Barbacoa Beef

Published April 25, 2019. Updated August 21, 2019

This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy.

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:

16 Quick & Easy 30 Minute Recipes! (plus weekly recipe updates)

4.99 from 59 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

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.

Leave a Comment

Rate this recipe




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

219 Comments

  • Alex Knapp

    I’ve been making this into cheesy birria dipping style tacos for years and it’s a show stealer for sure! Extra beef broth and a whole can of Chili’s in adobo. SO GOOD

  • Stacy A Willemsen

    I have made this and love it!!!! Do u think I could use chicken??? It’s what I have on hand.

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Chicken thighs and chicken broth should work, and shorten the cook time also. Thighs cook in about 4 hours on low.

  • Rachel

    Made this yesterday and it is honestly delicious 🤤 I found it tastes very similar to Chipotle’s barbacoa, will definitely be making again

  • Roy Torres

    This may be ok or even good but there is NO WAY to get Authentic BARBACOA FLAVOR FROM A BEEF ROAST … YOU NEED TO USE BEEF CHEEKS… END OF STORY.. Even then all thats needed is S&P and garlic powder… wrapped tight 2 x in foil in oven before bed low at 250 and be prepared for awesome authentic barbacoa in the morning 😋😋😋

  • Matthew

    You’ve got to make this!! This was so amazing. I wanted to keep eating it but had to stop. My son and I will be the only ones eating it because it is too spicy for everyone else. Used a whole small can of Chipotles. I also trimmed up the chuck roast got out some silver skin and the thicker fat areas. I then cut them up into smaller pieces. All in all I think I had maybe 15 to 20 pieces of meat I browned in a cast iron skillet on my stovetop. That made a mess by the way, so I will do that different next time. Maybe use my smoker instead. Yeah this recipe is a keeper!!! Yum!

  • Edward Herrera

    So good. I love just the beef and sauce on Brioche bread.

  • Judy K

    I’ve made this recipe several times and it’s becoming one of our favorites! The only thing I do differently is I bbq the meat on a very hot flame (gas grill) to brown on all sides!! DELISH!!

  • David J Andrews

    I made thus twice b4. Awesome. This time I added Buffalo tongue 8 hrs on low beef chuck. Add bison. 8 additional hrs. On low. 16 total low hrs. OMG!!!! “A-FREAKIN-A-MAZING!!!” TGANKS. GREAT.