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Chipotle Barbacoa Beef Copycat Recipe

If you love Chipotle’s Barbacoa, then you’ll love this copycat recipe! Slow cooked until the beef is falling apart and deeply flavorful, this recipe is perfect for tacos, burritos, nachos, and so much more. Instructions for both the Slow Cooker and Instant Pot are in the recipe notes below.

Close up of Chipotle Barbacoa Beef with a pair of tongs.

You will love this Barbacoa Recipe

Is there anyone who doesn’t love Chipotle? I like that they make it a priority to source their meat well and use fresh ingredients. I miss their pork-chicken chorizo, but luckily I made a Chipotle copycat recipe of that, too – Copycat Chipotle Chorizo.

Their barbacoa beef is my second favorite protein option and all you need is a big beef roast (chuck roast is great!) and a few ingredients to make this shredded taco beef at home.

I kind of feel like making amazing shredded meat is my super power. This one is a FABULOUS barbacoa recipe, and I hope you like it!

What is Beef Barbacoa?

Barbacoa is a traditional Mexican dish that requires meat, proper spices, and time to cook (I mean a loooong time!). Traditional Mexican spices are combined with peppers in adobo, lime, and broth to make a marinade that slow cooks with the meat – the long cooking time allows the flavors to meld and the meat to become tender and juicy.

This tender and flavorful roast is and usually served shredded as a filling or topping. Traditionally, a variety of meats can be used to make Mexican barbacoa — including beef (typically chuck roast or brisket), goat, or lamb.

Chipotle use beef to make their Barbacoa.

Carnitas Vs Beef Barbacoa

If you’ve ever wondered what is the difference between barbacoa and carnitas…

  • Barbacoa is used to describe the style of cooking – slow-cooked shredded meat. It’s usually made from beef, lamb, or goat. The word “barbecue” is derived from barbacoa, but the meaning is totally different now.
  • Carnitas translated means “little meats” and is usually made from pork. Carnitas isn’t seasoned quite as heavily as barbacoa and it’s usually finished off in the oven to get some crispy bits. Mmm.

Chipotle Barbacoa sauce ingredients

Slather your beef barbacoa roast with these super flavorful spices:

  • Chipotle peppers either from a can of chipotle in adobo sauce or some pre-chopped chipotle peppers. I love that jar of pre-chopped chipotle chiles already covered in adobo sauce. I saves a lot of time!
  • Lime juice
  • Lots of garlic
  • Lots of aromatic spices you probably already have in your cupboard — cumin, chili powder, oregano, black pepper, and a little bit of ground cloves.

Put it in your crock pot and top with a can of diced tomatoes, a sliced onion, and a couple of bay leaves.

What cut of beef is best for Barbacoa?

Just about any large beef roast will do — chuck roast is my favorite. You can use beef shoulder, any round roast, or even beef cheeks.

If you’re using grass-fed beef or have an extra lean roast, it will probably take longer to cook and it might not fall apart as easily as a fattier roast. When you put the shredded meat back into the cooking juices and let it hang out for a while, you’ll have more tender beef before you know it.

Raw beef top round roast in a white bowl. Roast is covered in the chipotle lime spice paste.

Barbacoa Recipe variations

  • Spicy – Add or omit the chipotle peppers or a hot sauce, to adjust the heat of this dish.
  • Smokey – Add liquid smoke to make it taste like you cooked it in a smoker.

How to make Chipotle Barbacoa

  1. Rub the salt all over the roast and let it sit while you assemble the spice paste.
  2. Add the chopped chipotle peppers, spices and lime juice into a small bowl and stir together.
  3. Stir well and rub the paste all over the roast.
  4. Place the roast in a slow cooker along with the bay leaves, onions, and tomatoes.
  5. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until the meat pulls apart easily with a fork.
  6. Shred the roast on a large platter and return the meat to the pot with the juices. Stir in the fresh cilantro.
  7. Taste, and add more salt and lime juice if necessary.

Can I make this Barbacoa Recipe in the Instant Pot?

Yes! This slow cooker barbacoa beef is easily made in a pressure cooker. I added some extra instructions in the recipe notes — like cutting the roast into pieces and adding some beef broth, cooking on high pressure, but it’s almost the same method.

Spice covered roast in a slow cooker topped with raw onions, diced tomatoes, and bay leaves.

How to store Barbacoa Chipotle Beef

Since this recipe is so versatile, you’ll want to keep some for leftovers! Simply store it in an airtight container with the juices for up to 5 days in the fridge.

Can you freeze Barbacoa Beef?

YES. Absolutely.

If you make more than you can eat (and aren’t big into leftovers), just put it in an airtight container that is freezer-safe and freeze it for several months. Then you can have a delicious meal later with a fraction of the effort.

P.S. These freezer-safe deli containers are my favorite for freezing leftovers.

Finished shredded barbacoa beef in a slow cooker.

How to serve this Barbacoa Recipe

I mean…. how can you NOT eat it? A batch of this copycat chipotle barbacoa recipe is like a big pot of gold, culinarily speaking. Maybe that’s a weird metaphor. Eating gold would be weird.

Here are a few of our favorite ways to serve barbacoa:

  • Tacos (duh, the favorite!)
  • Taco Salads
  • Burrito Bowls
  • Quesadillas
  • Oven Nachos
  • Breakfast scrambles (Seriously. Toss a little beef into your scrambled eggs and tell me it’s not amazing. Or throw the whole thing into a breakfast burrito!)
  • Homemade taquitos
Barbacoa Beef Tacos with shredded cabbage in a gluten-free tortilla. Garnished with hot sauce and fresh cilantro sprigs.

What to serve with Barbacoa Beef tacos

Here are a few of my favorite side dishes and toppings if you’re making barbacoa tacos!

Instant Pot Cilantro Lime Rice is a crowd favorite. Everyone who makes this loves it!

Mexican-Style Instant Pot Black Beans is one you can make ahead and freeze. I usually have a container or two in the freezer to pull out for Mexican nights.

The Best Guacamole is what I’m asked to bring when our family is having anything Mexican-related.

Homemade Pico de Gallo is fun to throw together when you’re making guacamole because a lot of the ingredients overlap.

Copycat Chevy’s Smoky Salsa is one of my favorite salsas to make when I have extra tomatoes in the summertime.

Grilled Jalapeno & Pineapple Salsa is a favorite during the summer and pairs well with this beef barbacoa recipe!

More Shredded Taco Meat Recipes on Perry’s Plate

If you like this easy chipotle barbacoa recipe, try some of these other great recipes for slow-cooked Mexican-style shredded meat. Many of these are Instant Pot recipes that can also be made in a slow cooker.


Taqueria-Style Shredded Beef is a more authentic street taco beef using dried Mexican chiles (it’s easy though!) and creates those red, drippy juices common in Mexican restaurant tacos.

Shredded Chipotle Beef is a slightly different from this barbacoa recipe with lots of chipotle flavor.

Instant Pot Green Chile Shredded Beef is a good home for a large jar of Hatch green chiles.


Instant Pot Green Chile Shredded Chicken — if you want to try a chicken version!

The Best Instant Pot Shredded Chicken for Tacos is another shredded chicken recipe that only has a few ingredients and comes together so quickly!

Copycat Chipotle Chorizo

If you make one of my recipes, be sure to post it on social media and tag me at @perrysplate or #perrysplate so I can send you some love!

Barbacoa Beef FAQs

Is this barbacoa beef spicy?

Not really. If you make the recipe as is it’s fine for anyone to eat. Even my kids who don’t like spicy food inhaled it. Feel free to boost the amount of chipotle peppers or add some hot sauce when you serve it if you’d like it spicier.

Is barbacoa beef gluten-free?

Yes! It’s also low-carb & keto-friendly.
What you serve it with can alter that for sure, though. For gluten-free tacos and quesadillas we love using the Siete almond flour tortillas. They just started selling them at our Costco and they freeze well, too!

Why is my Beef Barbacoa not tender?

The short answer: Cook it longer until it’s tender!

Long answer: Depending on the thickness of your roast and heat calibration of your slow cooker, it could take between 8-12 hours sometimes.

If your roast is fatty, it tends to break down faster. Just give your roast longer to break down that connective tissue. But, only check it every hour or so since slow cookers lose their heat really quickly when you open the lid and take a while to reach a good temperature again.
If your roast is large or you’re concerned about it being finished on time, cut it into 2 or 3 pieces before you start the recipe.

Why is barbacoa so greasy?

This depends on the kind of meat you use. When you cook and shred the beef, any fat it contains starts to come out. If there’s a lot of fat, the meat ends up being oilier than before.

What’s the difference between beef barbacoa and carne asada?

Carne asada is prepared on the grill and sliced into thin pieces. Flank, skirt or flap steak is traditionally used.
Barbacoa beef is typically prepared by slow-cooking a chuck roast until it is tender enough to be shredded.

Copycat Beef Barbacoa

Copycat Beef Barbacoa

Yield: Serves 12-14
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 hours
Total Time: 10 hours 10 minutes

This deeply flavorful, tender shredded beef is a copycat version of Chipotle's Barbacoa Beef! I included instructions for both slow cooker and Instant Pot in the recipe notes.


  • 3-4 pound beef roast
  • 1 Tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 or 2 chipotle peppers, plus 1 Tablespoon of sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • 2 limes
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small onion, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Rub the salt all over the roast. Let it sit while you assemble the spice paste.
  2. Slice the chipotle peppers in half, scraping out the seeds. (Leave them in if you want to add a big kick of heat.) Chop the peppers and put them in a small bowl with the adobo sauce, garlic, juice from 1 lime, cumin, chili powder, oregano, black pepper, and cloves. Stir well and rub the paste all over the roast.
  3. Place the roast in a 4-7 qt slow cooker along with the bay leaves, onions, and tomatoes along the sides or on top.
  4. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until the meat pulls apart easily with a fork.
  5. Shred the roast on a large platter and return the meat to the pot with the juices. Stir in the fresh cilantro. Taste, and add more salt and lime juice if necessary.


Cut the roast into roughly 1 pound pieces and try to make them roughly the same size.

Follow the instructions in steps 1 and 2 and place the roast pieces in the stainless insert of your Instant Pot. Add the tomatoes with their juices, the onions, and bay leaves and add 1 cup of beef or chicken broth.

Seal the pot and cook on high pressure for 120 minutes. Let the steam naturally release for at least 20 minutes before releasing the rest of the pressure manually. (You'll end up with the most tender, fall-apart meat if you let it release all the way naturally.)

Continue to step 5 to finish the recipe.


Buying pre-chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce is a real time saver! It's in the Latin aisle of some supermarkets around here. I hope you can find some.

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Thursday 8th of September 2022

Hi! I’d like to make this this weekend, it sounds amazing! Just wanted to clarify something: should the beef roast already be cooked and then cooked again in the slow cooker? Or is it a raw cut of beef? Just never seen the term “beef roast” in a recipe before so I wanted to clarify! Thank you!

Natalie Perry

Monday 26th of September 2022

No, it's a raw cut of beef. I'm not sure what else to call it other than beef roast -- there are different kinds, but any of the usual beef roast cuts you find at the grocery store would work -- top round, chuck roast, bottom round, etc.

Cindy Newell

Friday 18th of February 2022

I love Barbacoa Beef and Chicken. Cant wait to try this!

Natalie Perry

Wednesday 23rd of February 2022

I can't wait to hear what you think!


Saturday 12th of February 2022

Thanks for sharing both the explanation and the recipe; can't wait to give it a try 😀


Wednesday 2nd of February 2022

Me. I don't like Chipotle. But I like you and I trust your judgment on recipes, so I will make this (even though Chipotle is the worst!). <3

Natalie Perry

Tuesday 15th of February 2022

If I lived in Texas, I probably wouldn't go to Chipotle either.

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