This slow cooker barbacoa recipe is so easy to make and is the perfect filling for tacos, burritos, enchiladas and more! Cubes of beef are simmered in the crock pot with chiles, garlic and spices until they become ultra tender. This recipe is great for feeding a crowd!

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I make tacos almost every week, and we alternate between slow cooker chicken tacos, tilapia fish tacos, baked beef tacos and this super easy barbacoa.

Slow cooker barbacoa tacos topped with avocado.

Taco night is always a big hit at my house, and my kids love to make their own Mexican food creations! I get tired of the same old ground beef tacos sometimes, and decided to add this easy and delicious slow cooker barbacoa beef to our dinner rotation. It’s super tender and flavorful meat that’s perfect for tacos, burritos, enchiladas, nachos, you name it! Best of all, the prep time is only 10 minutes. Add all the ingredients to your slow cooker, go about your day, and dinner will be waiting for you when you get home! How can you go wrong with that?

Cubes of beef, garlic, spices and chiles in a slow cooker.

What kind of meat is barbacoa?

Typically in America, you’ll find that barbacoa is made with beef, although sometimes you’ll also see it made with lamb. In Mexico where this dish originated, it’s often made with goat meat!

How Do You Make Barbacoa Beef?

This recipe starts with fresh cubed beef. I use cubes of chuck roast, but you could also use brisket if you prefer, or even beef stew meat. The meat is seasoned with garlic, canned chipotle peppers and a variety of spices. The beef simmers in a slow cooker until it’s tender enough to be cut with a fork. When you’re ready to eat, simply shred the meat and serve.

Chunks of beef tossed with beef broth, spices and a bay leaf in a crock pot.

Tips for barbacoa

  • Chipotle peppers come in a can and are actually smoked jalapenos in adobo sauce. While the peppers are spicy, the sauce is not, but packs all of that great flavor. Since I’m feeding kids who are sensitive to spice, I use one chipotle pepper plus a tablespoon of adobo sauce in this recipe to keep the heat in my beef barbacoa to a manageable level. If you prefer spicy, go ahead and use 2 chipotle peppers.
  • You can freeze any remaining chipotle peppers for another use.
  • This recipe can be frozen for up to 2 months. Simply place your cooked meat in a freezer safe container, then thaw in the fridge and warm in a pan over medium heat.
  • This recipe makes a lot of meat – you can easily cut the recipe in half for a smaller group.
  • If you want to add an extra layer of flavor, you can brown your beef in a little oil before you place it in the crock pot. This is an optional step.

Cooked barbacoa cubes in a slow cooker.

My favorite way to serve barbacoa beef is in tacos, in these photos we’ve got flour tortillas, plenty of beef, and fresh avocado tossed with a little lime juice and cilantro. I also like to add pickled red onions when I have them on hand. This barbacoa is similar to what you’d get at the Chipotle restaurant, except you can make it at home yourself and without a ton of effort!

Shredded barbacoa beef in a slow cooker, topped with cilantro.

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Barbacoa Beef Video

5 from 33 votes

Barbacoa Beef (Slow Cooker)

AuthorSara Welch
Slow cooker barbacoa tacos topped with avocado.
This slow cooker barbacoa beef recipe is so easy to make and is the perfect filling for tacos, burritos, enchiladas and more!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time4 hours
Total Time4 hours 10 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine Mexican
Serves 8


  • 4 lbs chuck roast or brisket cut into large cubes
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano use Mexican oregano if possible
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from chipotle pepper can
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro


  • Place the meat in a slow cooker. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, bay leaf, chipotle, adobo sauce and beef broth. Stir to combine.
  • Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 6-8 hours. Shred the meat with two forks and remove bay leaf. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.


Calories: 413kcal | Protein: 43g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 156mg | Sodium: 879mg | Potassium: 782mg | Vitamin A: 40IU | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 5.3mg

This post was originally published on October 4, 2017 and was updated on February 29, 2019 with new content.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    One of my favorite Mexican recipes! I love this Barbacoa and will be making it for Cinco de Mayo too! Thank you so much!

  2. 5 stars
    Sooooo good. I made a booboo and added one can of chipotle peppers. Whoops. So I took out the meat and shredded it without the sauce it was still so yummmmmy. Will definitely make it again… Correctly 😂

  3. 5 stars
    I found this recipe because I had an abundance of stew meat I didn’t know what to do with. This is going in our regular rotation. It was SO GOOD.

  4. 5 stars
    This is good, made it exactly as written and all enjoyed. I do think I will reduce the amount of salt next time but really a great recipe. Thanks!

  5. 5 stars
    Love this beef! I have been making this for the last two years.
    Try shredding some and make a Caesar sald with it.

    1. 5 stars
      This receipe is very easy and delicious! I browned my beef stew first prior to cooking on low used two peppers because we love spicy. 10 stars All your recipes are great that I’ve made.

  6. 5 stars
    I am making this amazing dish a second time. Is vegetable broth a good alternative if you can’t get beef broth??

  7. 5 stars
    This is honestly one of the most tasty and flavourful meals ever! Made this twice now and it’s amazing, I did sear the cubed Chuck first and I added 3 peppers for more heat… so good, a keeper recipe for sure

    1. I tried it last night and it was one of the best dishes I’ve made. Tons of leftovers for the freezer the dish has so many delicious flavors!

  8. I don’t see the pepper being added in the video. When should it be added? Does it go in whole or get cut up first? Remove it before serving? Thank you!