Homemade Barbacoa Tacos

When you are craving a meat-loaded taco, these slow cooker barbacoa tacos will satisfy. Beef roast is slowly cooked in a homemade guajillo chile pepper sauce until it is fall apart. Serve it simply in tortillas with red onion and cilantro.

Barbacoa tacos are a traditional Mexican dish where the beef is prepared over a grill. Traditionally, it was an underground pit, but if like me you don’t have an underground pit available to you and since it is winter not much grilling is going on, a modern-day slow cooker works just as well.

Barbacoa tacos are a traditional Mexican meal. The meat is slow cooked in a dried guajillo pepper sauce that is similar to the sauce in these slow cooker pineapple pepper carnitas tacos. Dried guajillo chile peppers are a mild to medium pepper, so they don’t bring too much heat to the sauce. The peppers are toasted in a dry pan to bring out extra flavor and then added to boiling water along with all the aromatics for the sauce like garlic, cilantro and fresh tomato and sweetened with agave. They are simmered for a little to soften and then blended to complete the braising sauce.

Since the beef is slow cooked for many hours a chuck roast works very well as this cut of meat needs a lot of cooking to help break it down and make it tender.

These slow cooker barbacoa tacos make a great weeknight dinner. You can make the sauce the night before then throw everything into the slow cooker before leaving for work the next day. These tacos also make great leftovers.

The toppings are traditionally simple of red onion and fresh cilantro. Anything you like can be added to the tacos, I like adding avocado and a good salsa but the possibilities are endless and taco toppings are a very personal choice.

Homemade Barbacoa Tacos
Prep Time
Cook Time
Total Time
Recipe Type: Main
Serves: 4 servings
  • 2 ounces dried Guajillo chiles stemmed and seeded * see note
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled
  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • 1 tomato chopped
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 pounds boneless chuck roast fat trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • ¼ cup red onion chopped
  • Fresh cilantro chopped
  1. Add 2 cups water to a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. While the water is heating, add the chiles to a non-stick pan over medium heat. Press the chiles into the pan so they toast, turning often, don’t burn.
  3. Transfer the peppers to the boiling water and add the garlic, cilantro, tomato, agave and salt. Turn down to a simmer for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and steep for 15 minutes to soften the peppers.
  4. When the peppers have softened, transfer to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Strain the sauce into the slow cooker. Discard the paste from the strainer.
  5. Turn the slow cooker on low.
  6. Season the beef with the salt, oregano and cumin, rub the seasoning all over the meat. Add the beef to the slow cooker and spoon a little of the sauce over the meat.
  7. Cover and cook for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high.
  8. When the beef is done, remove some of the liquid until there is only enough left in the slow cooker to come half way up the meat. ** see note
  9. Use 2 forks to shred to the beef, mixing into the liquid to moisten and flavor the meat, add more liquid if required. Taste the meat and add more salt if needed, mix well.
  10. Serve in corn tortillas and top with chopped red onion, cilantro and any other toppings you like.
*Don't worry if you can't remove all the seeds. They will be removed when the sauce is blended and strained.

** This leftover liquid can be used to pour over tacos when serving


Janette Fuschi

Hi, my name is Janette, originally from England, currently living in Southern California. I'm the author, recipe developer, photographer and resident redhead behind Culinary Ginger. I grew up in a household with 4 siblings where my mother cooked a from scratch meal for us every night. I took an interest at an early age in cooking and learned a lot by helping and watching my mother in the kitchen. Today that tradition is carried on my household in that I also like to cook every night. I like to use only fresh ingredients, no processed or pre-packaged foods are allowed in my kitchen. I like to try new recipes and adapt current ones from all cuisines. In addition to all of this, I am fortunate that I get to travel with my husband for business and this allows me to explore and document my findings here for you to read and hopefully, take something with you.

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