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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:

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Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef

4.81 from 26 votes
By: Alyssa Rivers
AMAZING and tender beef barbacoa that is better than any restaurant I have had! The flavor is amazing and it slow cooks to perfection!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 8 people


  • 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



  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cook on low for 8-9 hours or high for 6 hours. Shred the meat with two forks and turn on warm.



Updated on February 27, 2020
Original Post on April 1, 2016


Calories: 403kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 48gFat: 21gSaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 141mgSodium: 706mgPotassium: 807mgFiber: 2gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 681IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 39mgIron: 6mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Tried this recipe?Mention @alyssa_therecipecritic or tag #therecipecritic!

About Alyssa Rivers

Alyssa Rivers is the author of 'The Tried and True Cookbook', a professional food photographer and experienced recipe-developer. Having a passion for cooking, her tried and true recipes have been featured on Good Morning America, Today Food, Buzzfeed and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Anyone who thinks this is bland is not making it right. This has so much flavor and is my go-to recipe. I use the chipotle sauce in a can (which is basically blended adobo peppers) instead of peppers in adobo so then I don’t have to use a food processor. This is a hit every time and my husbands absolute favorite way to eat tacos.

    1. I’m excited to make this tomorrow but how much of the Chipotle sauce did you use? I bought the small can but not sure if I should use the whole thing.

  2. 5 stars
    I used Chuck Roast and put it together the day before and storing in fridge. Next morning turned my crock pot on and 10hrs. later, magic. Best at home tacos ever.

  3. 5 stars
    This is a go-to for our family when we are craving tacos. Idk how anyone could call this recipe bland; ours is FULL of flavor. Thank you!

  4. Great recipe,
    We made a cilantro lime Crèma to drizzle over the top….we turn it into a Barbacoa pizza which is absolutely delicious.

  5. 5 stars
    Dunno what the previous poster thinks Mexican flavor is but maybe they just didn’t understand oregano or chipotles en adobo?? The ground cloves mixed wonderfully with the chipotle to give a chocolatey molé suggestion and the cumin and lime juice gave it a zest that was even more pronounced with leftovers. We went with a chuck roast and the fat turned to butter although heart healthy folks could always refrigerate to separate the fat. W also seared the cubes in bacon drippings because…well…bacon. They don’t sell lard anymore(?) and Crisco just don’t cut it. I also added a bay leaf and half of a white onion to the crockpot. The only thing I would do differently is maybe add another 1/4 cup of broth and water as needed to fully submerge the meat, my slow cooker’s 8 hr low setting is quite aggressive and the exposed meat darkened quite a bit. This barbacoa didn’t even need guac or pico to be amaazing, just a bed of rice on a corn tortilla and a dollop of sour cream. It was paired with Dos Equis amber, becuse anything less would have seemed uncivilized. Will definitely be making this again! We also loved the Mongolian beef recipe, but used the green onions in that less as a garnish and more as a vegetable in the sauce. Sigh…now I’m hungry again 🙂

    1. Hey there!
      You probably know this already but “Manteca” is lard (the blue or green & white boxes neat Crisco in grocery store).
      Kroger also has Private Selection jarred Beef Tallow, Duck Fat, and Bacon Drippings (can’t remember what they call it)… any would work.
      Also near crisco in grocery store.

  6. 1 star
    Personally I thought this turned out soooo bland!! We buy super high quality meat from a local butcher and it just tasted like plain brisket that had been cooked in beef broth. Didn’t have ANY type of Mexican flavors regardless of everything we put in. I tried another recipe previously but can’t remember where I found it, thought it might be this one, but I was so wrong. Obviously we aren’t going to waste brisket at $10/lb!!!! But very disappointed when I was looking for barbacoa flavors! What a shame.

    1. You clearly missed some ingredients when you made this. Bland….. lol or maybe you lost your sense of taste bc the flavor there ingredients provide are insanely good!

  7. I’ve read 2 comments that gave substitutions for the chipotles in adobo sauce, but are there any other ones you think would be good? I just can’t tolerate heat😢. Thank you!

    1. I’ve had it in San Antonio Texas it wasn’t spicy. I’d leave out all the spicy. Or just cut spicy ingredients in a quarter.

  8. Haven’t made yet, but wondering what your measurements would be for only a 2 person, and 1 year old would be?
    Would hate to buy 4lbs of meat, when we usually consume 1lb typically. (With extra for lunch packed next day)

    1. You can adjust the ratio on the slider on the recipe card if you want to make the portions smaller! Just click on the number of people that it serves and slide that down to 3. It will change all of the measurements for you!

  9. Great recipie will make it again! I subbed out the 4 chillies in abodo for 4 teaspoons of chipotle paste and beef stock cube instead of broth.

  10. Love this recipe and the base is absolutely versatile.

    I’ve made this with beef cheeks, chuck roast- and I actually used it as a base for shredded chicken for tacos and it was LIGHTYEARS better than most of the chicken Tinga recipes I’ve seen out there.

    Every time I make it, someone asks for the recipe and I always refer them to this site.

  11. 5 stars
    FANTASTIC! I didn’t change anything in the recipe except I used stew meat and it was SO TENDER and DELICIOUS! This was as good as any authentic Mexican restaurant in the Southwest! This is definitely a keeper!