This meltingly tender slow cooker Beef Barbacoa is absolutely delicious wrapped in warm corn tortillas and topped with a perfectly balanced salsa made with corn and tomatoes. You can make it ahead and freeze it with just 10 minutes of prep. 

Two beef barbacoa tacos on a white plate on top of a linen with a beer, limes and cilantro sprigs.

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This time of year can be so busy for all of us. So I was psyched to see Lauren Keating’s new Healthy Meal Prep Slow Cooker Cookbook. Meal prep + Slow Cooker = less time in the kitchen for us!

You may remember Lauren of Healthy Delicious from the review I did of her Healthy Eating One-Pot Cookbook and those super yummy Vegetarian Burrito Bowls. She really knows her way around quick and healthy recipes.

This cookbook is chock-full of healthy cooking tips and meal prep ideas all based around slow cooker recipes. There is literally something for everyone starting with breakfast, then soups, stews and chilis, vegetarian and vegan, seafood and poultry and pork, lamb and beef.

These Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa Tacos were a hit with my entire family. Considering all it took was 10 minutes of prep to serve these fall-apart tender tacos they will definitely be on a regular rotation in my house.

The corn salsa is the perfect topping. It’s simple, fresh, sweet and features two of my favorite summer veggies… corn and tomatoes. The combination of the beef, wrapped in the warm corn tortillas and topped with the corn salsa is heavenly!

Many of you are probably familiar with barbacoa because of the popular fast-food chain Chipotle, but do you really know what it is?

What Is Barbacoa 

  • It is a way of cooking meat that originated in the Caribbean and made its way to Mexico
  • Meat like beef, lamb and goat is traditionally slow cooked over an open fire or steam cooked in a hole dug into the ground
  • The term barbecue is actually derived from the word barbacoa 

Four beef barbacoa tacos topped with a corn salsa on to of brown parchment and surrounded by lime slices, cilantro sprigs and a glass of beef.

This recipe features more of the steam cooked variation of the traditional dish and employs your good ‘ole slow cooker to do most of the work (so no need to go dig a hole in your backyard). We also tested it in the Instapot. We cooked it for 90 minutes and did a quick release and it was perfect! It’s made with beef chuck roast, which is a less expensive cut of beef that benefits from long slow cooking.

What Is Beef Chuck Roast

  • Chuck roast is a cut of meat that comes from the shoulder of the animal
  • It can also be labeled shoulder steak, boneless chuck roast, or chuck shoulder pot roast
  • Its a heavily exercised muscle and is not tender
  • It is an economical cut of beef
  • It is best braised or slow cooked until it is falling apart (this breaks down all of the connective tissue and muscle) 

Do you use your slow cooker in the summer? It might seem odd, but I turn to mine all the time when I don’t feel like heating up my house by turning on my oven or I need a break from the grill.

It’s perfect for a big pot of beans that can be turned into a million different sides and salads and I love it for chicken to use in salads and quesadillas. But beef is really a show stopper when it’s cooked low and slow with just a few other ingredients and spices.

How to Make Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa Tacos with Corn Salsa

  1. Stir together beef broth, garlic, red onion, lime juice, cumin, oregano and chipotles in a slower cooker. Add beef and salt.
  2. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours.
  3. Shred the beef in the slow cooker and stir into the sauce.
  4. To make the salsa, stir together red onion, lime juice, corn, tomatoes and salt.
  5. Serve the beef in warm corn tortillas and top with the corn salsa.

Make Ahead Tips for Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa

  • Combine the beef broth, garlic, red onion, lime juice, cumin, oregano, chipotles, beef and salt in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months.
  • If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator overnight before adding to the slow cooker.
  • The salsa ingredients can also be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen. If frozen, the tomatoes will break down and become saucier, but will still taste great.

What To Eat With Beef Barbacoa Tacos

Corn Tortillas 

  • I like to warm my corn tortillas by wrapping them in a damp paper towel and heating them for about 30 seconds in the microwave (this keeps them from drying out)
  • This beef would also be delicious served as lettuce wraps, on top of a salad or in a rice bowl

Salsa

  • A tomato based salsa is traditional
  • Lauren’s corn salsa is the perfect fresh summery topping
  • One of Katie’s fruit salsas would also be yummy

Diced onions

  • The sharp flavor and crisp texture of diced raw white or red onions are the perfect compliment to the tender beef
  • A little can go a long way depending on your taste preference

Avocados

  • Avocados add a lovely creaminess to the tacos
  • If you’re feeling like going the extra mile, making a batch of classic guacamole would be great! 
  • Ot simply dice or mash the avocado with a fork and add to the tacos

Chopped cilantro 

  • Cilantro adds beautiful color and freshness
  • Its lemony floral flavor cuts the richness of the beef

Lime Juice

  • A squeeze of lime juice gives the tacos an awesome acidic boost of flavor
  • Adding citrus juice to dishes is a great way to add flavor and decrease the need for added salt

To be completely honest I am not the best at meal prep. It is hard for me to think that far ahead and to be that organized. Lauren does a great job at making it seem manageable. I also love that she has incorporated slow cooker recipes into her meal prep strategies.

Two beef barbacoa tacos on a white plate in the foreground with another plate of tacos and glasses of beer in the background.

Lauren’s Meal Prep Strategies For The Slow Cooker

Prep Ahead

  • Cut the vegetables and protein, portion the broth and seasonings and do any necessary light cooking
  • Pack it all together, so it is ready to throw in the slow cooker when you’re ready

Batch Cooking

  • Batch cooking means fully preparing a few staples you can mix and match in different ways throughout the week
  • This method gives you a little more flexibility to change things up if you need to
  • Cook a few items that will keep well (Lauren recommends one protein, one starch or grain, one bean and one vegetable recipe)
  • Refrigerate everything in separate containers
  • Mix and match the pre-cooked ingredients, adding sauces, condiments and other items to make complete meals

Cook Once, Eat All Week

  • Cook complete recipes for easy grab-and-go meals to reheat all week
  • Choose recipes like soups, stews, chilis, casseroles and frittatas that will reheat well 

Cookbook, meal prepped salsa and tacos

Three Steps to Meal Prep

Step One: Choose The Meals

  • Think about the meals you will need based on your schedule for the week
  • Choose a variety of protein options and flavors, so you don’t get bored and are able to switch between heartier and lighter meals
  • Lauren likes to start by choosing a soup or stew, a chicken recipe, a heartier meat dish and a vegetarian option
  • Paying attention to ingredients that can be used in multiple meals can help you save money by buying in bulk

Step Two: Go Shopping

  • The day before you plan to cook check your refrigerator and pantry to see what you have based on the recipes you have chosen and make a shopping list
  • Either head to the store or take advantage of a grocery delivery service (Lauren says even though there is usually a small free for this service, she ends up saving money because she’s not throwing a bunch of extra items into her cart and she also saves a bunch of time)
  • If she is crunched for time, she might purchase convenience items like pre-cut veggies or jar minced garlic

Step Three: Prep For The Week – Pick Your Approach

  • Cook all your meals completely and reheat them during the week
  • Prep your recipes up to the cooking stage, so you can easily put them in your slow cooker each day
  • Batch cook so you can mix and match your favorites to create new combinations throughout the week
  • Consider doubling recipes and freeze half to get ahead on easy meals weeks or months down the road

Overhead shot of two white plates on top of a linen with two beef barbacoa tacos on each plate and 2 glasses of beer and a bowl of corn salsa.

And just an FYI, Katie is also a Meal Prep Queen, so don’t miss checking out her Meal Prep Menu including stuffed shells, cod fish tacos, sloppy joes, chicken and wild rice salad and Greek pizza, Meal Prep for the Week featuring Fish with Pineapple Salsa, Easy Enchiladas, Soupe Au Pistou, Apple & Ham Quesadillas and Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili.

Lauren’s new cookbook is a year-round winner with recipes like Sweet Potato and Sausage Breakfast Hash, Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup, Zucchini Lasagna, Red Curry Shrimp and Peach Barbecue Pulled Pork. So get out that slow cooker and start meal prepping!

More Easy Mexican Recipes You May Want To Try

I hope you try these delicious Beef Barbacoa Tacos! Please come back and let me know if you do. We love to hear from you! Don’t forget to please leave a star rating and review. Thanks!!

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Overhead shot of two beef barbacoa tacos topped with corn salsa on a white plate on top of a linen.

beef barbacoa

  • Author: Stephanie Olson
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 hours
  • Total Time: 8 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Description

This meltingly tender Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa tacos topped with a perfectly balanced salsa made with the best of summer corn and tomatoes is an easy and delicious meal for busy evenings.  And I can’t forget to mention that you can make it ahead and freeze it with just 10 minutes of prep.


Scale

Ingredients

1 cup low sodium beef broth

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 red onion, diced and divided

Juice of 2 limes, divided

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced

2 pounds beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes

2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1 1/2 cups corn kernels

2 large tomatoes, diced

16 corn tortillas


Instructions

  1. Set Up Slow Cooker: In your slow cooker, stir together the beef broth, garlic, half of the red onion, the juice of 1 lime, cumin, oregano, and chipotles. Add the beef and season with 1 teaspoon of salt.
  2. Cook: Cover the slow cooker and cook on Low heat for 8 hours. Shred the beef in the cooker and stir into the sauce.
  3. Make Salsa: In a small bowl, stir together the remaining red onion, remaining juice of lime corn, tomatoes and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt.
  4. For Meal Prep: Refrigerate individual portions of beef and salsa together in airtight containers for up to 4 days, or freeze up to 4 months. Serve the beef and salsa with the corn tortillas.

Notes

How To Prep Ahead:

  1. Combine the ingredients as instructed in step 1, placing them in an airtight container.
  2. In a second container, combine the remaining red onion, lime juice, corn, and tomatoes.
  3. Refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze up to 6 months.
  4. If frozen, thaw the ingredients in the refrigerator overnight before adding to your slow cooker. The tomatoes will break down and become saucier if frozen but will still taste great once thawed.

How To Make In Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot

  1. Combine ingredients in the insert of a Instant Pot as directed in step 1. Close lid and turn valve to sealed position.
  2. Pressure cook for 90 minutes. When timer goes off, carefully using tongs or an oven mit, turn valve to release the steam. Shred the beef with forks.
  3. Make Salsa as directed above in step three.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 2 tacos
  • Calories: 390
  • Sugar: 5 g
  • Fat: 13 g
  • Saturated Fat: 4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 30 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 42 g

overhead view of beef barbacoa tacos with corn relish

beef barbacoa