Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef – Tender slow-cooker barbacoa beef makes the most amazing tacos, burritos, burrito bowls, nachos, and more! (Gluten-Free)
I’ve been challenging myself to cook through some of our freezer and pantry stores this month, and when I discovered a beef roast in the freezer, I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to make with it: Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef!
Barbacoa beef is LOADED with flavor thanks to a delicious seasoning mixture with chiles and spices, making it perfect for all sorts of tasty uses. And the recipe makes plenty, so we can enjoy a few different meals out of one batch. (It’s like giving a gift to your future self!)
Barbacoa traditionally cooked low and slowly over an open flame or in a pit dug in the ground and covered with leaves. Since I don’t really have access to either, I make barbacoa beef in a slow cooker! The slow cooker makes it SUPER easy to put together (set and forget dinner, anyone?) and delivers tender, seasoned beef every time.
Here’s all you need to get started on this delicious Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef recipe…
HERE’S WHAT GOES INTO MY SLOW COOKER BARBACOA BEEF TACOS:
BEEF ROAST. My favorite is chuck roast–it’s easy to find, cooks nicely in a slow cooker, and absorbs all those lovely flavors well!
CHIPOTLE CHILI PEPPERS PACKED IN ADOBO SAUCE. To season Barbacoa Beef, you’ll make a seasoned spice + broth mixture that’s LOADED with flavor. Chipotle chilis are the first ingredient in this amazing seasoning blend. Smoky, savory chipotle chili peppers are actually smoked jalapeños peppers packed in adobo sauce. They’re quite spicy on their own, but they add a TON of flavor added in moderation to a dish like this. If you need a more mild option, just rinse off some or all of the adobo sauce before dicing them up and adding them to the slow cooker. (*Gluten-Free friends: double-check that your chipotle peppers are gluten-free. Some brands add flour to their adobo sauce to thicken it.)
GREEN CHILES + GARLIC. Then, to add more flavor, I love using green chiles (mild!) and garlic. This adds another layer of flavors that’s lovely with the chipotle chiles.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR. It might seem silly to add vinegar to this recipe, but the vinegar helps break down the beef and keeps the flavor from feeling flat. (Don’t worry! It won’t make the dish taste like vinegar.)
A SAVORY BLEND OF SPICES. Paired with the chiles, garlic, and vinegar, I add cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and cloves. It’s a really delicious combination and adds so much flavor to the beef as it cooks.
BEEF BROTH. To help carry the spices and seasonings and prevent burning, you’ll add beef broth to the spice blend.
FRESH LIME JUICE. To finish off this slow cooker beef barbacoa, I add fresh lime juice. Like the vinegar, it brightens the dish up and adds a lovely hit of freshness right at the end that helps cut through some of the richness in the dish.
DELICIOUS TASTY WAYS TO ENJOY THIS SLOW COOKER BARBACOA BEEF:
TUCKED INTO TACOS. Barbacoa Beef Tacos are a big-time fave at our house. Because the tender slow-cooker barbacoa beef is so flavorful, you don’t’ need much to turn these into tacos. Tuck the beef into warm corn tortillas (or hard taco shells) with lettuce or slaw, chopped tomatoes or pico, and maybe a dollop of guacamole.
IN BURRITO BOWLS. Probably my forever favorite, a barbacoa beef burrito bowl is simply all the goodies you’d tuck into tacos or burritos, without the tortilla/taco shell. I build my barbacoa beef burrito bowls from things like rice or cauliflower rice, black beans or charro beans, chipotle roasted sweet potatoes, greens or cilantro slaw, pico de gallo or salsa, avocado, guacamole, etc. You can feel free to add cheese or sour cream if they fit your dietary needs, or make your bowls paleo by skipping the beans and using cauli rice for the base.
OVER TACO SALADS. Same idea as the barbacoa beef burrito bowl, but with lots of leafy greens! I love making Barbacoa Beef Taco Salads with lettuce, pico de gallo, avocado, beans (or not!), and a drizzle of my Tomatillo Ranch Dressing. It’s DELICIOUS with this barbacoa beef and adds a cool, refreshing note to the salad.
AS A TOPPING ON NACHOS! Make the ultimate barbacoa beef nachos by piling them high with your favorite toppings, like cheese (or dairy-free cheese), plenty of barbacoa beef, sliced jalapeños, salsa or chopped tomatoes, guacamole, and sour cream or plain yogurt.
WRAPPED INTO BURRITOS. Or, tuck all that warm savory goodness up in a flour tortilla, gluten-free tortilla, or grain-free tortilla (like Siete brand) with your favorite toppings. Barbacoa Beef Burritos are epic!
MAKE IT A MEAL! ADD SOME OF THESE OTHER TEX-MEX FAVES:
- Pico de Gallo (Fresh Salsa) – Fresh, colorful, and bright!
- Our ULTIMATE Guide to Guacamole – Creamy, cool, and always a winner.
- Fresh Mango Salsa – Add a little sweet/spicy flair!
- Cilantro-Lime Slaw for Tacos – This is crunchy, slightly sweet, and perfect with the beef!
- Homemade Salsa Verde – If you’re a green salsa fan, this one’s a winner!
- Instant Pot Charro Beans – SO much flavor and perfect for burrito bowls + taco salads.
- Magic Green Rice (Arroz Verde) – A yummy twist on Tex-Mex rice that’s fabulous.
- Tomatillo Ranch Dressing – Amazing if you’re making burrito bowls or taco salads!
FAQ + TIPS AND TRICKS FOR THE BEST SLOW COOKER BARBACOA BEEF TACOS:
PRO TIP: SEAR THE BEEF FIRST, IF YOU HAVE TIME. If you have a few extra minutes, I highly recommend taking the time to sear the beef all over in a pan on the stove before you transfer it to the slow cooker. It’ll get a crispy “bark” on the outside and it makes for a nice contrast with the tender-cooked beef. Don’t have the time? No worries! Just skip this step and leave the oil out of the recipe.
IS BARBACOA BEEF SPICY? It certainly can be, though you can make it milder or spicier depending on your preference. Chipotle chiles add the most heat to this dish, so if you want the beef milder, rinse off some or all of the adobo sauce before dicing up the peppers. Removing the seeds from the peppers can also help, though that tends to be a bit messy here. For *more* heat, add another chipotle chili, or a minced jalapeño to the spice mixture.
WHAT’S THE BEST KIND OF BEEF ROAST FOR BARBACOA BEEF? My go-to is beef chuck roast since it has a nice blend of meat and fat. It does well in a slow cooker, and it’s pretty easy to find! (Bonus tip: I like ordering from Thrive Market since they source so mindfully + ship right to your door!)
CAN I MAKE THIS BARBACOA BEEF IN AN INSTANT POT INSTEAD? I think so! I haven’t made this in my Instant Pot yet, but generally speaking (according to the official Instant Pot time table), beef roasts cut into sections like this take about 15-20 minutes per pound at high pressure, so for a 4lb. roast, you’d be looking at about 60 minutes. In theory, you could brown/sear the beef on the SAUTE setting, press CANCEL, then select HIGH PRESSURE (manual) and set the timer for 60 minutes. Quick-release the pressure by carefully turning the pressure valve to VENTING. Then, just shred the beef and enjoy!
NEED A SLOW COOKER? THIS IS OUR FAVORITE. We own and love two different slow cookers (#foodbloggerlife y’all!). We have this one (ours is a sold-out print but the same model), which is inexpensive, adorable and does all the basic things you’d want a slow cooker to do. We also have this one, which is a touch more expensive but comes with a few more bells and whistles. It’s programmable, automatically switches to the WARM setting after completing the cooking time, and even has a meat thermometer you can use to prevent overcooking.
LOVE TACOS? YOU MIGHT ALSO LOVE:
- The BEST Fish Tacos with Cilantro Lime Slaw
- Slow Cooker Sweet + Spicy Pork
- Sweet Potato + Black Bean Tacos
- Instant Pot Salsa Verde Chicken
HELPFUL TOOLS + INGREDIENTS FOR THIS BARBACOA BEEF RECIPE: