This beef barbacoa is slow-cooked until each bite melts in your mouth. This recipe combines beef with an assortment of authentic Mexican spices to make a deeply flavorful and delicious dish that everyone is sure to love.
I’ll never turn down a good Mexican recipe. Similarly to carnitas, beef barbacoa is made with basic cuts of meat cooked low and slow until they’re incredibly tender.
The spices and chipotle peppers soak up in the meat, making for a juicy and super flavorful dish that’s perfect for tacos, quesadillas, or, if you’re like me, to eat by the forkful!
What is beef barbacoa?
The word “barbacoa” simply refers to meat that’s been slowly cooked with Mexican spices and flavors until it’s easily shredded. You can use many different types of meat for barbacoa, including goat, lamb, or in this case, beef.
Why you’ll love this recipe
This is a widely popular Mexican dish, and making it yourself is easier than you think. We love making it because it’s:
- A one-pot dish. Aside from the bowl you mix the spices in, everything gets added directly into the slow cooker. This means cleanup is a breeze!
- Healthy. Beef cooked in its own juices with spices, that’s it. No filler, just pure protein.
- Versatile. Use this beef barbacoa just as you would regular shredded beef, including wraps, sandwiches, and more.
- Cost-effective. Beef chuck is used in this recipe, which is cheap but, after being cooked for hours, makes for incredibly juicy and tender meat.
This is the ultimate weeknight dinner if you want to break your routine. So long as you have beef and spices in your pantry, you can pop this bad boy in your slow cooker, and it’ll be ready when you’re off work!
As I mentioned above, the ingredient list for this beef barbacoa is pretty darn simple. Here’s everything you’ll need:
- Beef chuck roast. You might also find this labeled as stewing beef. This is the best cut as it does best after being cooked for hours in the slow cooker. Cut the roast into 2-inch-sized chunks.
- Apple cider vinegar. For necessary acidity and to help break down the meat.
- Lime juice. Preferably fresh.
- Canned chipotle peppers. Look for peppers in adobo sauce, cut into 2-inch pieces.
- Spices. Ground cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, salt, and black pepper.
- Beef broth. For adding moisture and imparting more flavor to the meat. This can be swapped for water mixed with beef bouillon.
How to make beef barbacoa
Making beef barbacoa takes a while, but it’s almost an entirely hands-off process. Here’s how it’s done:
Step 1- Make the spice blend
To a small bowl, add the apple cider vinegar, lime juice, minced chipotle peppers, and all of the spices. Mix well to combine.
Step 2- Add everything to the slow cooker
Up next, place the beef chuck pieces into the slow cooker and pour the mixture over the beef. Stir the beef to fully coat each piece in the spice mixture, then add the beef broth over the top.
Step 3- Slow cook the beef
Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook it on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. The beef is done cooking when it can be easily shredded with a fork.
Step 4- Shred the beef
Once the beef is done cooking, remove it from the slow cooker and shred it with two forks. Then, strain the remaining liquid from the slow cooker and pour it over the shredded beef.
Step 5- Serve the barbacoa
Finally, serve your beef barbacoa with your favorite toppings, such as cilantro, diced onions, and lime wedges.
Instant pot and oven braised beef barbacoa
Did you know you can make instant pot beef barbacoa and also braise it slowly in the oven? We’ve included both of those steps to make it easier for you!
Instant pot beef barbacoa
If you don’t have a slow cooker, this beef barbacoa recipe can easily be made in an instant pot or in the oven with a few small adjustments.
- Add all of the ingredients to the pot, as mentioned above.
- Seal the lid, set it on high pressure, and cook for 60 minutes.
- Quick release the steam.
- Shred the beef, pour the strained liquid over the top, and serve.
Oven-braised beef barbacoa
- Preheat the oven to 325F/163C.
- Add all of the ingredients to a Dutch oven with a lid.
- Put the lid on and braise the beef for 3-4 hours, until it shreds easily with a fork.
- Shred the beef, pour the strained liquid over the top, and serve.
Tips to make the best recipe
- Bring the meat to room temperature. Before placing it in the slow cooker, allow it to come to room temperature for 20-30 minutes.
- Add extra adobo sauce. For a little extra spice.
- Blend the peppers. Instead of adding them in whole, blend them with spices, vinegar, and lime juice to make a smooth sauce.
What to serve with this recipe
You can serve this beef barbacoa with all sorts of dishes. Here are some suggestions:
You can also use it as the protein in these tortas, mulitas, or even in these arepas.
To store: Store leftover barbacoa in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
To reheat: Reheat the barbacoa in a covered dish in the oven set to 300F/149C or on the stove over medium heat. Add a splash of water or broth to the meat to reheat it.
To freeze: Store the cooled barbacoa in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
Recommended tools to make this recipe
- Slow cooker. My tried and tested gadget that has never failed me!
- Instant pot. A quicker but just as delicious method to cooking beef barbacoa.
- Dutch oven. An easy method to cook this beef if you don’t have the aforementioned gadgets.
More Mexican recipes to try
Frequently asked questions
Technically yes. Barbacoa is the name for shredded meat (usually beef) that’s been cooked with Mexican spices and seasonings.
Barbacoa is loaded with protein since the major ingredient is beef. In addition to protein, beef barbacoa is also low in fat since there are no added ingredients beyond a few spices.
The best cuts to use for beef barbacoa are beef chuck roast, brisket, and beef cheeks. These are all inexpensive cuts of beef that turn out best when cooked for an extended time at a low temperature.
Beef Barbacoa (Mexican Pulled Beef)
- 3 lb beef chuck roast trimmed and cut into pieces
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup beef broth
- In a small bowl, combine apple cider vinegar, lime juice, minced chipotle peppers, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, salt, and black pepper.
- Place the beef chuck roast pieces in the slow cooker. Pour the spice mixture over the beef and stir to coat, then add the beef broth.
- Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours or until the beef is tender and can be easily shredded with a fork.
- Once the beef is cooked, remove it from the slow cooker and shred it with two forks.
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