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This recipe is a Mexican favorite and made with beef (although it was originally made with sheep, goat, or beef; lamb being the most popular). This delicious meat was originally slow-roasted in a pit covered with maguey leaves (which most of us are not able to recreate).

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 and accessible.

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 Beef Favorites

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

Three Beef Barbacoa tacos
5 from 40 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
Or to leave a comment, click here!

Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef

This Beef Barbacoa is perfect with corn or flour tortillas for taco night!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours 50 minutes
Total Time 5 hours
Servings 8 servings


  • 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. 
5 from 40 votes

Nutrition Information

Calories: 452 | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 45g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 156mg | Sodium: 217mg | Potassium: 833mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 39IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 59mg | Iron: 5mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Course Beef, Dinner, Entree, Main Course, Slow Cooker
Cuisine American, Mexican
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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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!
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Recipe Rating


  1. This is the best barbacoa I’ve every tasted! My family loves it! Easy to make and turns out great every time.5 stars

  2. Serve the barbacoa with diced onions, chopped cilantro, cebollas curtidas (pickled red onions) and salsa. Please do not add sour cream or black olives.

  3. I have another version of slow cooked barbacoa, which uses beef cheeks, which are amazing and incredibly tender when cooked low and VERY slow! However, that recipe is somewhat lacking in the spice department, so the next time I make it, I’m going to use your recipe, but use the beef cheeks. Super excited to try it!!5 stars

  4. So fabulous I’ve made it over and over again since I’ve found your recipe. I had beef barbacoa the first time in Florida, Gloria Estefan’s restaurant. It was so amazing and now I can make it myself with your recipe. Thank you from Canada!5 stars

  5. Born & raised in San Antonio, TX Barbacoa Is absolutely one of the best & favorite “happy foods” one can find,especially on Sunday’s.
    Cafe’s and family owned eateries make it with recipes handed down from grand parents to parents.
    My best friend there & I eat out in the mom & pop’s small cafe’s owned by natives.
    Thank you Holly!
    Barbacoa generally takes a long time, the old ways.
    Well…I moved to Florida in 2020 & will definitely prepair this simple & Lucius meal for my grown kids. The shall love it & probably beg me to cook for them at our Sunday’s Family Dinner.5 stars

  6. I made this last week which my husband loved I felt it was a little sweet, so I’m trying again tonight but leaving out the cloves. I might also add some diced jalapeño for extra heat. Super excited to try!!

  7. I couldn’t find chiptole in adobo so I substituted it with jalapenos! It definitely has some heat but it is so delicious! Thanks for another great recipe!5 stars

  8. Great flavors!! Family really enjoyed this recipe. We ate this on slider buns like a Cuban style sandwich and everyone loved it. Thanks for another yummy dinner!5 stars

      1. Hello
        I am about to try this recipe. I am just wondering if the cumin is grounded or whole.

        Thank you!

  9. I just put mine on to slow cook now! Super excited! I may have added a little too much vinegar because I have a newborn son! My first baby! So I got distracted… if you could even call it that ☺️. I just added more of everything else to compensate!

  10. MY*OH*MY…..Talk about delicious! This is now the 3rd recipe of yours that I have tried in the past couple of months and I am NOT disappointed. :-) This was so easy to make and is so delicious in return! Last night we had tacos……they were awesome. Added home grown cherry tomatoes, cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce and the best….gotta have avocado! I had wanted to do nachos with it tonight but only have 1 more ripe avocado so will have tacos again. Need to make guacamole with nachos!…. No problem……my husband will be thrilled to have tacos again. :-) Can’t wait to try a new recipe of yours soon…..5 stars

  11. We had this last night and it was amazing. I had a Waygu Roast that I used and we turned it into Nachos. Leftovers will be sandwiches. Really yummy!5 stars

  12. While this might be a good beef taco, it is but DEFINITELY not barbacoa! Barbacoa is made from the head of the cow. The meat from the cheek is a delicacy. The eyes (sans iris) are usually fought over. Cooked in a pit.

    1. Hey Saundra her recipes are meant to be easy to make with accessible ingredients. Not everyone can find or even want to cook and eat beef cheeks and eyeballs. And a working mom will not have time to roast in an open pit. Food bloggers modify recipes all the time. So consider it a TexMex version of Barbacoa that we all can enjoy! If I want the real thing I will be sure to google “authentic Barbacoa recipe”

  13. I was wondering if this recipe for barbarcoa beef can be made in an Instant Pot instead for a slow cooker.

  14. Hello

    Just to be clear, is the sodium level 3447mg per serving OR 344.7 mg of sodium.

    Just wondering as we have to follow a sodium restricted diet.


    1. Hi Donna, There was an error in the nutrition and I have fixed it. The sodium per serving is 217mg. This can vary based on actual ingredients used.

      1. Hello again

        Thank you for your reply, following a low sodium diet can be tricky, but I take listed ingredients and replace them with low sodium products as much as possible ie: tomatoes, broth/stock halving salt if listed in a recipe, or using none at all. I have amde many of your recipes and very are always happy with the outcome.

        We will be trying this recipe out very soon….thankyou !!!!! Take care, and stay safe.

        Donna Ottawa Ontario