This Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa is incredible! It's melt in your mouth tender beef in a chipotle and lime sauce. Cooked low and slow, the beef just falls apart and it's perfect to put in tacos and burrito bowls or even loaded on nachos. It is so simple to make, but bursting with flavour.
This slow cooker beef barbacoa is spicy and comforting, but also light and fresh. It really has everything. It takes a little bit of prep to get the best flavour from the beef, but then you just put it all in the slow cooker and let it cook away. You end up with the most incredible tender and juicy beef that just pulls apart. No dry or chewy beef here!
The flavours in this slow cooker dish are simple, with just 8 ingredients added to the beef. But the chipotle and lime mixed with plenty of garlic, cumin and oregano cook together in a beef broth which coats the chunks of beef for a huge burst of flavour in every mouthful. This is the kind of shredded beef you get in Mexican restaurants, but SO easy to make yourself.
Why you will love it
- Fall apart beef - You seriously have to try just how good this beef is. Cooked low and slow it just melts in your mouth. It's the best way to cook beef.
- Easy - We definitely recommend browning the beef before it goes in the slow cooker, but this is a minimal effort dish.
- Versatile - We make a big batch of this as there is so many different ways to use it. Tacos, burritos or served on rice. We have lots of suggestions below.
- Freezes well - This is a great batch cook meal, because it freezes so well.
- Braising steak - Slow cookers are great for making budget friendly meals, because you can use cheaper cuts of meat. Cooking low and slow will get cheaper cuts really tender and still full of flavour. So we used braising steak for this recipe.
- Garlic - Freshly crushed is best, but you could use frozen, or ready crushed in a tube.
- Chipotle paste - This is where the spicy and smokiness comes from. If you don't like a lot of spice, then you can use less. Equally, if you like it really spicy, then you can add more.
- Lime - A squeeze of lime adds a lovely freshness to the best.
- Oil - We browned the beef in a good quality olive oil.
- Stock - This is what makes up most of the sauce. Use a really good quality beef stock pot as you will taste the difference. If you are making this for young children, then use a low salt stock.
- Spices - Along with salt and pepper, we added some cumin and oregano for some Mexican flavours.
A full ingredients list with measurements is in the recipe card below.
Step by step
One: Heat the oil in a large pan. Cut the beef into chunks and add to the pan. Brown on all sides (about 5 minutes).
Two: Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.
Three: Pour the sauce over the beef. Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8 hours.
Health benefits of beef
Beef can definitely play an important role in a balanced diet and using lean cuts is key for this. It can provide a lean source of protein, iron and eight essential vitamins and minerals. Beef is a significant provider of protein and is naturally low in sodium and contributes towards good health and wellbeing.
To make a lighter version of this slow cooker pulled beef, make sure to trim all the visible fat off the beef.
What is the best beef to use?
Chuck roast is definitely the best cut of meat to use for pulled beef. In the UK, this cut is referred to as braising steak. Similar to the shoulder of pork, chuck/braising steak contains a good amount of fat and marbling, making it perfect for shredding. We cut ours in to chunks for adding to the slow cooker.
When it comes to slow cooker beef barbacoa, there is no need for an expensive joint of meat. You can get away with using a cheap cut, as cooking it low and slow makes it really fall apart and melt in your mouth.
You could also use skirt, rump roast or brisket. Cooking times may vary though.
How to serve beef barbacoa
This Slow Cooked beef barbacoa goes in so many things. Our favourite way to serve it is in shredded beef tacos. Here are just a few ideas of how to use it:
- Pizza topping
- On tagilatelle or udon noodles
Frequently Asked Questions
We recommend cooking it on low for 7-8 hours. However you can cook it in your slow cooker on high for 3-4 hours. It will depend on your slow cooker and the size of the chunks of beef too. If your beef isn't falling apart then it isn't tender enough and it needs some extra time.
It will also keep in the fridge for 3-4 days, but it might start to get a bit dry.
Yes, this freezes really well. You can portion it out and it will keep in the freezer for 2-3 months.
The best way to reheat this is in a pan with a little oil. It will only takes a couple of minutes.
There really is no rule here, just make sure that the beef you are using can fit in your slow cooker. We use a Crock Pot DuraCeramic Slow Cooker and we love it. What I love most about it is that you can put the bowl insert on the hob too, meaning you can brown meat, sauté vegetables or thicken gravy in it. I also love that it has a clear lid, as I am so impatient that I want to keep looking and seeing what it is doing. If you don't have a clear lid, then lifting it to see will release lots of the heat and add to the cooking time.
You don't have to, but if you have the time then it adds such a depth of flavour. Basically, you want to trigger the Maillard reaction. It is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinctive flavour. You don't have to though, and you can just throw everything in to the slow cooker and leave it if you are really short on time.
Yes, you can do some of the prep in advance. You can sear the meat and add it to the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients and then allow it to cool fully and then put it in the fridge (in your slow cooker pot) for up to 24 hours. You can then put it on the next day, but it might take longer to cook from chilled.
This can easily be gluten free. Just make sure that the stock is gluten free and that there is no cross contamination.
Yes, you can easily double the recipe and it won't change the cooking time. Just make sure you have a frying pan big enough to brown double the beef, or do it in batches and a slow cooker big enough for double all of the ingredients.
• Slow cookers all cook things at different rates. You want to make sure that you don't overcook your beef as it will dry out. The beef is cooked when it easily shreds with a fork.
• If you like your food with a real kick of heat, add some extra red chilli flakes.
• If there is a lot of juice in your slow cooker after you take the beef out to shred, then you might want to remove some of the mixture before putting the shredded meat back in.
• For something different, but really easy, mix the beef with BBQ sauce rather than the stock.
More slow cooker beef recipes
Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa
- 800 g braising steak (chuck roast)
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 150 ml beef stock
- 3 garlic cloves - crushed
- 1 lime - juice only
- 2 tablespoon chipotle en adobo
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 0.5 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 0.5 teaspoon cumin
- Heat the oil in a large pan. Cut the beef into chunks and add to the pan. Brown on all sides (about 5 minutes).
- Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.
- Pour the sauce over the beef. Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8 hours.
- Slow cookers all cook things at different rates. You want to make sure that you don't overcook your beef as it will dry out. The beef is cooked when it easily shreds with a fork.
- If you like your food with a real kick of heat, add some extra red chilli flakes.
- If there is a lot of juice in your slow cooker after you take the beef out to shred, then you might want to remove some of the mixture before putting the shredded meat back in.
- For something different, but really easy, mix the beef with BBQ sauce rather than the stock.