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29 January 2020

This beef barbacoa recipe is big on flavor and easy to make with seasoned shredded beef cooked low and slow in a slow cooker or crock pot until fork tender. Perfect for tacos! 

We’re making beef barbacoa in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen today, my friends. Care to join? If you’ve never had beef barbacoa before, this is a recipe you’ll want to print and save in your recipe box.

Beef barbacoa is shredded beef that has been seasoned with ancho peppers and guajillo peppers along with chipotles in adobo sauce and other seasonings. The beef is cooked low and slow for hours in a slow cooker until it becomes so juicy and tender it melts in your mouth.

It’s huge on flavor for my spice loving friends, and you can easily up the heat levels by adding spicy chili flakes, powders, or even fresh chili peppers into the mix.

Never heard of barbacoa?

Spicy beef Barbacoa, ready to serve

What is Barbacoa?

Barbacoa is a technique of cooking that originated in the Caribbean where meat is steam cooked low and slow in an underground oven until it becomes very tender. It was adapted by Mexican and American cooks, usually to cook meat from cattle heads and other cuts of beef, goat or lamb. The technique has evolved to cooking meats with a crock pot, slow cooker or instant pot, or in a pot on the stove top. 

The word “barbacoa” translates to “barbecue” in English, though the two cooking method are quite different, which barbecuing done on a hot grill.

Time to get cooking! It’s the best barbacoa beef recipe around. Let’s talk about how we make beef barbacoa, shall we?

Spicy beef Barbacoa in a crock pot

Beef Barbacoa Ingredients

  • 3 pound beef chuck roast (or use beef brisket, sliced into 2 inch chunks)
  • 2 guajillo peppers
  • 2 ancho peppers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 7 ounce can chipotles in adobo (optional, for extra saucy and tangy-smoky flavor)
  • 12 ounces beef stock
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Juice from 1 large lime (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano (or use oregano)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

How to Make Beef Barbacoa – the Recipe Method

First, remove the stems from the guajillo and ancho peppers and remove the seeds. Place the dried chiles in a large bowl and cover with very hot or boiling water. Soak them for 15 minutes, or until they become very soft and rehydrate. Drain and discard the water. Add them to a food processor and process until smooth.

Making the chili paste for our Texas chili

Add the beef chunks to a bowl. Add the ancho-guajillo paste and toss to even coat.

Chunks of seasoned meat in a bowl

Heat the oil in a large cast iron pan to medium-high heat. Sear the beef chunks a few minutes per side to get a nice coating. Transfer to a slow cooker or crock pot.

Chunks of seasoned meat seared in a cast iron pan

Deglaze the pan with a bit of beef broth, water or wine and scrape all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour it into the crock pot.

Add the chipotles in adobo, beef stock, vinegar, lime juice, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste. Stir.

Cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 6-8 hours, or until the beef is fork tender. It should easily break apart with a fork. It could take a bit longer to cook, depending on your slow cooker.

Shred the beef with 2 forks and serve as desired. It’s ready to eat once you’ve shredded the meat.

Shredding Beef Barbacoa with two forks

Boom! Easy enough, isn’t it? It is quite an easy recipe. It’s really just some quick seasoning and searing, then waiting for the crock pot or slow cooker to do its job. The only issue is smelling that wonderful slow cooked beef in the house, driving you crazy with hunger.

The meat is super tender and flavorful. Perfect for my spicy foods lovers.

Recipe Tips and Notes

  • Stove Top Version. If you’d prefer to make this on the stove rather than in your slow cooker, no problem. Just use a dutch oven or large pot. Sear the seasoned meat in the pot, then add the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until the beef shreds easily with a fork.
  • The Peppers. I am using ancho peppers and guajillo peppers along with chipotles in adobo sauce for this recipe, though you can use other dried Mexican peppers. Pasilla peppers are a nice addition, as are chile de Arbol peppers for more heat or chipotle peppers for an even smokier quality. The chipotles in adobo are optional. You can make this recipe with only the ancho-guajillo paste, though the adobo sauce is commonly used.
  • What Meats are Used for Barbacoa? Traditionally, barbacoa was made with meats from cattle head, such as the cheeks, or with lamb or goat in Mexican cooking. Today we mostly use tougher cuts of beef that benefits from low and slow cooking to become tender and succulent. Brisket is very popular, as is chuck roast, which is what I normally use.
  • Time Saver. You can make the chili paste ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator up to a week to use later. Or use my adobo sauce recipe.
  • The Seasonings. I used cumin, Mexican oregano, bay leaves, salt and pepper here, but feel free to incorporate your own favorites. Try it with ground clove, chili powder or other dried herbs for great, flavorful meat.

Spicy beef Barbacoa on a fork

That’s it, my friends! I hope you enjoy my beef barbacoa recipe. I love this recipe! Spicy shredded beef, anytime for me. They’re super popular served up as barbacoa beef tacos. So good!

Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes

Beef Barbacoa Tacos

Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.

Spicy beef Barbacoa, ready to serve
Print Recipe
5 from 4 votes

Beef Barbacoa Recipe

This beef barbacoa recipe is big on flavor and easy to make with seasoned shredded beef cooked low and slow in a slow cooker or crock pot until fork tender. Perfect for tacos! 
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time4 hrs
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Keyword: adobo, beef, beef tacos, chipotle, crock pot, shredded beef, slow cooker
Servings: 6
Calories: 504kcal

Ingredients

  • 3 pound beef chuck roast or use beef brisket, sliced into 2 inch chunks
  • 2 guajillo peppers
  • 2 ancho peppers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 7 ounce can chipotles in adobo optional, for extra saucy and tangy-smoky flavor
  • 12 ounces beef stock
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Juice from 1 large lime about 1/4 cup
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano or use oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Remove the stems from the guajillo and ancho peppers and remove the seeds. Place the dried chiles in a large bowl and cover with very hot or boiling water. Soak them for 15 minutes, or until they become very soft and rehydrate. Drain and discard the water. Add them to a food processor and process until smooth.
  • Add the beef chunks to a bowl. Add the ancho-guajillo paste and toss to even coat.
  • Heat the oil in a large cast iron pan to medium-high heat. Sear the beef chunks a few minutes per side to get a nice coating. Transfer to a slow cooker or crock pot.
  • Deglaze the pan with a bit of beef stock, water or wine and scrape all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour it into the crock pot.
  • Add the chipotles in adobo, beef stock, vinegar, lime juice, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste. Stir.
  • Cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 6-8 hours, or until the beef is fork tender. It should easily break apart with a fork. It could take a bit longer to cook, depending on your slow cooker.
  • Shred the beef with 2 forks and serve as desired.

Notes

Heat Factor: Mild-Medium, though you can easily spice things up with hotter peppers or spicy chili flakes.

Nutrition

Calories: 504kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 45g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 156mg | Sodium: 720mg | Potassium: 966mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 2324IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 70mg | Iron: 7mg
Beef Barbacoa

13 comments

  1. 5 stars
    Hey Mike, I did barbacoa recipe using your adobo: 1/2 recipe adobo+ 1t sugar for 2/3 barbacoa recipe without any other adjustments. It came out fantastic, some might say dy-no-mite! Excellent broth, which was hard not to just drink. Going to try making tacos per Claudia Zapeda in April 2020 Food and Wine, in which you dip tortillas in broth, cook on griddle with barbacoa on top, and use remaining broth for dipping. Man!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Awesome, Jimmy! I love it! Sounds like the perfect plan for it. Enjoy, and cheers!!!

  2. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

    Hey, Jimmy. You can skip making the paste and just use the adobo recipe. Let me know how it turns out for you!

  3. Hi Mike, thanks for this excellent-sounding barbacoa recipe! I am about to make it and am planning to use your adobo sauce recipe instead of the ancho/guajillo paste. Do I need to adjust any of the other ingredients in the barbacoa recipe if I do this?

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Hey, Jimmy. You can use equal amounts of adobo instead. Let me know how it turns out for you!

  4. Johnny Capers

    I don’t know if I made a mistake in the recipe, but I do believe that is the hottest food I have ever made. Or maybe I just can’t take the heat anymore.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Hey, Johnny. The only “hot” item in this recipe is the chipotles in adobo sauce. I wonder if you got a hot batch? Did you add any other spicy peppers or hot chili flakes? Otherwise, I’m not sure what could make it that hot for you. Some people do think the chipotles are hot, about jalapeno heat level. Let me know. If that is the culprit, you can either use half of the chipotles in adobo, or use only adobo sauce (which you can get from the store in the same section, or use my homemade adobo sauce recipehttps://www.chilipeppermadness.com/recipes/adobo-sauce/). Let me know how it goes.

  5. 5 stars
    I made this step by step for the crew and got a standing ovation. Your tips for the peppers and the sauce were just what I needed. I’ve made beef barbacoa before and it was okay, but not nearly as good as this version. It’s a keeper for me. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks, Damien! I appreciate the great comments! Super happy you enjoyed it.

  6. 5 stars
    I fell in love with this Beef Barbacoa recipe and wanted to cook it right away (like most of your recipes, Mike!) … But I didn’t have an Instantpot! So I just ordered one, and now I plan to make a lot of those recipes for which you recommend slow cooking! I am thinking in particular of your Pressure Cooker Corned Beef Recipe…

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      That’s great, Jeremie. I think you’ll love your instant pot. So many wonderful things you can make with the slow cooker or pressure cooker. The pressure cooker corned beef is excellent!! Nice and tender. I hope you like it.

      1. 5 stars
        That was an easy recipe, but full of flavors! I used my fresh new Instant Pot to make it: long slow cooking to get a very tender meat that I put in tacos with Monterey Jack, homemade hot sauce and raw onion. Thank you Mike, this was a gorgeous recipe!

        1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

          Excellent, Jeremie! Thanks! I agree, it’s quite easy, and HUGE on flavor. Perfect for the Instant Pot. Perfect for tacos!!






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