Barbacoa Beef

April 25, 2019

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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:

5 from 35 votes

Barbacoa Beef

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
Prep20 minutes
Cook8 hours
Ready in: 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

  • Cut roast into 6 portions while removing any large pieces of fat. Heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in a skillet. 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • Cover and cook on low heat 8 - 9 hours**.
  • 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. 
  • Strain liquid from beef and serve in tortillas with desired toppings.

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.
Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.

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151 Comments

  • Josh

    How much beef broth in total? Just says to add an amount then add the remaining but I don’t see it listed?
    Thanks!

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Yes you can but I just personally feel like beef doesn’t come out quite as tender in the instant pot.

  • Yolanda Sandoval

    The recipe was easy to use,I’m sharing recipe with my sons.
    I used 6 pounds of chuck roast and saved the fat to avoid drying out the meat,because I made it 3 days ahead of my July 4th picnic. I loved the recipe, not too spicey( I limited the Chipotle chili’s because a couple of them were large).
    I will never buy Barbacoa, again.

  • Heather

    I see that each serving is 349 calories, what is the serving size for this recipe? 1 cup? Thank you!!

      • Gabriela

        I’m making this and storing a couple of days in advance for a dinner this weekend. Should I add the lime juice in now, or wait until just before serving/reheating?

        Thanks! Got the first batch in the slow cooker now, can’t wait to try it :)

  • Ludwiga Covert

    I just made this for Father’s Day, along with these side dishes from this site:
    – Mexican Rice
    – Slow cooker black beans
    – Guacamole
    – Salsa
    – Horchata
    This was a PERFECT dinner! Can’t believe how well everything worked together. Thanks so much!

  • eg

    Simply the best! Even better the second day. Have made with both pork sirloin and beef. We use the whole can of peppers (spicy is good in my home), and add that puree (peppers, beef broth, spices, etc) to the pan to deglaze. Then add to crock pot.

  • Belinda

    Really want to try this. I purchased a 7oz can of chipotle chilies in adobe. Should l use the whole can? Also would chuck steak as a substitute for roast? Thanks!

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      No don’t use the whole can unless you want it extra spicy, just open and use amount listed then freeze remaining. Then the chuck steak should work you’d maybe just want to reduce cook time slightly since it’s cut thinner than the roast.