Whether you're hosting a taco night with friends or simply craving a delicious homemade meal, these easy Mexican Shredded Beef Tacos are sure to impress.
These shredded beef tacos, also known as beef barbacoa, are slow cooked in a savory broth for several hours, also known as braising, with a blend of authentic Mexican spices until it falls apart. Barbacoa is actually a cooking technique that originated in the Caribbean. Generally it's a term used for large fatty cuts of meat that have been slow cooked or steamed for long periods of time until tender. In Mexico it's made using beef head, lamb or goat, but for this recipe we are using chuck roast.
Chuck Roast - Chuck is the perfect cut of beef for braising and it shreds beautifully. The high fat content and marbling makes these tacos rich and flavorful.
Coarse Kosher Salt - I always use coarse kosher salt for my recipes which adds wonderful flavor to every dish. If you use a finer grain salt, be aware your dish may turn out "saltier" than expected. I would half the amount suggested and taste before serving to adjust the seasonings.
Neutral Oil - Avocado oil is my go to neutral oil but any vegetable oil will work. I would avoid olive oil, but it will work in a pinch.
Yellow Onion & Garlic - These aromatics add so much flavor to the dish. I would stick to using freshly chopped onions and garlic over the onion powder or garlic powder.
Spices - Chili powder, cumin, paprika, coriander, dried oregano, and black pepper are all essential Mexican food spices that will make your shredded beef taste like a traditional taco.
Tomato Paste - Adds depth of flavor and much need acidity to cut through all the fatty beef.
Beer (optional) - Gives the shredded beef a wonderful complex yeasty flavor that elevates the entire dish.
Broth - Feel free to use beef broth, since this is a beef dish, but vegetable or chicken broth would be fine as well since all the other flavors are so intense they will overpower the flavor of the broth.
Corn Tortillas - Something about corn tortillas paired with this beef is magical where using flour tortillas aren't as good. I will say, you probably need to double up your corn tortillas, as they tend to break easily.
Other Optional Ingredients
Those are all the ingredients for the beef, but the best part about tacos are the toppings. Here are some of my favorite toppings.
Pickled Red Cabbage - Okay, please try pickled cabbage on at least one of these tacos. The combination of the cold, crunchy, acidic-ly wonderful purple cabbage mixed with the rich, fatty, warm shredded beef is unbelievable - highly recommend.
Pickled Onion - Also equally delicious as the pickled cabbage and you can usually find them already made at the grocery store!
Lime - Also a MUST! Seriously this fatty meat needs acid to balance out all the flavors.
Fresh Cilantro - If you love cilantro, it adds a bright freshness to the heavy meat. If you don't like cilantro, no problem! Just leave it off.
I would leave the toppings there if I'm just making these tacos for my family, but if you are serving a crowd, you might include more traditional taco toppings such as lettuce, sour cream, cheese, salsa, pico de gallo, and guacamole.
Stove Top Instructions
Trim your chuck roast of any excess fat and cut into 2-3 inch chunks. Salt liberally with some coarse Kosher salt. In a large dutch oven or large heavy pot, heat some neutral oil on medium-high heat. Carefully place the chuck roast pieces into the pot, covering the bottom of the pan, but do not over crowd. I usually have to do this step in two batches. Turn each chuck roast piece until all sides are browned. This step can take a while, but be patient and the meat will reward you.
Remove the brown beef and set aside in a bowl. Add the onions to the pot and cook until translucent. Added the garlic, chili powder, cumin, paprika, coriander, dried oregano, black pepper and tomato paste to the pot and stir everything around so the garlic doesn't burn. For this step, we are building flavor by toasting the spices and tomato paste.
Next pour in the beer (or skip this step if your not using beer), and scrape any leftover brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Reduce the beer down and burn off the alcohol for a couple minutes then add the broth. If you aren't using beer, pour in the broth and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
Turn the heat up and bring everything up to a boil. Cover with a lid, then turn the heat down to low to keep a slow simmer. Simmer for 4-5 hours until the meat is falling apart and easy to shred.
Slow Cooker/Crock Pot Instructions
Now this beef recipe is not as good in the slow cooker as it is on the stove top, but it's still delicious. The difference is because when we cook on the stove we are building more flavor by browning the meat and toasting the spices. We skip this step for the slow cooker to save on time. It's still delicious, but the flavor isn't as complex.
The slow cooker method directions are simple, just throw the broth, spices and tomato paste into a slow cooker and mix together. Salt the meat and add to the slow cooker. Cook on high for 5-6 hours or low for 6-8 hours. It's so simple if you are just looking for an easy weeknight dinner. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
If you want to make the pickled cabbage while the beef roast slow cooks, all you have to do is thinly slice a head of red cabbage. Boil some water, vinegar, sugar and salt in a medium pot and let cool. Pour the liquid on top of the cabbage and let sit for at least 30 minutes, but the longer the better!
If you love this recipe, I would love to know! You can rate it, leave a comment, or both! I love hearing from you. Also, you could tag a photo on Instagram @hungrywaitress.Print
Tips for Perfect Mexican Shredded Beef Tacos
Enhance Flavor with Citrus: Squeeze some fresh lime juice over the shredded beef just before serving to brighten up the flavors and add a zesty kick.
Make it Spicy: If you love heat, amp up the spice level of this tender beef by adding extra jalapeños or incorporating a diced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce into the cooking liquid. You can also sprinkle some crushed red pepper flakes or drizzle hot sauce over the tacos for an extra fiery kick.
Add Depth with Mexican Chocolate: For a rich and complex flavor profile, consider adding a small piece of Mexican chocolate (such as Abuelita or Ibarra) to the simmering sauce. The chocolate will melt into the sauce, adding a hint of sweetness and depth that pairs beautifully with the savory beef.
Double Up on Tortillas: To prevent your tacos from falling apart and to add an extra layer of texture, consider using two stacked corn tortillas per taco. This not only provides better structural support but also adds a satisfying chewiness to each bite.
Make it a Taco Bar: Hosting a Taco Tuesday night? Set up a DIY taco bar with an array of favorite taco toppings, salsas, and sauces so that the whole family can customize their tacos to their liking. Include options such as diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, sliced avocado, pickled jalapeños, and crumbled queso fresco. Serve with a side of refried beans or black beans and rice.
Use Up the Leftovers: Use up the flavorful beef by making burrito bowls, beef enchiladas or quesadillas!
Looking for more recipes? Check out the latest: