My easy homemade Barbacoa recipe creates melt in your mouth tender pieces of beef that work well for making tacos, burritos, salads, and more!
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How to Make Slow Cooker Barbacoa
There are several ways to make this Barbacoa recipe, either in the oven, in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, or in a slow cooker or crockpot.
Step 1 – Season the beef on all sides with salt and pepper. Add a little oil to a non stick or cast iron skillet and brown the beef over a medium heat on both sides.
Step 2 – Add the chipotle peppers and adobo sauce, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, cloves, beef broth, and lime juice to your blender or food processor and blend until it’s all smooth.
Step 3 – Put the browned chuck roast into the slow cooker and pour over the chipotle sauce along with a couple of bay leaves.
Step 4 – Put the lid on and cook on low for 6-8hrs, or high for 3-5hrs. Some slow cookers run hotter than others so your Barbacoa may be cooked in less time than that so check it as you go.
What kind of Meat is Barbacoa?
In Mexico traditional Barbacoa is usually made with lamb or goat and wrapped in maguey leaves. In the USA it’s usually with beef cheeks and cooked long and slow over an open fire pit, it’s often served with onions and cilantro.
As we don’t have access to beef cheeks or goat and decent cuts of lamb are both expensive and hard to come by, we have opted for good old beef chuck roast instead as it’s easy to find and will make fall apart Barbacoa that everyone will love!
What’s the difference between Carnitas and Barbacoa?
Carnitas are pork shoulder that’s slow cooked often with herbs and garlic, then pulled apart and oven roasted until a little crispy. You can make tacos, salads and all kinds of yummy dinners with it!
Barbacoa might seem similar to Carnitas but as mentioned above it’s typically made here with beef and it’s a little more spicy than carnitas, at least our version is! It’s also great on tacos and that’s how we usually serve it.
What to serve with Barbacoa
The traditional Mexican way of eating Barbacoa is on top of warm corn tortillas with guacamole, salsa, onions and cilantro.
I served ours with red onion as I love the flavor of it with beef, but basically any kinds of taco fixings that your family loves will work well.
More Dinner Recipes
Easy recipe for fall apart tender Barbacoa beef cooked in adobo sauce
- 3 lbs Beef chuck roast
- 2 Chipotles in adobo sauce , canned
- 1 cup Gluten free beef broth
- 1 tbsp Garlic
- 2 Bay leaves
- 1 tbsp Cumin
- 1 tbsp Oregano
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Pepper
- 1/4 tsp Ground cloves
- 1/4 cup Fresh squeezed lime juice
Season the beef with salt on both sides, then brown the chuck roast on either side in a cast iron skillet or similar pan.
Add all of the canned adobo sauce plus two whole chili peppers into a blender. Discard remaining chilis, unless you want a hotter sauce.
Into the same blender add the garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, cloves, beef broth, and lime juice and blend until smooth.
How to make Barbacoa Beef in a slow Cooker
To make Barbacoa brown the meat and make the sauce as written above.
Place the browned chuck roast into the slow cooker and cover with the sauce and add the bay leaves.
Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8hrs, or on HIGH for 3-5hrs. Some slow cookers run hotter than others so your Barbacoa may be cooked in just a few hours, it's best to check it as you go.
How to make Barbacoa Beef in a Pressure Cooker
To make pressure cooker barbacoa simply brown the meat and make the sauce as written above.
Add the meat to your pressure cooker or Instant pot and cover in the sauce.
Lock the lid, turn the steam release vent to 'sealing' and using the 'manual' or 'pressure cook' setting, adjust it to cook for 50 minutes at High Pressure.
When the cook time time is up, allow the unit to reduce pressure on its own without opening the steam release vent (Natural Release) for 7-10 minutes, then release the remaining pressure and open the lid.
If the meat is not tender and fully cooked put the lid back on and cook for a little longer.
How to make Barbacoa Beef in the Oven
Preheat your oven to 325°F
To make barbacoa in the oven brown the meat and make the sauce as written above.
Deglaze the Dutch Oven with the sauce, then add the meat and bay leaves and put lid back on. (The lid must be tight fitting or the sauce will reduce in the oven.)
Cook for 3-4hrs or until meat is tender and can be pulled apart.
Chuck Roast – this is the best cut of meat to use for Barbacoa because it has just enough fat running through it so it lends itself well to slow cooking or pressure cooking. If you use a leaner cut of meat you run the risk of it becoming dry. You can remove any excess fat from the chuck roast after it’s cooked.
Chipotles in Adobo Sauce – you’ll find these at almost any grocery store in the USA, they come in small cans. You can adjust the heat up or down by adding more or less chillies to the blender when you make the sauce.
Storage – cooked Barbacoa will keep for up to four days in the fridge and can be frozen in an airtight container for up to three months.
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