Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef

AMAZING and tender beef barbacoa that is better than any restaurant I have had!  The flavor is amazing and it slow cooks to perfection!


Reason #346 why I love my slow cooker.  It slow cooks beef to perfect tender and juicy melt in your mouth perfection.  Is there anything better than meat that is slow cooked all day and it just falls apart because it is so tender?  I don’t think so!  And I am pretty particular when it comes to eating beef.  It has to be tender and juicy.  I just can’t do that dry and chewy beef.

My hubby is a huge fan of Chipotle.  I wanted to make this barbacoa beef for him and when I heard that it is better than Chipotle’s I couldn’t wait to make it.

Just look how amazing and juicy that beef looks!  It shredded so easily and the flavor is so dang good!


This beef has just enough of a kick to give it some awesome flavor and the spices come together perfectly. I love beef brisket so I used that and pan seared large cubes.  It smelled so amazing while it cooked all day in my house and when it was finished it just fell apart.

My husband said that this instantly became one of his favorite meals.   He thought it was even better than Chipotle and we made it right at home!  You are going to love it just as much as we did!


4.8 from 54 reviews
Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
AMAZING and tender beef barbacoa that is better than any restaurant I have had! The flavor is amazing and it slow cooks to perfection!
Serves: 8
  • 4 lbs beef brisket (or beef chuck roast will also work)
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 - 4 chipotle chilis in adobo
  • 1¼ cups beef broth
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1½ Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • ¾ tsp salt, then more to taste
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  1. Cut the beef into large cubes. In a large skillet over medium high heat add the vegetable oil and sear the beef on each side. Transfer to your slow cooker.
  2. In a food processor add adobo chilis, beef broth, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, cloves, and lime juice. Pulse until blended and pour on top of the meat.
  3. Cook on low for 8-9 hours or high for 6 hours. Shred the meat with two forks and turn on warm.
Alyssa Also Recommends:

Want to make this even easier? Here are a few products that I LOVE:

Utopia Kitchen Cooking Knives
Staub Cast Iron Skillet
Crock-Pot Cook & Carry


Alyssa Rivers

I am Alyssa and the blogger behind The Recipe Critic. I started my blog in June of 2012 as a place to share my passion for cooking. I love trying new things and testing them out with my family.

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  1. I made this last night and it was a hit with the whole family. My husband is taking the last of it into work for lunch today. I was short on time and did not brown the meat like instructed, just cut it into large chunks and threw it in. This will definitely be put into our dinner rotation. Thank you for the great recipe.

  2. Did you author this recipe?

    As a fun fact, authentic barbacoa “is often prepared with parts from the heads of cattle, such as the cheeks. Named barbacoa before being adopted by the name “brisket”. In northern Mexico, it is also sometimes made from beef head, but more often it is prepared from goat meat (cabrito).” Wikipedia. Traditional is so tender and delicious. What Chipotle serves is not even close to the taste it is supposed to have.

    1. Some would call that birria. Different regions
      call it different names. Just as an FYI Wikipedia is
      not a trusted source for information.

  3. I had doubts at first … , I love Chipotle :). However taste is amazing !!! just as good or better . I used pressure cooker it was done in 45 min to perfection . Thank you !

  4. This is not barbacoa, what makes barbacoa is not the flavorimgs but the types of meat used should be used. It usually constitutes less common cuts of beef, although a brisket is not very common to most households. Another bastardization of an “ethnic” dish create by Americana to satisfy that which is thougt to be traditional.
    I would say that some of these flavorings would make it past most people here, but for those who have enjoyed real barbacoa know this is not a true style of barbacoa…for goodness sake it was originally cooked in the ground almost like roasted pig in other parts of the world, ironically enough there is rumor that these two styles of cooking couldnpossibly be related!

    1. What Makes Barbacoa is not the type of meat its the way its cooked which is slow, but you are correct with it sometimes being cooked underground. But at some point in time most food was cooked on or in the ground

    2. Who cares .. if it’s good then who cares what you call it.. too many people are too danged picky.. I am going to make it and bet it’s a winner

      1. It is delicious! You will love it!

        I always welcome new recipe names. I am much more creative with food than I am with words 😉

        1. Alyssa,
          I found this recipe a few days ago and as I’m typing this it’s cooking in my Crock-Pot!!! I’m so excited to try it but I was wondering if you could answer 2 questions? Do you happen to know the calories per serving? Do you know if/how many carbs? I’m definitely going to eat it regardless lol but I’m tracking my intake of both. 🙂

          1. You can use My Fitness Pal to see the nutrition info. I think you have to sign up for it, then you click “recipes” then copy and paste this website address. It will import this recipe, and then tell you what is the nutrition info.

    3. My dad who is from Mexico and very picky really
      enjoyed this. He makes the meat in the ground which he calls Birria not barbacoa. He makes barbacoa too which is similar this.

    4. Barbacoa in the norteño household that raised me used whatever cuts of meat were least desired for other purposes. Offal always went to other purposes, but punto de pecho, machetas (not machitos) and palanca were what I was usually given to prepare the dish.

      Depending on the state of the pantry and the dictate of expedience, canned chipotle chiles were substituted for dry chipotles crushed into a paste of hydrated guajillo or ancho chiles. For each kilo of meat we used a couple of limes cut in quarters. Two missing ingredients are a stick of canela and hojas de laurel, but the rest is pretty much on the spot.

      My family operated markets and granjas and there was a carnicero’s table in our kitchen where a number of the market carniceros came to butcher the animals they were selling that day. I know enough from my time at a number of other homes and ranches that barbacoa and other things like carnitas, carne al pastor, lengua, and offal dishes were unique to the kitchen and jefe/jefa that made them. Imagining a single recipe to be authentic or not is folly.

      So it is with the Tex-Mex expression of norteño. It suits the cocinero, not the bolillo. I suspect Smarty Arty is one of those who imagines some sort of disconnect between food either side of the Rio Grande. As for the mass produced fast food chains and their homogenized versions of hamburger, stale tortillas and cute names, no Mexican or Texan confuses them.

      1. Thanks for sharing your story, I will most definitely prepare this dish. I found this page and recipe by a great accident, I already have a plan to prepare the Acapulco’s Barbacoa of fernanda berlei from YouTube, but I will have left over meat to prepare this new dish, a question, did you mean to throw the lemon quarters into the meat to cook all together with the other ingredients?

        1. I am so glad that you found my site! I love this recipe and my husband is a huge fan. We love using our slow cooker and enjoy using it often with this meat. We love lime over our meat. XOXO

            1. It does have a kick with a lot of flavor. You are welcome to use less of the spicy ingredients so the heat is not as strong and add it to the other part for those who like a little heat. Hope you enjoy this recipe! XOXO

      2. No one in the Hernandez family would consider Tex-Mex fast food authentic. When you’d had Mama Rosa’s Mole Ranchero and Sopa de Arroz, no restaurant can compete, but this recipe looks like it would be delicious. My oldest son was homesick while away at college, so he went to a restaurant and ordered Mole Poblano and was so disappointed. I had to make our recipe and drive 6 hours to feed the boy! We’ve never found a restaurant here in Michigan that served anything like our Mole or (Sopa) rice, for that matter!

    5. i am wondering why you all are on here being so critical of this woman and being rude about her recipe… Dude get a life… I am happily gonna make this for my family and be grateful that i found those recipe to feed my family… Stop being rude and ungrateful…

  5. I just made this tonight, but I put it in my dutch oven and baked it. IT WAS AMAZING! Done in less than 3 hrs on 350. Meat was tender and falling apart, flavor was incredible, just enough kick. I did have to keep an eye on the liquid it was drying out quickly (so maybe I should have put it in the slow cooker after all!) Anyway thanks for the recipe 🙂

  6. Thank you for posting and sharing this recipe. I added the diced onions and cilantro after it was done and also added 6 bay leaves while it cooked, mostly for the aroma of barbacoa I had growing up. This recipe is delicious and tastes authentic to me. I’ve never had nor care for chipotle so I can’t speak to that comparison but this barbacoa was amazing. I’m making it again today! Tastes great with a homemade salsa.

  7. Cant wait to try this! Sounds yummy & easy. What is the purpose of cutting the meat into chunks at the beginning? More seared surface area?

  8. What is served on top of the tacos? Sour Cream or any type of salsa to recommend? Looks delicious and I am making the list of ingredients needed from the store. Would like to try it out tonight!

  9. Can anyone help me? I put this into the crock pot this morning and while it smells amazing!!!! it is not tender, i can’t pull it apart with two forks. Cooked it in low in my westbend cooker for 9 hours. Used brisket. What have i done wrong? It’s almost 9pm and I’m so hungry from the delicious smells!!!

  10. I think either i cut the meat too large, or my slow cooker just doesn’t get hot enough on low. I was able to fish out a few small pieces last night that were tender, and oh my goodness, it was SO good. I left it on low overnight to continue cooking, and this morning it was fall-apart tender. It was like the freshest, best tasting street taco I’ve ever had. Minus the grease and worry of ensuing tummy trouble! Lol. Wonderful recipe, thank you so much, recipe critic!!!

  11. Has anyone cooked it on high for 6 hours? I’m wondering if it’ll still be as good if it’s cooked on high for 6 hours verses slow for 8 hours

  12. Thank you for sharing your recipe! My boyfriend and I loved it and can’t wait to make it again. He proclaimed that it’s the best thing I’ve ever made!

  13. Thanks for sharing this recipe, I am Mexican American and I think that your combination on flavors are good if not better from some of the original “traditional” barbacoa that I have had in the past. My only addition would be to add 2 bay leaves.

  14. Alyssa, this recipe was freaking fabulous! My boyfriend, best friend, and her picky kids ate this up. I literally had no leftovers from a huge pot of meat. I used my immersion blender to puree the sauce, I was a little short on lime so I used whole fruit. I reserved the liquid after cooking to dip the corn tortillas in just before crisping them in a hot cast iron skillet. A truly worthy extra step, topped with homemade pickled onions. Seriously I’ll never make beef for tacos any other way. Thanks for making me a hit!

    1. Mrs. Rivers, just watching at the picture of your dish one can tell that is well prepare and if we have cook long enough we can even capt the smell of that dish. This dish is great great for tacos de canasta or sweat tacos. It’s amazing how cook
      enthusiasts can unite people from different races and we don’t see barriers. In this hungry moments we just share our happiness and tak the the same language.
      Well done! Simple and great. ?

  15. It know it says you can use chuck roast instead of brisket, but how much of a difference will it make? I’m sure brisket will be better, but at my supermarket brisket is like $12/lb and chuck is like $5. Will it still be good with chuck?

  16. This recipe is AMAZING!!! I love barbacoa & this definitely makes the best barbacoa I’ve had. I make it with a beef roast, recipe is so easy to make. My family loves this recipe.

    1. Yes! Any of my slow cooker recipes can be converted to the Instant Pot. I am not sure the exact times but I would try 20 minutes in the Instant Pot and 10 minutes to release. I can’t wait to hear how it turns out! Good luck! XOXO

  17. Your recipe and the “ones” below, sound amazing!!! You are obviously a seasoned, creative, “flavor-conscious,” cook. Can’t wait to try some of your stuff!

  18. For the people who are asking what’s it matter what you call it. The author is stating it’s better then any Barbacoa she’s had in a restaurant and then calling this Barbacoa, just call it what it is, slow cooked meat with seasoning, it absolutely matters what you label things, how will anyone know anything if we just use titles and words incorrectly!

  19. Tried this last night and it was really great. We love spicy food but not super spicy so I went the cautious route and only used ONE Adobe chili and it was plenty. I don’t think we could have eaten it with more. It was really tender. My husband had it over salad and I had it on mashed potatoes. ?

  20. Fantastic recipe, just made it yesterday. I added double the chilies and plenty of adobo sauce to make it extra spicy and smokey. I froze the leftover juices to make a gravy down the line, should be really good!

  21. Made this several times it’s always awesome. Only difference is I add half a white onion under the meat and use 1/4 tsp of cinnamon as well.

  22. I used your exact liquid recipe with 4.27 lb of beef chuck roast cut up in about 12 cubes in a slow cooker and the broth barely fills up halfway on the beef. Isn’t the liquid supposed to cover the beef? What do I do please. I’m a guy so I don’t know much

    1. You are doing great! You do not need to fill the broth to the top of the roast. It sounds like you did everything great! It will turn out delicious! Thanks for trying one of my recipes! XOXO

    1. I usually use an 8 quart slow cooker or the largest one I have. Hope that helps! A medium one would work great too. As long as the lid can still fit on the slow cooker while cooking. Thanks so much for following along with me! XOXO

  23. I was craving Barbacoa tacos and wanted to try making it at home. This recipe filled that craving! Delicious! So much so that I am making it again after just a couple of weeks. The smell of the sauce as I was preparing it told me the flavor would be spot on. Oh so good!
    I would love to know if the leftovers freeze nicely or if I should cut the recipe?

    1. AW! That is perfect! I am so glad that you enjoyed these and that they were a hit! Freezing this meat is a great idea! It freezes nicely and tastes just as good when reheating! Hope you are able to make it again soon! Thanks so much for sharing and following along with me! XOXO

  24. Thanks for this recipe. I often don’t make something I never tried before but broke the rule for Father’s Day. Had 11 family members over and they loved it…this includes little, picky kids. Very moist and flavorful. Plus… Did you know that if u drain 1/2 of the sauce that u can use a hand mixer to shred the beef instantly (a trick I saw on You Tube)

  25. This was incredibly delicious and easy to make! My jalepeno plant is in full bloom right now so I also de-seeded one of those in threw it in while making the sauce. Served it with pico, avocado slices, sour cream, and fresh cilantro. Will definitely make again. Thanks for posting!

  26. I just made this recipe today however since I didn’t have beef BROTH, I just used tomato sauce since I’ve made another recipe that uses that, and it came out DELICIOUS! I also added half an onion to the mix.

  27. This is an amazing recipe! I live in the desert southwest and this is way better than Chipotle’s and have shared with my friends. 5Stars all the way! MKe the sauce a day ahead so all those wonderful flavors can marinate!

  28. This may be a very dumb question, but should I dump the juices from browning the meat in with the meat? I’m afraid if I do and I’m not supposed to, it will dilute the flavor too much . On the other hand, if I’m supposed to, and I don’t, then it might be dry and the taste too strong

  29. Alyssa,
    I’m excited to try this recipe, but do you have an Instant Pot variation? Like, less beef broth, HIGH for 7min and NR.
    Thank You

  30. I love this recipe! Imake this at least 3 times a month. Idivide it into 3 meals and use it in different recipes. My favorite is squeezed out and chopped up alittle and put in a Caesar salad. I took it to a church lunch and everyone wanted the recipe for the meat. I use chuck it is easier to get here.

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