Slow-Cooker Barbacoa Beef

by Amy on 9 October 2013

Slow-Cooker Barbacoa Beef While I use my slow-cooker all year ’round, I get more excited about breaking it out in the fall + winter. The cooler weather makes me crave all the wonderfully hearty soups, stews, + braised meats that my beloved crock-pot is so good at making. So, when I wanted to try a new meal a couple weeks ago, I decided to make this Slow-Cooker Barbacoa Beef that I’d bookmarked ages ago.

Y’all. This was SOOO good, so amazingly easy to make, + so versatile. You wind up with seriously fall-apart tender beef that is packed with tons of awesome, spicy flavor. It does make a lot of food, so invite some friends over to share (it is perfect for football-watchin’!), or get ready for some fab leftovers. The first night, we served it (as pictured) with small corn tortillas + made tacos. The second day, we used large flour tortillas, added rice + beans, + made scrumptious burritos. And for days after that, I piled the beef into a bowl with leftover beans, rice, cheese, + salsa for burrito bowls. And we still had enough left over that I froze a good portion to use for meals in the future.

So, if you’re looking for a fabulous slow-cooker meal that results in some seriously amazing food to feed a crowd (or give you lots of leftovers), you *must* give this recipe a try!

Slow-Cooker Barbacoa Beef

Slow-Cooker Barbacoa Beef

serves 8-10 (enough for about 30 small tacos), adapted from the kitchn


4 chipotle peppers in adobo
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 red onion, peeled + cut into large chunks
1 head garlic, peeled + cloves smashed
5 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Juice of 4 limes
1/2 cup cider vinegar
5-7 pounds beef brisket
4-6 cups beef or chicken stock (I used chicken)


Put the following ingredients into a food processor + pulse until well-combined: chipotle peppers, cilantro, red onion, garlic, clove, salt, lime juice, + cider vinegar. Pour that sauce into the slow-cooker, then place the brisket on top of the sauce. (Cut my brisket in 2-3 pieces, if needed, so it fits better in the slow cooker.) Add enough chicken or beef stock to cover the meat + place bay leaves on top. Use tongs to move the meat around gently to combine everything + put the lid on.

Cook on HIGH for 4 hours, then turn slow-cooker to WARM + let sit for 6 to 8 hours.

(Note from the kitchn: I like to make mine before bed and then let it sit on WARM overnight. This allows the meat to cook fully and then come to a point where it can be shredded easily and will essentially fall apart when pulled with a fork. If you don’t have overnight to accomplish this, another hour of cooking on HIGH will get the job done. The meat will not be as tender, but will still be tasty.)

When the meat is fully cooked + fall-apart tender, remove from slow cooker + place on rimmed baking sheet. Use two forks to pull the meat apart. Discard the fat, if desired. Place shredded beef in large bowl + ladle about 1-2 cups cooking liquid over the top. You want the meat to be sufficiently juicy, but not swimming in the liquid.

Amy’s note: the remaining cooking liquid is a deliciously-spicy + flavorful beef broth. I highly recommend that you save it + use it to make a tasty noodle soup later in the week! Or freeze it for future use – you could use it in any recipe that calls for beef broth, but be warned, it does have a spicy kick!

Serve the barbacoa beef with corn tortillas for making tacos or flour tortillas for making burritos. I recommend serving them chopped cilantro, onion, tomato, cheese, salsa + sour cream. YUM!

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rachel @ Baked by Rachel October 9, 2013 at 6:37 am

I’m the same way – love my slow cooker year round but especially in the cooler months! Love this so much – wish I could have some for breakfast (weird right?) lol 😉

2 amy October 9, 2013 at 7:32 am

Not weird at all – I’m totally guilty of eating leftovers like this breakfast! =)

3 Jennie @themessybakerblog October 9, 2013 at 8:40 am

I always associate my slow cooker with fall/winter. I really need to bust it out more often during the warmer months. This is some tender looking beef. Squirrel is going to love this. Pinned!

4 danielle October 9, 2013 at 9:51 am

I love a good slow cooker recipe – this looks like a must try!

5 Erin @ The Spiffy Cookie October 9, 2013 at 10:11 am

I also love using my slow cooker year round, but it’s definitely even better now that it’s FINALLY cooler out.

6 Leah | So, How's It Taste? October 9, 2013 at 10:41 am

Yay for slow cooker meals! I’m in slow cooker mode right now, too. Love the ones that are so versatile so you’re not eating the same meal over and over.

7 amy October 9, 2013 at 10:52 am

Yes! I actually thought of trying to make some of the leftovers into a spicy bolognese sauce for pasta, but ate them before I could explore that idea. =)

8 Anne ~ Uni Homemaker October 9, 2013 at 11:06 am

Amy, thank you for this recipe! I was looking for a slow cooker recipe using beef so I can make tacos. This is perfect! Yay and pinned! :)

9 amy October 9, 2013 at 11:07 am

Fantastic! I hope you try it + love it. =) Do report back!

10 Tracey October 9, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Just the other day we went out for Mexican food and my husband fell in love with the restaurant’s barbacoa beef. Now I can make it at home for him, this sounds perfect for a lazy Sunday!

11 Nicole @ Young, Broke and Hungry October 9, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Oh man! This beef sounds incredible and so versatile.

12 Nik@ABrownTable October 9, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I’m loving your slow cooker recipes. This looks delicious!

13 angela@spinachtiger October 9, 2013 at 2:29 pm

I’m bookmarking this because you’re right, it’s that time of year and I love red meat. Recipe looks amazing.

14 Anna (Hidden Ponies) October 9, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I love leftovers like that! So perfect to have on hand. I need more slow cooker winners like this.

15 amy October 10, 2013 at 12:01 am

Wonderful, Tracey! I hope you both love it!

16 Adri October 10, 2013 at 12:45 am

I love slow cooker beef, and this one sounds great. I also love Mexicna food, so this just sounds perfect – and just the thing for a crowd. Thanks!

17 Amy (Savory Moments) October 10, 2013 at 6:39 am

I LOVE using the slow cooker year-round, too and I LOVE all tacos. This looks really delicious and flavorful from all the chipotles in adobo.

18 Jessica @ A Kitchen Addiction October 10, 2013 at 9:54 am

I’ve just been looking for more good slow cooker recipes! This one is perfect!

19 Angie | Big Bear's Wife October 10, 2013 at 10:05 am

Love breaking out the slow cooker about this time of year! Perfect recipe for it!

20 Stephanie @ PlainChicken October 10, 2013 at 10:32 am

YUM! I love slow cooker meals. These tacos look delicious!

21 plasterer bristol October 10, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Burritos are my favorite , and i’m always looking for new ideas and recipes….Thanks for sharing.


22 Karen Bates October 10, 2013 at 1:13 pm

So you cooked the brisket overnight on warm? Then do you joust shred it and warm it up theat night? My husband hates food cooked in the crockpot . I’m trying to remedy that.

23 amy October 10, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Hi Karen, I actually did it all in one day rather than overnight as The Kitchn suggested. I started it at 6 AM, cooked it 4 hours on high (until 10 AM), then put it on WARM for 7 or so hours (until 5 PM), then shredded it + served it straightaway. I haven’t tried the overnight technique but yes, you’d shred it in the morning and then leave it in the crockpot to keep warm until you serve it, or you could just re-heat when you’re ready to serve it. Hope that helps!

24 Beth October 10, 2013 at 4:36 pm

That sounds terrific. The burritos are making my mouth water!

25 natalie@thesweetslife October 11, 2013 at 10:45 pm

earlier this year I made barbacoa beef and ate atop salads…one of my favorite meals this year! totally trying in tortillas next time!

26 easyfoodsmith October 12, 2013 at 5:26 am

I love slow cooker recipes and this one sounds ideal for autumn…so tasty and so tempting :-)

27 EA-The Spicy Rd October 12, 2013 at 9:49 am

You always have the best slow cooker recipes Amy! Love that this makes a lot for leftovers, since I’m trying to freeze more meals for quick & easy weeknight meals, and love your idea to save the broth for soup! Have a wonderful weekend :-)

28 Sarah K. @ The Pajama Chef October 12, 2013 at 8:25 pm

this sounds so delish, amy! i can’t wait to try it :)

29 Kirsten October 12, 2013 at 9:53 pm

I not only like this recipe, I really like all your notes for what to do with the leftover meat and juices. Terrific ideas, thanks! And your photos look wonderful!

30 Emily @ Life on Food October 13, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Barbacoa Beef is what I always order at Chipotle. Having it at home would be marvelous. Making it with a crock pot even better. This recipe look super delicious!

31 katie October 13, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Oh this sounds awesome. My husband loves barbacoa! I’m all for year-round slow cooking.

32 Monet October 13, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Oh wow! Doesn’t this look and sound amazing? I can’t wait to try this! I’m all about the slow cooker now that it’s fall (and now that I have this baby!) Thank you for sharing. What a great meal!

33 Blond Duck October 14, 2013 at 7:04 am

This Texas girl always needs barbacoa!

34 Ashley | Spoonful of Flavor October 29, 2013 at 4:50 pm

I’ve been looking for a slow-cooker barbacoa recipe and this one looks fantastic!

35 Courtney December 5, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I made this and it turned out surprisingly really good. (I’ve only started trying to teach myself to cook in the last month or so.. it hasn’t all been great. And for a variety of reason, I do a poor to moderate job of following directions.) I strained the leftover liquid and froze some of it in an ice cube tray. But since I know virtually nothing about kitchen affairs, is there anything you would suggest putting those little cubes in? I was thinking I’d try baking fish with it and maybe sauteed veggies but mostly because that’s all I normally cook!
Love your blog and so many of your recipes, totally appreciate any and all tips you could throw my way!!!

36 amy December 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Hi Courtney, first, congratulations on teaching yourself how to cook! It’s an exciting time. =) I’m so glad this turned out good for you! As for the leftover liquid, think of it as basically a spicy beef broth. So, you can use it in the same way that you’d use beef broth. Throwing a couple cubes in with some sauteed veggies is a great idea! Or tossing some with cooked rice to add a bit of spicy beef flavor to it. Or it would be awesome as the base for a spicy beef noodle soup if you add some cooked rice noodles to it. Or use it in risotto! Or it would be great with smashed or mashed potatoes. Do report back what you do with it! Cheers, Amy

37 Best Paleo Diet April 21, 2015 at 5:38 am

I was going to say I always make my very similar recipe in the pressure cooker. I was under the impression that pressure cookers can bring out the malliard effect in meas because of the temperature that it reaches. So i’d be curious to try it with the seared ox tail with chuck in the pressure cooker.

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