How to make Slow Cooker Barbacoa

Slow cooker barbacoa is savory and succulent; made with chuck roast and smothered in chipotle peppers. Seared to perfection and slow-cooked. Beef barbacoa is a welcome treat in our house.

All of our favorite places serve their own version of barbacoa. I, myself, was quite surprised when I first realized there were very different takes on this beloved dish here in the United States.


If you love Chipotle™ and you love their barbacoa, you may be very surprised to taste how different it is from at, say, Cafe Rio™. One is savory, a little spicy and absolutely delicious in my humble opinion and one is more on the sweet side. Albeit still delicious, not what I’m looking for when it comes to barbacoa.


This version here at OvenStruck is savory with deep beef flavor and a little kick from the chipotle peppers in adobo. If you’re a fan of this variety of barbacoa, give it a try and let me know what you think!

What meat do you use to make Barbacoa?

Herein lies the debate! It is regional from what I understand. If you’re looking for the beef used at Chipotle™, they use beef shoulder clod. If you search, you will find that most Americans use beef cheeks and beef heart. In Mexico, they use parts of the head but state that it is mostly made from goat meat as opposed to cattle. The meat is usually made in an underground oven similar to how Hawaiians use an Imu to make Kahlua Pig and other delicacies.

Any way that you look at it, Barbacoa is about the cooking but we treat is as the dish itself. I prefer to use chuck roast (clod roast) to make barbacoa. There is plenty of connective tissue that lends itself well to slow cooking and breaks down nicely. There is a decent amount of fat to add in the umami flavor that you get when eating beef, no shortage there. It is a piece from the shoulder as well so keeping in line with my favorite eatery, it is a close second to the one I enjoy.

Whichever meat you choose you should understand the cut and the best cooking application to give you the desired results. Once you know what that is, the possibilities are endless.

Let’s get down to business and start preparing your slow cooker barbacoa!

Once you have selected your cut of meat for your slow cooker barbacoa, you’ll want to season it liberally with salt and pepper.

This recipe calls for other spices but placing them on the roast prior to cooking and shredding does not produce the result I look for in a well-seasoned dish.


chuck roast shoulder clod salt and pepper in pan

Next, pour the chipotle peppers into a blender of some sort and blend until smooth. Add the blended adobo to the seasoned beef and rub all over the chuck roast. Be sure to get in all the nooks and crannies.

Beef Barbacoa seasoned with chipotle peppers in pan

In your preheated cast iron skillet or cooking vessel of your choice, sear all the sides of the roast until that beautiful caramelization is formed. To achieve a nice sear on your slow cooker barbacoa, use a heavy bottom pan so the heat is retained and distributed evenly.

Pro Tip: When searing meat, be sure to preheat your pan. Let the meat tell you when it is seared and ready to be turned. If your meat sticks to the pan, it is still working its magic. Keep checking and leave it until it releases freely.

searing beef for slow cooker barbacoa

Once you have seared all sides of your roast, transfer to your slow cooker and add in the chicken stock.

Cover and set to your desired cook time and leave it alone. As tempting as it is to lift the lid to “peek” because it smells amazing, try and resist!

Seared chuck roast in crockpot with chicken stock for barbacoa

After the 6 or 8 hours of slow cooking, remove the lid and start shredding. This will be the easiest part of the dish as the barbacoa will simply fall apart.

I remove large pieces of fat if there are any to reduce the greasy nature of this dish. You won’t eliminate all of the grease but you can reduce it significantly.

slow cooker barbacoa in crock pot with cilantro and spices

Once you have shredded the barbacoa, add in your other spices. Chili pepper, cumin, ground cloves, oregano, garlic powder, and kosher salt. You can also add in cilantro or parsley to your liking.

That is it, you guys! So easy, so delicious, and a meal you can enjoy with your family and friends. I like to serve this with fresh homemade tortillas, chips and salsa and rice. What is your favorite way to enjoy barbacoa?

It’s no secret that I love food lore, history, and strange facts. If you want to know more about where barbacoa “originated” from, check out this story here!

Live, Love, Eat!


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Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa

Prep Time1 hour
Cook Time8 hours
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: International
Keyword: Barbacoa, Beef, Shoulder Clod, Slow Cooker
Servings: 8 people


  • Slow Cooker / Crockpot (r)


  • 6 Pounds Beef Chuck Roast
  • 1 can 7-ounce Chipotle Pepper in Adobo
  • 1 tbsp Black Pepper
  • 2 tsp New Mexico Chili Powder Any Chili Powder will do
  • 2 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Ground Cloves
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp Finely Ground Garlic Powder
  • 1 tbsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 bunch parsley or cilantro to garnish
  • 1 carton Chicken Stock 32 ounces



  • Heat a heavy bottom or cast iron skillet on the stovetop
  • While your pan is heating, cover entire chuck roast with kosher salt and black pepper as a base dry rub
  • Empty your can of Chipotle Peppers in Adobo into a blender or food processor and blend. Rub blended peppers into chuck roast being sure to cover in its entirety.
  • In your hot skillet, sear all sides of the chuck roast. We just want to crust the outside of the roast, not cook it completely. This should take 2 to 3 minutes pe r side.
  • Place your seared chuck roast into your slow cooker and add chicken stock until it covers the top of your roast. You may not need all 32 ounces, that's okay.
  • Cover and cook for desired time. I recommend cooking at the 6-hour mark for a minimum and the 8-hour mark ideally. Resist lifting the lid and just let your slow cooker do its magic.
  • Once cooking time is up, shred roast removing large pieces of fat (if any). Once shredded add in the spices. Be sure to taste your food as your adding things in to determine if you want more or less of a certain flavor. Also, feel free to add anything you may think you'd like. It's your pallet - enjoy your food!
  • Once all of your seasonings are stirred in, add in your parsley or cilantro. If the dish appears to greasy for your liking, you may spoon out the grease and sometimes dipping a paper towel around the edges helps with this too.
    Don't be too discouraged, this is a grease-laden dish and you will have to adjust.
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