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Have you ever had the barbacoa beef at Chipotle? Their chicken is delicious, the fajita veggies are mouth-watering and I love the Mexican chorizo, but the Chipotle barbacoa? I’d say it’s the best of all (especially if you spring for the guacamole). If you’ve ever had it, you know. I bet you’ve wondered if it’s possible to cook slow cooker barbacoa meat at home, too. Good news: This beef barbacoa recipe is incredibly easy (just as easy as making pulled pork or fall-off-the-bone Instant Pot beef short ribs), and made with just ten common ingredients.
If you didn’t adore your Crock Pot before, you will once you make this Crock Pot barbacoa beef in it! It’s one of my favorite Chipotle copycat recipes and one of the best Mexican beef recipes I’ve ever made.
What Is Barbacoa?
Barbacoa is a traditional Mexican cooked meat with spices that is tender, flavorful, and usually served shredded as a filling or topping. Traditionally, a variety of meats can be used to make Mexican barbacoa — including beef (typically chuck roast or brisket), goat, or lamb.
Making authentic barbacoa beef requires three things: the right meat, the proper spices, and time to cook it so that the flavors develop. Traditional Mexican spices are combined with peppers in adobo, lime, and broth to make a marinade that slow cooks with the meat, while the long cooking time allows the flavors to meld and the meat to become tender and juicy.
What Does Barbacoa Taste Like?
Barbacoa meat tastes like tender, slow cooked shredded beef cooked in an adobo sauce with loads of flavorful Mexican spices. In other words, it tastes delicious.
Why You’ll Love This Beef Barbacoa Recipe
- Rich Mexican flavor with just the right amount of spice
- Juicy, melt-in-your-mouth, tender texture
- Super easy to make
- Just 10 minutes prep time
- Endless ways to serve it (see ideas below!)
Barbacoa Chipotle Ingredients
This section explains how to choose the best ingredients for barbacoa meat, what each one does in the recipe, and substitution options. For measurements, see the recipe card below.
Did you know that Chipotle publicly posts the ingredients list for every item on their menu? To make a copycat Chipotle barbacoa recipe at home, I started with a peek at what they include when they cook up their delicious barbacoa beef. It turns out that theirs only has eleven ingredients, plus water.
Here are the barbacoa ingredients in my recipe, very similar to Chipotle’s:
- Beef – Use beef brisket or beef chuck roast. These tougher cuts have plenty of fat and connective tissue (read: collagen), which means they turn into juicy, fall-apart tender barbacoa meat when slow cooked. (I get my beef here, because it’s grass-fed and gets delivered to my door.) You can trim off any huge chunks of fat if needed, but don’t cut off all of it, as it will ensure a flavorful barbacoa meat in the end. Cut the meat into large chunks, approximately 2 inches in size.
- Chipotle Peppers In Adobo Sauce – These add the classic heat and flavor! My version is a bit spicier than Chipotle’s original, so if you don’t like a lot of heat, you may want to reduce the amount of chile chilies in adobo sauce.
- Broth – Barbacoa meat needs a liquid to keep it moist. For a richer taste, use beef broth instead of water to make your slow cooker barbacoa beef. You can also use bone broth for even more flavor and nutrition.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – Adds a nice hit of acid to complement the rich beef, and also helps to break down the collagen in the connective tissues, so that the barbacoa meat becomes fall-apart tender.
- Lime Juice – Enhances the flavors of the spices used in this barbacoa recipe, and also helps break down the collagen along with the vinegar. You can use fresh lime juice or bottled for convenience.
- Herbs & Spices – Dried oregano, ground cumin, ground cloves, sea salt (or kosher salt), black pepper, and bay leaves.
How To Make Barbacoa
This section shows how to make this easy barbacoa recipe in the slow cooker, with step-by-step photos and details about the technique, to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Blend barbacoa sauce. Combine beef broth, chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, garlic, apple cider vinegar, lime juice, dried oregano, cumin, sea salt, black pepper, and ground cloves in a blender (everything except the beef and bay leaves). Puree until it’s a smooth sauce/paste consistency. A small food processor will also work if you don’t have a blender, or yours is not powerful enough.
- Prep meat. Cut the beef brisket or chuck roast into 2-inch chunks. Place them evenly into the bottom of the slow cooker.
TIP: For even more flavor, brown the meat first.
This is not required, and I skipped it for convenience. But if you have time, sear the beef chunks in a skillet over medium-high heat with a little oil, before placing them in the slow cooker. This will make the flavor even better! You may need to do this in batches if the beef won’t fit in your pan in a single layer.
- Combine. Pour the barbacoa sauce over the beef in the Crock Pot. Place two bay leaves on top.
- Slow cook. Turn on your slow cooker (Low is recommended, but High will work if you’re short on time) and go enjoy your day. Come back later to perfect slow cooker barbacoa beef.
- Shred. Use two large forks to shred the beef — this should be very easy if it has cooked for long enough. You can shred barbacoa in the slow cooker directly, or transfer to a bowl to shred and then place the shredded meat back into the juices in the Crock Pot. Serve it with a slotted spoon (see ideas for serving below).
VARIATION: Make This Barbacoa Recipe In The Instant Pot!
Follow these instructions for Instant Pot barbacoa:
- Brown the beef directly in the Instant Pot on the saute setting. (Optional step, which corresponds to my tip above about browning if you have time.)
- Blend the sauce ingredients the same way as described above and pour over the beef.
- Pressure cook for 60 minutes on the Manual setting (high pressure). Turn the vent to Venting for quick release.
- Shred. Remove the lid, discard the bay leaves, and shred with two forks.
Store leftover beef barbacoa in the refrigerator.
How Long Does Barbacoa Last In The Fridge?
Barbacoa meat will last for about 4-6 days in the fridge.
This beef barbacoa recipe is freezer-friendly, so you’ll be able to have it on hand to thaw for a quick dinner. Transfer the meat into a zip lock bag or airtight container, together with the liquid, and freeze for up to 4-6 months.
Reheat barbacoa in the microwave, in a 350 degree F oven, until warm. You can also reheat barbacoa in the Crock Pot on the Warm setting.
Ways To Use Barbacoa Recipes
This Chipotle barbacoa meat copycat can be served up in so many different types of Mexican recipes! Here are the most popular options:
- Salad – My favorite healthy way to serve homemade barbacoa beef is in a big salad, which is what I always order at Chipotle, too. My salad pictured above includes slow cooker barbacoa (of course), romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, red onions, jalapeno slices, sour cream, guacamole, and fresh cilantro. Other popular additions include shredded cheese (cheddar or Mexican blend), and pico de gallo in place of the tomatoes and onions. You can also use meat from barbacoa recipes in taco salad.
- Burrito Bowl – Similar to the salad above, but you can add cilantro lime rice (I usually use either plain cauliflower rice or cilantro lime cauliflower rice) and/or your favorite beans (black beans, pinto beans, etc.) For a healthy version, follow my healthy burrito bowl recipe, and just swap the meat with this barbacoa recipe.
- Quesadillas – Fill your favorite tortillas with plenty of cheese (I love a mix of Mexican blend and Cotija) and the barbacoa meat. Grill in a tortilla press or on the stovetop. Flour or corn tortillas are classic options, but for healthy tortillas, try almond flour tortillas, coconut flour tortillas, or cauliflower tortillas.
- Tacos – There are endless ways to make barbacoa tacos! Use soft shells (some tortilla ideas above), crunchy cheese taco shells, jicama tortillas, or regular hard taco shells. My favorite easy combo is the beef barbacoa, thinly sliced avocados, red onion quarter moons, and cilantro — super simple but so flavorful and juicy that they don’t even need a sauce!
- Enchiladas – Mix the beef barbacoa with enchilada sauce, stuff into tortillas, roll up, and place into a baking dish, seam side down. Top with shredded cheese (such as Colby Jack or Mexican blend) and bake. I also have this low carb enchilada recipe, in which you can swap the chicken for barbacoa meat.
- Tamales – Use it in your favorite recipe, or swap it for the chicken in keto tamales.
- Toppers – Any of the above can benefit from adding fresh tomato salsa, pineapple salsa, queso (or queso fresco), shredded cheese, and sour cream, either as topping or for dipping, depending on the dish.
More Easy Mexican Recipes
If you like this Mexican barbacoa recipe, you’ll also love these:
Tools For Making Barbacoa Meat
- Blender – This high powered blender is great for all types of recipes. Perfect for making the sauce for this delicious low carb beef barbacoa recipe.
- Slow Cooker – A slow cooker is a must for this recipe. I prefer to use this one.
Chipotle Beef Barbacoa Recipe In A Slow Cooker
Barbacoa Recipe (Chipotle Copycat)
Learn how to make the best barbacoa meat! You'll love this barbacoa recipe (Chipotle copycat) — it's easy, healthy and fall-apart delicious.
Recipe VideoTap on the image below to watch the video.
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Tap underlined ingredients to see where to get them. Please turn Safari reader mode OFF to view ingredients.
Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
Combine the broth, chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, garlic, apple cider vinegar, lime juice, dried oregano, cumin, sea salt, black pepper, and ground cloves in a blender (everything except the beef and bay leaves). Puree until smooth.
Place the beef chunks in the slow cooker. Pour the pureed mixture from the blender on top. Add the (whole) bay leaves.
Cook for 4-6 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low, until the beef is fall-apart tender.
Remove the bay leaves. Shred the meat using two forks and stir into the juices. Cover and rest for 5-10 minutes to allow the beef to absorb even more flavor. Use a slotted spoon to serve.
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Serving size: 1/4 lb, or 1/12 entire recipe
Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy. Have questions about calculations or why you got a different result? Please see our nutrition policy.
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Hi! We’ve tried making this using a large Le Creseut dish but have found that after about 40 mins the liquid has dried out! We have been careful to not lift the lid, but the liquid is all gone still. Any tips on what we’re doing wrong? Thanks!!
Wholesome Yum M0
Hi Kelli, The dish you are using is losing more moisture than a crockpot or Instant Pot. You can fix this by either using a slow cooker or by adding more beef broth to the recipe as needed.
Family Loved it! Great Recipe!!
Super easy. It was a tad spicy for me but I’m a lightweight. My husband absolutely loved it !
Have you tried making this in a pressure cooker?
Wholesome Yum M0
Hi Dan, I have not, but there are a few reader reviews that say they have done it with success.
Made this yesterday exactly as written for Cinco de Mayo celebration. Fantastic flavor! The house smelled wonderful and beef was even better!
I agree with the others – very easy recipe. I used tri-tip (because it was on sale) and it worked well. I wasn’t sure what “medium size” meant for the chipotles; mine looked small so I used 3. It was spicer than the restaurant version, but not overly so and still delicious and satisfying. Thank you!
So good and so easy! I made mine in a pressure cooker. 1 hour and we were eating.
Great recipe! I let it slow cook the full 10 hours on low which made it really tender. Also recommend using the full amount of chipotle peppers in adobo with sauce. I was worried it would be too spicy but it was perfect.
We love this recipe and we have it atleast once a month. We add a whole can of the Chipotle peppers in Adobe sauce. It is absolutely delicious!♡
This is by far our most favorite recipe to date. It’s one we make for special occasions and large family gatherings. It’s always a hit. We love it!
Delicious! first time making it. I did 7 hours for slow cooking the brisket cubes but next time I will leave on for 10 hours on low to really break down the meat. I put it on a bed of romaine with some guac, sour cream and shredded cheddar on top. YUM!
It was DELICIOUS!! I have 2 BIG eaters so I did 2 roasts in my crockpot…I doubled everything and actually could have used a little more of the chilies…..Trying it again tomorrow with a little more!!
I love this recipe! I live in England, but work in the states and am obsessed with barbacoa beef from chipotle! I struggle to get adobe chillies over here, do you think chipotle dried chillies would do the trick instead? And if so what quantity? Keep up the good work, and thanks.
Wholesome Yum M0
Hi Lizzie, Yes you can use dried chilis, but you won’t get the flavors from the adobo sauce. Be sure to rehydrate your chilis before using it. You can do this by soaking your chili (you really only need 1 medium-sized pepper) in warm water for about 30 mins- 1 hour before mincing and using in the recipe.
Rhiannon Ramirez Chadwick0
Hi I know this has been a few months but I’m in the UK too. We often order from mexgrocer and they sell chipotles in adobo which we use for this & for chicken tinga but if that’s no good for you, Tesco & Morrison’s both sell good chipotle pastes with the rest of the ‘Mexican’ stuff in the foreign food aisles which isn’t exactly the same but I’ve found gives a better adobo flavour than the dried chillis
This is great! I have made it and served it to so many different groups of people. Super easy and fast in my Instant Pot. I make the recipe as is.
I LOVE this recipe. I have made it several times. I think it tastes best in the crock pot but insta-pot is fine too. I think the cloves makes a difference. Don’t opt out on them, they really add a rich smokey flavor, along with the chipotles. Goes well with morita chili salsa. Enjoy!!
I have made this recipe a number of times and it’s always a favorite. When we have a group over, this is one of my go-to recipes as I can lay out different types of sides (tortillas, romaine lettuce, cauliflower rice, beans, Spanish rice, etc.) for those who are Keto, paleo, etc. and those who are not. Everyone loves the flavor of the Barbacoa and also the ability to choose what best suits their tastes and diets.
This is the absolute best Barbacoa recipe! I’ve made it numerous times and it never disappoints. I make it in my instant pot. 85 mins with 10 mins natural release and then shred. Delicious!!
This recipe is AMAZING! I did forego the bay leaves bc I forgot to buy them. I enjoyed on egg wraps (can get in the cheese section of the grocery store) with guac, sour cream and salsa. Kids loved as a bowl with cheese (yes, I made them cilantro rice) and loved it. “Mom, how come you never made this before?!” So easy, too. Will be a go-to probably monthly. Thank you!!
I absolutely love this recipe! I make it at least once a month. Usually I go with my Crock Pot, but I have also tried it in the Ninja Foodi Cold and Hot Blender and it worked fine.
I love this recipe. I make mine in an instant pot on manual for 1 hr and turns out awesome!
REAL BARBACOA IS MADE WITH A COW’S CHEEKS; TONGUE ,LIPS , AND EARS. It is an organ dish.
I’m from Texas. I’ve ate real barbacoa. It is not made with a pot roast or a brisket
Wholesome Yum M0
Hi Elbert, This recipe is traditionally made with select parts of the animal that are tougher and require more time to break down and become tender. It was also common to prepare an entire animal, such as goat, this way. Although not traditional, it’s perfectly acceptable to make this recipe with a chuck roast or brisket.
Actually traditional barbacoa is made with goat meat, not an organ dish, unless is pancita which is the stomach stuffed with organs and spices and served on the side of barbacoa and you also have to consider what part of Mexico the barbacoa is from. (Some make with beef, even chicken)
This recipe is a chipotle’s barbacoa “copycat” and chipotle uses chuck not beef organs. So in all really this recipe is perfect and very close to what we were looking for ☺️
Good Morning! This sounds delicious. Would you say one 7 oz can of chipotle peppers in adobo is the correct amount? Can’t wait to try this!
Wholesome Yum M0
Hi Scott, You really only need two chilis out of this can, plus some of the juices.
Hey there, I use a similar recipe and was wondering if you do anything with the left over juices?
Wholesome Yum M0
Hi Matthew, Leftover juice can be saved (refrigerated or frozen) to use as a broth to help flavor other recipes. This works especially well with veggies or soups that need a little extra kick of flavor.
Loved it! Just made it today, as I have been craving chipotles quesadilla with barbacoa. I have to tell you as a bit skeptical but your recipe couldn’t have tasted any better. I ate some inside my quesadilla and for dinner we ate it in small flour tortillas. We are a household of foodies and your recipe has been added to our recipe box!
This recipe has never failed to please! I have substituted orange juice when no apple cider vinegar was available and always add 1/2 of a chopped onion, sometimes I don’t have a blender available and I just chop the chipotle peppers and throw it all in the crockpot. Easy and guaranteed fabulous every time! Thank you!
Hi, this is a nice recipe, but it would be nice if you put how much spices u need to put in the sauce, and how many hours it takes to cook
Wholesome Yum M0
Hi Mariyah, That information is located in the recipe card (about halfway down the page). If you cannot see the amounts on the recipe card, you may need to turn off your browser’s ‘reader mode’ to be able to view them. I hope this helps.
I accidentally bought a corned beef brisket that comes brined. Can I use that instead of a regular brisket?
Wholesome Yum M0
Hi Allison, No, I don’t think the flavors would do well together. Enjoy your seasoned corned beef as is and try this recipe with an unseasoned cut.
REALLY good!!! The ONLY thing I will do different will be to salt and pepper the chucks and sear fir a couple minutes before it goes into my pressure cooker for 1.5 hours. LOVED it!
Would it be ok to make this with a corned beef brisket? I don’t want it to be overly salted.
Wholesome Yum M0
Hi Dima, I don’t recommend using a pre-seasoned corned beef brisket with this recipe. If you have one that is unseasoned and simply want to use the cut of beef, then it will work fine.
This is the second recipe I’ve looked at that is supposed to have a video to watch. They both say something like “Tap on the image below to play the video. It’s the easiest way to learn how to make this recipe!”. In neither case do I see what image I’m supposed to be taping on. Farther below, both say something like “Don’t miss the VIDEO above – it’s the easiest way to learn how to make [recipe name]!”. What am I missing here?
Wholesome Yum M0
Hi Michael, There is a video under the text, “Tap on the image below to play the video. It’s the easiest way to learn how to make this recipe!” Is it possible your browser is set to ‘Reader Mode?’ It will need to be turned off before you can view the video.
I always use my slow cooker at least once a week. This recipe looks really yummy and the leftovers will be perfect for quesadilla or taco fillings.
I made this a couple of weeks ago and it was AMAZING!! My husband loved it too. I wanted to make it again, as it’s now a regular in my rotation, but my local grocery delivery got me a beef bottom roast instead of a chuck roast. Would a beef bottom roast work in it’s place? Feed back is greatly appreciated. Regards, Alecia.
Wholesome Yum M0
Hi Alecia, Your bottom roast isn’t going to break down and shred like a chuck roast. I would make this yummy pot roast with what you have and save the barbacoa for when you have the right cut of beef.
My local grocery didn’t have canned chipotle peppers so I improvised my using a few jarred Hot peppers and a little salsa. I also added a pinch of brown sugar. I cooked it on high for 6.5 hrs to get the meat tender. Absolutely delicious! I can’t imagine how good it will be when I get chipotle peppers and cook it again. BTW- plenty of sauce to mix in with the shredded meat.
This is delicious, and best of all, my non-keto husband-to-be loved it too. Makes life so much easier!
Can you cook the roast from frozen? Thank you, excited to try this!
Maya | Wholesome Yum0
Hi Elizabeth, The USDA does not recommend cooking frozen meats in the slow cooker because they may spend too much time in an unsafe temperature range. However, some slow cooker companies say it’s okay. It’s up to you to make the call on food safety for yourself. If you were to try it anyway, it would take a few hours longer. I have not tested confirm how much longer, but it would likely be faster to thaw the meat in water and then cook as directed.
Loved this recipe, will be making it again for sure!
We loved this. Such a simple and delicious meal. We had ours with regular rice because we aren’t on keto atm but will be again soon! YUM
This dish looks full of flavor and I wish to try making some.
This recipe is so flavorful and spicy!! It’s a crowd pleaser for sure!
Wow, so delicious! I am getting the ingredients to make it this weekend and I cannot wait to eat it and share it. Thanks for this recipe!
Wholesome Yum A0
This was INCREDIBLY good!!! Definitely going on my regular rotation of meals. Served over cauliflower rice sautéed with garlic, shallots, lemon juice, salt/pepper.
Maya | Wholesome Yum0
Delicious recipe !
Does this freeze well? If I make today to use it next week on Wednesday will it be okay from the freezer??
Wholesome Yum M0
Hi Mona, Yes, this recipe will freeze well. You can thaw at room temperature or in a crock pot on low.
Greetings from the UK. Thank you so much for this recipe. Had this with my son and it was absolutely delicious. We used brisket that was just over 800 grams. We couldn’t find the chipotle pepper but had the paste so added four teaspoons plus sprinkled some crushed chipotle. Used exact measurements you provided and cooked it for nearly 5 hours. Will be making this on a regular basis now. Thank you very much for sharing the recipe.
This recipe is Ahh-mazing!! I have made it the crockpot and Instant Pot and it is delicious every time.
how long do you cook it in the Instant Pot?
I cook it for 50 mins.
This recipe is SO good! I made it exactly as directed and I couldn’t be happier with the amazing texture and flavor. It took a little longer than the recipe said to become soft enough to shred, but that may just be a difference in slow cookers. I’m saving this one!
The chipotle beef barbacoa turned out quite tasty, and brought a good amount of heat to satisfy me. I noticed in the picture/video along with mentioning juices in the instructions. I slow cooked this on High for 6.5 hours, and there wasn’t much in the way of juice; just a little thick sauce at the bottom. I used a chuck roast as I couldn’t find brisket, so maybe brisket holds a lot more moisture? I’m just curious how did you end up with that much juice in the pot? I know it’s trivial anyway as the beef I made turned out just fine. I’ll definitely be making this again.
Wholesome Yum L0
Hi David, so glad you liked the recipe. Did you by chance forget to add the beef broth? I made this recipe last week with a chuck roast too and it was swimming in juice.
This was delicious!!!! You might think that there’s not enough liquids but it’s just enough!
This is AMAZING!!!! So much like the Chipotle barbacoa, but I think I like this version even more! Thank you, will definitely be making this again and again.
I followed the directions and cooked on low for 10 hours. The flavor was great but my meat was tough and I wasn’t able to pull it apart. Any idea what I might have done wrong?
Wholesome Yum L0
Hi Ruth! I made this recipe just the other day and had no issues at all. It sounds like you may have an issue with your slow cooker. Have you used it to cook anything else recently?
I made this last night. It was super good!!!! Will be a regular for us.
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