Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef

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

This barbacoa can be made in so many variations. Add it to your favorite taco, burrito or even salad! If you love Mexican food, enjoy a refreshing Horchata Drink and Seven Layer Dip with chips to make this a complete meal.

Barbacoa in a taco with tomatoes, onions and lettuce over top with limes on the side.

Barbacoa Beef

Reason #346 why I love my slow cooker. It slow cooks this barbacoa beef to perfect tender and juicy melt in your mouth perfection. Is there anything better than barbacoa beef 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 barbacoa beef looks! It shreds so easily and the flavor is so dang good! This barbacoa beef recipe is so simple to make and the slow cooker does all the work. It is one of the easiest and most delicious barbacoa recipes I have made.

What is Barbacoa?

Barbacoa is known to be an authentic Mexican meal that is made with beef, goat or lamb meat. The meat is heavily seasoned with chilies and spices then slow cooked until perfectly tender that it literally falls apart easily. Once it is cooked, the barbacoa is used to fill tacos, burritos and salads. It is one of the best meats and tastes amazingly delicious!

Barbacoa Beef Ingredients:

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!

  • Beef Brisket: Super tender beef that will soak in all the seasonings and spices making this barbacoa irresistible.
  • Vegetable Oil: This will be used to seer the beef before placing it in the slow cooker.
  • Chipotle Chili in Adobo: Adding a little heat. If you prefer not to have too much spice, just reduce the amount.
  • Beef Broth: Soak the beef in beef broth making it tender and juicy.
  • Minced Garlic: Fresh is best but you can use the minced garlic already minced.
  • Ground Cumin and Dried Oregano: Together these seasonings build a flavorful coating.
  • Salt and Black Pepper: Just add a pinch.
  • Ground Cloves: Brings on a strong flavor to soak into the barbacoa beef.
  • Fresh Lime Juice: Always my favorite when making Mexican food. It gives this barbacoa a zest.

How to Make Barbacoa Beef:

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.

  1. Prepare the beef: 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. Blend the seasonings: 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. Slow Cook: Cook on low for 8-9 hours or high for 6 hours. Shred the meat with two forks and turn on warm.

The Recipe Critic Pro Tip:

For the most tender barbacoa beef cook on low instead of high for this recipe.

Beef barbacoa in a slow cooker with tongs pulling up a bit of the beef to be shown in the photo.

Sides to Serve with Barbacoa Beef:

What Should I Serve Barbacoa Beef In?

There are so many options for enjoying this beef barbacoa recipe. Stuff your barbacoa in a taco or burrito, fill a bowl or a wrap or add it to any salad or nacho. It is that simple and makes a complete meal within minutes.

  • Tacos
  • Burritos
  • Bowls
  • Wraps
  • Salads
  • Nachos
  • Quesadillas
  • Enchiladas

Recommended Toppings for Barbacoa Beef:

Have fun with your barbacoa. Show it off and enjoy the tender, juicy flavors in every bite! These toppings for barbacoa is perfect and will create endless amounts of recipes.

  • Lettuce: For a salad romaine or even iceberg are delicious to top
  • Cheese: Mix up your favorite cheese together like monterey jack, Mexican blend, cotija or queso fresco.
  • Tomatoes: Dice up fresh tomatoes to layer on top.
  • Avocados: Slice up a ripe avocado and lay over top.
  • Cilantro: Great for garnish and color but also adds a hint of flavor.
  • Radishes: If you are a radish fan, add these for a bitter crunch.
  • Onions: Dice them or slice them in anyway that you prefer.
  • Guacamole: My homemade guacamole is always a treat or a store bought one works for ease.
  • Salsa: A simple salsa is always tasty or a chunky one like Mango Lime Avocado Salsa is fresh and fun.
  • Lime Chipotle Hummus: Spread hummus along the side of a tortilla or burrito.

Beef barbacoa in a taco with tomatoes, onions and cilantro garnished with two limes on the side.

More Amazing Mexican Recipes:


Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef

4.91 from 10 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 10 minutes
Author Alyssa Rivers
Servings 8 people
AMAZING and tender beef barbacoa that is better than any restaurant I have had! The flavor is amazing and it slow cooks to perfection!
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, Mexican
Keyword barbacoa, slow cookerr


  • 4 lbs beef brisket or beef chuck roast will also work
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 - 4 chipotle chilis in adobo
  • 1 1/4 cups beef broth
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 3/4 tsp salt then more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 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.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

Updated on February 27, 2020

Original Post on April 1, 2016

Nutrition Facts
Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef
Amount Per Serving
Calories 403 Calories from Fat 189
% Daily Value*
Fat 21g32%
Saturated Fat 9g45%
Cholesterol 141mg47%
Sodium 706mg29%
Potassium 807mg23%
Carbohydrates 4g1%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 48g96%
Vitamin A 681IU14%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 39mg4%
Iron 6mg33%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


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. Hmm. I will try this but with cow tongue, cause that’s how they make it down here on the border. My husband loves loves loves barbacoa! But it can get expensive buying 10 of them for $50! Yikes!

  1. This is such a great recipe! I used 2kg beef cheek instead of brisket and it was so tender and juicy! I served it in Tortillas with a Chipotle slaw – highly recommend this recipe!

  2. I made the barbacoa beef and doubled the recipe. I set the crockpot on high for 6 hours. It turned out great! When it was done I shredded the meat and removed some of the juices. I added a little more salt and about 3-4 tbsp more of the adobo sauce, to add a little more kick at the end. I wish I had some cilantro to add, darn it! I think next time I will add some cilantro, onion, and diced green chilies! Also, if time permits I will try 8 hours on low.

  3. That’s not barbacoba. That’s brisket. Barbacoba is usually the head of the animal or toungue or cheek. You made slow cooker brisket. Either way it looks good and I may try it. Thanks for sharing.

    1. You should totally try it! It is brisket and it’s somehow even better with pork (if you eat that). My husband is always extremely happy when I make this recipe ? plus it’s so simple it isn’t a hassle to make before going to work.

  4. I smoked my brisket last time I did this it was amazing. Now got a proper 7 lb flat to smoke a little longer till it stalls. Also cutting up chunks in rectangular portions with the grain to give longer strips of brisket. Love the slow cooker ingredients, wife won’t stop talking about and now I am making it for her friends.

  5. Brisket, Barbacoa Beef, call it what you want. It’s a fantastic recipe and a big hit at home and with the food critics at work.

  6. I am worlds worst cook. Made this as per instructions and came out fantastic. My Mexican friend took home and they loved it. A little spicy for my tastes, but still very good. Thanx

  7. I just made this as tacos for dinner tonight with toppings of grilled red onions, cilantro, chopped tomatoes, avocado, hot sauce, a sprinkling of cojita cheese. My stepson just told me it was “restaurant quality!” Thank you for the great recipe!

    1. Hi can you tell me how many portions you could do with serving two street size tacos? Im from uk and im setting up mexican street food stall so wondered how much tacos can get out of weights.

  8. Hi, I am making this for the first time. And I put the whole 11oz can of Chipotle Peppers in! And it’s too spicy. How can I fix this? Thanks!

    1. Read the recipe!
      I guess you’ve never had canned chipotle in adobo sauce before.
      I’m afraid there is no fix for this one.

    2. When I make it too spicy I add a cup of pineapple juice and a few tablespoons dark brown sugar. It reduces the spiciness quite a bit. My husband’s family is from a northern Beach town in Mexico and there barbacoa recipe has sliced pineapple in it along with the adobo Chipotle’s, its a blend of fresh citrus flavor with a spicy kick.

      1. I agree with the citrus add. I typically add the juice from a large orange to mine, but otherwise similar to this recipe. I really like the sweetness that an orange imparts, but pineapple sounds like it would be awesome too (haven’t tried).

  9. This was very tasty but a little too spicy for me. Next time I’ll use just two peppers. Also I added more lime juice and a little honey – I love sweet and sour.

  10. Made today exactly as directed. My husband informed me he will no longer eat ground beef tacos, this is the new standard. They were fantastic.

  11. Have made this recipe two years in a row for our holiday party. Great both times but the second I added a 10 adobo chilis(double recipe), added another tsp(probably more than than) and 1/2 cup of honey. This curbed the heat and really pulled it together. Crisping up the meat on a skillet also helped the juiciness as a couple people here also pointed out. I serve on tortillas with quartered cherry tomatoes, cilantro and onion. 9 of 10 recipe. Thanks!

  12. Very flavorful! I used 3 chipotle peppers – not too spicy. Served with corn tortillas, cilantro, sour cream and green onions.

  13. Hi, just checking if I really need to use 1 1/2 tbsp of ground cumin, I’m not an expert Cheff, I just want to check if this wasn’t a typo.

    1. Yes! Use more if you like. Cumin adds a citrus and smoky flavor. Close your eyes and smell inside the container. There is no other spice that compares.

  14. Loved this! Wait to add more salt after it’s done cooking, the chipotle reduces to add a lot of flavor and you won’t need much more salt. This was my boyfriends favorite and my son loved it. I made tacos and added small chopped onions , sour cream and cilantro! The cilantro adds a great freshness! Such an easy recipe thanks to the slow cooker!

  15. Wow. We did this last night using 3lbs of cheek meat and 1 whole cow tongue. Simply amazing. This recipe is perfect. Thank u so much!!!

  16. I bought some brisket meat to make the recipe this weekend and I can’t wait! Has anyone used chuck roast? I’m considering making a large batch for a party and want to save a little money if I can.

    1. We made this in an instapot tonight. I just reduced the broth to 3/4 cup and everything else the same for the most part. I only used 2 peppers to keep the spice in check for the kids. It was perfect but too spicy still of the youngest (2yrs old). I think we cooked it for 60 min. It was so good. Not a single shred of beef was left over.

    2. I Basically followed the recipe but only used half the stock in the puréed sauce. I seared meat then added 1/2 the beef stock to deglazed the pan. I made the sauce with the other half of the stock and chillies and poured the sauce over the meat. cooked on Manual high pressure for 1hr30 minutes with a 15 min natural release. I then shredded it in the pot on sauté in order to cook off some of the remaining liquid. Turned out pretty good

  17. Made this yesterday for friends who came over for dinner. Got to say, it’s the most flavorful and amazing meat I’ve had in quite a while!

    The only amendments I made were that I only used 2 of the chiles out of the adobo sauce since I don’t like anything too spicy and added 3 packs of Sazon seasoning to the marinade to help temper it a bit.

    Cooked it in the flow cooker on high for 6 course and it was a huge hit! The house smelled absolutely wonderful!

    Made a salsa with pineapple, red bell pepper, a squeeze of ginger paste, salt, and lime juice to put on tacos with the meat. So delicious!

    We will be making this again soon!

  18. Just mastered making carnitas, so making barbacoa seems like a logical progression. Anyone try doing this on a pressure cooker?

  19. I made this recipe with the same ingredients listed, except I made it in an instant pot for 2 hours. Meat shredded easily and looked very appetizing.

    But, I found the flavor to be quite bland. I can taste the cumin, and some heat and smokiness from the peppers, but that is about it. So while the meat is perfectly tender, it lacks a flavor punch I was expecting from it.

    Going to try sauteing some onions and adding more salt as I fry the meat to get the burnt ends and hopefully that will save this.

  20. Those peppers are very spicy!!! I made this a while back and it was fairly inedible. Tasted pretty good but the heat was killing me…and I love spicy food! I’m trying again but only putting 2 peppers in this time. I’m just remembering last time sweating profusely trying to eat it.

  21. Thank you so much for this recipe. I make it just the way you suggest and it is always delicious! It is a favorite of my friends and family. Your site is one of my favorites. I always check here first.

  22. 5 stars
    I used this recipe for a get together with some friends of mine, half of whom were Mexican. They were amazed that a White Boy could cook an authentic Mexican dish like this! Thank you for helping this Cracker fit in!

  23. I made this for a family weekend of pool-time and OMG was it good. Lots of compliments. Very easy to put together and just let it “do its thing” in the crockpot without having to babysit it all day. (the most lengthy part of prep was searing the beef, but it really does make a big difference.) I am making it again this weekend for a friends-dinner. Can’t wait to try it again! (Oh yeah, P.S., I didn’t add the cloves, otherwise, I made this recipe as-is.) Fabulous!!!!

  24. 5 stars
    Very good! One comment said it was bland and we didn’t find that at all. Juicy tender and flavorful. Even my kids loved it. I highly recommend this recipe. Some of us topped it with a combination of pico de Gallo , guacamole and sour cream. On white corn tortillas since we have a wheat allergy in the home. Spicy but full of flavor with 3 chipotle peppers. Thank you for sharing

    1. Hi Katie!
      Yes, with less meat you will want to change the slow cooker time to 4-5 hours on low and then check it just to make sure that you don’t over cook it. I hope this helps! Thanks for following along with me!!

  25. Looking forward to making this! I don’t have any of those peppers though. Would it still be tasty if made without? Serving little ones as well!

    1. Hi Jennifer!
      It should be just fine to not use the peppers but it will change the taste a little. It should still be tasty though. Please let me know what you think! Thanks so much for following along with me!

  26. I made it this evening and this was wonderful! I used my slow cooker and set it on high for the 6 hours. Use fresh squeezed lime juice. I did add a little more salt at the end of cooking. Paired this with cilantro lime rice and cut limes and mozzarella cheese. Would definitely make this again. My daughter loved it! Nice kick of spice if you love spicy.

  27. I’ve made this several times in an Instant Pot, and it is delicious that way too, Here is how I make it with the same ingredients:
    Heat the oil in the Instant Pot on the Sauté setting.
    Sear the beef on each side, then cancel Sauté.
    Pour the chili mixture on top of the meat and add beef broth (if needed) until the meat is completely covered.
    Close the lid and set the Instant Pot on Meat/Stew for 35 minutes.
    Allow the pressure to come down naturally when done cooking.

    Thank you!

  28. Thank you so much for this recipe – it was delicious and enjoyed by all of my family, who rarely agree on a meal!

  29. 5 stars
    This recipe is amazing!! It’s a favorite in my home. My family, friends and coworkers love it. I really really recommended adding a but more salt and cooking this for 8 hours on low. But the last 1-2 hours, take the lid off. The broth will boil down and the meat will crisp up a little bit in the fat. This makes the dish so much better. My Tia’s were asking for my recipe. ?? I’m never sharing.

  30. 5 stars
    My boyfriend really wanted Barbacoa tacos. It’s one of his favorites. I surprised him by making it for dinner one night. The stakes were high as he is apparently a Barbacoa snob. You would think he was Gordon Ramsey or something the way he was looking at me putting all of those spices in my Vitamix to blend. I used an I staple and just stick it on low for 4 hours while we went to the movies. I came home, and my house smelled amazing! He liked it so much he said it was better than Chipolte. Then he asked for the recipe. Thanks so much! ☺️

  31. 5 stars
    Love this recipe. I’ve tweaked it a tiny bit to suit our taste, but the base recipe is still fantastic. I add cayenne pepper to spice it up, more garlic and more beef broth (I like a lot of liquid in mine, almost covers the meat). I also add a small can of tomato paste, not sure why I do this, but it turns out so good. I sometimes add a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, I think that tenderizes the meat a bit more (although it doesn’t really need it). My boyfriend and I enjoy this at least once a month, it’s our favorite.

  32. Just came across this recipe and I’m planning to make it this week. Just curious what most people are using brisket or chuck roast??? I will update post with my review after I have made it.

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