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Barbacoa. This authentic tasting Texas barbacoa recipe is easy to make at home in the slow cooker. Simple, yet flavorful, this shredded beef recipe is perfect for loading into tacos, burritos, or putting on top of nachos! The perfect addition to all your Tex Mex meals.

Nothing beats a trip to the local taco shop! But this homemade slow cooker barbacoa is just as good! Serve alongside some Esquites for a truly authentic Tex Mex meal.

Slow cooker barbacoa street tacos lined up and topped with cilantro and diced onion.


I’m going to start this recipe by advising you this is not the Barbacoa you will find at Chipotle. This is the barbacoa that you will find at the corner taco shop in Texas that serves up street tacos day in and day out.

What is barbacoa?

Barbacoa refers to the method of cooking meat, or the place where the meat was cooked. Originating in the Caribbean, the method of cooking made it’s way to Mexico. Using lamb, goat, or beef, they would slow cook the meat in a fire pit, sometimes underground. Of course this came into Texas by way of Mexico. The word eventually evolved into barbecue. But Barbacoa is now used to refer to a seasoned beef, that has been slow cooked. 

Most Tex Mex places offer a barbacoa and pile it high inside street tacos, on salads, in burritos. You name it. Although, to be honest, Barbacoa tacos are one of my favorites (right behind Birria) and typically on my order wherever I can get them! To keep it classic top the Barbacoa street tacos with some diced onion and cilantro.

Cut up chuck roast.

What meat do you use to make Barbacoa?

Beef Cheeks:

Traditionally in Mexico they would use a cut of Beef head meat, like Beef Cheek. When cooked long and slow it becomes extra tender. You may be able to find beef cheeks in your market. I have been able to find Rumba Meats in our local markets, if you’re interested their website has a product locator on it and they do sell on Amazon. Here’s a link to their site: Not sponsored, but I know it can be challenging to find certain cuts of meat. 

Chuck Roast:

IF you aren’t wanting to use Beef Cheeks, you can use a Chuck Roast instead. The images in this post are from a chuck roast. Chuck roast is readily available at the markets and still cooks up tender when cooked low and slow. Not AS tender as the beef cheeks but my personal preference is to use Chuck Roast. My husband prefers the beef cheeks. 

Seared chuck roast in a slow cooker with onion, garlic and bay leaves.

How to cook Barbacoa:

Slow Cooker:

  1. Chop the roast into 1-2 inch chunks. Sear in a hot skillet with a small amount of oil. This helps create some crispy bits of meat and gives great flavoring!
  2. Place the meat into the bottom of the slow cooker. 
  3. Sprinkle with salt. General rule of thumb is 1 teaspoon per pound of meat. We find that a slight bit salty, so I cut it down to 3/4 of a teaspoon per pound. You can add more if needed at the end when you shred the meat. 
  4. Add in the quartered onion and smashed garlic cloves. Top with 2 bay leaves. 
  5. Let cook on LOW for 6-7 hours. Shred the meat, removing bay leaves, and onion if you want, and return to the slow cooker to stir into the juices. 
  6. Let cook on LOW for another 20 minutes. Then serve warm.

Oven Roasting:

  1. Cut and sear the beef.
  2. Place the beef on a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with quartered onion and garlic cloves. 
  3. Fold the foil to cover the beef. 
  4. Place in a large casserole dish. 
  5. Bake in the oven at 325 until the meat reaches at least 200 degrees and easily shreds with a fork (approximately 3-4 hours)
Beef barbacoa being served up with tongs.

How to Serve Barbacoa:

Other Recipes you may enjoy:

Barbacoa (True Texas Style)

4.99 from 58 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 8 hours
Servings: 8
Author: Serene
Authentic tasting barbacoa! This easy to make at home slow cooker barbacoa, is simply seasoned and perfect for loading into tacos! 
Slow cooker barbacoa street tacos lined up and topped with cilantro and diced onion.


  • 1 tbsp oil canola, vegetable, avocado
  • 2 pounds beef cheeks or beef chuck roast
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ½ onion quartered
  • 3 cloves garlic smashed
  • 2 bayleaves


  • Chop the beef into 1-2 inch chunks. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, sear the meat briefly on all sides. Careful not to crowd the pan. Continue until all meat is seared.
  • Place the beef into the bottom of the slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt. 
  •  Add in the quartered onion and smashed garlic cloves. Add in the bay leaves. 
  • Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours until the meat easily shreds. Remove the bay leaves and large pieces of onion.
  • Shred the meat. Return the meat to the slow cooker, stir into the juices. Let cook for another 20-30 minutes on LOW. 
  • Serve warm on corn tortillas to make street tacos.



1. Beef Cheeks: this cut is a lot fattier, I would recommend purchasing double the amount of meat you need since half of it will render out as fat during cooking. 
2. Salt: use 3/4 teaspoon of salt per pound of beef. 
3. Storage: refrigerate in a covered container for up to 5 days. Freezer for up to 3 months. 


Serving: 1 | Calories: 221kcal | Protein: 23g | Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 65mg | Sodium: 280mg

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

Like this? Leave a comment below!

Recipe was first published September 11, 2019. Updated February 28, 2020 with a step by step video. Recipe remains unchanged.

Welcome to my kitchen!

Welcome to the House of Yumm!! My name is Serene. I’m the food photographer, recipe developer, and official taste tester around these parts.

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Recipe Rating


  1. This was amazing! I used beef chuck roast and followed the recipe closely. It was very tasty and tender. No beef cheeks at our local grocery store, so I was so happy to find this amazing recipe using a common cut of beef. Thank you!

  2. Amazing recipe. I’ve never made barbacoa before and found your recipe.  I used chuck roast and my family loved it!  I will look at using a combination of both for a different flavor.  Thank you so much for the recipe.  I miss my Texas barbacoa tocos.  This definitely helps. 

  3. Have you ever tried using a mix of chuck roast or some other meat and beef cheek? I love the taste of the beef cheek but it is so fatty. But when I use chuck roast alone it doesn’t taste right.  

    1. Hi Heather! You may be a genius. I don’t know why I haven’t thought to combine them.. I’m the same as you, I love the beef cheeks, but it’s so fatty, and I hardly get any meat after cooking all day. I think I will try combining them the next time I make this.

  4. First off this is like the barbocoa you would find at a Chipoltle. REAL Texas Barbocoa is made with the beef cheeks. REAL barbocoa is sticky and gelatinous. Roast is not. It really only needs salt and some cumin maybe some garlic and that is it. Sorry but barbocoa is from the cows head.

    1. Hi Patricia, apparently you didn’t read the post. The recipe. Or watch the video. I talk about beef cheeks in all of it. And this recipe works with beef cheeks. I show making it with roast, because more people are comfortable cooking with roast. Not to mention the recipe only involves salt and garlic. So thanks for your input. Have a nice day Patricia.

  5. I can’t thank you enough!!! My husband is Hispanic and I am not and he said it was the best ever! I made the slow cooker version and will now make it over and over again!!!

  6. I love the simplicity of this recipe & surprisingly tasted so authentic! I’ve visited Texas before, & yes, the best tasting tacos were the ones we bought from corner stores or gas stations! I just made this, and my family loved it & I will definitely will be making it again & again. Thanks for sharing this recipe! 

    1. Hi Jay! And nope! No liquid. As the meat cooks the fat renders and it will become juicy and tender all on it’s own! I actually have some in my slow cooker right now for dinner tonite 🙂