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Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef Tacos

  • Serves: 10
  • Prep Time:  20 min
  • Cook Time:  6 hrs
  • Calories: 246
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

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
  • Prep Time:  20 min
  • Cook Time:  6 hrs
  • Calories: 246

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds chuck roast, cut into 4-inch pieces
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped, plus adobo sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

For Serving

  • Small white onion, diced
  • Radishes, thinly sliced
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Corn tortillas, warmed

Method

Slow Cooker

  1. To a large slow cooker add meat, onion, garlic, and bay leaves.

  2. In a medium bowl, combine lime juice, beef stock, apple cider vinegar, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper. Pour over meat.

  3. Cover and set slow cooker to HIGH and cook for 4 hours or set to low LOW and cook for 8 hours, until beef is very tender and can be pulled apart easily with a fork.

  4. Skim fat off the top and discard. Use two forks to shred the beef into 1-inch pieces in the slow cooker. Cook on HIGH for 30-45 minutes or LOW for 1-2 more hours more.

  5. Serve family-style with tortillas, onions, cilantro, and radishes on the side.

Note: You can also use this meat for quesadillas, Loaded Sweet Potatoes, Nachos or Taco Salad! You can store in the freezer for up to two months.


To make these tacos on the stove top:

Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center position. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Season the beef with salt. Once the oil is glistening, add the beef and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the beef to a plate. Add the onion to the pot and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, one minute more. Add the bay leaves. In a small bowl, combine lime juice, beef stock, apple cider vinegar, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper and stir into the Dutch oven. Add the beef and . bring to a simmer over high heat. Once simmering, cover and transfer to the oven. Roast until beef is very tender and can be pulled apart easily with a fork, about 2 ½ hours. Skim fat off the top and discard. Use two forks to shred the beef into 1-inch pieces. Return the beef to the Dutch oven and stir to combine.


To make these tacos in an Instant Pot:

Set the Instant Pot to sauté and heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Once the oil is glistening, add the beef and brown on all sides, about 14 minutes. Transfer the beef to a plate. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute more. Add the bay leaves. In a medium bowl, combine lime juice, beef stock, apple cider vinegar, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper and stir into the Instant Pot. Add the beef and secure the lid with the valve set to seal. Using the manual pressure cook setting, cook for 1 hour. Allow the steam to release naturally for 10 minutes. Skim fat off the top and discard. Use two forks to shred the beef into 1-inch pieces and stir to combine.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories246
  • Protein40 g
  • Carbohydrates4 g
  • Total Fat9 g
  • Dietary Fiber1 g
  • Cholesterol0 mg
  • sodium248 mg
  • Total Sugars1 g

Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef Tacos

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

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  • Heidi

    Can you use frozen meat? I have heard you can.

    Should work fine but it would not a lot more cook time. By researching we find that 2 extra hours on high and 4 extra hours on low is recommended if using frozen meat.

  • cheri perez

    Hello,

    When you say "2 chipotles in adobo sauce plus adobo sauce" how much adobo sauce?

    1 Tablespoon. Thanks for pointing that out, we will update it! Hope you enjoy!

  • Casey

    Could I brown the chuck roast, and cook the onion like the Dutch oven method? And then follow the recipe for the slow cooker/Crock Pot? I think maybe it would take less time in the slow cooker that way. I don’t know if you think that would provide really good flavor in the Crock Pot?

    Yes, that would be fine if you wanted to do that, hoe you enjoy Casey!

  • Cindy cella

    I'm doubling the recipe how much longer should I cook this in my oven?

    I would make the 2 batches in separate dutch ovens if you can.

  • Ella

    Can I make this in the insta pot?? if so, what would the timing be?

    We haven't made barbacoa in the Instant Pot yet, so it's really hard to say! Pressure cookers are their own tricky thing, so we're hesitant to give the "OK" here because we just haven't tried it. Sorry about that!

  • KC Perritte

    I've made this over a dozen times. It's my family's favorite meal. I've also used it for new baby and bereavement meals and it never fails people ask for the recipe! So obviously I send them directly to this page :-)

    I use instapot for 1.5 - 2 hours depending on how much meat.

    This is so great to hear KC! We are so happy you love it and thanks so much for sharing the meal and the recipe with others!

  • Andrew

    New favorite crockpot meal! Added extra chipotles for a touch more spice.

    Wonderful!

  • Sarah S

    My family loves all of your recipes, but this is one of our absolute favorites! I’ve made it several times now and it’s always a hit. As a side note, I’ve never been able to find the chipotle chilis in adobo sauce and it’s still great without them. 😋

    Great!! I've never been in a grocery store that didn't sell them! They can be found in the hispanic section of the grocery store alongside the enchilada sauce! But some people think it makes the dish too spicy, so if you love it without then just stick with that! : )

  • Kristen P

    This was so good! Especially with a squeeze of lime!

    So happy you liked it!

  • AValen

    I used my instapot and slow cooked it for 4 hours. Then pressure cooled it for 20 min. It came out so tender. Also, I added roasted corn I cut off the cob and hot sauce. It was so delicious! My husband thought they were the best tacos I’ve ever made. My kids loved them too!

    Happy to hear it worked in the instapot and that your whole family loved it!