Mexican Shredded Beef, also known as Barbacoa, is an authentic Mexican dish made with chile seasoned beef. It is slow cooked until it is fall apart tender and so incredibly flavorful. It is perfect for loading into tacos, burritos, quesadillas and more!
You can easily make Barbacoa in the oven, on the stove top, using your Instant Pot or slow cooker. In the recipe card below you will find instructions for the oven and slow cooker.
What is Barbacoa
Barbacoa is the Spanish word for “barbecue”. However, here is the United States, we associate this word with Mexican Shredded Beef, made more widely popular by the restaurant Chipotle.
The pronunciation for barbacoa is baar-bah-kow-uh.
To make Mexican Shredded Beef you need a nice large 3 lb. chuck roast, some lime, beef broth, chipotle in adobo and a well stocked spice cabinet. Pictured below are the ingredients you need to grab:
For serving you will want to grab some tortillas for tacos or burritos, or some rice for a rice bowl. And all your favorite toppings.
Beef Chuck Roast
When you are selecting a chuck roast try to pick one that is well marbled with fat, and not too many large chunks of fat around the edges. A “choice” graded chuck roast is perfect for this barbacoa recipe.
Chipotle In Adobo Sauce
Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce are jalapeño chiles that have been dried, smoked and then packed in a flavorful sauce made of tangy tomatoes and spices. (sited from goya.com)
You can find chipotle in Adobo sauce in the Mexican aisle of your grocery store. They generally come canned in 10-11 oz portions.
Don’t be fooled by these little red peppers, they are SPICY!!! For this recipe you will not use the entire can so you can freeze the remaining portion in a freezer safe container for up to 6 months. Or you can make these Grilled Steak Tacos that use Chipotle in Adobo!
Getting To Your Desired Spice Level
The spicy ingredient in this recipe are the chipotle peppers in adobos that I talked about above. I definitely would not call this barbacoa recipe “spicy” as it is written.
Using 3 peppers is great to just add flavor. If you like more spice than definitely add 5 chipotle peppers and all the sauce.
To really take it to the next level add some cayenne pepper to the chile paste!
To make Barbacoa in the oven you will want to have a large Dutch Oven or Braising Pot. You of course could get a Le Creuset Dutch Oven $$$$ but I find that Lodge makes a Dutch Oven that is just as good for a lot less $$.
Step by Step Oven Instructions
There are just a couple steps to make this Mexican Shredded Beef recipe and the oven does the rest!
- Preheat the oven to 325.
- Cut the beef in 2-3 inch chunks (this helps the beef cook faster and allows more surface area for added flavor)
- Pat the beef dry and season with kosher salt and pepper. Brown all the chunks in the vegetable oil.
- Make the chile paste in a blender or food processor by mixing the garlic, cumin, oregano, paprika, onion powder, chipotles in adobo, lime juice, and vinegar. (if you need to add some of the beef broth for it to process smooth that is totally fine!)
- Coat the browned beef cubes in the chile paste.
Add the onions, bay leaves and beef broth to the oven safe braising pot.
- Cook, covered, for 2 ½ hours. (your pot will look crazy when it comes out of the oven… don’t worry it comes clean!)
- Shred the beef using two forks. It should shred VERY easily!!
- Optionally you can add the shredded beef back to the pot and stir it into the onions and sauce. If you do this make sure to remove the 2 bay leaves.
Barbacoa is most traditionally served piled into a corn tortilla as a taco. Top if off with some fresh pico de gallo and a healthy squeeze of fresh lime. That is really all you need to have it be over-the-top delicious.
You can make a stuffed smothered burrito using shredded beef instead of ground beef.
It can also be as simple as adding the shredded beef and some cheese in between two flour tortillas and pan frying into a delicious quesadilla. Or serving it bowl style like they do at Chipotle with some Mexican Rice, black or pinto beans, salsa, and guacamole.
The possibilities go on and on….
If you choose the traditional route and make Barbacoa Tacos, use flour or corn tortillas, whatever you prefer. Then top it with all your favorite taco toppings like:
- Pico de Gallo or Tomatillo Salsa
- pickled jalapeños
- queso fresco
- sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
- guacamole or diced avocados
- diced white onions or sliced green onions
- sliced radishes
- fresh lime juice
Barbacoa is just like pulled pork in that it freezes really well!!! Which for all of you busy people out there means EASY MEAL PREP!!
Simply make the barbacoa completely and then freeze it on a baking sheet. Once it is frozen divide it out into freezer safe baggies in serving portions. It will keep in the freezer for 3 months.
Reheat the frozen barbacoa on the stove top or in the microwave. Can also be thawed in the fridge overnight.
Perfect Side Dishes for Barbacoa
If you are making tacos, burritos, or enchiladas with your Barbacoa then you can make it a meal by adding some 15 minute refried beans, and Mexican Rice even this Cilantro Lime Pineapple would be a delicious side dish.
More Mexican Dinner Recipes
If you love Mexican for dinner then here are some recipes for you to try next…
Mexican Shredded Beef – Barbacoa Recipe
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 lb chuck roast (approx size) cut into 2-3 inch chunks
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 3 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce **see notes
- ¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice approx. 2 limes
- 2 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 large onion sliced into ¼ inch slices
- 2 bay leaves
- 14.5 oz can beef broth
- Preheat the oven to 325°.
- In a large oven safe pot (with a lid), like a Dutch oven, over medium heat on the stove top heat the vegetable oil.2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- While that heats cut your beef into 2-3 inch chunks. Pat the pieces dry with paper towels and season with the kosher salt and pepper.3 lb chuck roast, 2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon pepper
- Working in batches, brown all the beef pieces in the oil (on two sides each).Now add all the beef back to the pot and remove from the heat. Set aside for now.
- In a blender or food processor add the garlic cloves, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, onion powder, chipotles in adobo, lime juice, and vinegar. Process until it is a smooth paste.Pro Tip: if you need to add a little of the beef broth so it will process smooth, go ahead and do that!5 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 3 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, ¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice, 2 tablespoon white vinegar
- Pour the blended chile mixture over the browned beef that is in the Dutch Oven and coat it on all sides.
- Nestle the cut onions and bay leaves around the beef. Pour the beef broth around the beef, careful not to pour it over the beef, removing the chile paste.1 large onion, 2 bay leaves, 14.5 oz can beef broth
- Pop the lid on the pot and place in the oven, cook for 2 ½ hours.
- Remove the meat to a cutting board or rimmed baking sheet. Shred and chop the beef into bite sized pieces/shreds.
- Optionally add the beef back to the broth and onions in the pot (but be sure to remove the bay leaves and discard). Or you can strain some of the onions out and add to the beef.
- The shredded beef is excellent serve in a warmed corn tortilla with Pico de Gallo, queso fresco, and a squeeze of fresh lime.
Slow Cooker Method
- Cut the chuck roast into 3 inch pieces and place in your slow cooker.3 lb chuck roast
- In a blender or food processor combine the kosher salt, black pepper, garlic cloves, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, onion powder, chipotles in adobo, lime juice, vinegar, and beef broth. Process until it is a smooth paste.2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 5 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 3 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, ¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice, 2 tablespoon white vinegar, 14.5 oz can beef broth
- Pour that mixture over the beef. Nestle the onions and bay leaves around the beef.
- Set to cook on low for 7 hours.
- Move to the shredding and serving instructions above.
If nutrition facts are provided they are calculated as an estimate to the best of our knowledge.