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This Slow Cooker Barbacoa Tacos Recipe is a Perfect Weekday Meal

Slow cooker barbacoa tacos could quickly become a regular in your weekday meal rotation. Why? Because they’re delicious, make enough to feed the whole family, can be customized with everyone’s favorite taco toppings, and they’re made with chuck roast — one of the more affordable cuts of meat.

You could also make this recipe a fun rainy day or weekend event. Simply add the step of making homemade tortillas. They’re so easy, kids love smashing the dough, and the flavor outshines store-bought tortillas by leaps and bounds.

What do barbacoa tacos taste like?

Barbacoa is a cooking method that’s often used with beef, lamb, or goat. It involves low-and-slow cooking the meat in various spices. The texture, as you’d expect, is tender. The taste is earthy and rich, often with a smoky element.

You’ll get a hint of the smokiness in this recipe by browning the meat first and using canned chipotles in the spice mixture.

What you need to make slow cooker barbacoa tacos

Don’t be intimidated by this ingredient list. It may look long at first glance, but most of these are probably in your pantry. The two exceptions might be the canned chipotle chilies and, of course, the chuck roast.

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Limes for juice and wedges
  • Canned chipotle chilies
  • Fresh garlic
  • Ground cumin
  • Dried Mexican oregano (you can substitute any dried oregano)
  • Ground cloves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • 4 lbs boneless chuck roast
  • Chicken broth
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Corn tortillas (homemade or store-bought)
  • Cilantro
  • White onion
  • Any other toppings you and your family might like

What to serve with slow cooker barbacoa tacos

When choosing sides, drink pairings, and accompaniments for barbacoa tacos, think about balancing out the richness of the dish or playing on the seasonings. Something sweet — like roasted corn or tomato-based rice — is a good choice. Fresh, herby side dishes will also go well. Think cilantro lime rice or guacamole.

For drinks, margaritas and Mexican beer are obvious choices. Fruit-infused waters would also taste delicious alongside these tacos.

How to make slow cooker barbacoa tacos

Here’s how to make these fabulous tacos.

1. Make the spice mixture

Spice paste for barbacoa tacos in blender.

First, chop 4 garlic cloves. Then, mix these ingredients together in a food processor:

  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3–4 canned chipotle chiles
  • 4 chopped garlic cloves
  • 3 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt

2. Brown the chuck roast

Four pieced of chuck roast for making barbacoa tacos.

Pat the chuck roast dry with paper towels. Then, trim away any excess fat and cut it into 4 pieces of roughly the same size. This gives you more surface area to brown, which adds a ton of flavor.

Top view of chuck roast in Instant Pot, browning on saute mode.

Now heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Or, if you have an Instant pot, turn it on saute mode. When your cooking surface is hot, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Then add your meat and brown on all sides, working in batches if you don’t have enough space.

Turn off the heat. If necessary, move your browned meat to the slow cooker.

Now add the spice mixture to the slow cooker, along with 3/4 cup chicken broth and 3 bay leaves. Give everything a stir so the meat is coated with the sauce.

3. Slow cook, shred, and serve

Lock down your slow cooker and let the meat cook for 8 hours on low. Once the meat is tender, remove it from the slow cooker and shred it using two forks (or shredding claws if you have them).

Shredded beef for barbacoa tacos.

Place the shredded meat back in the slow cooker and cook it on low for 20 minutes. The meat with absorb some of the juices and flavor.

Then, serve the seasoned barbacoa meat with a slotted spoon, topping warmed tortillas. Add chopped cilantro and diced onions on top and with lime wedges on the side. Voila — you just made slow cooker barbacoa tacos. Enjoy!

Prepared slow cooker barbacoa tacos on plate.
Yield: 8 Servings

Barbacoa Tacos Recipe

Prepared slow cooker barbacoa tacos on plate.

This is a slow-cooker recipe for barbacoa tacos that uses chuck roast. Prep it in 15 minutes and then let your slow cooker do the work!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 15 minutes


  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3-4 canned chipotle chiles
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 lbs boneless chuck roast, trimmed
  • ¾ cup chicken broth
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 20 warm corn tortillas
  • chopped cilantro
  • diced white onion
  • lime wedges


  • Chopped cilantro
  • 1 diced white onion
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges


  1. Combine apple cider vinegar, lime juice, chipotle chiles, garlic cloves, cumin, oregano, cloves, black pepper and salt in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth (about 1 minute or so). Transfer the spice paste to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Dry the roast on all sides using paper towels. Trim off excess fat and slice the meat into 4 evenly sized pieces. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over high heat until it begins to shimmer. You can also use the saute function of your Instant Pot. Working in batches if necessary, brown the beef chunks on all sides, about 10 minutes. Place the browned beef chunks into the bottom of a slow cooker.
  3. Add the spice paste to the slow cooker and stir until the beef is well coated. Add the chicken broth and bay leaves.
  4. Cook, covered, on low for 8 hours. Once the beef is tender. Remove it from the slow cooker and shred it using two forks.
  5. Return the shredded beef to the slow cooker and cook for 20 minutes to let the meat absorb some of the juices.
  6. Spoon using a slotted spoon onto warmed tortillas and top with cilantro and onion. Serve with lime wedges.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 736Total Fat: 40gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 23gCholesterol: 189mgSodium: 529mgCarbohydrates: 36gFiber: 6gSugar: 4gProtein: 61g

Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.

If you like this recipe, you’re sure to love:

Barbacoa tacos FAQs

What is barbacoa?

Barbacoa is a traditional Mexican method of cooking beef, goat, or lamb. The meat is slow-cooked in an earthy, smoky mix of spices until tender.

What meat is used in barbacoa tacos traditionally?

Barbacoa tacos are traditionally made with beef cheeks.

Is barbacoa spicy?

It’s not usually spicy. Barbacoa typically has a mild-to-moderate heat level.

What are the best toppings for barbacoa tacos?

Cilantro, chopped onions, lime wedges, salsa, guacamole, and sour cream are popular toppings for barbacoa tacos.

Can barbacoa be frozen and reheated?

Yes, barbacoa can be frozen and reheated. Store it in an airtight container to maintain the flavor and texture.

Is barbacoa the same thing as carnitas?

Barbacoa and carnitas are not the same. Carnitas are typically made with pork and finished under a flame for a slightly crispy texture. These dishes have different flavors because they’re made with different spices.

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