Chipotle Barbacoa Beef


Whip up this simple yet flavor-loaded Chipotle Barbacoa Beef in your slow cooker, then serve it over rice or in tortillas for a delicious meal!

Looking for more easy south-of-the border recipes to make for weeknights? Then look no further than these popular posts for Mexican Street Corn Chicken Pasta Salad, Super Easy Mexican Rice, and Mexican Beef and Rice Skillet


Why This Recipe Works

3 Steps — All you have to do is make the paste/sauce, add it to the slow cooker over the brisket, and shred when it’s done! It’s truly that simple to make this barbacoa beef.

Simple ingredients — Nothing fancy needed for these fancy-sounding chipotle barbacoa tacos. Everything is probably in your pantry or fridge right now, in fact. And if not, it’s nothing that a quick trip to the international food aisle of your local grocery store can’t fix. 

Delicious — Maybe it’s the barbacoa meat, slow cooked for 6 hours, maybe it’s the sauce it cooks in, so full of garlic, onion, chipotles, tomato paste, lime, juice, and herbs. Maybe it’s the ways you can top a taco, maybe it’s all of the above! No matter what does it for you, I can guarantee these tacos are some of the most delicious, flavorful tacos you’ll ever make. 

Great for leftovers — I honestly get sad when my family crushes all the barbacoa beef in one meal. I much prefer to have leftovers and eat it again and again for the next days’ lunches. It’s good cold too!


  • White or yellow onion — Either one will work here, you’re going to chop it up then blend it up so no need to finely dice or make your cuts fancy. 
  • Garlic — I use minced garlic from a jar but you could also chop up 3 large garlic cloves
  • Chipotles — I use chipotles from a can of chipotles in adobo. Do they come any other way other than that or dried? I think those are the only two ways and the canned ones are much much easier to work with!  
  • Tomato paste — Canned or from a squeeze tube, it doesn’t matter, but tomato taste is yum for its concentrated tomato flavor (plus, using tomato paste instead of sauce keeps the tacos from being too watery after you shred them.  
  • Apple cider vinegar — You need that acidity to help work the rest of the spices and flavors into the meat. Apple cider vinegar is my favorite choice for this because of its slightly sour taste that pairs well with the lime juice and tomato paste. 
  • Lime — Fresh lime juice tastes fresher and has more bite than bottled, but if you don’t have fresh, then bottled will work too. 
  • Salt — I use salt to taste here in the paste for the meat. I find it needs just a little more than you might think, and I always recommend Himalayan pink salt or sea salt!
  • Cumin and cloves — I use ground cumin and cloves in this dish, they both really give a depth of flavor and that tex-mex spice and smell you want! 
  • Oregano — I find that dried oregano works best in this recipe for barbacoa beef, but you can use fresh if that’s all you have. 
  • Brisket or chuck roast — Both briskets and chuck roasts are tougher cuts of meat, which is why they work well being slow cooked over longer periods of time. Either cut off beef works great in this barbacoa recipe.

Here’s How You Make It

  1. First, get out a bullet blender or small food processor and blitz together the onion, garlic (pre-minced or simply add the whole peeled cloves), chipotles, tomato paste, vinegar, lime juice, salt, dried oregano, and spices. This will make a smooth paste that you’ll cook with the meat in the slow cooker. 
  2. Next, cut the beef into quarters and toss it into the slow cooker, pouring the paste over the top. Set the slow cooker to cook the barbacoa beef tacos on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours, or until the beef is tender and can be shredded with a fork.
  3. When the beef is done, remove it from the slow cooker and shred with two forks. Return the brisket to the slow cooker and stir the shredded meat back into the sauce just before serving.
  4. Top with some fresh cilantro if desired and serve over rice or in tortillas for tacos!

Expert Tips and Tricks

  • While I used a 3.5 quart slow cooker to test this recipe, it can easily be scaled up to feed more people. However, note that, depending on the size of your slow cooker, you may want to reduce some of the cooking juices before returning the shredded meat. Simply pour or ladle them out before adding the shredded beef back in. 
  • No small food processor or bullet blender? No worries. Instead, just finely chop the onions, garlic, and chipotles before stirring everything together into a paste.
  • You can freeze cooked Chipotle Barbacoa Beef in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Alternately, you can add the uncooked beef and the marinade together into a Ziplock or airtight container and then simply thaw in the fridge and pop in the slow cooker when you’re ready to eat it.
What special ingredients are needed for barbacoa beef?

No special ingredients needed for this slow cooker chipotle barbacoa. Just a cut of beef shoulder, a delicious marinade, and some low-and-slow cooking are all it takes to get that delicious Mexican shredded beef that you’ll want in all the tacos, enchiladas, and quesadillas from here on out.

What is Barbacoa?

Originally from the Caribbean, the word “barbacoa” actually refers to the way the meat is cooked and not the flavors. This form of cooking meat is typically done slowly over an open fire (or in a hole dug in the ground, which seems a little out of reach for most of us).  
In this day and age, barbacoa simply refers to cooking the meat slowly or steaming it until it’s tender. The meat used for barbacoa is fatty, tougher (till cooked), and has a strong flavor.


More Delicious Beef Recipes

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