Slow Cooker Barbacoa Is the Meat that Does Everything (Tex-Mex Beef)

Tonight’s dinner just got a whole lot tastier with the addition of this juicy, tender barbacoa beef.

Vertical overhead image of a white plate of shredded beef barbacoa and another plate of four tacos with sliced jalapeno, lime wedges, and shredded cheese, with cilantro and a stack of tortilla, printed with orange and white text at the midpoint and the bottom of the frame.

When I was young, I didn’t have a clue what barbacoa was. In my family, when it came to regional cuisine, I was mostly raised on French and Italian.

Even though there were a lot more options in my hometown to choose from, as the child of a single mom, our meals were mostly cooked at home. In terms of meal options, my mom relied on the old standbys that she grew up with.

Overhead oblique overhead shot of barbacoa tacos on a large beige serving plate, topped with shredded orange cheese, sliced jalapeno, minced cilantro, and lime wedges, on a striped cloth with fringe on top of a gray surface, with a stack of tortillas and a black serving bowl of shredded beef in the background.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining in any way. I loved the rich and hearty meals she would make, especially when she occasionally tried her hand at some Asian dishes.

I didn’t truly come to know what the heck barbacoa was until I went off to college. That’s when Chipotle became a staple in my life.

I happened to go to college just a handful of blocks away from the original Chipotle location in Denver. That was where the trouble all started.

Horizontal slightly oblique head-on image of beef barbacoa tacos on a plate with cilantro, jalapeno slices, shredded cheese, and lime wedges, with a black bowl of the beef dish in soft focus in the background.

Once I got hooked on Chipotle, I really fell in love. I ate it every day throughout my freshman year, I kid you not. It is still my comfort food to this day, and that’s primarily because of their barbacoa.

The first time I tried it was when I sampled a bite from a friend’s taco salad bowl. She insisted that it was the meat I needed to choose, but I was so used to their flavorful chicken that I was skeptical about trying something new.

When I put that flavorful forkful in my mouth, I knew I would never went back to that chicken burrito again.

Holy WOW was that beef melt-in-your-mouth amazing. It was juicy and packed with a ton of flavor, and tender to boot.

Ever since, it’s been one of my favorite ways to devour meat, especially when I make it at home.

Overhead horizontal image of four tortillas on a plate, topped with beef barbacoa, shredded cheese, sliced jalapeno, and lime wedges, on a mauve cloth with fringe, on a gray surface.

You’d be surprised just how easy barbacoa beef is to prepare in your own kitchen. All you need is a slow cooker and a free morning or afternoon to let the goodness simmer together. And for all you Instant Pot lovers out there, scroll ahead to the bottom of the Cooking By the Numbers section below for cooking instructions using this fab appliance.

That’s why this is the ideal recipe to pull together on a Monday night. Since we are currently a family of two in my household, I make this recipe and serve it at the beginning of the work week in tacos, burritos, rice bowls, salads, quesadillas, and so much more.

Then, I have leftover meat to chow down on for the next day or two for lunch. I will even mix it into leftovers from different recipes, like soup or macaroni and cheese.

The fact that this beef is so incredibly versatile is why it is always a home run when you make it. And it’s a great budget meal too, since you can use whatever cut you find on sale from your local butcher. Try using short ribs next, another great and succulent option for slow cooking.

You can use this recipe in so many different ways, and it will rock your world every single time.

Overhead horizontal image of a hand holding a beef taco topped with shredded cheese and slices of jalapeno, with a plate of more tacos, a black bowl of barbacoa, a stack of tortillas, and a bunch of fresh cilantro in soft focus in the background, on a gray surface.

All you have to do is let the meat season and simmer all day long. You come home, shred it up, and just like that you have a beef entree that will be the star of your dinner table.

Essentially, it’s the recipe that keeps on giving, no matter how many people you are serving it to.

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Overhead horizontal image of three beef barbacoa tacos on a beige plate, with shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, sliced jalapeno, and wedges of lime, on a striped cloth with fringe on top of a gray surface.

Slow Cooker Barbacoa (Tex-Mex Beef)

  • Author: Meghan Yager
  • Total Time: 6 hours 5 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 servings 1x


The best slow cooker barbacoa is a dish that does so much more than simply sitting on a plate. It’s versatile, flavorful, and oh-so-tender.


  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 22 1/2 lbs tri-tip, London broil, or sirloin beef
  • 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies


  1. In a small bowl, stir together cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic.
  2. Rub the beef with the seasoning mixture.
  3. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat it with the oil. Once oil is hot, sear the meat on all sides. This should take approximately 1 minute per side.
  4. Place the beef in the slow cooker. Pour the diced tomatoes over the top.
  5. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. Shred the meat into pieces and stir to combine with the juices in the slow cooker before serving.
  6. Serve in flour or corn tortillas with your favorite toppings.
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 6 hours
  • Category: Beef
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: Tex-Mex

Keywords: Tex-Mex beef, slow cooker barbacoa, Instant Pot

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Mince Garlic and Measure Ingredients

Peel and mince two cloves of garlic.

Overhead horizontal shot of a cut of beef sirloin on a black ceramic plate, with two square glass dishes of salt and pepper and minced garlic to the left, and two round glasses dishes of various spices and canned diced tomatoes to the right, on a gray surface.

Measure out all of the remaining ingredients on the ingredients list.

Step 2 – Make Spice Rub

Overhead horizontal shot of a glass bowl filled with various spices and minced garlic in separate piles, about to be stirred together, on a gray surface.

Add the ground cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt, freshly ground black pepper, and minced garlic to a small bowl.

Overhead horizontal image of a red spice and garlic mixture in a glass bowl, on a gray surface.

Stir to combine.

Overhead horizontal shot of a cut of raw beef on a black ceramic plate, coated with a spice rub mixture, on a gray stone surface.

Rub the beef all over with the seasoning mix.

Always looking for fun and exciting ways to season your beef? Try our coffee-rubbed roast for a recipe with flavorful earthy depth!

Step 3 – Sear

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil. Once it’s hot, sear the meat on all sides. Searing will take about 1 minute per side.

Remove from heat.

Seared seasoned beef cooking in a large cast iron pan, on a gray background.

If your slow cooker has a sear setting, you can do it right in there and save yourself from having to do a few extra dishes!

Step 4 – Cook and Serve

Place the meat in the slow cooker. Pour the diced tomatoes on top.

Overhead horizontal shot of a stainless steel slow cooker insert, with spice-rubbed beef topped with canned diced tomatoes and green chilies, on a gray surface.

Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours.

When the meat is fully cooked and tender, transfer it to a cutting board and shred it with two forks.

Overhead horizontal image of a stainless steel slow cooker insert filled with meat, cooking liquid, and stewed canned tomatoes.

If you like, you can also do this right in the slow cooker insert, just careful not to scratch it if it is covered with a nonstick coating.

Stir to combine the beef with the juices and tomatoes before serving.

Overhead horizontal image of three beef barbacoa tacos on a beige plate, with shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, sliced jalapeno, and wedges of lime, on a striped cloth with fringe on top of a gray surface.

Serve in corn or flour tortillas with your choice of toppings.

To Prepare in an Instant Pot

If you want to use your Instant Pot to make this recipe, set to Saute with the oil in the insert for Step 3. Sear the prepared meat on all sides.

Pour the diced tomatoes on top and seal. Cook on Manual pressure set to High for 75 minutes.

Shred the meat with two forks right in the Instant Pot, then stir to combine.

A Variety of Methods to Cook a Versatile Meal

This simple protein entree is super succulent, and big on flavor. Not only can you choose your favorite way to serve it and then to enjoy the leftovers in the following days, you can also take your pick of cooking options to find the best method that works for you.

If you don’t have the time to let the beef sit in the slow cooker all day, that’s no problem if you have a pressure cooker.

It doesn’t take much time to quick cook the meat, and I can promise you that it comes out just as juicy and tender.

Overhead horizontal image of a black dish of shredded beef barbacoa with tomatoes to the left and a plate of tacos with the meat, shredded cheese, sliced jalapeno, and lime wedges to the right, with a bunch of fresh cilantro on a striped cloth, on top of a gray surface.

Need more slow cooker meals to make for dinner? Here are some of our favorites:

How will you serve up this barbacoa beef? Tell us in the comments below. And make sure you come back to rate the recipe to let other readers know how much you loved it!

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on January 6, 2013. Last updated: March 7, 2021 at 13:12 pm. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Meghan Yager

Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.

5 thoughts on “Slow Cooker Barbacoa Is the Meat that Does Everything (Tex-Mex Beef)”

  1. I was looking for another method and flavor for a London Broil that I purchased, this was just the ticket, easy directions and ingredients that I had in my pantry
    The kitchen smelled delicious while it was cooking and my family loved this dish, thanks for this easy, economical and easy clean up recipe.

  2. This is delicious! We ate it over cilantro rice as a bowl with queso and veggies. Definitely going in our meal rotation.


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