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Best Mexican Barbacoa Tacos

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Juicy, tender and easy Mexican Barbacoa tacos are made using a humble hunk of chuck roast, slow cooked with Mexican herbs and spices, lime juice and onion; resulting in a tangy, tender, loaded-with-flavor beef, the perfect complement for these healthy, delicious Barbacoa Street Tacos.

You don’t need much with these easy and filling street tacos, but if you’d like this Cilantro Lime Rice or Mexican Rice is a great compliment, wash it all down with an easy margarita!

During a particularly crazy week, I needed a good go-to, recipe for a few dinners this week and this one definitely rose to the occasion. A super easy weeknight might meal, feel like pork instead? Try these Instant Pot Carnitas.

Not only were these easy, didn’t heat up my kitchen (95º yesterday-ugh!) but the beef was so very tender and packed with marvelous, savory Mexican flavors and spices.

Close up of street tacos on ceramic plate with lime and cilantro.

What Does Barbacoa Mean?

Mexican barbacoa is perhaps the most well-known, and its most popular manifestation is that which is used in the central states of the country.

A brick-lined oven, usually about 60 centimeters (23 inches) in diameter and about a meter (3 feet) deep, is dug into the earth. Wood is placed at the bottom and burned until the whole oven is red hot.” (Source)

Can I make Barbacoa Beef in the Oven?

I would treat oven baked Barbacoa beef just like I would a pot roast, following all of the instructions and place in a dutch oven at 275 degrees and cook for 3 hours (for a smaller roast) and 4-6 hours for a larger roast.

If necessary, check the liquid levels about hour 4 or 6 if cooking longer adding a cup or so of additional broth.

Paired with this amazingly simple, bright, fresh, and creamy Avocado Lime Dressing it’s a filling, yet light lunch or dinner! Even picky eaters will love this!

White scalloped bowl with avocado lime dressing in it, with spoon and limes sliced behind.

Start your Barbacoa beef about 5 hours before you want to eat, though it will be fine if you need it to go longer.

How to Make Mexican Barbacoa

  1. In a large pan or pot*, pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil or your favorite oil and heat over medium-high heat until hot.

SLOW COOKER | If you have a slow cooker that can go from cooker to stove, you can do this step in your pan; which is what I did, I love my All-Clad Slow Cooker!

chuck roast ready for freezer.

I buy my chuck roast in bulk, wrap what I don’t need in plastic wrap, place in a freezer ziplock, squeezing out any extra air and be sure to mark it so you don’t end up with a mystery meat.

I’ve also started writing what I could make with whatever I’m freezing, kind of takes some of the guesswork out of a frozen piece of meat!

  1. Sear the chuck roast (or some people call them chuck steaks) on each side until crisp brown, sprinkling with a little kosher salt. It helps to pat it dry before placing in the hot oil.

Why Doesn’t My Meat Sear or Brown?

If your meat doesn’t brown, it means one of two things, or possibly both.

  1. Searing requires HIGH HEAT, your pan should be “screaming hot” (over medium high heat) we are not cooking the meat, but just browning the outside, sealing in the juices and creating flavor!
  2. Or perhaps you took your meat out of the package and it was dripping in bloody juices (sorry, gross I know). I suggest to always rinse your meats and pat them dry with a towel, this allows the meat to sear and not the juices to just steam the meat, this is what makes it look like a blaze brown, vs. crispy crusted sear!
Hunk of browned chuck roast | www.thefreshcooky.com
  1. While your Mexican Barbacoa meat is searing, in a small mixing bowl, place the following ingredients; beef broth, apple cider vinegar, tomato sauce, lime juice, garlic powder, thyme, oregano, cumin, cinnamon and sea salt and pepper. Stir or whisk until combined.
Seasonings and broth for Barbacoa meat in mixing bowl | www.thefreshcooky.com
  1. Once the beef is seared, return to the crock pot (slow-cooker) and then pour the mixture over the roast.
Pouring seasoned broth over chuck roast for barbacoa taco meet | www.thefreshcooky.com
  1. Chop onion and sprinkle over the top of the chuck roast.
chopped onions over barbacoa beef | www.thefreshcooky.com
  1. Cover and cook on low for 5-8 hours (I needed to rush mine just a bit, so I cooked on high for the first hour, then returned to low for 3 hours). Resist the urge to check on it as slow cookers do best when you don’t open the lid.

Slice, “pull” or cube the chuck roast into bite size pieces and ta-da, tender, easy Mexican Barbacoa beef waiting for you to serve as desired, but especially as tacos barbacoa.

Shredding Barbacoa Beef with fork.


At this point the beef may be eaten just like a pot roast, a delicious Mexican pot roast if you will.

Spoon on some of the juices from the crock pot, serve with Cilantro Lime Rice and a crisp salad or….read on and make it into these fresh and amazing street tacos barbacoa

Pinterest image with plate of barbacoa beef street tacos with lime, avocado and cilantro.

How to Grill Corn

  • While my roast was doing it’s thang, I also grilled up a quick ear of corn, totally optional!
  • Shuck your corn and rinse well, pat dry. On a hot grill or griddle pan place your corn on the cob on the griddle and grill all sides until blackened in places and tender.
  • Cool slightly, then cut corn off the cob for serving with the tacos. (Optional)
grilling corn on the cob for barbacoa street tacos | www.thefreshcooky.com

If making Mexican barbacoa street tacos, assemble your toppings in small bowls, for easy taco making.

I love these small bowls, great for toppings, dips, sauces, salsa’s and more!

Fixin's for Barbacoa Beef Street Tacos, the perfect easy weeknight meal using tender, slow cooked beef and fresh toppings! #thefreshcooky #barbacoabeef #streettacos #mexicanfood #glutenfree #paleo #clean

I provided the option of Mini-Taco (or street taco) sized corn or flour tortillas, found at my local grocery store or you may certainly use regular sized corn tortillas or soft flour if you’d like.


If trying to go grain free all together, pile your taco fixings on a sturdy leaf of Butter or Romaine lettuce. The Mexican barbacoa beef is naturally gluten free.

Mexican barbacoa beef street tacos with limes, avocados, tomatoes and cheese on a platter.

How to Make Avocado Lime Dressing

If making the Avocado Lime Dressing which is delicious on salads as well as street tacos.

Place a peeled, seeded and sliced avocado into a blender* along with juice of 1 lime to start and 1 tablespoon plain yogurt, season with a little salt and pepper to taste.

TFC PROT TIP | *I used my Ninja blender (one of my favorite kitchen tools!) worked fabulous!

Avocado Lime Dressing in blender on the counter before blending.

HINT | Watch the size of your avocado and limes, you may need to adjust your lime juice up or down depending on the size of the avocado or else it will be really limey — which I like, but others may not.

Blend and add a little lime juice at a time, taste, adding water to thin as needed. Store covered and refrigerated until ready to use.

Avocado lime dressing for Mexican barbacoa beef street tacos.

Street Taco Topping Suggestions

  • Sliced olives
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Feta or Goat cheese, Mexican Shredded or other crumbly Mexican Cheese
  • Mexican Crema or Sour Cream
  • Make Barbacoa Beef Chipotle style and drizzle on this delicious White Queso.
  • Sliced Jalepeños
  • Finely chopped yellow or pickled red onions
  • Shredded Red Cabbage
  • Chopped fresh Cilantro
  • Salsa | Super easy blender salsa and so good!
  • Sliced avocados or make this super easy Guacamole.

A few other simple, fresh recipes to try:

This recipe was moderately adapted from Jar of Lemons.

Like this recipe?
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Kathleen Pope, The Fresh Cooky.

About Kathleen Pope

Recipe Innovator | Food Photographer | Food Writer

Hi, I’m Kathleen Pope. Here at The Fresh Cooky you will find easy, mostly from-scratch, trusted recipes for all occasions. From speedy dinners to tasty desserts, with easy step-by-step instructions. I am here to help teach you how to make mouthwatering recipes without spending hours in the kitchen. Read more about Kathleen here.

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  1. Wow! Made this today in the slow cooker; ate it all up tonight! My son said, “The food gods are smiling on us!” Really easy — and the avocado / line / yogurt sauce is sublime! Terrific combo. We’ll Make this again for sure!