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:

Barbacoa Beef

5 from 16 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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88 Comments

  • Jo-Anne K Kristensen

    I love this recipe and make it quite often! Is there a way to cook it in the instant pot and still retain the tenderness of the beef?

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Personally I haven’t found much success with beef cuts in the Instant Pot, mine always comes out more tender in the slow cooker.

  • Karen BARNETT

    Made this for dinner today. Had my son help me get everything together. Cooked all day and the house smelled amazing! We all loved it! Definitely staying in the recipe book❤

  • Victor Walter

    Fantastic! Will definitely be making this again. I reduced the liquid and spooned it over the tacos along with some radishes, cotija cheese, green salsa, avocados, and green onion. Simply the best.

  • Anna

    Made it in the instantpot for an hour and it came out perfect! I was a little worried because the recipe calls for a slow cooker but once it was done, it was really tender and the meat fell apart easily with a fork!

  • Claire

    I wish I could have tasted the flavors in this dish, but all I got was spicy. I am someone who appreciates spice so I used 3 chilis in adobo rather than the alteration and that was WAY too much. I see the modification and that would probably work fine, but if you are using chilies in adobo, I recommend using no more than 1 or maybe 1/2. The recommendation of 3-4 would work if you’re maybe doubling or tripling the recipe.

    • B

      Authentic Barbacoa is the meat from cow head. The only barbacoa that exists. So using roast beef is fake and is no way near what it tastes like. We cook the whole cow head in the oven or the ground. Love how you white people over take our recipes and try to convince people it’s your idea.

      • DiDi

        Wow! Your comment is quite harsh. Please don’t feel threatened by the recipe and you don’t need to enter “white people.” I’m sure there was no intention of disrespect of your culture. The spices sound phenomenal. I plan to make this for a group of well deserving people I totally appreciate.

      • Linda

        Hey B, everyone who loves to cook loves to try other cultural cuisines.
        Unfortunately we don’t all have access to a cow head’ and hey I was wondering what “beef cheeks” are, now I guess I have an idea. Next time you write on a blog try not to be so sensitive, we all need to eat!

      • Tanya

        Marie. I feel bad that you had to comment and be offensive. I hope you don’t mean what you say and can understand there is good and bad in all of us.

        I really like that this recipe is general because it shows how many variations the food can be to each individuals taste and what type of beef they are able to purchase in their country.

        Tanya

      • John

        Ok B no one can ever eat any food invented by another culture. I’m sure you never eat pizza or pasta right?