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Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef Tacos

  • Serves: 10
  • Prep Time: 40 min
  • Cook Time: 6 hrs
  • Calories: 414
Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef Tacos on a plate

Savory, juicy barbacoa beef tacos—just like the ones at Chipotle!—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—we promise you cannot screw up this Chipotle-inspired recipe. It's impossible. 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 beef with a fork, and leave it to cook for another two hours. That's it! One quick PSA, though. Traditional Mexican and Caribbean barbacoa beef is a much more complex process and results in a dish that's quite different from this one. You could think of this as "barbacoa" beef—so-called because, well, honestly that's what Chipotle calls it, and the crush we have on Chipotle barbacoa is what inspired this recipe.

As for serving, we like to keep our Chipotle-ish barbacoa beef tacos super simple—topping them with fresh cilantro, diced onions, and crunchy radishes. If you have the time to throw together some sides like guacamole, chips, salsa and/or pico, great! Easy to love and easy to make, these are a great recipe for company, too.

ingredients for Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef steak, cilantro, stock, spices, garlic
spices for Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef
Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef in a measuring cup with a whisk

What is Barbacoa Beef?

Authentic barbacoa—the kind that originated in Mexico and the Caribbean—involves cooking meat—usually a whole animal, or sometimes specifically the head of a sheep or cow—over hot rocks. However! This barbacoa beef recipe could perhaps more accurately be called 'barbacoa', because it's pretty far removed from the authentic barbacoa. So why are we even calling it that? Well, because Chipotle call beef that's cooked this way barbacoa, and that's how it has become known to so many people in this country. Chipotle's "barbacoa" is 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.
beef onions and bay leaves in a crockpot for Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef
steak, onions, bay leaves and spices in a crock pot for Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef
Barbacoa Beef in a crock pot with a wooden spoon
shredded Barbacoa Beef in a crock pot with a wooden spoon

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.
Barbacoa Beef in a crock pot with a wooden spoon
shredded Barbacoa Beef in a crock pot

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!
shredded barbacoa meat in a bowl with a serving spoon

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 on a plate with cilantro, onions and radishes
Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef tacos on a plate with cilantro, onions and radishes


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
  • Prep Time: 40 min
  • Cook Time: 6 hrs
  • Calories: 414


  • 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
  • 1 cup Beef stock
  • 3 tbsp Apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Chipotle chilies 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

For serving

  • Raw onion, small dice
  • Radishes, thinly sliced
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Corn tortillas, warmed


  1. In a large slow cooker add meat, onion, garlic and bay leaves.
  2. In a small bowl stir together remaining ingredients and pour over the meat.
  3. Set slow cooker to high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
  4. 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.
  5. Using two forks, shred the beef and return to pot. Allow to cook on low for 1-2 more hours.
  6. 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 also freezes well.