notes

  • Adjust the amount of chipotle pepper and adobo sauce for more or less heat.
  • A dark beer is recommended, even better if it's a Mexican dark beer (such as Negra Modelo). However, if you wish, you may substitute all beef broth for the beer.

Nutrition

Calories: 303kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 104mg | Sodium: 1017mg | Potassium: 643mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 486IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 48mg | Iron: 4mg
Made this recipe? I'd love to see on IG!Mention @FiveHeartHome or tag #FiveHeartHome!

Post originally published on February 3, 2015, and updated on October 10, 2019.

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5 from 50 votes (17 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




112 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This might be my favorite recipe ever! My family loves it! This has become a "memory-maker" for our family and we will be handing down this recipe for generations!

  2. 5 stars
    I made this recipe and it was fantastic!! We ate as tacos the first night , and finished it off as breakfast with eggs. I will definitely be making this again.

  3. Hi, Samantha. Sincerely it's a great tasting recipe, being Hispanic though I know that barbacoa is actually made from beef cheek meat from the cow's head. While such a cut of beef is not readily available in your meat counter, you have to ask your butcher for a cow's head or where there might be one available. However, you are right, chuck roast IS the best cut of beef. Being a trained meat cutter, I know this for a fact. The next time you BBQ use chuck steak instead of rib eye (the next best cut of beef), you'll be surprised! It's the marbling (fat) in the steak that gives it the great flavor. Oh, but excuse me, let's get back to beef cheek meat. It has a distinct taste and feel to that of regular beef meat. I know when a restaurant cook/owner has been honest or not. If you ever get a chance eat a barbacoa plate or taco at a Mexican restaurant. Ask the waiter/waitress if its true beef cheek meat. If it is, you'll see what I'm talking about. Try it, I hope you like it. If you ever need a butcher/meat cutter's advice, just email me. It's free and sincerely truthful.
    Adios, Bella Senora!

    1. What a gracious comment, Rene...thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and expertise. I've had barbacoa at Mexican restaurants before but I've never asked if it was actually beef cheek meat...I'll be sure to do so next time! And hopefully I can track down some beef cheek at a grocery store or market one day as well. Thanks again for your kindness and the enlightenment. 🙂

      1. 5 stars
        My local Sam’s Club store carries beef cheek meet, it’s with their fresh meat. I don’t live in a Hispanic area either…..when I did I could find it at the Mexican stores.

  4. 5 stars
    Made this for Cinco de Mayo. It was terrific, but honestly, so incredible the next day. We froze some, and I bet that frozen portion will be even better. Spent a lot of time in Mexico, and it has a quite authentic taste. Making the Charro beans right now for taco Tuesday, looking forward to them from all your rave reviews!

  5. 5 stars
    Love this recipe, have made it several times. So easy and flavourful. I was wondering if it would work with brisket? Does it shred as easily as a chuck roast?

    1. Brisket is usually thinly sliced against the grain, so I don't think I'd recommend it for this recipe. It would probably shred, but I feel like it would likely turn out stringier and drier than chuck roast. That being said, if you decide to give it a try, please let us know how it turns out! 🙂

  6. 5 stars
    We've made this several times already and it's a HUGE hit each & every time! Some very small modifications I made to the recipe was using chicken stock instead of beef (b/c I usually have that on hand), no beer, adding in more liquid so that we have enough of that delicious sauce to spread over rice and lastly adding in a few mandarin oranges. The last time I had a few on hand that I needed to get rid of/use, I added it in the chopper w/ the seasonings and it gave ( i think) a very subtle citrusy note that I think worked so incredibly well. This dish does not last long in this house! We love it!

  7. 5 stars
    Absolutely delicious! I did not have the beer, so I used all beef broth for the liquid. Three chipotles was just the right amount of spicy. The meat simply fell apart after 10 hours on low, yet it was not dried out whatsoever. We used the meat for burritos and rice bowls. This will go on regular rotation - thank you!!!

  8. 5 stars
    I am a devoted Carnitas fan but this recipe may change me. WOW, so delicious. Could not find beef cheeks anywhere so ended up with the chuck roast as suggested. This recipe is a keeper and will be making it again. THANK YOU!

  9. 5 stars
    made this in the oven today for dinner, it was delicious! had a 2.5lb roast and did 4 chilis and skipped the garlic salt altogether (we're low sodium) and it was really good, needs more heat so next time I'm doing maybe 6-8 chilis, didn't have beer on hand that worked so I did a cup of beef broth, absolutely delicious, definitely a keeper recipe! thank you!

  10. REAL barbacoa is made with a cow's Tongue;lips, ears, cheeks , and ears.
    It's an organ dish ate by people who grew up eating organ meats. They choose to eat them because they are inexpensive.

  11. 5 stars
    Our whole family loves this dish! We live in Texas where Tex Mex food abounds and nothing even comes close to how good this dish is. Even my picky eaters ask when I’m going to make it again. Thank you so much!

  12. 5 stars
    My Mexican husband said it was better than his mom's! The only thing I did different was sear the meat before putting into the slow cooker.

  13. 5 stars
    Oh my, this was GLORIOUS! My 5yr old told me I must make this again!! Definitely going to be in our rotation. Such an easy weeknight meal. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Yay, Kristen! A 5-year-old's stamp of approval is the highest kind of honor that one of my recipes can get. 😉

      1. I'm sure you can, but unfortunately, I haven't tried it myself so I'm unable to advise on adapting these directions. But I bet you could look up another recipe for Instant Pot Barbacoa and use those proportions/instructions to modify the ingredient amounts and cooking time. Good luck!

  14. Hello I know the recipe say's Beef Barbacoa but can I use the same ingredents and cooking time on chicken breast or pork? Please let me know..

    1. I haven't tried it, Rita, so I'm not sure how this recipe would taste or turn out using something other than beef. Chicken breasts would need to cook for a far shorter length of time, and the cooking time for pork may need to be adjusted as well depending on what cut you use. Good luck if you decide to experiment!