This easy to make Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa is the most tender, juicy, and flavorful Mexican shredded beef! It’s perfect for tacos, burritos, rice bowls, salads, and more!
If you love Mexican style beef, then you have to make my Carne Asada!
Why I love it
Slow cooker recipe – Dust off your slow cooker because it’s the easiest way to make this barbacoa. Everything goes right into the Crockpot and it does all the work for you.
Freezer friendly – This shredded beef freezes wonderfully! Since the recipe makes quite a bit, I like to keep half in the fridge for meals during the week and freeze the other half.
Flavorful Mexican beef – I don’t typically gravitate towards shredded beef when it comes to Mexican food. However, after making this version that you’ve probably seen on the menu at Chipotle restaurants, I can now say I’m a huge fan! It’s full of earthy, smoky, spicy flavors and the meat is so tender after being slow cooked for hours.
What is barbacoa?
In Mexico, barbacoa is usually made from beef cheeks, other cuts of beef, goat, or lamb. Barbacoa also refers to the cooking method, which is slow roasting the meat in a pit topped with maguey leaves.
Here in the United States we typically use a tougher cut of beef and slow roast it in a slow cooker. The beef can be cooked on it’s own, but is often seasoned with spices or a marinade.
Once the beef is cooked and tender, it’s shredded and often served with lime in tortillas. See below for more ways to serve the meat.
What cut of beef to use
I recommend using chuck roast. It’s a tough cut of beef that needs a long cooking time before it becomes tender. The longer it cooks the more the collagen breaks down into gelatin and tenderizes the meat.
- Beef chuck roast – Be sure to cut it into chunks 2-3 inches in size before adding it to the slow cooker.
- White onion – It has a milder flavor that yellow onion.
- Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce – Smoky, spicy, and tangy in flavor. The recipe calls for 2, but you can use 1 if you like it less spicy and 3 if you want it extra spicy.
- Garlic – I always grate garlic so that it melts into whatever it’s being used in.
- Green chiles – Canned diced green chiles or frozen defrosted can be used.
- Lime juice – Fresh squeezed lime juice is a must. Skip the bottled stuff.
- Apple cider vinegar – For tang and acidity.
- Dried oregano, cumin, bay leaves, cloves – Earthy spices that work well with the beef and smoky spicy chipotles.
- Honey – to balance out the spicy flavor I like to add a little bit of honey. It’s optional and can be skipped if you don’t want any sweetness.
- Beef broth – It keep the beef moist as it cooks.
How to make slow cooker beef barbacoa
Combine ingredients and cook – Add all of the ingredients into the slow cooker except the bay leaves. Use a large spoon to stir everything together. Add in the bay leaves then cover with the lid. Set the slow cooker to low and cook for 8-9 hours or until the meat is tender and falls apart easily.
Shred the beef – Remove the beef from the slow cooker and onto a cutting board. Shred the meat with two forks. Remove the bay leaves from the meat juices in the slow cooker and then add the beef back in. Toss it around in the sauce until it’s coated and then serve.
Can I cook on high heat in the slow cooker?
I don’t recommend cooking the barbacoa on high heat in the slow cooker. This is a tough cut of meat and it needs a long time to break down and get tender. Low and slow is the way to go.
Ways to serve barbacoa
- Tacos – Fill corn tortillas with the shredded beef and top them with white onion, avocado, and cilantro.
- Bowl – Make a rice bowl with all your favorite toppings.
- Quesadillas – I love using Monterey Jack cheese with the barbacoa. You could also use a more authentic Mexican cheese such as Oaxaca or Chihuahua cheese.
- Salad – Add the beef on top of romaine lettuce and complete the salad with toppings such as tomatoes, avocado, pickled onions, corn, crispy tortilla strips, and queso fresco. Top it with the vinaigrette that I used for this Mexican quinoa salad with honey lime vinaigrette.
Storing and reheating leftovers
Storage – The meat can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months. Be sure to let it cool completely before freezing it.
Reheating – If the meat is frozen, let it defrost in the refrigerator overnight. To reheat, microwave for 1-2 minutes or until it’s warm. You can also reheat it in a skillet or saucepan over medium heat until warm.
More Mexican recipes you’ll love
Did you make this slow cooker beef barbacoa? I’d love if you’d leave a recipe rating and review below.
- 3.25 pounds chuck roast, fat trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1 cup diced white onion
- 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon of the adobo sauce
- 3 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
- 4 ounce can diced green chiles
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon honey (optional)
- 3/4 cup beef broth
- Corn tortillas, avocado, white onion, cilantro, and lime wedges for serving
- Add all of the ingredients into the slow cooker except the bay leaves. Use a large spoon or tongs to stir everything together. Add in the bay leaves then cover with the lid. Set to low and cook for 8-9 hours. The meat should be tender and falling apart easily, if not, cook for an additional 30-60 minutes.
- Remove the beef chunks from the slow cooker and onto a cutting board. Use two forks to shred the meat. Remove the bay leaves then add the beef back into the juices. Toss it around until it's coated and then serve as a filling for tacos, burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, etc.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 352Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 113mgSodium: 598mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 1gSugar: 4gProtein: 35g
Nutritional information is an estimate. Please consult a registered dietician for the most accurate nutritional information.