Beef Barbacoa

This crazy delicious beef barbacoa couldn’t be easier to make! Season, braise, simmer and let your oven do the rest!

If you love Chipotle, you’ll love this copycat recipe! Pair it with our copycat Cilantro Lime Rice and add some Restaurant Style Salsa while you’re at it.

Beef Barbacoa tacos topped with onions and cilantro

Perfect Consistency!

I’ve always been a sucker for Chipotle’s beef barbacoa, so I finally decided to make a homemade version for dinner. It’s so incredibly easy and it comes out tender, juicy and extremely flavorful.

In order to achieve that perfect consistency, I use my dutch oven! Why a Dutch oven? Because it’s perfect for braising and oven roasting meat.

The enameled surface lends to crispy exteriors and and easy release. Plus you can braise, simmer, and transfer the pot directly to the oven. That’s huge. Although, If you don’t own one see my NOTES at the bottom of the recipe for an alternative method.

Beef Barbacoa Recipe on a white plate

How to Make Barbacoa

BEEF. First, you’ll need a large piece of beef. I’m talking a 4-5 pound beef chuck-eye roast or short ribs (if you can find a roast), you know the ones that are nicely marbled with fat.

BRAISE. Cut it into about 8 large chunks and then braise in an oiled Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Transfer to a plate to rest.

SAUTE. Meanwhile, in that same pot, saute the onion and garlic. Toss in the seasonings/spices and let ’em go until they’re fragrant. Toasting the spices adds a whole new level of flavor to the beef, and trust me, it’s worth it! Then whisk in a cup of chicken broth, scraping the bottom to remove any browned bits that formed earlier.

SIMMER. Add in the braised beef chunks, and all remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer, cover and then transfer to the oven.

BAKE. Bake at 325 degrees for 3-4 hours or until the meat is fork-tender. Just know that every oven and cooking vessel is different so the time will vary. The liquid will evaporate over time leaving just a tad bit at the bottom of the pot. That’s exactly what you want!

REDUCE. Remove from the oven, return to the stovetop and reduce the liquid if you have a lot left. I didn’t have very much, so I only did this for a few minutes. You want there to be a little liquid in there, that way after you shred the meat you can toss it back in and let it absorb it.

Alternate Cooking Methods

Glass pan: If you don’t own a Dutch oven, simply do everything in a large pot, then transfer to a 9X13 ceramic or glass dish. Cover with foil and bake according to the directions. 

Slow cooker: Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours until the meat just falls apart.

Instant pot: Create your sauce in a different pot, then brown your piece of meat in the instant pot on the sear function. Combine the sauce and meat in the instant pot and cook on manual for about an hour. It should be able to be easily shredded at this point.

Barbacoa beef tacos topped with cilantro

Serving and Storing

We made tacos with our beef barbacoa, but you could use it in a number of different dishes, like:

  • Burritos
  • Salads
  • Tostadas 
  • Nachos
  • Enchiladas 
  • Quesadillas

Keep leftover meat STORED in an airtight container in the fridge for about a week. Reheat in the microwave or in the crockpot on low for a little bit.

To FREEZE, place leftover meat in an airtight bag or container and freeze for up to 6 months. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight and then reheat in the microwave, or on the stove, or in the crockpot.

For more Mexican style meat entrees, try:

Crazy Delicious Beef Barbacoa

Beef Barbacoa Recipe

This crazy delicious beef barbacoa couldn't be easier to make! Season, braise, simmer and let your oven do the rest!
4.84 from 12 votes
Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 3 hrs 30 mins
Total Time: 3 hrs 50 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 627kcal
Print Recipe


  • 4-5 lb beef chuck-eye roast - OR boneless short ribs
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small yellow onion - thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic - smashed
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 3 cup chicken broth
  • 3 chipotle chilies - seeded and minced + 1 tbsp. adobo sauce
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ (10 oz. can) diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 2 limes - juiced
  • 2 bay leaves


  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Adjust oven rack to middle lower position (so that your pot fits).
  • Cut the beef into about 8 large chunks. You'll want the beef to remain marbled with fat, but if there are giant spots, it's ok to remove them.
  • In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add the beef and braise. When the meat is crispy and brown flip and continue to braise the other side (I let mine go for about 4 minutes on each side). Remove and set aside.
  • Add the onion, garlic and seasonings to the pan. Allow the onions to cook until translucent and the spices to become fragrant. Scrape up any browned bits while whisking in 1 c. of chicken broth, then add in the meat. Pour the remaining chicken broth over top, along with the minced chipotle chilies, adobo sauce, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes with green chilies, lime juice and bay leaves.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then place the lid on and transfer to the preheated oven. Let the beef cook for 3-4 hours, stirring twice during that time. The meat should fall apart and be extremely tender. Remove from the oven and if needed, place over medium-high heat to reduce the liquid (I only did this for a few minutes). Remove the meat and place on a large cutting board. Shred the meat with two forks, then return to the pot to absorb any of the leftover juices. Discard bay leaves and serve warm.


-If you don’t own a Dutch oven, simply do everything in a large pot, then transfer to a 9X13 ceramic or glass dish. Cover with foil and bake according to the directions.
-You can find chipotle chilies in adobo sauce in the Latin isle of most grocery stores.


Serving: 6g | Calories: 627kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 60g | Fat: 40g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Cholesterol: 209mg | Sodium: 1291mg | Potassium: 1198mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 189IU | Vitamin C: 17mg | Calcium: 92mg | Iron: 8mg

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  1. This looks really good. Can this be modified to cook in a crock pot? I would love to set it and forget it in my slow cooker instead of having the oven on in the summertime. Thanks!

    1. Same question here – our markets only sell 14oz cans. But I looked on Amazon and a 10 oz can is a thing, whereas a 20 oz can is not. So I’m using 5 oz (half a 10 oz can) on the theory that I can add more later, but I can’t take any out. 😉 Great recipe!

  2. No, just no no no no! Barbocoa is not a roast! It is cheek meat or the head. This is nowhere the same thing. Not even close. Barbocoa is super soft, fatty and rich meat that can not be duplicated without cheek meat. It also does not have all that stuff in ti. Really salt and comino maybe some beef broth or Mexican Oregeno if you must.

    1. This isn’t a traditional barbacoa recipe, but my take on a local restaurant’s barbacoa 🙂

    2. Traditional barbacoa is a lamb or kid roasted whole in an underground pit, tacos made specifically from the head or cheeks are “barbacoa de cabeza” or “barbacoa de cachete”

  3. We’ve made this recipe now multiple times for multiple people and only get rave reviews! A local restaurant inspired me to put feta on something like this and it compliments it extremely well! Thank you for this! 

  4. 5 stars
    Made a variation of this recipe with some minor mods to spices for my capsaicin averse wife and kid, but it turned out extremely well. It’s a real shame the one star review is pulling this down, so people don’t try it. Particularly considering this lone review is completely off point, and that person clearly didn’t try the recipe, as evidenced by the lack of relevant critique.

  5. 5 stars
    Not sure how I came across this recipe but so glad that I did. For a first time, I followed the recipe pretty straight forward. The flavors were genuinely amazing. Nothing overpowering. Great textures. I will prepare this again. I look forward to experimenting with some different meats – cabrito and lamb. Thankful.

  6. 5 stars
    I’ve always wanted to make beef barbacoa at home but I wasn’t sure I’d get the flavors right. Your recipe is spot on. Yum!

  7. 5 stars
    This recipe was so delicious! We made it and reheated for lunches all week. We loved the flavor and it worked inside so many things!