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 28 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


  • 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.
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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  • Monica

    Looks delicious! For any Canadians reading this recipe, you’ll be looking for “blade roast” in the supermarket as we don’t call it a chuck roast up here.

  • Valéria Hoefler

    I followed the recipe and the flavor was amazing. I have to confess, I did not have enough time so I did use my instant pot. 60 minutes in the IP with 10 mins NR. The beef shredded perfectly just like in your video. Great recipe. Will be making again 👏🏻😋

  • Steph

    Wow. This recipe was spot on I bought 3 lbs of chuck roast and it only took 4.5 hrs for it to cook down to the point of softness where it easily shredded. The 3.5 lbs were cut into 3x3x3 inch cubes approx. It’s delicious and there was enough for us for two dinners and my lunch! Unlike Mr Insults, i appreciate a solid recipe that delivers.

    • Cinthya

      These people saying all those useless comments, helloo!!! It is not authentic according to who???? Every dish is different depending on the area where you live. Please do some research first!
      This recipe sounds delicious. I am definitely gonna try it.

  • Kristen

    I made this barbacoa for the first time, and it’s amazing! So far, I’ve used it to make tacos, burrito bowls, and served over biscuits with a runny egg.
    I originally found CookingClassy when looking for a jerk chicken recipe. I love how full of spice & flavor your dishes are, and they come together easily. Great blog!

  • Elbert Jones

    This recipe is not AUTHENTIC barbacoa. Real barbacoa has no pot roast in it. The proper cuts of meat are the cow’s lips; tongue cheek and ears.
    I grew up in Texas. I have ate real barbacoa. Only a YANKEE would make barbacoa with a pot roast.

  • Amy

    Really yummy. I use a whole 7 oz can of chipotle chilis in adobo sauce. Pretty spicy but great taste. I serve leftovers over baked sweet potato slices with sour cream and avocado.

  • Juanito

    This recipe is not an authentic version, rather, more like a chipotle beef stew meat. I think it could be made into a spicy picadillo by adding diced white or gold potatoes. A true barbacoa is made from cheek meat from a lamb or goat and less of a braise and more of a slow charcoal smoked meat. Mi Chilango esposa had this with mashed avocado and gold potato to brighten it up and mute the heavy spicy heat so as not to go to waste. Nice try but not recommended as a Mexican “barbacoa”.

    • José Vélez

      I haven’t tried this recipe but I think Juanito is right, the true Mexican Barbacoa is super tender and moist with its own flavorful natural oils, never dry! All the other spices and mixes of this and that, come afterward when you put the Barbacoa meat on a tortilla just prior to eating it if you like it that way. I for instance, love it with cilantro, Mexican sauce ( TRUE salsa ) and minced fresh onion – on my white flower taco. home made corn tortillas are just as awesome ( for this don’t get the store-bought corn tortillas, they’re disappointing! ) – so, corn tortillas right off the gridle.

  • Beth Bennett

    Hi, especially to B. I get it! You love your traditional foods and are proud of your cultural ways of making them. This is true of people in all cultures. Many foodies, food bloggers, chefs, etc., present recipes that are as close to authentic as they can make them, for the widest audience. I have not personally seen one who takes a great, traditional recipe like Barbacoa and claims it for their own. I have been reading a bit about Barbacoa, and there are definitley a few differences between different areas of Mexico, and especially for modern cooks who don’t have time or ability to cook the meat in a pit, etc. In the U.S., most people have gotten away from using parts of the animals, like the head, tongue, and organ meats. Those things are now not widely available. So, you have to use what is. Many people here no longer realize just how delicious and tender these meats can be. One of my aunts from California used to say, “Remember that restaurant where they served THE best brains and scrambled eggs?” Not many people would say that nowadays. Here in Alaska, Moose Head Soup is very common, and delicious, but other than Alaska Native people, most have not tried it. Plus, a moose head is HUGE! Very few people have the ability to deal with one. We don’t use pit cooking up here much, because of the permafrost. Down a few feet, the ground is frozen year round. I love cooking recipes from all over the world. But I would never think of presenting them as my own, and I don’t believe that is the intention here.