These barbacoa street tacos are easy to make with fall apart tender shredded beef. The meat is cooked low and slow in a rich sauce full of chipotles, onion, garlic, and spices.
Barbacoa is the Spanish word for barbecue. It's a method of cooking meat (typically beef, goat, or lamb) for a long time, at a low temperature, that produces flavorful, tender results.
Traditionally, barbacoa is prepared in a large underground pit, but today it's commonly cooked on the stove or in a slow cooker.
Why you'll love this recipe
While this isn't an authentic barbacoa recipe, it's an easy crockpot version that you can make at home using beef chuck roast and bold Mexican flavors!
- 10 minute prep time
- Perfect amount of spice
- Endless ways to serve it
- Freezer friendly
Your slow cooker does all the work for you! The end result is perfectly tender beef, that's juicy and melt in your mouth delicious.
Tacos de barbacoa are incredibly simple to make, with just a handful of common ingredients. Here's what you'll need:
- Beef: Beef chuck roast is the best meat for beef barbacoa, with its fat marbling that turns into juicy, tender barbacoa meat when slow cooked.
- Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce: These add a spicy kick and smokiness! Be sure to freeze leftovers for later use.
- Broth: Use beef broth for a rich, flavorful taste.
- Apple cider vinegar: The acid enhances the flavors and helps break down the collagen in the beef.
- Onion: I suggest using white onion, for its strong flavor.
- Garlic: As always, fresh is best!
- Spices and herbs: Season with cumin, oregano, bay leaves, salt, and pepper.
- Cilantro: Fresh cilantro adds a nice brightness to the meal!
- Tortillas: For these barbacoa beef tacos, small corn tortillas work best. You can use flour tortillas if you prefer though.
How to make beef barbacoa
The full directions for this slow cooker barbacoa recipe are in the printable recipe card below.
- Brown the beef in a large skillet over medium heat and blend the sauce together in a blender or food processor.
- Add everything to the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours, until the beef is tender and falls apart easily when shredded with a fork.
- Once cooked, shred the meat, toss to combine, and serve!
Toppings for barbacoa tacos
Serving shredded beef tacos is one of our favorite ways to enjoy the dish. Top beef barbacoa tacos with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, diced white onion, and fresh cilantro. It's so simple but satisfying.
What to make with leftover barbacoa
Wondering what else you can serve with barbacoa? I've got you covered!
- Barbacoa burrito: Make a Chipotle barbacoa copycat burrito by wrapping juicy barbacoa in a warm tortilla with cilantro lime rice, black beans, jalapeno corn salad, guacamole, pico de gallo, and romaine lettuce.
- Burrito bowl: Skip the tortilla and serve with your favorite burrito fillings!
- Salad: Similar to a burrito bowl, but instead of rice, toss with shredded lettuce.
- Enchiladas: Mix barbacoa with enchilada sauce in tortillas, roll up, and bake in the oven.
How to store leftovers
Beef barbacoa is the ultimate make ahead dinner and freezer meal. Once cooked, let cool completely then store in an airtight container or bag:
- In the fridge: Up to 5 days
- In the freezer: Up to 3 months
Reheat in the microwave or in the crock pot on the warm setting. If cooking from frozen, let thaw overnight.
Barbacoa vs carnitas
Mexican barbacoa and carnitas may look similar, but they're not the same! They main differences are the type of meat used and how they are cooked. Barbacoa can be made with different types of meat such as beef, goat, lamb, or even chicken. Carnitas is made with pork.
Both barbacoa and carnitas are slow cooked. However, barbacoa is shredded and served in its marinade. Where carnitas are finished by broiling or pan frying. This gives the little meat pieces that have been braised nice crispy edges.
Birria vs barbacoa
Birria is a juicier version of barbacoa made by submerging meat in a sauce to braise or steam. It's commonly eaten as a soup, but birria tacos have been rising in popularity since 2020.
- Try my soft shell tacos, baked chimichangas, instant pot tamales, or crispy flautas.
- Make homemade tortilla chips and serve with spicy peach salsa.
- Wash it all down with a classic margarita, paloma, or agua fresca.
I hope you enjoy these slow cooker barbacoa street tacos as much as we do!
Barbacoa Street Tacos
- 3 pounds beef chuck roast fat trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes
- 3 bay leaves
- 4 garlic cloves
- 3-4 chipotles in adobo sauce
- 1 jalapeno
- 1 small white onion
- 3 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¾ cup water
- Brown the beef in a large skillet over medium heat on the stovetop then place in the slow cooker with bay leaves.
- Blend the remaining ingredients together in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour over the browned beef.
- Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours, until the beef is tender and falls apart easily when shredded with a fork.
- Once cooked, remove the bay leaves and shred meat into pieces, tossing with the saucy juices.
- Serve beef barbacoa with tacos, burritos, salads, enchiladas, or on its own.