Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa

By Updated on

Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa makes the most amazing and authentic Mexican tacos and they are good for you with just 250 calories per serving.

1 Comment

This Barbacoa Beef is tender, full of spicy and smoky flavor, and makes the very best tacos. It's the perfect dish for an easy taco night at home and the leftovers couldn't be more delicious. Honestly, it ranks up there with Birria as one of our all time favorite Mexican recipes

One of my favorite Mexican meals is beef barbacoa. This slow cooked Mexican beef dish made with chipotle chili peppers has just the right blend of flavors so that it warms you up without being too spicy. 

The beef cooks right in the salsa making this deliciously stewed beef that is tender, full of flavor, and surprisingly easy to make. We also love making it with chicken in this Slow Cooker Chicken Barbacoa.

 My favorite way to eat it is with simple oven baked crispy taco shells with simple toppings. Serve with a little bit of cilantro, onion, and some crumbled queso fresco. 

I also always plan on leftovers for this dish since it makes an amazing burrito or taco bowl. The rice soaks up all the delicious flavors in the sauce and then its a quick meal with some canned beans, guacamole, and veggies. 

Looking for more Mexican beef recipes? We also love these tri-tip tacos, Mexican shredded beef, and classic steak taco recipe.

What is barbacoa?

Barbacoa is a traditional Mexican dish that can be made with beef, goat, or lamb. Typically the meat is cooked over an open fire or in a pit for hours until the meat is super tender and flavorful.

Normally barbacoa is cooked with chipotle peppers or dried chili peppers to give the sauce tons of flavor. Unlike carne asada, barbacoa is a stewed or braised dish that is cooked low and slow.

Beef barbacoa tacos with onion, cilantro, and queso fresco in corn tortillas with limes.

How to Serve Beef Barbacoa Tacos

  • Traditionally barbacoa is served with diced white onions and cilantro since the cooking sauce serves as a salsa on its own.
  • Add extra flavor with some crumbled queso fresco or cotija cheese.
  • Cool down the spice of the sauce with some sliced avocado or homemade guacamole.
  • Squeeze some fresh lime juice over the top of your tacos to cut the richness of the dish and add brightness.
  • For some extra crunch and spice, add some sliced radishes to your tacos or serve them on the side with lime juice and salt.
  • Make some quick pickled red onions by soaking sliced red onions in lime juice for a couple of hours in the fridge. 
  • For a traditional meal, make some Mexican rice and refried beans.
  • Make a Chipotle style burrito bowl with some Cilantro Lime Rice, black or pinto beans, and all your favorite toppings.

Can I make barbacoa in the Instant Pot?

This recipe works very well in the Instant Pot as well. Start by searing the beef in a touch of oil on the Saute method until browned. Add the blended sauce and seal the Instant Pot. Seal the Instant Pot and cook on manual mode for 45 minutes. Let naturally release for at least 10 minutes. Shred the meat using two forks. If you have time, let the meat hang out in the sauce for 10-15 minutes per serving.

Recipe Tips and Pantry Swaps

  • This recipe will work with pretty much any cut of beef (beef chuck, stewing beef, roasts) as well as chicken thighs and pork shoulder. Chicken breasts and leaner pork cuts will work as well but only cook for 3-4 hours on low.
  • If you don't have chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, you could use chipotle chili powder instead. Regular chili powder will also work but it won't have the same smoky flavor and heat as with chipotle peppers. 
  • If you don't have fresh onions or garlic, you can use dehydrated options or powdered options. 
  • Swap in beer for the broth to add another layer of flavor. You could also use a can of diced tomatoes. 

Storage and Meal Prep

This recipe stores well and actually gets even more delicious after a night in the fridge when all the flavors have time to deepen. Store the meat with the cooking liquid for 3-4 days in the fridge. You can also freeze the cooked meat for up to 3 months in an airtight container. Let defrost overnight in the fridge.

This recipe is also great for meal prep since it can be served in so many different ways. Make tacos, quesadillas, burritos, tostadas, and burrito bowls. You can also turn this into stuffed peppers, enchiladas, and even a spicy pasta sauce. 

Looking for more Mexican recipes

The Recipe
Slow cooker beef barbacoa tacos on corn tortillas with onion, cilantro, and queso fresco.

Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa

COOK TIME: 6 Hours
TOTAL TIME: 6 Hours, 10 Min
Leave a comment
  • Print Recipe
  • Download PDF


  • 2 lbs lean top round roast (trimmed)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, diced
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup low sodium beef broth (or chicken broth)

Like this Recipe? Try our Meal Plans!

Slender Kitchen Meal Plans
  • Weekly Meal Plans
  • Easy Shopping List
  • Healthy, Low Carb, & Vegetarian
  • Nutritional Information


(Hide Media)

Blend the chipotles, chicken broth, cumin, oregano, onion, garlic, and lime juice in a blender to create the sauce.


Cut the beef into 2-3 large pieces, trimmed of the fat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add to the crockpot. Pour the sauce over the beef.


Cook for 6 hours. Shred with a fork or chop into pieces. Cook an additional 10-20 minutes in the sauce to let the flavors combine. Enjoy!

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 2/3 cup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 274
Calories from Fat 114
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 13g
Saturated Fat 5g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 104mg
Sodium 240mg
Total Carbohydrate 4g
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 1g
Protein 35g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

user image
About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
1 Comment
On Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa
user image
user image
January 28, 2022 - 10:07
Do you slow cook for 6 hrs on high or low?
Instagram Icon
Did you make this?

Snap a picture and show us what you made on Instagram or Facebook. Tag us using @SlenderKitchen or #slenderkitchen.