Chipotle style Barbacoa, is beef cooked low and slow in a smoky chipotle flavoured braising liquid until pull-apart tender. Can be made in the oven, on the stove top or in a slow cooker. Use it for burritos, burrito bowls or tacos!

barbacoa in bowl with cilantro and limes

Why I love this Barbacoa

  • Barbacoa is so versatile! Use it in burritos or burrito bowls or in tacos.
  • It’s wonderfully flavourful and perfectly tender, thanks to the low and slow cooking.
  • This Barbacoa recipe uses just a few, easy-to-find ingredients.
  • Because the nearest Chipotle is a 2-hour drive away :)

Ingredients and Substitutions

Beef Roast – start with a boneless chuck roast (aka blade roast, in Canada). The roast can be tied with string, or not. If it is tied with string, leave the string on during cooking, as it will cook more evenly. Remove the string when ready to shred the meat. This recipe is for a 2 lb. roast, but can easily be doubled or tripled depending on the size of the roast you have.

Canned Chipotles in Adobo Sauce – the ones in the little red cans, which are easily available in with the Mexican foods at almost any grocery store. Since they pack a punch and you generally use only a bit of them, freeze the remainder of the can to use another time.

You can tweak the amount of chipotles used to adjust the heat up or down. As written it is not too spicy for me, and I’m a bit of a lightweight when it comes to heat and spice. It’s more a smokey flavour than a heat.

Step-by-Step Photos

  1. Brown the beef on both sides in a bit of oil.
  2. Add water to the pan.
  3. Add garlic, seasoning mixture and bay leaf to the pan. Cover and place into the oven for 3-3 1/2 hours.
  4. Remove beef to a baking sheet.
  5. Shred beef.
  6. Strain sauce, then combine sauce with shredded beef.

How to make a Barbacoa Burrito Bowl

Pick any or all of the ideas below. The first option is the easy weeknight version, while the subsequent options are a great way to dress it up.

  • Rice or Cilantro Lime Rice (drizzle cooked rice with fresh lime juice and toss with finely chopped fresh cilantro)
  • Corn or Grilled Corn (grill corn on BBQ, in a hot skillet or under the broiler)
  • Black Beans or Chili Black Beans (warm black beans in liquid from the can and season with Chili Powder)
  • Diced fresh tomato or Pico de Gallo (fresh tomato, onion, jalapeno and cilantro with a drizzle of lime juice) or Salsa (any jarred salsa variety you enjoy)
  • Diced avocado or Guacamole (use your favourite recipe)
  • Cotija or Feta Cheese (feta is the substitute for those of us who can’t access cotija use :), shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar Cheese or Queso Blanco (white cheese sauce with green chilis and/or jalapenos)
  • Sour Cream or Cilantro Lime Crema (often sold in stores premade or make your own. President’s Choice makes a great one!)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro and lime wedges

Make it a Barbacoa Burrito by wrapping the rice and any other of the options inside a warmed tortilla. Use any or all of the ideas above for tacos. Quick-pickled red onions might be a nice addition to tacos, as well.

barbacoa in bowl with cilantro and limes

How to Store Barbacoa

Refrigerate cooked Barbacoa for up to 3 days.

Freeze for up to 3 months for longer storage (I like to portion it out to meal-size and freeze in small, individual containers. A meal is at the ready any time!)

barbacoa in bowl with cilantro and limes

Get the Recipe: Chipotle-Style Barbacoa

Chipotlestyle Barbacoa, cooked low and slow in the oven, on the stove-top or the slow cooker. Use in burritos, burrito bowls or tacos.
5 stars from 2 ratings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Resting Time:: 30 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 10 minutes
Yield: 6 servings


  • 2 lb. boneless chuck (or blade) roast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons chipotles in adobo, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, less if powdered oregano
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, adjust according to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
  • 3/4-1 1/4 cups water, as needed to come 1/3-1/2 way up the side of the beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 bay leaf


  • Instructions here for oven method. For stove-top cooking or slow cooker, refer to the Recipe Notes below.
  • Preheat the oven to 300F.
  • Season the beef all over with the salt and pepper and set aside.
  • Remove a chipotle pepper with some of the sauce and chop to break it up, then measure out the required amount. Place in a small bowl. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano and cloves. Stir to create a paste mixture. Set aside.
  • In a large Dutch oven or oven-proof pot with a lid, heat the oil over medium high heat until it's shimmering. Add the seasoned beef and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Flip the meat over and cook for an additional 5 minutes, until it's browned on both sides.
  • Reduce the heat to medium under the pot. Add water to the pot until it comes up to about 1/3-1/2 of the height of the beef. Add the prepared spices and use a spoon to dissolve it into the water. Add the smashed garlic cloves and bay leaf to the pan. Bring the mixture up to a simmer.
  • Cover the pot tightly with the lid and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook covered, for 3-3 1/2 hours, flipping a couple times, if possible, until the beef is fall-apart tender.
  • Remove from oven. If you have time, let the beef sit in the covered pan with the liquid for 20-30 minutes, then remove the beef to a rimmed baking sheet. Using two forks, shred the beef.
  • Strain the liquid in the pot through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, discarding the solids. Return the strained liquid to the pot. Add the shredded beef to the pot with the sauce and stir to combine. If using immediately, bring to a simmer to re-warm and serve. If making ahead, transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate up to 3 days.
  • Cooked Barbacoa can also be frozen up to 3 months.


Stove-top Method: If you prefer to cook on the stovetop. Rather than transferring to the oven, reduce the heat under the pot low to maintain a simmer, cover the pot and simmer, flipping a few times, for 3-3 1/2 hours on the stovetop. 
Slow Cooker Method: Brown meat in a Dutch oven, then transfer to a slow cooker. Add the water, spices, garlic and bay leaf. Cover and cook on low for about 8 hours, or until fall-apart tender.
Cuisine: Mexican
Course: Main Course
Serving: 1serving, Calories: 282kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 29g, Fat: 18g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 104mg, Sodium: 535mg, Potassium: 544mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 0.4g, Vitamin A: 427IU, Vitamin C: 0.4mg, Calcium: 43mg, Iron: 4mg
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