Barbacoa Beef

April 25, 2019

The best Barbacoa Beef recipe! This flavorful meat is deliciously seasoned and cooked low and slow until perfectly tender. Layer it in tortillas with all your favorite toppings for a crave-worthy dinner!

Barbacoa beef layered in corn tortillas to make tacos. Shown sitting on a light grey serving platter, beef is garnished with cilantro and radishes.

What is Barbacoa?

Barbacoa is an authentic Mexican dish typically made with beef, goat or lamb. It is traditionally seasoned with dried chilies and spices and slowly cooked until perfectly tender. From there it’s used as a delicious filling for tacos, burritos and so forth.

Barbacoa Beef Video

 

This is my favorite Barbacoa Beef recipe! I first shared the recipe back in April 2015 but have since decided those photos needed some updating.

It’s an easy to make dish, nothing complicated and it doesn’t use hard to find ingredients. It’s incredibly flavorful and you’ll love the brightness of the lime.

Most definitely a recipe easily worthy of your dinner rotation!

Photography credit: Jess Larson

Slow cooker shredded barbacoa beef in a white serving bowl garnished with cilantro.

Ingredients for Barbacoa Beef

  • Chuck roast – this type of roast is best here with it’s fat marbling. It yields super tender results.
  • Vegetable oil – this is used for browning the roast.
  • Beef broth – chicken broth can be substitute here if that’s what you have.
  • Chipotle chilis – these add a tasty spicy kick. Freeze any remaining from the can for a later use.
  • Garlic – as always I only recommend fresh garlic.
  • Cumin, cloves, oregano, bay leaves – these spices and herbs add a delicious depth of flavor.
  • Salt and pepper – season with a fair amount of each so it doesn’t taste flat.
  • Fresh lime juice – some barbacoa recipes call for vinegar but I like the fresh lime much better here.

Ingredients to make barbacoa beef shown here.

How to Make Barbacoa Beef

  • Portion beef: Cut roast into 6 portions while removing any large pieces of fat.
  • Brown portions: Heat oil in skillet and sear seasoned beef, half at a time, until browned on all sides.

Browned chuck roast beef chunks to make barbacoa beef.

  • Make chili paste: In a food processor, pulse together chipotle chilies, garlic and 1/4 cup beef broth until well pureed.
  • Make barbacoa sauce: Whisk together remaining beef broth with chipotle mixture, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper and cloves.
  • Add beef and mixtures to slow cooker: Pour mixture over beef in slow cooker, add bay leaves.

Barbacoa beef in slow cooker shown in chunks after cooking.

  • Cook in Crockpot low and slow: Cover and cook on low heat 8 – 9 hours.
  • Shred beef: Remove beef from slow cooker (leave broth) and shred.
  • Mix in lime and rest to soak flavors: Stir lime juice into broth in slow cooker then return beef to slow cooker and cook on low or warm 20 – 30 minutes longer.

Shredded barbacoa beef in a crock pot.

Can I Cook on High Heat in the Slow Cooker?

High heat cooking is not recommend here, the beef won’t be as tender so stick with low and slow.

How to Make it More Mild?

If you don’t want the kick of the chipotle peppers simply use 4 tsp chili powder instead. Also, skip the food processor step, just mince garlic instead.

What Should I Serve Barbacoa Beef In?

This versatile beef recipe goes perfect in:

  • Tacos
  • Burritos (wraps or bowls)
  • Salads
  • Nachos
  • Quesadillas
  • Enchiladas

Recommended Toppings for Barbacoa Beef:

  • Lettuce (iceberg, romaine)
  • Cheese (monterey jack, cotija, queso fresco)
  • Tomatoes
  • Cilantro
  • Radishes
  • Onion
  • Guacamole
  • Salsa

Barbacoa beef layered into tacos

Sides to Serve with Barbacoa Beef?

More Mexican Recipes You’ll Love:

Barbacoa Beef

5 from 7 votes
The best Barbacoa Beef recipe! This flavorful meat is deliciously seasoned and cooked low and slow until perfectly tender. Layer it in tortillas with all your favorite toppings for a crave-worthy dinner!
Servings: 8
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 lb chuck roast
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 cups beef broth, divided
  • 3 - 4 chipotle chilies in adobo*
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice

Instructions

  1. Cut roast into 6 portions while removing any large pieces of fat. Heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in a skillet. 

  2. Dab roast dry with paper towels, season with salt and pepper (about 1 tsp salt 3/4 tsp pepper). Add 3 pieces to skillet and sear until browned on all sides. Transfer to a slow cooker.

  3. Add remaining 1 Tbsp vegetable oil to skillet and repeat process with remaining 3 roast pieces. Nestle beef portions side by side in an even layer in slow cooker.

  4. In a food processor, pulse together chipotle chilies, garlic and 1/4 cup beef broth until well pureed, occasionally stopping and scraping down sides of processor.
  5. In a 2 cup liquid measuring cup or in a bowl, whisk together remaining beef broth with chipotle mixture, cumin, oregano and cloves. Pour mixture over beef in slow cooker, then nestle bay leaves between beef portions. 

  6. Cover and cook on low heat 8 - 9 hours**.

  7. Remove beef from slow cooker (leave broth) and shred. Stir lime juice into broth in slow cooker then return beef to slow cooker and cook on low or warm 20 - 30 minutes longer. 
  8. Strain liquid from beef and serve in tortillas with desired toppings.

Recipe Notes

  • *If you don't like spicy food replace chipotle chiles with 4 tsp mild chili powder instead.
  • ** I don't recommend cooking on high heat for this recipe, low cooking will achieve the most tender results.
  • Recipe first shared April 24, 2015, photos have been updated and recipe updated to include just 1/4 tsp cloves instead of 1/2 tsp.
Nutrition Facts
Barbacoa Beef
Amount Per Serving
Calories 349 Calories from Fat 207
% Daily Value*
Fat 23g35%
Saturated Fat 11g69%
Cholesterol 117mg39%
Sodium 500mg22%
Potassium 685mg20%
Carbohydrates 2g1%
Protein 33g66%
Vitamin A 45IU1%
Vitamin C 3mg4%
Calcium 53mg5%
Iron 4.6mg26%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Barbacoa
Author: Jaclyn

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65 Comments

  • Daisie Mancillas

    Very delicious Barbacoa. The recipe and instructions were really easy to understand and follow. I forgot to add the lime juice but I loved it anyway. Next time I’ll add it to try the difference in taste but I really enjoyed it. Thank you!

  • G Monty

    Although this recipe looks like it would taste good, true Barbacoa is made with beef cheek meat. There is no comparison to the original way of making it.

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Most of us don’t have access to it though at the regular grocery store so I think the chuck is a great alternative :).

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Yes over low heat (covered) for probably about 3 hours or until beef shreds easily, and adding more broth as needed during cooking.

  • Anson

    Made this an made a salad with it and homemade habanero sauce, brown rice, black beans, Mexican corn, sour cream, homemade salsa, jalapeños, and it was beyond wonderful. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Rene

    Cooked it today. My family loved it.
    Just a question: what size is the serving described in the nutrition facts chart at the bottom?

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Sorry I don’t have final weight but you can measure the full volume and divide by servings listed.

  • Katherine

    Absolutely delicious! I made this along with your Mexican street corn salad and spanish rice recipes and OMG it was a feast to end all feasts! Your website is always the first one I check when I start meal planning for the week. THANK YOU!

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      I’m so glad to hear you enjoy my recipes Katherine! That does sound like a delicious feast!

  • Christina

    What size Crock-Pot did you use for this recipe? I used either a 6-7 qt and it way overcooked the meat. I checked it at about 6 hours and it was overcooked 😰

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      I used a 6 quart. It sounds like most likely it’s just the specific slow cooker that’s over cooking (or under cooking and it’s just not tender yet). This type of meat shouldn’t burn or overcook on low heat in a crock pot unless it’s in there for a very lengthy amount of time. Sorry that happened!

        • Chef Ben

          Braised beef is technically cooked at 129F but it doesn’t break down the collagen and muscles until around 195-205F. It feels wrong but keep cooking. If it’s actually burnt than you need a new crock pot. I usually use a Dutch oven or hotel pan and cook in the oven covered at 275 for 6-9 hours. I cook 40lbs at a time though lol Chef life.

  • Bud Frederick

    Great flavors were Overshadowed by cloves. Otherwise great flavors. Reminds me of the Blanco cafe innSan Antonio.
    Next time I’ll try 1/8 to 1/4 tsp cloves

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      I appreciate your feedback, I’ve updated that to 1/4 tsp because I think that you’re right.