Slow Cooker / Pressure Cooker Barbacoa Beef

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes
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Looking for a delicious and easy dinner recipe? Look no further! This recipe is sure to be a hit at your next gathering with its tender, flavourful beef that’s perfect for tacos, burritos, or simply served with rice. Try it out today!

Why this recipe is amazing

Flavour & texture: Barbacoa beef is known for its rich and savoury flavour. The slow cooking process creates an incredibly tender and juicy meat, while the combination of spices gives a complex and delicious flavour profile. The way the the beef is shredded/pulled further creates melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Difficulty & Time: 2/5. While it may seem intimidating to make, it’s actually quite simple. Use a slow cooker or pressure cooker to further minimise the workload. Depending on the cooking method, it can be 4 to 8 hours.

Versatility: Serve it in tacos or burritos and also in salads, sandwiches and rice bowls. Additionally, tailor it to fit a variety of dietary needs and preferences. Try low-carb by serving it in a lettuce wrap or over cauliflower rice, or made gluten-free by using corn tortillas. The options are endless!

Close up of enamel dutch oven with slow cooked pulled beef.

What ingredients are needed

  • Cut of Beef: Beef chuck roast is a good choice for barbacoa because it has a lot of connective tissue and marbling, which makes it perfect for slow cooking. Brisket is another popular choice because it has a rich, beefy flavour and becomes very tender when slow-cooked. See my post on Best Cuts of Beef for Slow and Pressure Cooking.
  • Onion: They add a sweet, savoury flavour to the meat and help to tenderize it as it cooks. The onions can be finely chopped or left in larger pieces, depending on your preference.
  • Chipotle chillies in adobo: Chipotle is smoked and dried jalapeño. It is often used in Mexican cuisine to add a smoky, spicy flavour. The adobo sauce adds a tangy, slightly sweet flavour that complements the smoky heat of the chipotle.
  • Cumin: Cumin is a popular spice that is widely used in Mexican cuisine. It has a warm, earthy flavour and adds a rich depth of flavour to barbacoa beef.
  • Garlic: Garlic is a staple ingredient in many savoury dishes and it is no exception in barbacoa beef. It adds a pungent, slightly sweet flavour that complements the other spices in the dish.
  • Oregano: Oregano is a herb that is often used in Mexican cooking. It has a slightly bitter, pungent taste and gives the dish a unique flavour.
  • Chilli or cayenne pepper: Adds a spicy kick to the barbacoa beef and helps to balance out the other flavours.
  • Paprika: Paprika is a spice from the ground, dried capsicum/peppers. It has a slightly sweet and smoky flavour and gives the barbacoa beef a deep red colour.
  • Bay leaves: Bay leaves are aromatic leaves that are commonly used in soups and stews. They add a subtle, earthy flavour to the dish.
  • Lime juice: Adds a bright, acidic flavour that complements the rich, savoury spices. The acidity of the lime juice also helps to balance the heat from the chipotle and other spices.
two tacos sitting on grey plate with tomato, onion and beef.

Best Cuts of Beef for Slow and Pressure Cooking

The best cuts of beef for slow and pressure cooking is one that is actually tough and contains a lot of connective tissue. Seems strange, right? Well, that connective tissue breaks down slowly and becomes incredibly tender when cooked low and slow. Try a cut like a chuck roast, short rib or brisket. These cuts of beef are cheaper than the tender cuts, like sirloin or tenderloin, but they have so much more flavour! Read more about Best Cuts of Beef for Slow and Pressure Cooking here.

Serving Suggestions

Tacos: Serve the beef on warm tortillas (flour or corn) and add your favourite toppings such as pickled red onion, fresh coriander/cilantro, crumbled cheese and a squeeze of lime juice.
Burritos: Another popular way to enjoy barbacoa beef is in a burrito. Wrap the beef in a warm tortilla with rice, beans, and your favourite toppings. Add some guacamole or sour cream for a creamy finish.

Rice bowls: Barbacoa beef also makes a great protein for rice bowls. Layer the beef over a bed of rice and add your favourite toppings such as sliced avocado, diced tomatoes, and chopped lettuce.

Salads: For a lighter option, use the beef as a topping for a salad. Start with a bed of greens and add the beef, sour cream, cheese, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and any other vegetables you like. Top with hot sauce for a yummy healthy meal.

Burgers / Sandwiches: For a quick and easy lunch, use the beef as a filling for a burger or sandwich. Pile the meat on a roll with some slaw or sliced onions and capsicum/peppers.


These are just a few serving suggestions for my barbacoa beef. Feel free to get creative and try it in your favourite dishes!

Blue and grey bowl of beef and tex-mex vegetables with grey plays containing tacos and bowl of pulled beef in background.
Try the beef in a burrito bowl

Setting you up for success – Tips, Tricks & FAQs

  • Here are some tips, tricks and FAQs to help you make the most of your cooking:
    • Add the right amount of liquid: When using a slow cooker or oven method, it’s important to add enough liquid to prevent the beef from drying out. Water, beef stock, or a combination of the two are good options. With a pressure cooker, you just need 1 cup liquid total to create steam. Too much liquid will create a diluted sauce.
    • Use the right cut of beef: For the most flavourful and tender beef, use a cut that’s high in fat and connective tissue. Beef chuck roast, ribs or beef brisket are great choices.
    • Spice it up: The recipe is traditionally made with a variety of spices, such as cumin, chilli powder and oregano. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different spice blends to find your favourite flavour profile.
    • Make it ahead of time: this recipe can be made ahead of time and reheated later. This makes it a great option for meal prep or for feeding a crowd.
    • Serve with fresh toppings: The meat is delicious on its own, but it’s even better when paired with fresh toppings such as coriander/cilantro, lime wedges, diced onions and crumbled cheese.

Storing & Freezing Instructions:

Can I use a different type of meat?

While beef is the most traditional choice, you could also use pork, chicken or lamb. Just keep in mind that the cooking time and method may need to be adjusted.

Can I make this recipe in an Instant Pot?

Yes, an Instant Pot is just a brand name for a ‘multicooker’. It has both pressure & slow cooking functions and is great for making this recipe. Just be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and adjust the cooking time as needed.

How do you store the beef?

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days or freeze up to 3 months. Be Aware: The texture of the beef may be slightly different after it’s been frozen and thawed. The flavour will still be delicious and it’s a great way to have a meal ready in a pinch.

How do I defrost barbacoa beef?

Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight or in the microwave using the “defrost setting”. Reheat the beef in a slow cooker or on the stovetop over low heat until it’s heated through.

Grey plate with 2 soft tacos topped with rice, pulled beef, pickled onion and herbs.

Did you make this recipe?

Let us know how it turned out for you! Comment below, tag @missmolly_makes on Instagram using #missmollymakes or visit us LIVE at twitch.tv/missmollymakes.com

Dinner table with bowls of beef, tortillas and vegetables

Slow Cooker / Pressure Cooker Barbacoa Beef

Servings 8
Looking for a delicious and easy dinner recipe? Look no further! This recipe is sure to be a hit at your next gathering with its tender, flavourful beef that's perfect for tacos, burritos, or simply served with rice. Try it out today!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes

Equipment

  • Slow/Pressure Cooker or a Casserole dish with a lid

Ingredients
 

  • 1½-2 kgs (3½-4 lb) chuck beef roast / brisket / ribs / cheeks cut into large cubes, size of your palm
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp ground black pepper
  • ½-2 tsp cayenne pepper or chili powder
  • 1 large red/yellow/brown onion diced
  • 3-4 tsp chipotle chillies in adobo
  • 4-5 cloves garlic minced
  • tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 2 tsp beef stock powder
  • cup (1-1½ cup) water

Instructions

  • In a bowl, mix the seasoning mixture for the chuck roast. Then, cube up the chuck roast into about 4-inch cubes. Season them with the spice mixture.
  • Using your cooker’s ‘sauté’ setting or a large frying pan over medium heat. Add 1-2 tbsp oil, then brown beef on all sides before transferring all ingredients to the cooker.
  • After all the meat has been seared, add all ingredients and transfer to your cooker or casserole dish as necessary.

Slow Cooker

  • Cover and cook on ‘Low’ setting for 6-8 hours. The beef should be easy to pull apart, if it isn’t, continue cooking until it is. Check at the 4-hour mark and additional time as necessary. The beef should be easy to pull apart, if it isn’t, continue cooking until it is. Add more water/beef stock if necessary to ensure beef is mostly covered.

Pressure cooker

  • Cook on ‘high’ for 45 minutes then allow the pressure to naturally release. The beef should be easy to pull apart, if it isn’t, return to pressure for 10 more minutes before depressurising immediately.

Oven

  • Preheat oven to 160°C/320°F. Cover with lid or tightly wrapped aluminium foil and place in oven to slow cook for 6-8 hours. Check at the 4-hour mark and additional time as necessary. The beef should be easy to pull apart, if it isn’t, continue cooking until it is. Add more water/beef stock if necessary to ensure the beef is mostly covered.

Finish

  • Remove the beef and transfer it to a plate or serving dish, leaving the liquid in the cooker. Pull apart as desired, set aside and remember to discard the whole spices.
  • Add as much cooking liquid to the shredded beef as desired. Season to taste. You can always add more cumin, oregano or garlic etc.
  • See serving suggestions and enjoy!

Notes

Serving Suggestions:
  • Tacos: Serve the beef on warm tortillas (flour or corn) and add your favourite toppings such as pickled red onion, fresh coriander/cilantro, crumbled cheese and a squeeze of lime juice.
    Burritos: Another popular way to enjoy this meat is in a burrito. Wrap the beef in a warm tortilla with rice, beans, and your favourite toppings. Add some guacamole or sour cream for a creamy finish.
    Rice bowls: The beef also makes a great protein for rice bowls. Layer the beef over a bed of rice and add your favourite toppings such as sliced avocado, diced tomatoes, and chopped lettuce.
    Salads: For a lighter option, use the beef as a topping for a salad. Start with a bed of greens and add the beef, sour cream, cheese, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and any other vegetables you like. Top with hot sauce for a yummy healthy meal.
    Burgers / Sandwiches: For a quick and easy lunch, use the beef as a filling for a burger or sandwich. Pile the meat on a roll with some slaw or sliced onions and capsicum/peppers.
    These are just a few serving suggestions for my barbacoa beef. Feel free to get creative and try it in your favourite dishes!

Nutrition

Calories: 352kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 129mg | Sodium: 1038mg | Potassium: 683mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 151IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 52mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

Recipe Published: February 20, 2023 Last Updated: June 14, 2023
Lauren and Troy George, Creators of MissMollyMakes smiling to camera.

Hey, we are Molly & Exceede

Former operating room Nurse and self-taught home cook + IT Engineer passionate about Approachable, No-Nonsense recipes to help you level up in the kitchen. We create simplified dishes for busy people with easy-to-find ingredients!
To learn more about us, our cooking show and more, click here!

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