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Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Beef (Barbacoa)

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Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Beef, inspired by Beef Barbacoa, is fall apart tender, rich, and juicy shredded beef that’s been slowly cooked in an incredible sauce full of chipotles, onion, garlic, and spices. Use it for tacos, taco bowls, nachos, enchiladas, or salads for the ultimate meal!

plate of shredded beef with Pico De Gallo, chopped avocado, and lettuce

This slow cooker shredded Mexican beef has become an absolute favorite in my house and is so much better than take out! The recipe requires a handful of ingredients to make a mouthwatering marinade/sauce that a roast cooks in all day long. It’s primarily inspired by the traditional Mexican Barbacoa. The results are magically delicious and totally impressive with a minimal amount of work. Love when that happens!

If you’re a fan of Chipotle you have to try out my better than Chipotle Chicken Bowl! Instead of the Chipotle Skillet Chicken– Use this recipe for Mexican Shredded Beef. It’s a welcomed change and incredibly delicious.

What is Mexican Shredded Beef or Barbacoa?

Barbacoa (or Mexican shredded beef) is made out of tougher cuts of meat that require long, slow cooking times with flavorful chiles and seasonings. It’s usually hand shredded and used for tacos, burritos, etc. Traditionally in Mexico, Barbacoa is made with lamb, goat, or beef and is cooked in a large pit in the ground then covered in agave leaves (sort of like the cooking style of Kalua Pork in Hawaii).

Here in the US it’s primarily made from beef (chuck roast or brisket are commonly used). And this recipe calls for the slow cooker instead of a large pit to make it a super easy and totally doable Tuesday night dinner- which I’m quite thankful for because it’s super delicious!

Ingredients

photo of ingredients for recipe large plate with a raw chuck roast surrounded by small bowls of garlic cloves, ground cumin, kosher salt, dried oregano, bay leaves, apple cider vinegar, better than bouillon, adobo sauce, lime, chipotle peppers, red peppers

This Mexican Shredded Beef recipe does NOT shy away from flavor in any way shape or form. The list of ingredients are mostly pantry staples and they all provide almost effortless epic flavor.

  • Chuck Roast
  • Chipotle Peppers (from a can)
  • Lime Juice
  • Red Onion
  • Adobo sauce (from the same can you get the peppers from)
  • Better than bouillon (plus water, but you can use beef broth or a beef bouillon cube instead)
  • Apple cider vinegar- aids in helping the roast becoming fall apart tender
  • Bay leaves
  • Dried oregano
  • Kosher Salt
  • Ground cumin
  • Chili powder
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Garlic cloves

How to make shredded Mexican beef in the slow cooker:

  1. Make the marinade. In a blender (or you can also use an immersion blender) add all of the ingredients except for the beef and bay leaves. Puree until smooth and you have a bright and beautiful red-orange marinade/sauce.
  2. Prepare the meat. Cut beef into large chunks and trim off any excess fat. Although keep a little, it’s the right thing to do with this recipe. Note: for additional depth of flavor you can sear the chunks of beef in a skillet. This does deepen the flavor, but I think its still totally delicious without this step.
beef chunks covered in orange marinade

3. Combine the meat and marinade. Pour the marinade/sauce over the beef chunks in the crockpot. Stir to make sure it’s combined well and then toss two bay leaves on top.
4. Slow Cook. Cook on low for at least 10 hours. If when you go to shred the meat it doesn’t effortless shred with a fork. I would continue cooking for another hour at least and check again. I do not recommend a high cook temp for this recipe. You can, but the results will not be the same.

5. Shred the beef. When the beef has finished cooking. Shred the beef. It should be able to be pulled part easily with one fork it’s so stinkin’ tender! After you finish lightly shredding the meat- switch the crockpot to warm and let it sit in the juices and soak up extra flavor for at least 15-20 minutes.
6. Bonus/optional: Not a necessary step, but if you’ve tried my chicken carnitas or my crockpot salsa chicken you know that I love doing just one small extra step when it comes to shredded meat in the slow cooker.
Grab a sheet pan and spread shredded beef onto it, take care not to overcrowd the pan. Broil in the oven for about 5-8 minutes until you can see some crispy brown bits and the liquid will reduce. This adds an insanely yummy level of caramelization that is not authentic for Beef Barbacoa, but it sure is delicious.

plate of shredded Mexican beef with cauliflower rice, shredded lettuce, Pico De Gallo (tomatoes with onions and cilantro), and prepared guacmole

How to serve Mexican Shredded Beef:

  • Burrito Bowls- Serve with Cilantro Lime Rice, Instant Pot Mexican Rice, or Cauliflower Mexican Rice for a low carb/keto friendly option. Add my quick chipotle pinto beans or refried beans to bulk up your bowl just like an order at Chipotle!
  • Salads– A big salad with crunchy romaine fresh Pico De Gallo, sour cream, cheese, black beans, guacamole or avocado slices.
  • Shredded Beef Tacos- Always a super easy idea. No one can ever go wrong with tacos! Warm tortillas, chop up lots of lettuce, cilantro, tomato, and onion and pile them high! Squeeze of lime and sprinkle with some shredded cheese or Queso Fresco for perfection.
  • Quesadillas- Pile thin slices of avocado, shredded Mexican blend cheese or mozzarella, and Mexican Shredded Beef in on one side of a taco shell then fold. Cook over medium heat in a frying pan.

How to store, reheat, and freeze:

  • Storage: If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, Place them in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days in an airtight container.
  • Reheat: Preferred method: Heat a large skillet on the stove-top, spray with some avocado oil spray, then place beef in pan and let it cook until warmed. You can also reheat in the microwave 45-60 seconds or until warm.
  • Freezer friendly: Freeze cooked and shredded beef in a freezer friendly container or storage bag for up to 3 months. Don’t forget to label! Let thaw in refrigerator and reheat the same as above instructions.

Top Tips

  • Choose a cut of beef that has good marbleization throughout the cut. Use fresh high quality beef for best results. I recommend chuck roast, but know that some people enjoy it with brisket. I don’t recommend a super lean roast for this recipe.
  • Let it cook low and slow in the crock pot. If you’re short on time, you can do high, but you won’t get the same fall apart tender perfection that you deserve.
plate full of cauliflower Mexican Rice, shredded beef, lettuce, pico, and guacamole

Hope you enjoy this recipe! Let me know how it went! =)

More Slow Cooker/Crockpot recipes to love!:

Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Beef

Tender, juicy, ultra flavorful shredded beef inspired by delicious Mexican flavors perfect for tacos, salads, burrito bowls, nachos, etc!
Print Recipe
shredded Mexican beef on plate with Pico De Gallo and lettuce
Prep Time:5 mins
Cook Time:10 hrs

Equipment

  • Crockpot
  • Blender or Immersion Blender

Ingredients

  • 3 lb chuck roast
  • 3 medium chipotle peppers from a can (you can find these in a can in the Latin American speciality foods section-if you're afraid of too much spice you can open the peppers and remove some of the seeds)
  • 2 tbsp adobo sauce (this sauce comes in the same can that the chipotle pepper are packed in)
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • juice from two limes (about 2½-3 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 red onion cut into large chunks
  • 6 medium cloves garlic (or about 2 tbsp refrigerated minced garlic)
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp Better than Beef Boullion base + 1/2 cup water (or 1/2 cup beef broth)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 bay leaves

Instructions

  • Prepare the marinade: Add all ingredients listed above except for the bay leaves and beef into a blender. Puree until totally smooth and you create a bright orange sauce.
  • Prepare the beef: Cut roast into large even chunks and remove any excess fat.
  • Cook: Place beef and marinade together into the slow cooker and stir until the beef is covered well. Place the two bay leave on top. Set crockpot to low and let it cook low and slow for 10-12 hours.
  • When finished cooking, lightly shred the beef, turn the crockpot to warm, and let the beef sit and soak in the extra flavor for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Enjoy in burrito bowls, tacos, salads, nachos, etc
  • Storage: If you're lucky enough to have leftovers, Place them in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days in an airtight container.
    Reheat: Preferred method: Heat a large skillet on the stove-top, spray with some avocado oil spray, then place beef in pan and let it cook until warmed. You can also reheat in the microwave 45-60 seconds or until warm.
    Freezer friendly: Freeze cooked and shredded beef in a freezer friendly container or storage bag for up to 3 months. Don't forget to label! Let thaw in refrigerator and reheat the same as above instructions.

Notes

Makes approximately 15 servings. Note: this can range quite a bit if you have a smaller or bigger roast 
Serving size: 3 oz 

226 calories,
13g fat, 4g saturated fat, 2g carbohydrates, 1.5g net carbs, 0.5g dietary fiber, 0.4g sugar (0g added sugar, 0g sugar alcohol), 25g protein
WW: 4 Points
*You can freeze any leftover chipotle peppers in adobo sauce from the can since you won’t use all of it. 

Nutrition

Serving: 3oz | Calories: 226kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 220mg | Potassium: 269mg | Fiber: 0.5g | Sugar: 0.8g
Servings: 15
Calories: 226kcal
Author: Star @ the skinny-ish dish
Tried this recipe?Mention @theskinnyishdish or tag #skinnyishdishrecipes!

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18 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    BEST EVER!! It was so easy and Star did not lie when she said it was flavorfull!!! Not only full of flavor but so incredibly tender!! I made a bowl with some white rice and my husband made tacos. He was impressed! Thank you, Star!! Can’t wait to make this again.

  2. Could I make the marinade/sauce the night before and store in the refrigerator? Then, add the meat and marinade to slow cooker in the morning? I want it to be done for dinner but don’t want to wake up at 5 lol.

    1. Absolutely!! This would totally work. I need to add that into the post for a more “prep ahead” option. Great idea, Wendy! Let me know how this goes

      1. 5 stars
        Phenomenal!!! I blended the ingredients the night before and just put the blender pitcher in the fridge. Mixed it together in the morning in my slow cooker. My husband made eyes at his first bite, like WOW! Used the beef to make quesadillas. I have always enjoyed all your recipes and several, this one included, made their way to our regular rotation

  3. What is the corn mixture you have in your photo? Also, I noticed on Instagram you had a cheese sauce over it, could you tell me what you used for that?

    1. It’s actually Mexican cauliflower rice (recipe coming soon), but my Mexican street corn also tastes awesome next to it if you’re looking a corn recipe. The cheese sauce is just store bought queso dip. The particular brand I was using is Pancho’s. This is the cheese sauce in the refrigerator section usually either in the fancy cheese/already made dips section or sometimes with the fresh tortilla, Mexican crema, chorizo etc. I don’t recommend the jar/canned shelf stable stuff that doesn’t taste all that great. I am also going to include a homemade cheese sauce, but haven’t added it yet to the website. Hope this helps!

  4. Question: How spicy is this for someone who thinks a 5 or 6 out of 10 would be just right on the heat scale?

  5. 5 stars
    Made this for Christmas dinner paired with Spanish yellow rice and black beans. Chef’s kiss! Everyone loved it, will definitely be going into rotation. Thank you!

    1. I’m so so happy everyone enjoyed. That sounds like such a good Christmas dinner! Thank you for letting me know!

  6. 5 stars
    This is one of the best if not the best barbacoa recipes ever! So flavorful and tender, we will absolutely make this again!

  7. 5 stars
    Okay so my son is a SUPER picky eater! It is so hard to find things he likes to eat. Let me tell you he ate 6 tacos the first night I made this, and then the next morning he asked for them for breakfast. I didn’t have taco sized tortillas so I made large flour taquitos and it’s his absolute favorite breakfast! He is 13 and it makes my momma heart so happy to see his so happy! I can’t wait for chuck roasts to go on sale again, $25 for a 3lb roast, I was so afraid of messing it up, but it was super easy and turned out amazing, so worth it!

    Thank you Star for this yummy recipe!

    1. I am so excited to hear your son enjoyed it so much! That makes me so happy. The price of roast is so hard to justify sometimes, I hear you. I hope it’s on sale again very soon for you! Side note: If you happen to be a Costco or Sams club member You can almost always get two 3-3.5 lb chuck roasts for around 30$! I live over 1 hour from Costco and completely justify it for the meat prices alone right now. It’s almost two for the price of one at a normal grocery store, just crazy! I usually just freeze one and make one.

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