Beef Barbacoa Tacos

These Beef Barbacoa Tacos are tender, juicy and incredibly easy to make! We like to serve our barbacoa in corn tortillas with diced onion and cilantro, but this succulent meat is also great in burritos, quesadillas and rice bowls!

These crowd pleasing Beef Barbacoa Tacos require just a few minutes of hands on prep! This barbacoa recipe is great if you need to serve a large group, but we also like to cook up a batch at the beginning of the week to use for lunches all week long.

And it’s not just tacos every day! Of course you can use it in your traditional Mexican fare, but we also like it on sandwiches, stirred into a big pot of mac and cheese or in a barbacoa hash skillet with potatoes and eggs!

Shredded barbacoa beef in corn taco shells with diced onion, cilantro and radishes.

Recipe ingredients

We like to keep our Barbacoa Tacos simple yet flavorful with a host of pantry ingredients and a few flavor powerhouses, namely chipotles in adobo sauce and fresh lime juice!

Ingredients to make barbacoa with beef chuck roast.
  • Beef chuck roast: Look for a nicely marbled cut of beef chuck for best results. Boneless beef short ribs can also be used as a substitute.
  • Vegetable oil: This is used for browning the beef chuck.
  • Beef or chicken broth: I tend to prefer chicken broth for its more concentrated flavor, but beef broth works just as well.
  • Yellow onion: Diced yellow onion adds a nice depth of flavor to our Barbacoa recipe.
  • Chipotles in adobo: Brands of chipotles in adobo can vary in spiciness so make sure to adjust to taste.
  • Spices: Bay leaves, ground cumin and dried oregano are the only spices you need to get a super flavorful Barbacoa!
  • Lime juice: Use freshly squeezed lime juice for the best flavor.
  • Kosher salt: Make sure to generously salt the beef before searing and season the Barbacoa tacos to taste before serving.

Step by step instructions

These Barbacoa tacos can be made in six easy steps:

Seared pieces of beef chuck.

Step 1: Working in batches, sear the beef in vegetable oil on all sides.

Sauteed diced onions in dutch oven.

Step 2: Saute the diced onions until translucent.

Onions with spices and chipotles in adobo in dutch oven.

Step 3: Add the chopped chipotles in adobo, bay leaves, ground cumin and dried oregano. Cook for several minutes.

All ingredients for barbacoa in dutch oven before cooking.

Step 4: Pour in the broth and return the beef to the pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 2-3 hours or until the beef is very tender.

Shredded barbacoa beef on platter.

Step 5: Transfer the beef to a cutting board and shred using two forks.

Returning shredded beef to barbacoa sauce in pot.

Step 6: Return the shredded beef to the sauce. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until the sauce slightly thickens.

How to serve beef Barbacoa

I like to top these beef Barbacoa tacos with a squeeze of lime juice, diced white onions and cilantro. But if you’re looking for more recipes to add to Mexican night, I definitely recommend our super fresh mango pico de gallo!

Not into tacos? This beef Barbacoa recipe is also perfect for burritos, quesadilla, enchiladas and rice bowls.

And for side dishes? Mexican rice, refried beans and grilled vegetables are all great options.

Shredded barbacoa beef on a platter with cilantro, radishes and lime slice.

Storage and reheating

Allow the shredded Barbacoa beef to cool to room temperature. Then transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

To reheat leftover Barbacoa tacos, add the Barbacoa and sauce to a saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally to gently reheat the Barbacoa until it’s warmed through. You can also add a splash of water or broth to loosen the sauce and prevent the beef from drying out.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Barbacoa?

In contemporary Mexico, Barbacoa refers to meat that is slow roasted in an underground oven heated with firewood, a method that can be traced back to the Maya! Wrapped in agave leaves, this process also steams the meat until it becomes incredibly tender and juicy. To get that nice smokiness in lieu of firewood, I like to use chipotles in adobo when making beef Barbacoa at home.

What cut of meat should I use for this beef Barbacoa tacos recipe?

I prefer a well-marbled beef chuck roast for Barbacoa, but boneless beef short ribs would work as well!

Can I make this beef Barbacoa recipe in the slow cooker?

Yes! Simply sear the beef on the stovetop and then transfer all ingredients to the slow cooker (except the lime juice). Cook on low heat for 7-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Shred the beef, add the lime juice and enjoy!

Is this beef Barbacoa recipe spicy?

This beef Barbacoa isn’t overly spicy. The heat comes from chipotles in adobo sauce, which can vary in spiciness according to brand. For less heat, you can remove the seeds or use less chipotles. And to make it spicier, try adding a pinch of cayenne or a few more chipotles in adobo!

Are Barbacoa and Birria the same thing?

While Barbacoa refers to the method of cooking (barbecue), Birria refers to meat cooked in a spicy and rich broth (consomé). Birria is generally enjoyed as a stew, although recently Birria tacos have gained popularity across the world!

Loving this Barbacoa tacos recipe? For more slow cooked recipes perfect for sunday dinner, make sure to check out these posts:

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Shredded barbacoa beef in corn taco shells with diced onion, cilantro and radishes.

Beef Barbacoa Tacos Recipe

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  • Author: Brit Kapustina
  • Total Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
  • Yield: 6
    • Prep Time: 20 minutes
    • Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
    • Category: main
    • Method: stovetop
    • Cuisine: Mexican


Shredded Beef Barbacoa

  • 3 pounds (1.4 kg) beef chuck roast
  • 1.5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 whole chipotles in adobo, chopped (plus several spoonfuls of adobo sauce)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) beef or chicken broth
  • lime juice from 2 limes
  • kosher salt to taste

For Serving

  • tortillas
  • chopped cilantro
  • diced white onion


  1. Cut the beef into large chunks of about 3 inches (8 cm), trimming any large pieces of fat. Generously season with salt on all sides.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sear the beef chunks on all sides until a nice brown crust develops. Work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pot. Transfer the seared beef to a plate and set aside.
  3. Add the diced yellow onion to the pot and cook until translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add the chipotles in adobo (along with a few extra spoonfuls of adobo sauce from the can), bay leaves, cumin and oregano. Mix and stir for several minutes.
  5. Pour a bit of broth into the pot and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Pour in the remaining broth and return the beef to the pot.
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 2-3 hours, or until the beef is tender and easily falls apart.
  7. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Transfer the shredded beef to a cutting board and shred using two forks. Return the beef to the sauce and mix well. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly.
  8. Squeeze the lime juice over the beef and mix to combine. Serve the beef barbacoa with tortillas, chopped cilantro and diced white onion.


Slow Cooker: To make this recipe in the slow cooker, transfer all ingredients (except the lime juice) to the slow cooker after searing the beef. Cook on low heat for 7-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Shred the beef, add the lime juice and enjoy!

Storage: Leftover beef barbacoa can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

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