Beef Barbacoa – Perfect for Taco Night!

Beef barbacoa is cooked in the slow cooker for a tender & flavorful beef perfect for tacos or burritos!

This recipe transforms an inexpensive cut of meat into bold-flavored, tender perfection!  Smoky, rich, and absolutely unforgettable, beef barbacoa takes your taco, burrito, or taco salad game to the next level.

Beef Barbacoa in a crockpot

What is Barbacoa

This recipe is a Mexican favorite and made with beef (although if was originally made with sheep, goat or beef).

And while barbacoa translates to barbecue is it now commonly used to describe the process of slow-steaming beef until it’s tender. I use the slow cooker to make this recipe easy.

The tender beef is shredded and then spooned into corn tortillas.

Beef Barbacoa ingredients on a baking sheet

Ingredients & Variations

Brisket, chuck, or pot roast can be used interchangeably. Use whatever you have on hand (chuck is my first choice for this recipe)!

Whether beef, lamb or goat, almost all barbacoa recipes contain onion, cumin and oregano along with peppers or chipotle peppers.

The addition of beef broth & cider provide moisture. Don’t hesitate to add a little extra heat from jalapenos or green chilies!

For a party, make a DIY Taco Bar and let everyone help themselves. Serve with a Mexican elote and taco toppers like diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, onions, black olives, sour cream, and salsa!

Beef Barbacoa ingredients in a crockpot

How to Make Barbacoa

  1. Lightly brown beef in oil.
  2. Add meat to a slow cooker along with remaining ingredients (per recipe below).
  3. Cook until fork-tender, remove bay leaf.
  4. Shred the beef and add it back to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high another 30 minutes.

PRO TIP: If it’s available, bacon grease is ultra-flavorful and a great to sear the beef and use up extra bacon grease!

Three Beef Barbacoa tacos

Tips for Success

  • Choose pieces of meat that look fresh with a fair amount of marbling through it for enhanced flavor.
  • Cutting the pieces of meat against the grain shortens the fibers which makes it easier to shred and chew.
  • It’s easier to shred the meat when it’s in larger pieces, and keeping them uniform in size means they will cook evenly in the slow cooker.
  • Garnish with fresh cilantro.
  • Keep barbacoa in a sealable container in the refrigerator. It should keep up to a week (if it lasts that long!).
  • Freeze barbacoa meat in zippered bags with the date on the outside. It should keep up to eight weeks in the freezer.

More Mexican-Inspired Dishes

Did your family love this Beef Barbacoa? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below! 

Three Beef Barbacoa tacos

Beef Barbacoa

This Beef Barbacoa is perfect with corn or flour tortillas for taco night!
Course Beef, Dinner, Entree, Main Course, Slow Cooker
Cuisine American, Mexican
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours 50 minutes
Total Time 5 hours
Servings 8 servings
Calories 316
Author Holly Nilsson


  • 4 pounds beef roast chuck or pot roast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion finely diced
  • ½ cup beef broth
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 small lime juiced
  • 4 chipotle peppers in adobo, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • teaspoon ground cloves


  • Cut beef into 4-6 large chunks and generously season with salt & pepper. Brown beef in batches in olive oil.
  • Add beef to the slow cooker and add remaining ingredients.
  • Cook on low 8-10 hours or on high 4-6 hours or until fork tender.
  • Remove bay leaves and discard. Shred beef with forks and add back to the juices in the slow cooker, cover and cook on high at least 30 minutes.
  • Serve with tortillas.


Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days. 


Calories: 316 | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 50g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 129mg | Sodium: 3447mg | Potassium: 715mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 10IU | Vitamin C: 106mg | Calcium: 655mg | Iron: 5mg
Barbacoa shredded in a crockpot with writing
Barbacoa prepared on tortilla shells with writing
Barbacoa prepared on tortilla with writing
Top image - Barbacoa prepared on tortillas. Bottom image - Barbacoa ingredients

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