Barbacoa in the Crock Pot

“Mom, what’s that beef thing I like?” “Barbacoa, honey.” “Yeah, Barbacoa, I want Barbacoa.” That’s the reaction I got today after serving this recipe for Sunday supper. This recipe is definitely what Emeril Lagassi would call a “Food of Love” and takes a little time. The nice thing is the bulk of the work is done by the crock pot. If you don’t have a gravy boat that separates grease, try to make this ahead of time to put the in the fridge to make removing the fat easier.

So, what is this Barbacoa? It’s a traditional shredded beef eaten in Latin American countries, often for breakfast, wrapped in a tortilla and topped with a variety of condiments. The flavor is rich and can be either mild or spicy (picante).  I’ll give you instructions on both ends of the spectrum. The look and smells are so amazing while you are making it that I’ve snapped some pictures during the process as well as the final product.


  • 2-3 lb beef chuck roast
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 4 garlic cloves – whole bulb of garlic
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • Water drained from chopped jalepenos (reserve peppers for topping) – to add “picante” include 1 tsp to 1 Tbsp of the peppers
  • 3-4 cups water (+2-3 more cups as needed)
  • Olive oil


  • Trim fat from meat and season with salt and pepper. Brown roast on all sides in olive oil added to hot fry pan. Place in slow cooker.

  • Put cilantro, garlic, onion, spices, tomato paste, Jalapeno water (and peppers if desired) in food processor. Blend to form chunky paste adding a little water as needed. Stir in spices and water. Pour over meat.


  • Add 2-3 cups water as needed to reach just to the top of the meat.

Gorgeous! I wish computers had scratch n' sniff.



  • Cook 10-12 hours on low or 5-6 hours on high – until beef is falling apart and can be shredded by two forks. Remove roast and shred.
  • Strain the liquid in the crock pot. If you have time, refrigerate the sauce. Once cold it’s easy to de-fat. When ready to eat return the shredded beef to the sauce and heat through.
  • Serve by serving beef (use slotted spoon or tongs) on tortillas. Serve with chopped onion, queso fresco, black beans, shredded cheese, chopped Jalapenos, and other tasty toppings.

Enjoy! The smells were so inviting my oldest son actually said he wanted to stay home for dinner instead of go to a friend’s house for pizza. My younger son chants, “Barbacoa, Barbacoa, Barbacoa…” I’d say we found a winner.

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