Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef Tacos

Story by Natalie
Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef Tacos
Tap any image to pin it.

Savory, juicy barbacoa beef tacos, topped simply with crunchy radishes and diced onion, are a cinch to make thanks to our trusty slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef Tacos

Simple, delicious tacos, stuffed with juicy, savory slow cooker barbacoa beef—I promise you cannot screw up this recipe. It's impossible. It will be good despite however poor a cook you believe yourself to be. Just put the barbacoa beef ingredients into your slow cooker and turn it on. You can even leave your house—go get a pedicure, catch a movie, grab a drink with your friends—the options of what you can do with all that free time that you have while your slow cooker does the heavy lifting are endless.

After four hours have passed, just shred the oh-so-juicy barbacoa beef with a fork, and leave it to cook for another two hours. That's it! Admittedly, traditional barbacoa is a much more complex process. But who cares? Life is complicated—dinner doesn’t need to be.

This easy-peasy slow cooker barbacoa beef is so juicy and flavorful once finished that my kids ate it TWO meals in a row, which basically never happens. In our house we keep our barbacoa beef tacos super simple—topping them with fresh cilantro, diced onions, and crunchy radishes. If you have the time throw together some guacamole, chips, salsa and/or pico, great! Easy to love and easy to make, these are a great recipe for company, too. With almost no effort, you're ready for company any night of the week.

What is Barbacoa Beef?

“Barbacoa” is a Spanish word that directly translates as “barbecue”. Beyond that—well, let’s just say things get complicated. Authentic barbacoa—the kind that originated in Mexico and the Caribbean—involves barbecuing a whole animal. The term “barbacoa” also can sometimes refer to specifically the head of a cow or sheep. However! Our take on barbacoa beef has a lot more to do with the one that Chipotle has made famous here in the U.S. That is to say just a nice, fatty cut of beef—we like to use chuck roast—cooked low and slow (yay for slow cookers!) in its own juices and some smoky spices until you end up with a big pile of super-flavorful shredded beef.

How to Make Barbacoa Beef:

So, we’ve mentioned that we love to use chuck roast—that covers the “beef” part of our barbacoa beef. But what else do you need to make barbacoa beef in a slow cooker? Not too much, thankfully! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • One big onion.
  • A head of fresh garlic.
  • A couple bay leaves.
  • Two limes.
  • Beef stock
  • Apple cider vinegar.
  • Chipotles in adobo. (one small can will do the trick.)
  • Spices! Cumin, paprika, and chili powder.
Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef Tacos

How to Make Barbacoa Beef:

So, we’ve mentioned that we love to use chuck roast—that covers the “beef” part of our barbacoa beef. But what else do you need to make barbacoa beef in a slow cooker? Not too much, thankfully! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • One big onion.
  • A head of fresh garlic.
  • A couple bay leaves.
  • Two limes.
  • Beef stock
  • Apple cider vinegar.
  • Chipotles in adobo. (one small can will do the trick.)
  • Spices! Cumin, paprika, and chili powder.

How to Make Barbacoa in a Slow Cooker:  

Your slow cooker will do most of the work—thank goodness. Here’s what you’ll need to get your barbacoa beef cooking:

  1. Place your cubed chuck roast pieces into your slow cooker along with the minced onion, bay leaves and garlic.
  2. Stir together all the spices and liquidy ingredients—broth, vinegar, lime juice, and chipotles in adobo—and add them to the cooker.
  3. If you’re short on time, set the cooker to high and let it go for four hours. If you’ve got all day—or are headed to work— set it to low and let the cooker work its low-and-slow magic for eight hours.
  4. Shred the cooked meat with a fork, and let it cook on low for another two hours. Maybe we should call this extremely slooooooow cooker barbacoa beef?
  5. Dig in! Fill tacos and then let those delicious tacos fill all of your favorite tummies.

How To Serve Barbacoa Beef Tacos:

So, you can use slow cooker barbacoa beef just about anyway you’d like—quesadilla filler, nacho-topper, huevos rancheros booster—but we are huge fans of making tacos out of it because it is just so darn simple. Tacos are also fun, which is a total bonus if you’re making this for a crowd. Just open that slow cooker, lay out a generous spread of toppings, and gather a big crowd of your closest friends. Party MADE. We like to top our barbacoa tacos with:

  • Diced onion. Raw onion is a classic taco topper—just be sure to chop it into pretty-small pieces, so it doesn’t overwhelm.
  • Radishes! Crunchy and a little spicy, radish is another fresh classic. Their sharp bite and cool crunch is a great contrast to the rich barbacoa.
  • Homemade guacamole. Duh—everything is better with guacamole.
  • Homemade pico!  

Tools You’ll Need To Make These Slow Cooker Barbacoa Tacos:

Other Slow Cooker Dinners We Love:

We never tire of the ease of “set it and forget it”—a slow cooker is the busy working parents best friend. Here are a few of our favorite slow cooker recipes:

Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef Tacos

Verdict?

If you make these slow cooker barbacoa beef tacos, tell us about it! Did you whip up a big batch to share with friends? Or did you just have a super-great family taco night? Share a photo on Instagram and tag @themodernproper and #themodernproper.

Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef Tacos

Serves 10

Ingredients

4 lbs chuck roast, cut into 3-4" pieces
1 large white onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 cup beef stock
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 chipotle chillies in adobo sauce, roughly chopped, plus remaining sauce from the container
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Toppings (optional)

raw onion, small dice
radishes, thinly sliced
cilantro, chopped

Method

  1. In a large slow cooker add meat, onion, garlic and bay leaves. In a small bowl stir together remaining ingredients and pour over the meat.
  2. Set slow cooker to high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. Once cooked remove ½ cup of fat off the top of the meat as well as any large pieces of fat that cooked off the meat. Discard in trash. (Never pour animal fat down your sink drain). Using a two forks shred the beef and return to pot. Allow to cook on low for 1-2 more hours.
  3. Serve with warm tortillas, onions, cilantro and radishes or whatever fixings you like. Alternatively use this meat for quesadillas, loaded sweet potatoes, nachos or taco salad.

**This meat freezes well.