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+ servings
Serving bowl filled with slow cooked barbacoa beef.
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5 from 5 votes

Slow Cooker Barbacoa

Easy to make and crazy delicious! This tender, flavorful beef is perfect for tacos, burritos, salads, and more. Let your slow cooker do all the work, or — if you’re in a hurry — follow my instructions to braise it in the oven for an equally amazing result.


  • 3-4 pounds chuck roast or beef brisket
  • 1 tablespoon avocado or vegetable oil
  • 2 chipotle chilis in adobo sauce
  • 1 (4 ounce) can mild chopped green chilis
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons oregano use Mexican oregano if you have it
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup beef broth can substitute chicken broth, water, or a light lager
  • 2 bay leaves


  • Trim any large sections of fat from the edges of the beef, and cut into cubes of roughly 2 inches.
  • Warm oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. (If planning to cook the barbacoa in the oven, use a pan with a lid — a Dutch oven or deep cast-iron skillet, if you have one.)
  • Sear: Add the pieces of beef and cook without touching for 2-3 minutes, until the bottom gets a nice brown sear. Do this in two batches, if you need to, rather than crowding the pieces together in the pan, which would prevent them from developing the best sear. Turn each piece and brown on the other side. If cooking in the oven, transfer meat to a plate. If using a slow cooker, place the meat straight in it.
  • Make the sauce: Combine chipotle chilis, green chilis, lime juice, brown sugar, Worcestershire, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cinnamon in a blender or food processor. Blend into a mostly smooth sauce. Only if using a slow cooker, add the beef broth.
  • To finish in the slow cooker: Pour sauce over the meat, add bay leaves, cover, and cook on low for 8-9 hours.
  • To braise in the oven: After transferring meat to a plate, add beef broth to the skillet and scrape to loosen any browned bits. Pour in the chili mixture, stir into a sauce, and remove pan from the heat. Return meat to the pan, turning each piece to coat well. Add bay leaves, cover, and braise for 3 hours at 300 degrees F.
  • Shred: When the meat is tender and falling apart, remove bay leaves and shred with two forks. Leave the shredded meat in the slow cooker or pan to stay warm and soak up more juices until ready to serve. Sprinkle with more lime juice and fresh chopped cilantro, if desired, and enjoy!


  • Serve: Use in tacos, burritos, enchiladas, salads, and more! Our very favorite and most simple serving suggestion is to fill tacos with barbacoa and top with red onion, cilantro, and Cotija cheese. Barbacoa is very flavorful; you don’t need to add a lot. See post for more ideas.
  • Slow cooker vs. oven: The oven is faster, slightly more hands-on, saves one pan to wash, and keeps all the flavor from the searing step in the barbacoa. Both options deliver a delicious, tender result! You can also use the slow cooker on the high setting for 5-6 hours.
  • Optional steps: Searing the meat is optional, but definitely helps develop the flavors and texture. Blending the seasonings is optional, as well — you can simply add all the ingredients to the slow cooker or pan, and have a more chunky sauce at the end.
  • Spice level: 2 chopped chipotles per 4 pounds of meat yields a medium-spicy barbacoa, similar to what you’d expect at Chipotle. Scale up or down as desired.
  • Store: Leftovers keep up to 5 days tightly-covered in the fridge, or freeze for 3-4 months. Defrost in the fridge; warm in the microwave or in a skillet.

Nutrition Estimate

Calories: 374kcal, Carbohydrates: 5g, Protein: 47g, Fat: 17g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 140mg, Sodium: 624mg, Potassium: 816mg, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 35IU, Vitamin C: 5.1mg, Calcium: 36mg, Iron: 5.4mg
Did you make this recipe?Leave a review below, then snap a quick picture and tag @nourishandfete on Instagram so I can see it!