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!
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
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- Burritos (wraps or bowls)
Recommended Toppings for Barbacoa Beef:
- Lettuce (iceberg, romaine)
- Cheese (monterey jack, cotija, queso fresco)
Sides to Serve with Barbacoa Beef?
More Mexican Recipes You’ll Love:
Follow Cooking Classy
- 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
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.
- *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.