Treat your family to succulent Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa cooked with Mexican spices, chiles, and lime then shredded to juicy perfection. It takes almost no prep time and is completely hands off so you can easily enjoy it on even the busiest of nights. Serve it simply with rice and beans, or let the kids build delicious tacos – no matter how you eat it, this beef barbacoa is a fabulous family meal.
Beef Barbacoa – The EASY Way!
If you’ve ever been to Mexican restaurant you’ve probably heard of, or seen, barbacoa. It’s shredded meat, often beef, and gets served up in tons of delicious ways. But ‘barbacoa’ isn’t just the name for shredded beef, it’s actually the Spanish word for barbeque and refers to the tradition of slow-roasting meat in an outdoor fire pit. It can be beef, pork, lamb, or even goat!
But unless you happen have a fire pit in your backyard and all day to tend it, traditional methods are out for most of us. The good news is that we can all still enjoy a fabulously tasty version of beef barbacoa right at home – no fire pit, no barbeque, heck, not even an oven needed.
I used the same method I did for my slow-cooker carnitas and the results were this juicy, Crock Pot beef barbacoa that I’m excited to share with you. It’s so juicy, so flavorful, and of course so EASY! Your family can enjoy it as tacos, nachos, or scooped right out of the slow cooker onto their plates.
Why I LOVE this recipe!
- Fast Prep – It takes just 10 quick minutes to get this cooking and then your free to do other things until it’s done.
- Easy Clean Up – I love Crock Pot meals for the same reason I love one pot meals, I don’t have tons of pans to wash!
- HUGE flavor – I can’t rave about the flavor of this enough! The combination of beef, spices, lime, and chiles is completely irresistible.
- Super Versatile – Tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tostadas, taquitos…I could go on! There’s no wrong way to serve it. It can even easily be used for multiple, different meals during the week.
What to Serve with Slow Cooker Barbacoa
Since this dish has the classic flavors of beef barbacoa, it will pair well with many of your favorite Mexican side dishes. There are both classic options and some healthy options to keep it light.
Side Dish Ideas
- Beans – Whether you choose to flavor up canned black beans, make slow cooker black beans, or Crock Pot Mexican refried beans, it’s a side you can’t go wrong with!
- Rice – This traditional side can also be homemade really easily! Choose from super yummy flavors like classic Mexican rice or a light and fresh cilantro lime rice.
- Tortillas – Make slow cooked barbacoa into tasty tacos with either corn or flour tortillas and toppings like sauteed peppers and onions, homemade guacamole, or an easy Pico de Gallo.
- Corn – Keep it light and fresh with my Mexican corn salad or serve up some comfort on the side with my Mexican street corn casserole.
- Green Chile Mashed Potatoes – Potatoes may not be the traditional side for Mexican food, but this recipe has flavors of green chiles and cheddar and would be so yummy under a juicy scoop of shredded beef.
- Mexican Corn Bread – This soft, fluffy cornbread has a kick of chiles and could be the perfect compliment to barbacoa.
You can choose one or add a few sides to make a wholesome, well rounded dinner.
This slow cooker beef barbacoa recipe is as simple as promised! Just 10 minutes of prep for a family friendly meal.
In this section I am going to go through a few tips and tricks I use when making this recipe to get the absolute best and most delicious results.
Make sure to scroll to the bottom for the FULL recipe card.
Ingredients + Substitutions
- Beef chuck roast – For a long and slow cooking method like we use in this recipe, I recommend a roast cut of beef. They’re often cheaper because they’re considered ‘tough’ cuts. All that means is that they won’t get tender of they’re cooked too quickly.
But when they’re prepared like we will for barbacoa, they melt into tender, juicy pieces. Chuck roast, rump roast, skirt steak, or brisket are a few good ones to look out for.
- Onion – White onion is traditional in Mexican cooking, but yellow can also be used.
- Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce – These are smoked and dried jalapenos that are rehydrated in a spiced, tomato vinegar puree called adobo and they’re crucial to the flavor. Thankfully they’re available at most grocery stores! They’re sold in small 7 ounce cans, usually near other Mexican ingredients like enchilada sauce and salsas.
- Jalapeno – This is an optional but highly recommended ingredient. It’s added in whole so you get all of the fruity, fresh flavor of the pepper and not a lot of spice.
- Apple cider – I love to use apple cider when I can find it, but it’s often a seasonal ingredient. If cider isn’t available, I’ve used apple juice with just as much success.
- Limes – We want the juice of 2 whole limes. Fresh is always best for flavor if possible, but bottled juice will work in a pinch.
- Bay leaves
- Barbacoa seasoning blend – A combination of salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder, and dried oregano makes up the seasoning blend used for the beef.
- Deseed the peppers – Chipotle peppers in adobo can be SPICY, so I really highly recommend that you take a minute to deseed them. It’s really easy! Just pull the peppers from the adobo sauce and slice them in half. Then use a knife to scrape out and discard the ribs and seeds. This is the best way to get all that chipotle goodness in the beef but still have family friendly flavors that even kids can enjoy.
- Cut the beef into chunks – This is an optional step but I really recommend it if you have a few minutes. By cutting the beef into chunks you create more surface area. That means more areas to absorb the seasoning blend and soak up all the flavors of the cooking liquid.
- Puree the juices – Again, an optional step for added flavor, but entirely worth it in my opinion. Once you’ve shredded the beef you’ll have all these flavorful juices in your crockpot. You can just spoon some on the meat, but blending it all together creates an intense, delicious sauce that you can toss the meat in. I use my stick blender, but you can transfer it to an upright blender too.
Recipe Short Cuts
If you need to make this recipe, but are extra short on time, here are a few ideas that can help make this recipe even faster!
- Use stew meat– You can often find beef stew meat or chuck roast chunks already pre-chopped for you at the grocery store. That can easily save you a few minutes of prep.
- Don’t cut the chuck roast– Alternatively, you can save those minutes spent chopping meat by using the chuck roast whole, or by cutting it just once in half. It’ll still be tender and tasty!
- Cook on High– Cut the cook time down by an hour or two by cooking it on high instead. 4-5 hours should do the trick.
- Make it Ahead– Slow cooker beef barbacoa is really easy to reheat, and will be absolutely delicious after it’s been sitting in all those amazing juices overnight. So go ahead and cook it in advance! Store it in the fridge once it’s shredded and tossed with the juices. Then reheat it for tacos, burritos, or other tasty meals.
If you love this recipe as much as we do and want some quick ways to change it up for variety, these little tips will do the trick!
- Slow Cooker Pork Barbacoa– Swap the chuck roast for a pork roast like pork shoulder, pork butt, or pork loin. Make the rest of the recipe as directed.
- Crock Pot Pineapple Barbacoa– Drain one small can of pineapple chunks, reserving the juice. Add the fruit to the Crock Pot with the chipotle peppers and swap the apple juice for some of the reserved pineapple juice. Then continue with the recipe as written.
- Slow Cooker Orange Beef Barbacoa– Replace the apple juice with the juice of one whole orange. The rest of the recipe can be made as written.
Freezer Meal Instructions
Making this easy beef barbacoa recipe into a freezer meal is simple! Follow the steps below and you can store this recipe in the freezer for up to 6 months.
- Combine the onions, apple and lime juice, chipotle peppers, jalapeno, and bay leaves in a freezer safe bag or container.
- Season the chopped beef chuck roast and add it to the bag.
- When ready to cook allow to thaw in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours.
- Add to the Crock Pot and cook as directed.
Crock Pot Barbacoa Leftovers
If you have leftovers after making beef barbacoa, then it is your lucky day! They save and reheat well, and can make the start of another delicious dish.
To save leftovers, separate into meal sized portions and then place in an airtight container and store:
- in the refrigerator for 3-4 days
- in the freezer up to a month
Here are a few ways to repurpose those leftovers and give them a delicious makeover!
- Beef Barbacoa Tacos– Spoon reheated beef barbacoa into corn taco shells then top it with sliced avocado, chopped onion, cilantro, and a crumbly Mexican cheese like queso fresco. Serve with a lime wedge to squeeze over top.
- Beef Barbacoa Burrito– Warm large flour tortillas. Spread Mexican refried beans, Mexican rice, and warm barbacoa in the middle. Top with shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese and roll it up, then serve.
- Chipotle Barbacoa Bowl– Make a batch of chipotle cilantro lime rice. Portion it into bowls and top with reheated barbacoa, corn, avocado slices, chopped tomatoes, and black beans. Serve with a dollop with sour cream.
- Barbacoa Quesadillas– Sprinkle a tortilla with shredded cheddar, Monterey jack, or Mexican blend cheese. Spread hearty portions of beef barbacoa over the top and sprinkle with more cheese. Place another tortilla over top. Crisp in a hot pan for 2-3 minutes per side, or place several quesadillas on a large sheet pan and bake for 15 minutes in a 400°F, flipping once halfway through. Slice and serve with fresh Pico de Gallo or tableside guacamole to dip the wedges in.
More EASY Slow Cooker Recipes
If you enjoyed this recipe, I really hope you will take a moment to grab a few more easy recipes for another busy night!
You can check out all of my easy dinner recipes here, or see a few of our readers favorite recipes below.
- Crock Pot Tuscan Chicken
- Easy Crock Pot Beef Chili
- Crock Pot Broccoli Cheese Soup
- Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie
- 3 pound beef chuck roast
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, (7 ounce can) seeds removed
- 1 jalapeno pepper, whole (Optional)
- ⅓ cup apple cider, or apple juice
- 2 limes, juice of
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 3 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Combine all ingredients for Barbacoa seasoning
- Add the onion, chipotle peppers and sauce from the can (remove the seeds and ribs from the peppers for a milder flavor,) jalapeno pepper, apple juice, lime juice, and bay leaves to the bottom of the crock pot.
- Cut the chuck roast in 6-8 chunks and season on all sides with the barbacoa seasoning. Place on top of onion mixture in the crock pot.
- Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
- Once done, remove the meat, jalapeno, and bay leaves.Shred the beef, discarding any extra fat.
- Use a hand blender to blend the remaining juices, onions, and pepper in the pot until smooth.
- Add the shredded beef back to the sauce, or save the sauce to spoon over the meat when served, based on your personal preference.