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How to Make Homemade Beef Barbacoa

Delicious homemade beef barbacoa which allows the slow cooker to do all the hard work, use the tender meat to fill tacos, burritos, enchiladas and more!

May 9, 2021
spicy food icon
Slow Cooked Beef BarbacoaPhoto By Canva
Difficulty Medium
Servings 4 people
Preparation 15 mins
Cooking 480 mins
Total 495 mins



  1. Place a saute pan on medium heat and preheat.
  2. Then add the onion and garlic to the dry pan, cook for 5 minutes until lightly charred and turn to toast evenly.
  3. Next add the whole guajillo peppers and chile de arbol, toast for 30 seconds then remove from the heat.
  4. Transfer the onion, garlic, peppers, chilli and beef broth to a blender. Blend on high for 1 minute until smooth then pour the sauce into the slow cooker pot.
  5. Place the saute pan back onto the stove and add the vegetable oil.
  6. Once the pan is hot add the chuck roast, season with salt and sear for 2 minutes on each side until well browned.
  7. Place the beef into the slow cooker along with the sauce, bay leaf, oregano, cumin and black peppercorn.
  8. Set the slow cooker to low and allow the beef barbacoa to cook for 7-8 hours.
  9. Open the pot and remove the bay leaves and black peppercorns, then use two forks to shred the beef into thin, tender strands.
  10. Strain the beef from the liquid and season with salt to taste, use the beef barbacoa to fill tacos, burritos, quesadillas or salad. (The cooking liquid can be used to create a delicious beefy soup or reduced as a sauce for the beef barbacoa).
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 Slow Cooked Beef Barbacoa
Serves 4
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 27.9 g35.8%
Cholesterol 286 mg95.3%
Sodium 385 mg16.7%
Protein 96.4 g192.8%
Potassium 967 mg20.6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.


  • Searing the beef before adding to the slow cooker adds depth of flavour, this step can be skipped to save time by adding the meat directly to the pot.
  • For a quicker dish set the slow cooker to high and the beef barbacoa will be ready in approximately 6 hours. The meat will not reach quite the same level of tenderness but the amazing flavours will be achieved.
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Traditional Mexican barbacoa is cooked slowly for 6-7 hours in a backyard fire pit covered with maguey leaves, to make this laborious dish as simple as possible for the modern kitchen we’ve turned to our slow cooker.

A slow cooker is able to recreate the low and slow method of cooking by effortlessly adding all the ingredients to the pot and allow the magic of technology to recreate traditional Mexican cooking techniques.

The addition of dried chillies mimic the smoke from authentic barbacoa which is then heightened with Mexican ingredients such as the flavours of oregano and cumin. In Mexico beef barbacoa is classically served in a tortilla with salsa as street food and comfort food, try it for yourself by following our recipe below.

What Kind of Meat is Barbacoa and What Meat Does Chipotle Use for Barbacoa?

As barbacoa refers first to the cooking method of slow roasting, there are many meats that can be cooked in this way. Popular cuts for barbacoa in Mexico include lamb, goat and beef.

Chipotle has brought Mexican food to a wider audience, particularly in the USA, specialising in tacos and Mission burritos. A classic Chipotle filling and spicy option is the beef barbacoa which is made by slowly braising the beef shoulder until tender and juicy.

The fat content of the shoulder keeps the meat moist whilst cooking and flavours the meat to deliver an exceptional taste. While Chipotle barbacoa is delicious we are confident that you will be ever more impressed by our homemade beef barbacoa recipe!

Why is Barbacoa so Greasy?

As barbacoa is slowly cooked over several hours it is important that a fatty cut is used. The fat within the meat gradually renders during cooking which bastes the meat both flavouring and adding moisture to the dish to stop it drying out.

By the end of the cooking process there is often a pool of grease which is similar to the wet Chipotle barbacoa style. A small amount of grease provides the melt in the mouth experience which makes barbacoa so delicious but any excess fat can easily be removed before serving.

What's The Difference Between Barbacoa and Carnitas?

Both barbacoa and carnitas are classic Mexican meat fillings for tacos, tamales, torta, burritos, consomme, enchiladas and quesadillas. The differences between the two dishes are that barbacoa can include many different cuts of meat, which are cooked slowly until tender then shredded.

The traditional maguey leaves, which are unique to barbacoa, flavour and tenderize the meat during cooking by insulating the heat and causing a steamy environment. Whereas carnitas are only ever made from pork, the meat is slowly braised which is similar to barbacoa however at the end of cooking the heat is increased to brown the pork until crispy.

Who Invented Barbacoa?

It is believed that the method of barbacoa was invented in the Caribbean by the Taino people. The method has become associated with Mexico due to its popularity, the form of barbecue which makes barbacoa unique traditionally cooks the meat by slowly roasting whilst buried in a pit which is covered by maguey leaves. In northern Mexico and America barbacoa is often the preparation of cows' heads cooked in this style, with the cheeks being a prized cut.

Where Does The Word Barbacoa Come From?

Barbacoa is the Spanish word for ‘barbecue’ and refers to both the cooking method and dish itself. The Spanish word ‘barbacoa’ was first recorded by Gonzalo Fernàndez de Oviedo y Valdés, an explorer and historian who detailed his journey through the New World in a series of books. His 1535 publication mentions barbacoa as a lattice structure made from natural materials with multiple purposes.

Recipe byPetite Gourmets

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