Taqueria-Style Shredded Beef in the Slow Cooker


What would your last meal on earth be? If you could have anything you wanted?

I’ve given this a lot of thought, because, you know, thinking about weightier matters makes my head hurt. So do football games, which is why I would totally (not) watch the Super Bowl for the food.

Not having more than four consecutive hours of sleep in almost eight months doesn’t help, either.

My meal of choice? Unfortunately my answer changes with whatever I happen to be craving. Or the seasons.

Authentic street tacos are high on the list, though. Drippy, tender, shredded beef would be second only to batter-fried fish.

After a few attempts, I’m sure I created THE knock-off of that drippy, tender, shredded beef found in taqueria tacos. (If you don’t live in a place that has taquerias, I suggest you find an area with a large Hispanic population, stat.)

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This recipe isn’t a quickie, though. For that reason, I make a LOT and freeze some of it. For the base I use these slightly menacing-looking dried chiles you see in the latin food section of the grocery store. I used to be scared of them until I made the best Chicken Tortillas Soup ever. That soup has become one of our staples, and I keep these chiles in the pantry all the time now.

First they need to be soaked so they blend easier. Put them in a bowl and cover with hot water.

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I put another bowl on top so they stay submerged.

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After a few hours, I pull them out, pull the stems off, and get most of the seeds out. The chiles go into the blender. . .

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. . .along with a bunch of other stuff, and become a really concentrated chile/enchilada paste type of thing.

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Sear the roast. For this recipe I used two roasts that were roughly 2 pounds each.

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Put the roasts in your big slow cooker. (Not the medium or the small one. Just admit you have three of them.)

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Eight hours later it’s dark and the lighting in your kitchen is kind of cruddy, so you use your phone to take a picture so it looks all yellow-ish and hipster like you did it on purpose. Oh, and the meat falls apart, too.

Separate the meat from the juices (strained, preferably).

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In the morning the juices will look something like this…. a gelatinous, beefy substance covered in orange wax. Mmm. Just toss the “wax” aka fat, unless you want to keep it around to cook with. The juices will become runny again once heated. If it’s gelatinous like this, it means its full of things that are actually really good for you. (If you started out with good meat, that is.)

And that juicy stuff you’ve got in that bowl? Pretty much the best enchilada sauce ever. You can use it for lots of things. I made another version of those Stacked Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas with the shredded meat and sauce. And lots of spinach. Wowza, it was good.

You could also make traditional enchiladas. Or nachos. Or those salads packed with all kinds of stuff that I totally crave from a place that rhymes with Rafe Cio that we don’t have in Reno. *Sad face*

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Or tacos. Throw some of the meat into a skillet with a few spoonfuls of that sauce and you’re set. For the entire football game. Or for life.

Or. . . for whatever that comes after that. It’ll sustain you.

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Taqueria-Style Shredded Beef

Yield: Enough shredded meat to fill three quart-sized freezer bags

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 8 hours

Total Time: 9 hours (plus soaking time)


3-4 dried pasilla peppers
2 guajillo peppers
1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
Juice from one lime (about 2-3 Tablespoons)
2 chipotle peppers, from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce (I seeded mine)
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon oregano
3-5 pounds of beef (large roasts work best, any cut)


Heat a skillet to medium heat and add the dried chiles. Toast for a minute or so until they become fragrant. Don't let them burn. Transfer to a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Add another bowl on top of the chiles to keep them submerged. Let them soak for at least 30 minutes, up to a few hours.

Drain chiles (reserving the liquid), remove stems and most of the seeds, and place them in the blender with the remaining ingredients (except the beef). Blend until smooth. Add some of the chile-soaking liquid if necessary. Set aside.

Unwrap your beef and do whatever you need to do to get it ready for the pan (trimming, etc.) Heat a cast-iron or stainless steel skillet with 2-3 Tablespoons of heat-safe oil (like coconut or grapeseed) over high heat. The oil should be shimmering and there should be very faint wisps of smoke. Place the beef in the skillet (you should hear some crazy sizzling or your pan isn't hot enough) and let it sit there for a minute or two. Turn the meat to sear on all sides. It should be crusty brown in spots.

Transfer seared meat to a 6-quart slow cooker. Pour blended sauce over top. Cover and cook on low for at least 8 hours.

When the meat is tender, remove roasts from the cooker and shred the meat. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Strain the liquid in the cooker, discarding all the slimy stuff. Pour strained liquid into a bowl and set aside to cool.

When the meat and sauce are both cooled off, cover and chill. You can use the meat right away if you like, but the sauce needs time to cool so you can remove the fat from the top. It's lots easier that way. (And you end up with the best enchilada sauce on the planet!)

If you want to serve the meat and sauce together, put some meat in a skillet with a few spoonfuls of sauce and cook until the meat has softened and everything's all saucy and happy.

from Perry's Plate

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34 Responses to “Taqueria-Style Shredded Beef in the Slow Cooker”

  1. #
    Liz @ The Lemon Bowl — January 31, 2013 @ 5:03 am

    I am loving all of the peppers in this!!!!


  2. #
    Bev @ Bev Cooks — January 31, 2013 @ 7:33 am



  3. #
    Vijay @ NoshOnIt — January 31, 2013 @ 8:01 am

    Totally using this recipe tonight with chicken!


  4. #
    Joanne — January 31, 2013 @ 9:17 am

    Hmm that is a tough question but I think I would have some kind of street food on my last dinner menu. It’s usually pretty delicious.


  5. #
    Double Dipped Life — January 31, 2013 @ 9:41 am

    It’s a darn good thing I’m going to the store today. Thanks!


  6. #
    Jen — January 31, 2013 @ 10:44 am

    So I’ve been following your blog for the past 9 months and have introduced quite a few of your recipes into our regular rotation (last night we had chickpea fritters and slow cooker indian beef- so yum to both!!) and I’ve been thinking that I really needed to send you a note of thanks. And then your note about a certain mexican restaurant in today’s post pushed me over the edge. I moved from ID to VT over a year ago and they are on the short list of things I miss in ID. I was e-mailing that restaurant within the first month to beg them to consider a location near our new town (!). And did you know that I actually got a personal response? I was so impressed! Of course I would have been way more impressed if they told me they were going to take my good advice. So for now, I’m on the lookout for recipes to make my own “Rafe Cio” favorites at home- thanks for this latest tasty recipe Natalie! You rock! (I have a 9 month old and a 3 year old and am happy when I make dinner- I have no idea how you continue to have the energy to put together such an awesome food blog with 3 kids. Kudos to you!)


    • Natalie Perry replied: — January 31st, 2013 @ 8:44 pm

      You’re so sweet, Jen! This totally made my day. I’m so glad you found some things you like. (Nice choice with the Indian. I LOVE both of those!) I had to laugh at your “short list” of things you miss about Idaho. I grew up there. I totally get it. :) I’m rooting for a Cafe Rio in Reno, too. There’s one in Vegas, so at least we have one in the state! Thanks again for your message! xoxo

    • Jen replied: — February 7th, 2013 @ 6:48 am

      And you made me day with your response! I wanted to clarify that my “short list” was meant to refer to the “Top 10” list of items I miss, not that I only have a short list of items I miss in ID… : ) This recipe reminds me of things on my longer list like WINCO and the Latin section of the grocery store that was as long as the whole isle (now it’s 4-feet long and carries mostly cans from Ortega and Old El Paso rather than the real deal goods)! Thanks for all the laughs along with your recipes!

  7. #
    Erin @ Texanerin Baking — January 31, 2013 @ 11:55 am

    Well I would have a pepperoni pan pizza from Pizza Hut and I’m not ashamed. It’s AWESOME, okay? With a few pieces of fried chicken. And homemade Cheez-its.

    And shredded beef! Oh my gosh. It looks so good. I need to find me some good beef!


    • Natalie Perry replied: — January 31st, 2013 @ 8:42 pm

      I forgot to mention that we ordered pizza on Tuesday. It was a desperate night! I have to agree with you. I have a special place in my heart for Pizza Hut’s pepperoni pizza. I ate that almost every week as a teenager when my mom decided to quit cooking dinner on Fridays. :)

  8. #
    Bree {Skinny Mommy} — January 31, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

    Yum! I lived in Mexico for a year and just adore Mexican street tacos. Looks like you did a great job!


  9. #
    Karly — January 31, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

    Darn it. You know I’m powerless to resist these kinds of dishes.


  10. #
    Jolene (www.everydayfoodie.ca) — January 31, 2013 @ 8:19 pm

    I love this post :-) And you’re right … I do have three.


  11. #
    Sarah — January 31, 2013 @ 8:25 pm

    Soooooo….these look totally amazing and I will be making them very soon. It’s kinda funny because my 5-year-old actually begs me to buy those scary-looking chiles from the store. He thinks they look cool. So, yeah, he will be happy about this dish.
    I also bought a half cow from a rancher who does grass-fed, organic, hormone-free beef locally. It’s all in my freezer. So if I thaw a couple of roasts and then cook them like this, I can freeze them again without a problem? Or did you use fresh roasts? I’ve heard different things from different sources, but I’d like your practical advice. Does it taste good from the freezer the second time? Because that’s what really matters!


    • Natalie Perry replied: — January 31st, 2013 @ 8:46 pm

      Nice! We have half a cow, too! And yes, you can freeze the meat again. I do it all the time. I don’t think the meat taste weird at all, especially if you use the sauce with it. I’m excited for your 5-year-old to get his hands on those chiles. :)

    • Sarah replied: — February 14th, 2013 @ 7:03 pm

      I finally made this shredded beef. Oh my heavens! Everyone loved it so much. We had it for dinner with company (everyone was very impressed), plus leftovers for lunch, plus two more good-sized dinner portions put away in the freezer. Thank you very much for sharing this recipe. I am not exaggerating when I say this will be my Mexican shredded beef recipe for a LONG time. The sauce…..ohhhhhh……the sauce……
      I was wondering if you’ve found any great recipes for shredded pork. I, too, spent my college days in Provo and am now missing the Cafe Rio sweet pork tacos. I have half a pig in my freezer, too! But the recipes I’ve found so far are pretty sketchy, some people even call for things like Coca Cola! It would be great to have a healthy, delicious pork recipe. If I find one I will let you know :)

      • Natalie Perry replied: — February 14th, 2013 @ 9:43 pm

        Hi Sarah! You know… I like all of the recipes I post (otherwise I wouldn’t post them) but there are some that I’m so in love with and wish that every human being who reads my blog would try. This is one if them. I’m so glad you liked it as much as I did!

        No, I don’t have any shredded pork recipes. And I most likely won’t. With the exception of cured pork, I really don’t like pork that much. I know I’m weird. I’m not sure if its the taste or texture or what, but it’s not my favorite. If I did, I’d for sure get a half hog like you did and fill me freezer! It’s the best way to go!

  12. #
    Carrie @ Kiss My Whisk — February 1, 2013 @ 7:55 am

    I’m always looking for new slow cooker recipes, and this one looks just my style. I can’t wait to give it a try!


  13. #
    Abby — February 1, 2013 @ 2:31 pm

    wow! that is a kick butt taco. Now to find those peppers :)


  14. #
    Nicole @ youngbrokeandhungry — February 6, 2013 @ 10:07 am

    Moving from L.A that has a taco stand on every corner to Seattle where you can’t find one decent Mexican Restaurant, let me just say I miss it. I’ll have to make this recipe soon because I am having a serious hankering for taqueria style beef tacos.


  15. #
    Erika @ The Hopeless Housewife — February 6, 2013 @ 6:23 pm

    What a wonderful dinner!


  16. #
    Amanda Perin — February 23, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

    I made the shredded beef yesterday, (YUM!) and have saved the sauce to use as enchillada sauce. (Mine turned out WAY spicy – I used 4 huge pasillas, and followed the rest of the recipe as called for… maybe I put too many peppers or seeds in? Only the girls really care, the boys like the heat.) Anyway, do you have a specific enchillada recipe you like to use for the sauce?


    • Natalie Perry replied: — February 23rd, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

      Probably the seeds is my guess. Funny you ask because I’m posting a recipe next week that uses that sauce and leftover shredded beef. :)

    • Amanda Perin replied: — February 27th, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

      Well hurry it up girlfriend! :) :)

  17. #
    Carole — April 14, 2013 @ 11:16 am

    I am curious about what tortillas you use….since most are NOT paleo. Do you just “cheat” or do you make your own??


    • Natalie Perry replied: — April 14th, 2013 @ 9:26 pm

      Hi Carole! When it comes to tortillas I’d rather use lettuce leaves instead of trying to find or make paleo tortillas (I don’t think they exist! Or ones worth eating at least.) So when we do taco night, I make corn tortillas from scratch to at least avoid the gluten.

  18. #
    Megan — April 23, 2013 @ 7:08 am

    Looks great. What kind (cut) of meat did you use or do you think works best for this recipe?


    • Natalie Perry replied: — April 24th, 2013 @ 10:05 pm

      Hi Megan! Larger cuts of meat work well, like chuck or rib roasts.

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  20. #
    Liz — May 8, 2013 @ 6:44 am

    Thank you, Natalie. Shredded beef sounds super


  21. #
    Jason — October 23, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

    Made it BOMB thats all I have to say.


  22. #
    Irene — May 6, 2014 @ 11:21 pm

    I made a huge batch of this for a family birthday party and they were fantastic. I wasn’t able to get some of the peppers where I live but I just modified the best I could and the sauce was still great. I made homemade flour tortillas and with the leftover I made an awesome mexican lasagne. Tortillas, meat, sauce, cheese, repeat!


    • Natalie Perry replied: — May 7th, 2014 @ 10:18 pm

      Thanks for letting me know, Irene! And that’s exactly what I do when I have leftovers. That sauce is AMAZING, isn’t it? Glad you enjoyed it!

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