This Mexican beef barbacoa recipe is a delicious and really easy-to-make tender and delicious Mexican shredded beef. It starts with an inexpensive chuck roast and then the most delicious barbacoa seasoning is added to the meat and slow-cooked in a Dutch oven. This beef barbacoa makes a great filling for barbacoa tacos, burritos, or a main dish on its own served with a side of rice.
Living here in Austin, TX, tacos are really popular because of the large Mexican population. Barbacoa tacos are found at every taco joint and Mexican restaurant in the area.
I only recently decided to make this Mexican shredded beef at home and I am sure glad I did. It is really easy to make and really big on flavor. It's perfect for a small group or a larger crowd.
This barbacoa recipe is similar to my Texas chili since they use chuck roast and dried chile peppers. This Mexican barbacoa pairs well with quick Spanish rice or with corn tortillas and is made into barbacoa tacos (more on the tacos below.)
For an entire meal with drinks and dessert, I like making my watermelon margaritas, Mexican horchata, and watermelon popsicles since they are both light and pair so well with the Barbacoa. I even like to add refreshing cucumber agua frescas to the mix.
Make this as is or with your favorite sides.
Beef Barbacoa Ingredients
- Beef Chuck Roast.
- Dried Guajillo chile peppers. This is for the barbacoa seasoning portion of the recipe. If you cannot find these peppers, substitutes are listed below.
- Kosher salt and pepper.
See the recipe card for quantities.
The ingredients are very simple for this delicious Mexican beef barbacoa recipe. Guajillo chiles are actually very easy to find in the spice section of your grocery store.
They are sold in bags and they come dried. I have always had luck finding them at Whole Foods Market.
The best cut of meat for beef barbacoa
This Mexican barbacoa uses a beef chuck roast, which is a tougher cut of meat that is perfect for cooking low and slow until tender. Traditionally, goat or lamb would have been used and both require long cooking times to produce tender meat.
To keep this beef barbacoa traditional, if you cannot find chuck roast, try to use a large beef roast that is somewhat tough and needs a few hours to cook up tender.
Other great options to look for at the store are brisket (flat cut cooks up the fastest) or beef cheeks.
How to make Mexican barbacoa (step-by-step photos)
Making this beef barbacoa only involves making a quick chile pepper sauce, searing the chuck roast then adding it all together to cook in the oven for a couple hours.
Soak the chile peppers in hot water.
Add rehydrated chile peppers, hot water, and garlic to a blender.
Blend until smooth.
Cook the sauce in a small saucepan for about 5 minutes.
The first thing you want to do is make the barbacoa seasoning (barbacoa sauce). This is what the chuck roast simmers in and the flavor in this beef barbacoa recipe.
This does not take too long. From start to finish, this sauce is ready in under 30 minutes.
Pro-tip: This barbacoa sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge for a couple of days.
Add salt and pepper to the chuck roast.
Sear chuck roast in a heavy bottom pot with a lid.
Now pour barbacoa sauce over the top.
After it is done cooking, shred the meat and mix in the sauce.
How to serve Mexican Beef Barbacoa
The most traditional way I have seen beef barbacoa served is as barbacoa tacos. This traditional way to make beef barbacoa tacos looks like this:
- Stack two corn tortillas on top of one another.
- Pile on a good portion of the barbacoa meat.
Toppings for Barbacoa
- Top the meat with finely chopped white onion and fresh cilantro.
- Serve with a lime wedge which is squeezed over the taco before eating.
Best Tortillas To Use
When I first moved to Texas I didn't understand why two corn tortillas were served with the barbacoa. I thought I could just make two tacos out of the one that I would buy at taco stands.
Then you realize when you are eating the barbacoa tacos that the corn tortillas fall apart very easily, especially with moist and tender barbacoa meat.
So you want to make sure to use two corn tortillas. Warm the corn tortillas for about 30 seconds a side in a small saute pan over medium heat.
If you cannot find guajillo chile peppers, you can use canned chipotle peppers. You can use one small can of chipotle peppers and their juice to replace the guajillo chile peppers.
This Mexican barbacoa recipe is not spicy since it uses guajillo chiles. Guajillo chile peppers are full of flavor but not spicy. Here are variations and ideas to change things up a bit.
- Spicy - add dried Arbol chiles or red pepper flakes for a little heat.
- Veggie packed - add sliced onions and peppers during the last hour of cooking.
I like to use a cast iron Dutch oven for this Mexican shredded beef recipe. It retains heat well and has a tight-fitting lid. You can use any oven-safe pot with a lid if you do not have a Dutch oven.
This Mexican barbacoa is made in the oven but you could easily adapt this recipe to use your slow cooker. To use the slow cooker, follow the recipe all the way through searing the meat.
Make the sauce for the barbacoa ahead of time so when you are ready to cook the barbacoa, all you have to do is sear the meat and then add the sauce before going into the oven.
Barbacoa is usually made from beef or goat and is slow-cooked before it is shredded. Carnitas is made from pork and is shredded and then crisped up before serving.
Traditional barbacoa is a method of slow-cooking various cuts of beef, goat or mutton. The meat is slow-cooked until it is tender and can be easily shredded. The meat is slow-cooked with chile peppers and spices making it very flavorful and a great addition to tacos, burritos, or as a side to Spanish rice.
What to serve with beef barbacoa
These are my favorite sides to serve with Mexican barbacoa. If you are looking to make traditional barbacoa tacos, see how to do this above in the post.
More Mexican recipes
- 1 dutch oven with lid or heavy bottom oven safe pot with lid
- 2 lb Chuck roast
- 4 Guajillo chile peppers (seeds removed) (or see substitutions list in post)
- 3 Cloves garlic
- 2 cups Hot water
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 8 corn tortillas optional
- 1 chopped white onion optional
- Pe-heat your oven to 325 degrees.
- Cut stems off the top of the Guajillo peppers.
- With a thin sharp knife, scrape out seeds from peppers.
- Place Guajillo chile peppers and garlic into a bowl and add hot water.4 Guajillo chile peppers (seeds removed), 3 Cloves garlic, 2 cups Hot water
- Let steep for 10 minutes to soften chile peppers
- After 10 minutes, add the peppers, garlic and the water they steeped in to a blender.
- Blend until smooth.
- Pour pureed pepper mixture into a small sauce pan and lightly simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes.
- Set aside.
- Pat the chuck roast dry with paper towels.2 lb Chuck roast
- Add salt and pepper to both sides of roast.1 teaspoon Kosher salt, ½ teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper
- Pre-heat a large oven safe pot over medium heat.
- Add olive oil.1 teaspoon olive oil
- Add chuck roast and sear both sides.
- Once the chuck roast has been seared on both sides, pour chile pepper puree over the top.
- Place the lid on top and place in the oven for 2-3 hours.
- Once the meat is fully cooked and is tender, take two forks and shred it in the pot with the pureed chile peppers.
- Mix the shredded meat into the sauce in the pot so all of the meat is coated evenly.
- Serve with fresh corn tortillas and chopped white onion or alongside Spanish rice.8 corn tortillas, 1 chopped white onion
Slow cooker method:To use the slow cooker, follow the recipe all the way through searing the meat. Then place the seared chuck roast and pureed chile peppers in the slow cooker and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until tender. To re-heat: Place shredded beef in a large saute pan over medium low heat. Add a little beef broth or water (about ⅛ cup) and mix well. Heat gently until meat is warmed all the way through.
Nutrition Values are estimates only.See full nutrition disclaimer here
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