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Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa is super tender, flavorful beef that is fantastic served in flour tortillas.
This Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa recipe is so good, you’ll want to add it to your slow cooker meal rotation as soon as possible!
It’s a great option for a Cinco de Mayo meal – or anytime you want to enjoy fall-apart tender, super flavorful beef for dinner.
What is Barbacoa?
Lots of folks know the term ‘barbacoa’ because they’ve seen it on the menu at Chipotle. But true Barbacoa is actually a very specific method of cooking meat in Mexico.
Barbacoa means “barbecue” in Spanish – but it traditionally refers to meat that has been topped with leaves from a maguey plant, and steamed for several hours in an underground pit.
In Mexico, barbacoa is made with lamb or goat – but here in the United States, barbacoa is made with beef (often beef cheeks.)
How do you make Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa?
Our recipe today is much easier, and it’s made with ingredients that are much more accessible to the average American family shopping at a local supermarket.
We used a slow cooker to mimic the low and slow steam barbacoa cooking process – and made our recipe from beef chuck.
Simply place the beef in a slow cooker along with some canned chipotle in adobo sauce, chopped green chiles, red onion, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, bay leaves, cumin, dried Mexican oregano, salt and pepper, beef stock, tomato paste, and some dried Pasilla* chiles.
*Pasilla chiles can be found at most supermarkets in the produce aisle, often sold in bags or you can order them here. These chiles are mild and not overly spicy, and they add a rich depth of flavor to this recipe. Don’t leave them out!
Cover and cook the beef on high for six hours in the slow cooker – then strain the beef, saving all of those delicious juices in the bottom of the slow cooker.
Simmer those juices along with the same Pasilla chiles – reducing the cooking liquids to about two cups. Then blend the reduced liquid with an immersion blender to creating a smooth and delicious sauce.
How do I serve Beef Barbacoa?
We shredded the beef, then spooned some of that sauce over the top.
Next, we simply served our barbacoa as tacos in flour tortillas with a simple garnish of fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime. (You really don’t need many more toppings – just let the Beef Barbacoa flavors shine!
You can also add this beef to salads, burritos, quesadillas – or just eat it with a fork.
You may enjoy these other Mexican recipes:
- Pork Lomitos Tacos
- Chicken Fajitas
- Chicken Chimichangas
- Slow Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork
- Ground Beef Tacos
5–6 pounds chuck, cut into 3” large pieces (I used two boneless chuck steaks that I found on sale but you could use any less-tender cuts of beef like top or bottom roasts or steaks. May require a longer cooking time if not using chuck)
2 large or three medium garlic loves smashed
2 4-ounce cans chipotle in adobo sauce
2 4-ounce cans green chopped chiles
½ large red onion, coarsely chopped
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 large bay leaves
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 dried Pasilla chiles, stem removed (available in most supermarkets)
12 6-inch flour tortillas, for serving
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
Limes wedges, for serving
In a large slow cooker, add beef, chipotle in adobo, green chilies, red onion, lime juice, vinegar, bay leaves, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, beef stock, tomato paste and Pasilla chiles.
Cover, set heat to high and cook six hours.
Strain into a sauce pan and pick out the two Pasilla chiles and add to a sauce pan with the liquid.
Discard the bay leaves and shred the beef with two forks.
Boil the liquid and Pasilla chiles down to two cups. Use an emersion blender and puree. Use this to moisten the beef and also to serve over each serving.
To serve, place meat into warm flour tortilla shells, drizzle on some of the reserved liquid, and top with cilantro leaves and a lime wedge.
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