This easy Slow Cooker Barbacoa Recipe has become one of our family favorites. Tender fall apart beef that simmers all day long in flavorful Mexican spices. If you are a fan of the Chipotle Barbacoa recipe, you are going to love this barbacoa. We love to use the Barbacoa for quick and easy tacos. It’s perfect on a warm corn tortilla piled high with fresh pico de gallo, avocados and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef Recipe
My very favorite slow cooker recipes are the ones that take the least amount of preparation. On busy mornings, I just want to throw it in the slow cooker and go. I recently updated this recipe and photos to start with searing the chuck roast over a medium-high heat. This step is great and gives it added color and flavor, but it’s not required if you are in a hurry! Start with a good quality cut of boneless chuck roast. A good quality cut will have a nice amount of fat that will render out in the slow cooker without being overly fatty. For very best results, use a fresh chuck roast you have not frozen. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours, or until tender. Once the meat is tender, it’s time to shred and serve. Don’t discard the flavorful cooking liquid. Keep the juices in the slow cooker and let them combine with the shredded meat. This easy barbacoa recipe is intended to be a version that anyone can enjoy with affordable ingredients readily available at any grocery store. Find my Instant Pot version here: Instant Pot Barbacoa
Ingredients for Easy Slow Cooker Barbacoa
- Beef Chuck Roast – look for a good quality chuck roast with even marbling.
- Beef Broth – low sodium beef broth. Beef bullion and water is a good substitute. If you have chicken broth instead of beef broth, in a pinch you can use the equivalent amount of chicken broth with a splash of soy sauce to give the chicken broth a meatier flavor.
- Oil – vegetable oil or any other neutral high heat oil for searing, like avocado oil.
- Seasonings – Chili Powder, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Cumin, Paprika – alternatives seasonings or additions can be bay leaves, fresh or dried, and dried oregano. If you prefer, you can use sliced onions and minced garlic cloves instead of garlic powder and onion powder. Use 1 onion and 4 cloves garlic. Instead of using a marinade, I use a dry seasoning rub which flavors the meat as it cooks slow and low.
- Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper – I use Morton’s Kosher Salt. If using table salt, you need to reduce the amount of salt by half to avoid over salting.
- Lime – fresh lime juice adds the acid that cuts through the fat and let’s you taste the seasonings. It takes the flavors to the next level. A splash of apple cider vinegar is a great substitute.
- Cilantro – adds freshness. If you don’t care for cilantro you can skip this ingredient or use fresh parsley or green onions.
How to Make Tender Barbacoa Beef in the Slow Cooker
- Heat a large skillet with oil over medium high heat.
- Sear chuck roast on both sides to brown just the exterior. Transfer chuck roast and all juices to a 6 quart slow cooker.
- Combine seasonings, kosher salt, and pepper in a small bowl and season chuck roast on all sides.
- Add beef broth to slow cooker. Cover and let cook on low until you can shred beef easily.
- Let beef rest, then shred in slow cooker combining with the juices that have been released.
- Squeeze fresh lime juice over the barbacoa beef and sprinkle with cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
How to Serve Barbacoa
There are an endless amount of ways to serve delicious barbacoa. Here are just a few ideas:
- Street Style Barbacoa Tacos – top warm corn tortillas with shredded beef barbacoa, finely diced white onions, plenty of cilantro, mexican hot sauce or salsa.
- Crispy Barbacoa Tacos – Fry corn tortillas until crispy and fill with beef. Top with shredded lettuce, queso fresco or cotija cheese, and sliced tomatoes.
- Soft Barbacoa Taco Supreme – warm small flour tortillas and fill with shredded barbacoa beef. Top with shredded lettuce, sour cream, guacamole, Colby jack cheese, and diced tomatoes.
- Barbacoa Quesadilla – butter burrito sized tortilla and fill with barbacoa beef, shredded mexican cheese, and black beans. Toast in a nonstick skillet until golden brown. Serve with sour cream and guacamole.
- Barbacoa Taco Salad – barbacoa, black or pinto beans, cheese, diced tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, guacamole on a bed of crispy shredded romaine. Add some tortilla chips or Fritos for crunch!
- Burritos – in a softened tortilla, add refried beans, mexican rice, shredded cheese, hot sauce, and any topping you prefer. To make chimichangas, toast the burrito after assembling.
- Barbacoa Burrito Bowl – use this beef barbacoa recipe to make your own homemade burrito bowls. Use cilantro lime rice, black or pinto beans, shredded cheese, romaine lettuce, pico de gallo, salsa, guacamole, and sour cream.
- Walking Tacos – this is what we serve for the 4th of July! A big slow cooker full of tender shredded barbacoa beef. Fritos, Doritos, or Tortilla Chips in small trays or individual bags. Offer a variety of taco toppings so they can build their own walking taco. Beans, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, diced tomatoes, and shredded lettuce.
- Barbacoa Plate – this is also a favorite for family parties or events. Serve the meat as the main dish with refried beans, mexican rice, salsa, fresh green salad and soft tortillas. This works for Sunday night dinner too, then reuse the barbacoa leftovers the next day for burritos or tacos.
What is Barbacoa?
Barbacoa is the Spanish word for barbecue. In modern Mexico this can refer to the style of cooking the meat, which is cooked low and slow in a pit or underground oven, or the meat itself. The meat can be beef, goat, or even lamb. In the United States, barbacoa most commonly uses, beef cheeks, beef brisket, or chuck roast and the term refers to the meat itself. The meat should be very tender and highly seasoned. There is some liquid from the juices released during cooking and the meat is very moist, but unlike Birria there is not a lot of liquid with the meat.
How to Store Barbacoa Beef
Let meat cool and store in an airtight container for up to three days in the fridge. Alternately, you can freeze the barbacoa in usable portion sizes for up to three months. Use a a freezer safe storage bag and make sure all excess air has been removed.
How to Reheat Barbacoa Beef
The ideal way to reheat barbacoa quickly is on a stove top. Once the barbacoa has been chilled, you will see hard bits of fat mixed in with the meat. Those are important for reheating! Heat in a covered nonstick skillet with a splash of beef broth or water over a low heat until meat is heated through. The bits of fat will melt back into the meat and keep it moist. Break up and evenly spread out meat as much as possible.
How long to cook Barbacoa in the Slow Cooker?
The ideal time for barbacoa, if using a 3.5 pound chuck roast in the slow cooker, is on low for 8-9 hours. The meat should be fork tender and shred very easily. If cooking on high, the time can be more variable but is usually 6-7 hours.
Slow Cooker Tip
Avoid opening the slow cooker while it’s cooking. The slow cooker takes a long time to come to temperature and looses heat every time the lid is removed.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 1/2 pounds boneless chuck roast good quality
- 1/2 cup low sodium beef broth
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon freshly minced cilantro
In a large skillet, heat tablespoon of vegetable oil on high, sear roast on both sides.
Mix salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and paprika in a small bowl. Place boneless chuck roast in slow cooker and use seasoning to season on all sides. Add beef broth to slow cooker.
Cover and cook on low in slow cooker for 8-9 hours, or until meat is fork tender.
Once meat is tender, shred in slow cooker and serve with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and a sprinkle of cilantro.
Perfect on tacos, in burritos, burrito bowls or just as a main dish with rice and beans!
MORE MEXICAN RECIPES
- Easy Mexican Rice Recipe
- Instant Pot Mexican Rice
- Slow Cooker Refried Beans
- Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas
- Skillet Enchiladas
- Loaded Sheet Pan Nachos
5 Easy Dinner Ideas for Busy Weeknights
My five FAVORITE recipes for busy families!
- Quick to make
- Light on your budget
- Easy to clean-up
- and...most important...absolutely DELICIOUS