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Crock Pot Barbacoa

Delight in our easy beef Barbacoa recipe – slow-cooked beef, tender and flavorful, steeped in traditional Mexican spices. A taco lover’s dream!

Serve this traditional Mexican dish with an Authentic Queso Recipe or with Homemade Guacamole for added flavor that cannot be beaten.

A tray of tender, shredded beef barbacoa garnished with fresh lime wedges, thinly sliced radishes, and a sprinkle of cilantro leaves.

A Crock Pot Barbacoa recipe with juicy, tender slow cooked beef in classic Mexican spices. Delicious pull apart shredded chuck roast cooked low and slow with spicy chipotle peppers that pack plenty of flavor in the dish. Quick and easy to prepare, this barbacoa pairs perfectly with tacos, beans, and rice.

What is Barbacoa

Barbacoa is a style of barbecue (BBQ) that originated in Mexico or the Caribbean by ancient Aztec people. To barbecue the protein, a hole would be dug into the ground. They would build a fire with hot coals, line it with agave leaves or banana leaves and slow roast meats on low heat all day. Common barbacoa meats include beef, lamb, pork, fish, goat and chicken. Tropical herbs and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, chilies, and allspice were commonly used to flavor the barbacoa (barbecue). Today, it is considered a traditional Mexican dish made with beef. This barbacoa recipe is made in honor of the traditional ways.

How to Eat Traditional Barbacoa

Use your favorite toppings: Barbacoa is a versatile dish that pairs well with a variety of toppings. Some of the most popular toppings include cilantro, white onions, radishes, shredded cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, sour cream, avocado, jalapenos, queso cheese, and salsa.

Serve with a side of rice and beans. Rice and beans are commonly served along with barbacoa. Both Mexican rice and Spanish rice are great choices to pair with barbacoa. Make it a meal and serve it with a side of stewed beans, pinto beans, black beans, or refried beans.

Use Warm Tortillas: Tortillas like corn or flour can be warmed in the microwave, oven, or on the stovetop. If you are warming them in the microwave, wet a clean dish towel or paper towel and wrap it around a stack of tortillas. Warm them for 30 seconds to 1 minute. While store-bought tortillas are an easy and convenient choice to use with barbacoa, homemade tortillas will make the recipe much more delicious and less expensive overall. Here are my go-to recipes for fresh corn tortillas or fresh flour tortillas. If you need a tortilla press you can buy one HERE.

Burrito Bowl: Some people skip the tortilla and build their own burrito bowl with lettuce, rice, guacamole, red onions, or just about anything else you would enjoy.

A flour tortilla loaded with shredded beef barbacoa, topped with diced white onions, thin slices of radish, and fresh cilantro leaves.

How to Make this Slow Cooker Barbacoa Recipe

  1. Cut the onions, garlic, and chipotle peppers and add it to the slow cooker.
  2. Add in the spices.
  3. Pour in green chiles, beef broth, and freshly squeezed lime juice.
  4. Stir all the ingredients together. Add the bay leaves.
  5. Cut beef roast into large chunks and add it to the slow cooker.
  6. Stir everything together.
  7. Cover crock pot. Cook for 8 hours on low heat.
  8. Shred the beef and serve in a corn or flour tortilla with toppings, rice, and beans.

Want to add a hint of smoky flavor? Add 1 to 2 teaspoons hickory liquid smoke. You’ll find this product next to barbecue sauces or salad dressings.

A slow cooker filled with tender shredded beef barbacoa, accentuated with thin radish slices, a lime wedge, and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro leaves.

Ingredients in this Barbacoa Recipe

Beef: Chuck roast is a cut of meat that is tough and needs to be cooked slowly in order to become soft and tender. Using a slow cooker to cook the meat on low and slow will result in it not drying out. Another cut that can be of use is beef brisket. To make this recipe, I bought two roughly 2.20 pound beef chuck roasts and cut them into large pieces. If you’re looking to add more flavor and have an extra 20 minutes sear the cut pieces of beef in a hot skillet until the outside turns golden brown. This will yield much more flavor during the cooking process but it’s not necessary to make the recipe.

Vegetables: Adding to the barbacoa complexity, onions, and garlic infuse a variety of different flavors that compliment the dish. Layers of flavor are added

Seasoning: I like to use a combination of spices and herbs to flavor barbacoa. Ground cumin is a readily available spice that is essential to flavoring barbacoa. Tip: I do use fresh onion and garlic to make my recipe. If you simply don’t have it on hand, or prefer to use it in its dried form, use 1 tablespoon onion powder, and 1 tablespoon garlic powder.

Liquid: You’d be surprised how often I see friends and family add a lot of liquid to the crock pot. It’s not necessary. The beef will naturally release juices as it cooks slowly. Just a small amount of beef broth is plenty for this recipe.

What are Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce?

Simply put, chipotle peppers are jalapenos peppers that have been dried, and smoked. The dried peppers are then rehydrated by adding it to a flavorful sauce made of sweet and tangy tomatoes (puree), vinegar, garlic, and spices. This “sauce” can be found in grocery stores next to other common Mexican ingredients like beans, spices, and seasonings. The product comes in a small can. Once opened, you’ll need a fork to pull out the peppers from the sauce. Chipotles in adobo are mildly spicy and are spicier than chile anchos.

A slow cooker filled with tender shredded beef barbacoa, accentuated with thin radish slices, a lime wedge, and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro leaves.

Barbacoa Recipe Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I use store-bought tortillas for serving the Barbacoa Recipe?

A: Yes, store-bought tortillas can be used to serve barbacoa. However, if you have the time and inclination, homemade tortillas can make the dish even more delicious and less expensive overall. Either way, the best is warm corn tortillas.

Q: How can I store leftovers of the Crock Pot Barbacoa Recipe?

A: Leftover barbacoa recipe can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Be sure to include some of the cooking liquid to keep the meat moist. It should be consumed within 3-4 days. For longer storage, you can freeze the barbacoa recipe in freezer-safe containers or bags. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating and serving.

Q: What is the best type of beef to use for this barbacoa recipe?

A: Shredded beef chuck roast is commonly used in barbacoa recipes, as it’s a tougher cut of meat that becomes very tender and flavorful when cooked slowly over a long period of time. It’s also relatively inexpensive, which is a plus.

Q: Can I use cloves in this barbacoa recipe?

A: Yes, you can certainly use cloves in your barbacoa recipe. Cloves have a strong, sweet, and slightly bitter flavor that can complement the other spices in the dish. However, because of their strong flavor, you’ll want to use them sparingly. You can start with about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves, or 2-3 whole cloves, and adjust to taste. If you’re using whole cloves, you might want to remove them before serving, as biting into a whole clove can be unpleasantly strong.

Q: What are other barbacoa beef recipes?

A: Barbacoa meat can be used in quesadillas, enchiladas, salads, tostadas, flautas or taquitos.

Q: Do you have an Instant Pot Barbacoa Recipe?

A: Absolutely! If you are in a pinch for time the Instant Pot is a great resource. Using all the same ingredients as in the recipe card here are the instructions:


Turn your Instant Pot to the ‘sauté’ setting. Once hot, add the beef chunks and brown them on all sides. Do this in batches if necessary.

Remove the beef and set aside. Add the diced onion and minced garlic to the Instant Pot and sauté until the onion is translucent.

Add the chipotle peppers, lime juice, cumin, oregano, paprika, salt, black pepper, and green chiles. Stir to combine.

Return the beef to the Instant Pot and add the beef broth and bay leaves. Stir to ensure the beef is coated in the broth and spice mixture.

Seal the Instant Pot and set it to ‘Manual’ or ‘Pressure Cook’ for 60 minutes.

After the cooking cycle completes, let the pressure release naturally for 10-15 minutes. Then, carefully release any remaining pressure.

Remove the bay leaves and shred the beef using two forks. If desired (and trust me you should desire), you can return the shredded beef to the pot to absorb more of the juices.

Serve the barbacoa on tortillas with the chopped cilantro, diced onion, and hot sauce if desired. Enjoy your Instant Pot Barbacoa!

Other Recipes You’ll Love

Juicy beef barbacoa on a metal baking sheet, garnished with vibrant radish slices and fresh cilantro leaves.

Crock Pot Barbacoa

A Crock Pot Barbacoa recipe with juicy, tender slow cooked beef in classic Mexican spices. Delicious pull apart shredded chuck roast cooked low and slow with spicy chipotle peppers that pack plenty of flavor in the dish. Quick and easy to prepare, this barbacoa pairs perfectly with tacos, beans, and rice. 
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 7 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 7 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Latin American, Mexican
Servings 20 servings
Calories 234 kcal




  • 4-5 lb beef chuck roast, cut into chunks I bought two 2½ lb chuck roasts
  • 1 large white onion diced
  • 6 garlic cloves finely minced
  • 4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce from a 7 oz can minced
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice about 2-3 limes
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano leaves
  • ½ tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • oz canned mild chopped green chiles
  • ¾ cup beef broth or beef stock
  • 3 bay leaves

Toppings to Make Tacos

  • 1 bunch cilantro chopped
  • 1 white onion diced
  • 20 small corn or flour tortillas
  • hot sauce optional


  • Cut beef chuck roast into large chunks. Set aside.
  • Dice Onion. Mince garlic. Pull out 4 chipotle peppers from can and mince. Place ingredients into crock pot.
    Tip: Using a food processor or food chopper, chop onion into chunks and add to food processor. Add in garlic and chipotle peppers. Blend until chopped or smooth.
  • Add freshly squeezed lime juice, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, oregano leaves, salt, and pepper to crock pot.
  • Pour in chopped green chiles, and beef broth.
  • Add bay leaves and stir mixture well to combine.
  • Toss in beef chunks. Place lid on top of crock pot.
  • Set slow cooker to 8 hours on low.
  • Remove beef from pot and transfer to plate. Shred with two forks.
  • Transfer to bowl and store with several cups of the cooking liquid.
  • Serve on corn tortillas or flour tortillas with diced onion and cilantro.


Calories: 234kcalCarbohydrates: 15gProtein: 19gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 63mgSodium: 378mgPotassium: 404mgFiber: 3gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 145IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 53mgIron: 3mg

Nutritional information is only an estimate and it’s accuracy is not guaranteed to be exact.

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6 Responses

  1. I love cooking in the crockpot – this is going to be on our standard rotation! So good!!

  2. 5 stars
    Love this recipe! Put the meat on in the morning. Came home after work and we had delicious burrito bowls with rice, salad and all the toppings.

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