It’s not a coincidence that Mexico is home to the best tacos on earth. They sure know how to prepare the best meat for them. There’s nothing bland about it. Every bite is like an explosion of flavor. You have to know what spices to use and in what quantity.
Mexicans add acid to their meat, be it via vinegar, lime juice, or bitter orange. This step is crucial to achieving authentic Mexican taste. The addition of cumin, oregano, cloves, and cinnamon is also key.
Can you guess what’s missing in this list of ingredients?
You got it: chiles. If you master the use of those three things, you will master the art of taco meat makes!
In this barbacoa beef recipe, we will use apple cider vinegar, lime juice, chipotle, guajillo, and pasilla chiles, as well as the above-mentioned spices.
WHAT IS BARBACOA?
Barbacoa is the name given in Mexico to slow-cooked meat that has been seasoned with spices and chiles. After slow cooking, the meat is tender enough to be shredded and used for tacos.
The spices used are traditionally used throughout Mexican cuisine and the chiles used are usually rehydrated dry chiles.
INGREDIENTS FOR BARBACOA BEEF:
- Chuck roast: Typically, in Mexico, barbacoa can be made from beef, lamb, or goat meat. I use beef.
- Olive oil to brown the meat. I don’t use extra virgin olive oil since cooking it at a high temperature takes away all the health benefits it provides. Use a light olive oil which is better suited for cooking.
- Onion: adding chopped onion to the meat inside the crockpot makes it super tender and allows it to deeply flavor the meat.
- Garlic is an essential ingredient that infuses the meat with extraordinary flavor.
- Beef broth: just a little goes a long way. Used as both a cooking agent for the meat inside the crockpot and a vessel for mixing all the chiles and spices used in the marinade.
- Apple cider vinegar. As I mentioned earlier, meat for tacos has to be cooked with a little acid to achieve that authentic Mexican flavor.
- Lime juice: in Mexico, yellow lemons are not widely available. Limes are citric of choice, and they are called lemons.
- Chipotles in adobo: these add a smokey and tart flavor to the meat and provide heat.
- Guajillo and pasilla chiles: guajillo chiles can be substituted with dried ancho chiles and pasilla are also called chile negro, which means black chile. To use them, rehydrate them in a bowl with hot water for about 15 mins. Then you can blend them easily into sauces.
- Cumin: the most widely used spice in Mexican cuisine, along with oregano. It gives the food it’s signature authentic Mexican taste. You cannot substitute this for anything else.
- Oregano: have you heard about Mexican oregano? It is slightly different from regular oregano, which is Mediterranean in origin and has a minty flavor.
- Bay leaves are also widely used in the preparation of Mexican dishes. It is perfect to use when cooking in the oven or slow cooking, for it needs a bit of time to infuse the food and develop its flavor.
- Cinnamon. Adding a touch of cinnamon adds so much flavor to the meat.
- Cloves: same as cinnamon, you can’t really distinguish its flavor, but the touch makes it authentic. Please do not skip the use of both these wonderful spices.
HOW TO MAKE BARBACOA BEEF?
- Cut the chuck roast into cubes and season them with salt and pepper.
- Using a large skillet, heat the olive oil and brown the meat on all sides. Place brown meat pieces inside the crockpot.
- In a blender, place beef broth, apple cider vinegar, garlic, lime juice, chipotles in adobo, chiles pasilla and guajillo, cumin, cinnamon, oregano, and cloves. Blend until smooth.
- Put chopped onion on top of the meat cubes inside the crockpot.
- Pour sauce over meat and add bay leaves. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or until the meat can be easily shredded with two forks. Shred, mix with the juices rendered, and serve with corn tortillas.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH BARBACOA BEEF?
Use the beef to make tacos. The best tortillas for tacos are corn tortillas.
Heat them before making the tacos to make them pliable, and remember, sometimes you will have to use two tortillas for each taco as the juices from the meat tend to break the first tortilla. Check out our Mexican rice recipe or our Homemade rice pilaf. They go perfectly with beef barbacoa.
You can even use Mexican rice to make burritos with flour tortillas. Top your tacos with pickled red onions, avocado, green salsa, crema or sour cream, cilantro, or the toppings of your choice.
More Recipes You’ll Love
- SLOW COOKER BEEF AND POTATO AU GRATIN
- THE BEST BEEF STIR FRY
- EASY BEEF STROGANOFF
- CROCKPOT BEEF AND BROCCOLI
Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa
- 3 lbs chuck roast
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- 1 chopped onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- ¼ cup beef broth
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- Juice of one lime
- 3 chipotles in adobo chiles
- 1 dried chile guajillo rehydrated in hot water
- 1 dried chile pasilla rehydrated in hot water
- 3 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon cloves
- Start by cubing and seasoning your meat. This will make it easier to cook as and add a lot of flavors because more meat surfaces will come in contact with the marinating sauce. At this time, also put your dried chiles into a bowl with hot water to rehydrate them
- Brown the beef. This is a crucial step. This step is what makes or breaks a meat dish. It is not the same to slow cook a piece of raw meat as slow cook a piece of browned meat. The flavors that develop when browning the meat really make a huge difference in the final taste of the dish. Do not skip this step.Transfer the brown cubes of meat to the slow cooker.
- Make the marinating sauce: into a blender pour the beef broth and add the garlic, rehydrated chiles, chipotles in adobo, vinegar, lime juice, and spices.
- Blend everything very well to make a thick sauce. This will be both the marinade and the cooking liquid for the meat. If you feel it needs more liquid, add 2 extra tablespoons of broth, but you don’t want it to be too liquid. It has to be a bit thick, or else your meat will have way too much liquid.
- Add the chopped onion, sauce and bay leaves to the crockpot on top of the meat, stir it, and cook on high for 4-5 hrs or on low for 8 hrs until the meat is tender enough to be shredded with the use of two forks.
- After shredding the beef, return it to the crockpot and mix it with the remaining marinade and rendered juices. The meat should be moist but not have excess liquid.
- Serve with corn tortillas and the toppings of your choice.
CAN YOU FREEZE BARBACOA BEEF?
Yes! It is the perfect dish to keep frozen for those days when you don’t want to cook.
Just let it cool completely, put it inside a freezer bag, label it with the date you made it and keep it frozen for as long as three months.
Thaw it overnight in the fridge and heat it in the microwave or stovetop when ready to use it.
- Season the meat very well with salt and pepper on all sides of the cubes. This will ensure that your finished dish will have many flavors because no more salt is added later.
- I cannot stress enough the importance of browning the meat before putting it in the crockpot. The flavor is immensely different if you don’t.
- Do not add excess liquid to the meat inside the crockpot. You are not making a stew. You want to have moist meat, but not a stew. It is supposed to be just enough moisture to coat the meat.
- Try to add all the spices called for in the recipe. They all make a difference in making this dish as authentic as possible.
- After shredding, return the meat to the crockpot to mix with the remaining marinade and the rendered juices. This liquid is where all the flavor is at.
If you like this Barbacoa Beef recipe, please leave a comment and give this recipe a rating. I would love to hear from you and I truly appreciate your feedback! I will always do my best to respond to every comment ASAP. Thank you for following along! and happy cooking!