Beef Barbacoa roasted low and slow in the oven crusted with a flavorful spicy chipotle chili vinegar mix makes the ultimate Mexican beef tacos, burritos and more.
We are a huge fan of Mexican recipes on the blog including Fish Tacos, Shrimp Tacos and more served with my super popular Refried Beans and Mexican Rice.
Beef Barbacoa Recipe
This is the Ultimate Barbacoa recipe for the most mouth-watering barbacoa that you’ll ever make. Most people didn’t used immediately think of Barbacoa Beef as the most popular Mexican beef options (classic Taco flavors and Carne Asada used to win out), but with Chipotle becoming such a popular restaurant everyone wants an Easy Barbacoa recipe.
Shredded barbacoa is most often a filling for food like quesadillas, tacos, and burritos, but it can also be used as a topping for salads or eggs.
Chipotle Mexican Grill barbacoa beef is a signature dish of the restaurant. The company’s website shares the barbacoa ingredients which obviously start with beef then layer the flavor with chipotle chili, bay leaf and a combination of herbs and spices including cloves, cumin, garlic, oregano, black pepper and salt.
We use similar ingredients in our barbacoa recipe to achieve a tender and juicy slow cooked meal. There are two steps to preparing the ingredients and then you have options for the cooking method: make the sauce and prepare the meat. First use a food processor to mix the seasoning for the barbacoa sauce.
Chipotles in adobo are the key to that smoky, spicy flavor. Puree the chipotles, vinegar, lime juice, garlic, cumin, oregano, black pepper, salt, ground cloves and chicken broth until you have a smooth sauce. Set it aside while you move to the second step of browning the beef. We use chuck roast (also known as shoulder roast) because it’s an inexpensive cut of meat that transforms from tough to juicy and tender. The connective tissues in the meat break down if you cook it low and slow.
What is Barbacoa?
Barbacoa is Mexican spicy shredded beef made traditionally in a braised dutch oven low and slow over the course of 4 hours (this is how I love preparing it too). Since there isn’t any added sugars in the recipe it is naturally low carb and the recipe also happens to be dairy-free and gluten-free.
Barbacoa may sound fancy but it’s just a style of meat slowly cooked with seasonings. You could make barbacoa chicken, beef, lamb or pork. Many people think you can only really make carnitas from pork but with the right mixture you can make barbacoa with any protein you’d like, even in the slow cooker.
Sometimes if we’re making a barbacoa bar we make a large amount of the seasoning, toss it with many different meats then cook them in smaller sections in the slow cooker like this Thanksgiving recipe where sections of the slow cooker are portioned off.
Many people love to make this in their slow cooker or instapot (check out my slow cooker recipes) which is a great and easy option, but in keeping this the ULTIMATE beef barbacoa recipe I like to make it in the oven because it keeps the recipe just a bit more melt-in-your-mouth tender.
Best Cut of Beef for Barbacoa:
Chuck Roast is the best cut of beef for Barbacoa because of the marbling of fat throughout. A leaner cut of beef will not stay as tender. In a pinch you can use short ribs or a brisket, but both cuts would also be more expensive than a beef chuck roast.
The most important thing when working with the chuck roast in this recipe is to be sure to brown the beef well before braising it, this will create a great crust on the outside of the roast allowing it to have more texture even after spending 4 hours braising in the oven.
Even if using a slow cooker (crockpot), the use of a beef chuck roast is best.
Chipotle Peppers vs Chilis in Adobo Sauce
You can buy dried chipotle (or ancho, guajillo) peppers which you rehydrate in boiling water for an authentic barbacoa recipe or you can use the canned adobo chilis in sauce. The swap with the canned sauce is a quick and easy option I highly recommend, just be aware they are very spicy, so if you have an aversion to spice you are going to want to halve the amount of peppers.
Copycat Chipotle Barbacoa Beef Burrito:
You can make your own copycat burrito using this recipe topped with Chipotle’s Corn Salsa, Chipotle Guacamole and serve it alongside my spot on copy of the Chipotle Tortilla Chips!
Instant Pot (Pressure Cooker) Beef Barbacoa Recipe:
- Add the ingredients to your food processor, sear the beef (seasoned with salt and pepper) on the sauté setting, then add it to your instant pot with 2 cups of beef broth.
- Cover with the chili mixture set the pressure to high and cook for 60 minutes.
- Release the pressure fully, shred with two forks and serve.
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Slow Cooker (Crockpot) Beef Barbacoa Recipe:
- Add the ingredients to your food processor, sear the beef (seasoned with salt and pepper) then add it to your slow cooker without any of the added beef broth.
- Cover with the chili mixture and cook on low heat for 8-9 hours, shred with two forks and serve.
How to serve Barbacoa:
Using a small corn tortilla top with shredded beef, chopped white onions or pickled red onions and fresh cilantro.
Toppings for Barbacoa:
- chopped onions
- cotija cheese
- cheddar cheese
- sour cream
- Restaurant Salsa
- Creamy Cilantro Sauce (pureé sour cream with cilantro, lime juice and salt)
Other Mexican Recipes
Chicken Enchiladas (with Homemade Enchilada Sauce)
Chicken Burritos, Beef Burritos or Breakfast Burritos
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 5 lbs chuck roast
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 lime zested and juiced
- 3 chipotle chilis in adobo sauce
- 2 cups beef broth
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Add the vinegar, bay leaf, garlic, cumin, oregano, cloves, lime juice, lime zest and chilis with sauce into a food processor and process until smooth.
- Add vegetable oil on medium high heat, season the beef with salt and pepper and sear beef on all sides, then turn off the heat and add in the beef broth and pour over the sauce slowly (try to keep it on top of the beef).
- Cover and bake for 4 hours then remove from the oven and shred apart before serving.
This recipe is the best! Made rolled tacos for Christmas and we are having them again and it’s only the end of January 2023.
I did make a few adjustments:
One seeded jalapeño instead of chipotle peppers
Juice out of preperoncini peppers instead of vinegar
Me again – just made this over the weekend for my in-laws. EVERYONE was like “this is SO good!!!” and I am sending them the link to this recipe. HUGE hit. Love it. Love it. Love it. Will continue to be on my regular rotation, especially for guests.
I serve it with soft taco shells and all the toppings such as avocado, minced red onion, sour cream, cilantro, lime, and cotija or queso fresco (white Mexican cheese that one crumbles). I prefer the queso fresco as it is less salty.
A knock out!! Thank you for this amazing recipe.
Made this for friends on Saturday for tacos and IT. WAS. INCREDIBLE!! Maybe the best barbacoa beef I’ve ever had. I used rehydrated chipotles rather than the canned – it was very spicy as a result but in a really good way. The beef almost shredded itself it was so tender, and the flavors out of this world good! Will be making this again and again.
And, it was so simple to make! While washing up after dinner, I literally ate the meat crumbs from the pan it was so good…
Thank you for the recipe.
Would this be in degrees Fahrenheit or celsius?
Thia may be how they make Barbacoa at Chipotle’s. But if you want authentic MEXICAN Barbacoa, the BEST cut of meat…the ONLY cut…for making truly authentic Mexican Barbacoa…is Beef Cheek meat.
Another family hit! Super tasty and easy to prepare. Thanks Sabrina, you’re taking my family on a Mexican tour. First the amazing enchilada sauce and now the beef barbacoa.
That’s awesome, Kate. Thanks for coming back to let me know how much you all are enjoying the recipes.
Does the cook time change is the roast is only 2.5 lbs?
Yes, you might only need 2 1/2- 3 hours of cook time.
How would I do this if I am using frozen meat and an instant pot?
I’m not sure how much extra time you’d need to add with frozen meat. Sorry, I haven’t tried it. The instant pot directions are in the post though for you to follow. Good luck!
What makes barbacoa, barbacoa, is actually the fact that its the cheek of the cow. So technically if you want to make REAL barbacoa, you want to use beef cheek. Its not the style or cooking method. Real barbacoa, you do not really need to add spices, as the meat already has natural flavor.
The three chipotle peppers in adobo, is that three whole peppers or three cans? My local super market only carries the cans, which are 7 oz. each.
3 whole peppers
In the oven version of the recipe…do you shredd the beef with all the liquid or do you pull it out and shredd it without the liquid?…
I keep it in the dutch oven and shred it with everything in there.
Had to freelance a bit, because making half the recipe (5lbs too much for us!). It was very good, really good. My daughter said she liked it — that’s like a second Michelin star. This is the second recipe I made from this site. The first was also very good. Please keep up all the hard work posting recipes.
I’ll take a Michelin star where ever I can get but kid approved is even better!
When only using half of the recipe, did you cut the cooking time down?
This gas just into the oven now. So excited! I used 2 cups of broth as the recipe says but the liquid does not cover the roast. Should I add more broth or just flip the roast over halfway through so the top cooks in the liquid as well?
No need to add anything extra. The meat will cook down and add to the liquid. I hope you enjoyed it!
The bay leaf gets pureed in the sauce? Just verifying because I have only used it whole then removed once finished cooking. TIA
Yes, it gets pureed. Enjoy!
I’m making this today and I think I will need to use oven because short on time. Am I supposed to cut the roast into pieces? Thanks
No, once it’s cooked you’ll want to shred apart before serving. Enjoy!
This was so good! I used the first meal from it in burritos and the left overs in quesadillas. Definitely will make again.
Sounds delicious! I love getting a few meals out of it too.
Quick question! I’m making this right now in the crock pot for dinner tonight. I see it has no added beef broth, so i completly leave the 2 cups out? Also, reading it it mentions chicken broth but notnin the ingredients section. Do I need to add chicken broth or any liquids? Thank you!
Thanks for catching that! That should’ve read beef broth in the instructions.
So, when do you add the beef broth?
You’ll add in the beef broth in step 2. 🙂 Enjoy!
so do you or not add beef broth to the crockpot version?
No added liquid to the slow cooker.
Lovely recipe loved the way you described and made it so easy for the users.
I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for coming back to let me know!
Oh wow, that looks SO incredibly good! My mouth is watering looking at the photos!
This looks so moist and flavourful! Will be trying this one asap!
I hope you enjoy it!
Great to have a batch on hand to use in dinners throughout the week!
So perfect to use for different dishes.
My family is obsessed with Chipotle and love that we can stay on budget and make it at home now, thanks! It’s so good!
Definitely easier on the pocketbook. 🙂
What vessel are we to cook this in?
Dutch oven. You can also use a slow cooker if you’d like.
Hi! This Recipe sounds delicious and I want to make it today. I was a little confused, do you purée the vinager and spices and chipotle peppers, then pour over beef? Do you purée with the broth? You also mention chicken broth on the recipe, but list beef broth on the ingredients. Just wanted to be sure. I have made so many of your recipes and they’ve all been delicious, Thank you!
Yes, you’ll puree the sauce in the food processor and pour it over the beef. I’ve updated the instructions to read a little more clearly. I hope you enjoy it!