Tender, juicy, spicy, shredded slow-cooked beef served on warm, soft tacos with lots of fresh toppings.
This is a fantastic sharing dinner – especially if you’re cooking for a crowd.
Plus I’ve included instructions on cooking it in the oven if you prefer.

Close up overhead shot of beef barbacoa tacos topped with jalapeno and red onion slices
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I love how juicy and tender the beef in this recipe is. Just a little bit spicy and a little bit tangy too. I can put far too many of these tacos away in one sitting!

Of course this isn’t a traditional recipe. Traditional barbacoa – which is believed to have originated in Barbados, but is more commonly known now as Mexican cuisine – uses meat (lamb or goat usually), that is slow roasted for several hours in a pit that is topped with maguey (agave) leaves.

This is a slow-cooker methodvery different from pit cooking!
But we’re still using those Mexican molΓ© flavours with cumin, coriander, garlic and adobo for a rich and delicious flavour.

It’s one of those recipes where you just do a little up front work, then leave it cooking in the slow cooker – filling the house with those rich aromas!

Overhead image of beef barbacoa tacos lined up on a light background

Great for a family feast, or when you have guests – you can serve up the beef in the slow cooker and put all of your toppings out on the table to so everyone can dig in and help themselves.

πŸ“‹ What do we need?

The full ingredients are in the recipe card below, but I want to mention:

  • The beef – I’m going with braising/stewing beef (often known as chuck steak, which comes from the forequarter) as it’s an inexpensive cut and needs long, slow cooking to break down and become tender – rather than chewy. That’s exactly what we’re doing with this recipe, so this cut is perfect. If you like, you can replace with ∫ (cut it into chunks first, so the flavour is evenly distributed).
  • Dried oregano – go with Mexican oregano (<–like this one – not an affiliate link), rather than Italian oregano. They have distinctly different flavours – Italian oregano is quite mild with mint undertones from the origanum family.
    Mexican oregano is stronger with liquorice-lemon notes – it actually comes from an entirely different plant – in the verbana family.
  • Go with soft tacos, rather than larger tortillas. I like Luchito taco wraps (not an affiliate link) – I’ve seen them in Sainsburys and Ocado. M&S also do their own version, which are pretty good.
Hand holding a beef barbacoa taco with toppings

🍽️ What to serve these tacos with

Be sure to drizzle over any sauce left in the bottom of the slow cooker for ultra juicy meat πŸ˜‹

Close up of a beef barbacoa taco with jalapeno and red onion toppings

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5 from 2 votes

Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef

Tender, juicy, spicy shredded slow cooked beef served on warm, soft tacos with lots of fresh toppings. A fantastic sharing dinner!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 12 tacos
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Mexican


  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Β½ kg (3.3 lbs) braising beef
  • 1 tbsp adobo paste
  • 1 tbsp chipotle paste
  • 4 cloves garlic peeled and minced
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 480 ml (2 cups) beef stock
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • ΒΌ tsp ground cloves
  • 4 tbsp fresh lime juice (Juice of 2 limes)

To Serve:

  • 12 soft tacos warmed
  • 1 red onion peeled and sliced
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 jalapenos sliced
  • 10 cherry (grape) tomatoes quartered
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) soured cream
  • 2 limes sliced into wedges
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  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the beef and sear on all sides.
    3 tbsp vegetable oil, 1 Β½ kg (3.3 lbs) braising beef
  • Add the adobo paste, chipotle paste, minced garlic, cumin, coriander, oregano, beef stock, salt, pepper, cloves, and lime juice to the pan.
    1 tbsp adobo paste, 1 tbsp chipotle paste, 4 cloves garlic, 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tbsp dried oregano, 480 ml (2 cups) beef stock, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp ground black pepper, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 4 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • Stir and bring to the boil, then turn off the heat and transfer to a slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-9 hours or high for 6 hours (see tip below for cooking in the oven).
  • Once cooked, shred the meat using two forks.
  • Divide the meat between warmed tacos and top with red onion, fresh coriander, jalapenos, tomatoes, and sour cream.
    12 soft tacos, 1 red onion, 4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander, 2 jalapenos, 10 cherry (grape) tomatoes, 120 ml (1/2 cup) soured cream
  • Serve with wedges of lime.
    2 limes


Cooking in the oven instead of the slow cooker
You can cook the beef in a heavy-based, oven-proof pan, with a lid, in the oven at 160C for 3 hours. Add an extra 200ml of beef stock and check a few times during cooking to ensure beef doesn’t cook dry. Add good splash of boiling water or stock if it starts to look too dry.
Can I make it ahead?
Yes, you can make the barbacoa beef ahead, then cool, cover and refrigerate for up to two days. Reheat in a large saucepan or frying pan over a medium heat, stirring often, until piping hot throughout.
Then serve with the warm tacos and toppings.
Can I freeze it?
Yes, make the barbacoa beef ahead, then cool, cover and freeze. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
Reheat in a large saucepan or frying pan over a medium heat, stirring often, until piping hot throughout.
Then serve with the warm tacos and toppings.
How to scale up and scale down this recipe
You can halve or double this recipe, sticking to the same recipe quantities. You may need an extra splash of stock if you’re halving the recipe (to ensure it doesn’t dry out).
Nutritional information is approximate per taco including the toppings in the recipe (this recipe makes 12 soft tacos).


Calories: 337kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 83mg | Sodium: 1001mg | Potassium: 582mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 192IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 92mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links – which means if you buy the product I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you). If you do buy, then thank you! That’s what helps us to keep Kitchen Sanctuary running. The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary depending on several factors. For more information please see our Terms & Conditions.

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Hi, I'm Nicky and I love to cook! I want to share with you my favourite, delicious family friendly recipes. I want to inspire you to create fantastic food for your family every day.

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  1. Diane Haines says:

    Just started looking at your recipes today, and they look fantastic, although I don’t understand some of the ingredients in your recipes. For instance, what is ready rolled shortcrust pastry (for theIndividual Cheese and Onion Pies) ? I’m 70 years old, have been cooking and baking for a very long time, and have not seen this at my grocery stores. Also, what exactly is braising beef? Does that mean to use a chuck roast? I would love to try this recipe. It sounds wonderful!

    1. Jane says:

      Hi there
      At the start of the process, when the beef is cooked, does it need to be diced/ cut up first? Thanks

  2. Kelly says:

    5 stars
    Served with diced onions and cilantro and guacamole. So easy and the whole family loved.

  3. Sadie Fletcher says:

    Never made any Barbacoa meat before so this may sound like a strange question 😬
    Is the meat left in one piece or diced before cooking? … I’m intending to use the slow cooker method …

    1. Amy says:

      Please can you advise if you diced the steak or left it whole? I’m using the slow cooker method as well.

  4. Christine says:

    5 stars
    This smelt amazing whilst cooking, couldn’t wait to dig inπŸ˜‹
    It didn’t disappoint, will definitely be making this again.

  5. simon hopes says:

    Yes Nicky, seems that elusive adobo paste is the one ingredient that is tricky for all to track down

  6. Amy says:

    Please can you advise which UK supermarkets sell Adobo paste – can only find the Chipotle ingredient. Kind Regards

    1. Nicky Corbishley says:

      It certainly seems trickier to get hold of than I remember!
      I’ve bought it from Ocado before now (this one: https://www.ocado.com/products/cool-chile-ancho-in-adobo-mexican-chili-paste-493007011), also picked it up at farm shops, and I’ve seen in on Amazon, but they seem to have stopped selling it.
      If you can’t find it, I’d suggest replace it with a tablespoon of tomato puree mixed with a good pinch of smoked paprika and a good pinch of chilli powder, or I think on Amazon you can buy chipotle chillies in adobo sauce – you could use this to replace the chipotle paste and the adobo paste.
      Failing that, I’d just double up on the chipotle paste and add a teaspoon of sugar (adobo is a little sweeter than chipotle).

  7. Agi says:

    This sounds delicious! I want to try it, but no hope for Adobo paste here. I found Chipotle peppers in a jar- a little miracle in a small town. Any idea what I could use instead Adobo? Can I omit it maybe? Thank you! Love all your recipes!

    1. Nicky Corbishley says:

      Hmmm, I’d probably replace it with a tablespoon of tomato puree mixed with a good pinch of smoked paprika and a good pinch of chilli powder. Hope that helps πŸ™‚

      1. Agi says:

        Thank you πŸ™πŸ‘

      2. Agi says:

        Nicky, it came out absolutely awesome! The flavours! I served it with salsa, sour cream and guacamole on the side and it was perfect. Leftovers will make fabulous wraps tomorrow (I’m actually drooling thinking about them πŸ˜‚πŸ€€) Another keeper. Thank you for all the amazing recipes πŸ’š

  8. Sheila says:

    Is there anything that can be used as a substitute for the adobo paste please.