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This barbacoa recipe is slow-cooked beef infused with the smoky taste of chipotle peppers. This classic Mexican dish is mouthwatering, flavorful, and perfect for piling on a tortilla!

Shredded barbacoa on a plate.
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Beef Barbacoa

Being able to toss in a beef roast with chipotle peppers and have it come out fork-tender and flavorful is exactly what makes the crockpot so convenient.

Just like my slow cooker carnitas or Instant Pot shredded beef, the barbacoa is succulent and practically falls apart at the touch. Whether you serve it over rice or piled high in a tortilla, this flavorful barbacoa beef will be the star on any dinner table!

Why This Recipe Works

  • Foolproof: With minimal prep, a crockpot does the heavy lifting, making this recipe accessible to both novice and seasoned cooks alike.
  • Versatility. Once the barbacoa beef is ready, it’s perfect for adding to burritos, rice bowls, quesadillas, or simply wrapped in corn tortillas or lettuce for a lighter option.

Barbacoa Beef Recipe Ingredients

Barbacoa ingredients on counter.

Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.

  • Beef roast: A beef roast, like beef chuck roast or beef brisket, is the main ingredient in Barbacoa. Cut it into pieces so it can be seasoned well and evenly cooked. 
  • Beef broth: Beef broth gives the dish a richer taste and extra flavor. Water can be used but broth does add more flavor.
  • Chopped onions: This adds a sweet and rich flavor to the Barbacoa. The onions give a delicious smell and taste to the meat.
  • Chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce: Chipotle peppers add a smoky and spicy taste to the meat.
  • Aromatics, herbs, and spices: Minced garlic, cumin, oregano, bay leaves, salt, and pepper boost the flavor of this beef Barbacoa recipe.
  • Limes: Squeezing the fresh lime juice right into the Barbacoa before serving gives it a fresh and lively twist.

Substitutions and Variations

  • Meat options: While beef roast is traditional, you can experiment with other cuts like chuck or brisket. You could even try beef cheeks.
  • Heat level: Adjust the spiciness by varying the amount of chipotle peppers—start with less for a milder taste. You could also use chili powder instead.
  • Broth alternatives: Swap beef broth with chicken broth or vegetable broth for a different flavor profile.
  • More tangy: Add up to 2 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar that will increase the tanginess of the beef Barbacoa.
  • Cloves: Adding up to 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves adds a unique taste that can really add flavor!

How to Make Barbacoa

Making a delicious, tender Barbacoa is a breeze, even if you’re not a cooking pro. Just cut up a beef roast, season it, toss it in a slow cooker with the other ingredients, and let it cook on low.

Showing how to make barbacoa in a 4 step collage.
  • Add beef: Pour the broth or water into the bottom of the crockpot. Pat the beef down with a paper towel, and then season with kosher salt and pepper. Place in crockpot.
  • Cover with remaining ingredients: Add the onion, peppers, green chiles, garlic, cumin, and oregano over top. Place the bay leaves in.
  • Cook low and slow: Cover the crockpot with a lid and cook on low for 8 hours, or until the beef is fork tender and falls apart.
  • Shred the meat: Remove bay leaves, then shred with two forks. Add lime juice. Allow the juices to soak in for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

Expert Tips

  • Patience is a virtue: Let the crockpot work its magic. The longer the Barbacoa cooks, the more tender and flavorful it becomes.
  • Adjust spice levels: Modify the heat by tweaking the amount of chipotle peppers. Start with less if you prefer a milder version.
  • Serve with variety: Set up a Barbacoa taco toppings bar with a variety of tortillas, avocado, sour cream, onions, cotija cheese, cilantro, and lime wedges.
Shredded barbacoa in a crockpot.

Recipe FAQs

What is barbacoa?

Barbacoa typically refers to slow-cooked, seasoned meat, often beef, lamb, or goat. In this recipe, we’re focusing on the rich and succulent flavors of beef.

What does barbacoa taste like?

Barbacoa gets its delicious taste from a mix of smoky chili peppers and aromatic spices like cloves, bay leaf, and oregano. It has a strong, smoky, and spicy flavor.

Can I use a different cut of beef?

While a beef roast is optimal, you can experiment with different cuts, although you will want to save any cut of steak for carne asada. Always ensure the meat is well-marbled for the best results.

How to store leftover barbacoa?

Store leftovers in a covered airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. You can also freeze the shredded meat in a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months

How to reheat leftovers?

Be careful when reheating as you don’t want to dry out the meat. If you want to use the microwave you can, just be sure not to overdo it. Your best bet would be to use a skillet on the stove or a crock pot.

Barbacoa Serving Suggestions

Use warm tortillas as a base and make a shredded beef taco with your favorite toppings. You can also serve Barbacoa with the following:

Barbacoa tacos on a plate.

More Mexican recipes we love for a fiesta include carnitas tacos, crockpot chicken fajitas, or carne asada tacos.

More Mexican Recipes

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The best barbacoa on a plate.

Barbacoa Recipe

5 from 3 votes
↑ Click stars to rate now!
Author: Jamielyn Nye
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 8

Equipment

Ingredients 

  • 3-4 pounds beef roast , cut into 3-inch chunks
  • ½ cup beef broth , or water
  • 1 onion , chopped
  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce , chopped
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilies
  • 4 cloves garlic , minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 limes , juiced

For serving

  • tortillas

Your favorite toppings: avocado, sour cream, diced onions, cotija cheese, cilantro, lime wedges, etc.

    Instructions

    • Pour the broth or water into the bottom of the crockpot. Pat the beef down with a paper towel and then season with kosher salt and pepper. Place in crockpot.
    • Add the onion, peppers, green chiles, garlic, cumin and oregano over top. Place the bay leaves in.
    • Cover crockpot with a lid and cook on low for 8 hours, or until beef is fork tender and falls apart.
    • Remove bay leaves, then shred with two forks. Add lime juice. Allow juices to soak in for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

    Notes

    Storage: Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator up to 4 days. You can also freeze the shredded meat in a freezer safe bag up to 3 months. 

    Nutrition

    Calories: 323kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 117mg | Sodium: 196mg | Potassium: 631mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 48IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 54mg | Iron: 4mg

    Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.

    Course: Main Dish
    Cuisine: Mexican
    Diet: Gluten Free

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