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.

Other Mexican food Recipes You’ll Love

Barbacoa Beef Video

5 from 26 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. If I only want to cook 2 pounds of meat, just cut the time in half? Also, cut the other ingredients in half as well?

  2. These look great. I am also interested in the tortilla. Did you make your own or purchase the thick tortillas? If so, where did you get them?

    1. They’re handmade style corn and wheat tortillas, you can find them at most grocery stores! I believe they’re la tortilla brand.

  3. Hello,
    May I have some clarification, please? So, if I want to sear the meat first, do I season it or do I just dump all the spices in the crockpot after the meat is seared? Would you recommend searing it as one big piece and then cut into cubes or should I just sear the cubes? How long do you recommend for searing? Also, would you recommend deglazing the pan with some beef broth and then pouring those bits in the crockpot?
    Thank you for your time.

    1. I cut into cubes, sear, place in the crock pot, add spices and stir. You can deglaze if you like, I’ve never taken that step!

  4. I made this at work for 8 people with a side of rice and beans! I chopped up cilantro, white onions and Roma tomatoes to add as you please. Some crumbled up queso fresco sprinkled on top and oh my gosh the FLAVOR of these tacos! I used a chuck roast and after cooking for 8 hours on low (I’m usually on a time crunch and do 4 hours on high), the fat was just melted into the meat, adding flavor and the meat stayed so tender. It also had such a beautiful color. I didn’t pull out the chipotle peppers and left them in the crock pot while I shredded the meat and it gave the meat such an amazing flavor. I’m Mexican and can’t really handle spicy foods (lol) but this recipe had ALL the flavor and just a dash of heat!

  5. 5 stars
    It was so nice to put this in the crook pot and then come home to a cooked yummy dinner! The house smelled so good when I walker in! The family loved it! I served it with fresh salsa too.

  6. 5 stars
    Apparently my son said I made the BEST TACOS EVER with this recipe. I just seen a show on Netflix called the chefs table and one show was highlighting a female immigrant cook who made Bon Appetite top 6 .. barbacoa was her signature taco .. I marinated the meat with mandarins first .. thank you !!

  7. 5 stars
    Holy smokes! I just tried this one before scaling up to my Freemasons Lodge. This recipe will definitely satisfy the Brothers!

    Plan to serve with pickled red onions and tortillas.

  8. Yum! I love Barbacoa Beef. I’ve not made it for my family yet so I need to fix that. Thank you for the recipe!

  9. I am tired of eating ground beef tacos too so barbacoa beef tacos is a great alternative for me. The best of all, you made it so easy to make! I will definitely make some barbacoa beef for my next taco and nachos night.

  10. 5 stars
    Your slow cooker barbacoa recipe looks like a good filling for my empanadas! Perfect for tacos too! I’ll make it this weekend.

  11. Though I don’t eat any meat myself, I love using my slow cooker! They’re super useful in getting a dinner prepared without putting in the time that a full meal typically takes.