Slow Cooker Barbacoa Tacos

Shredded, tender shards of spiced meat make a perfect breakfast on tortillas. Substitute any large game for the venison, like aoudad, feral hogs, elk, or even duck, turkey, or goose legs. Slow cookers are perfect for preparations like this; put it on at night and a hearty breakfast is ready the next morning.–Jesse Griffiths

LC Got Game? Note

We’re not certain what aoudad is. (And we’re a little leery of asking.) But we can vouch for the fact that this recipe turns out terrific barbacoa of all sorts—even if you rely not on some exotic-sounding game but on more everyday duck, turkey, goose, beef, or goat.

Special Equipment: Slow Cooker

Barbacoa Tacos Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 8 H, 15 M
  • Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds bone-in venison trim, shanks, and necks (or duck, turkey, or goose legs or bone-in beef or goat)
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, plus wedges for serving
  • 2 dried chipotle chiles
  • 1 medium onion, chopped, plus more for serving
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 whole cloves, ground
  • 2 dried bay leaves, ground
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Cold water as needed
  • Fresh tortillas (flour or corn), warmed
  • Cilantro
  • Salsa
  • Vinegary hot sauce

Directions

  • 1. Combine the meat, vinegar, lime juice, chipotle chiles, onion, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon in a slow cooker and add enough cold water to cover by about 2 inches. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, until very tender.
  • 2. Remove the meat from the pot and let it cool slightly, reserving the liquid. Shred the meat, discarding the bones. Moisten the meat with a few ladlefuls of the reserved braising liquid. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  • 3. Set the barbacoa on the table in a serving bowl or platter and set out the tortillas, onion, cilantro, limes, salsa, and hot sauce so guests can make their own tacos.
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Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Melissa Maedgen

Jan 04, 2013

As the headnote of the recipe points out, this is a very versatile preparation that could be used not just for venison and other game, but also for beef, lamb or goat. And since it cooks unattended in the slow cooker, it could hardly be easier. What you get is mildly seasoned meat that’s easy to pull apart and use in tacos or enchiladas. Plus you get a bonus—and this is a big plus—of really rich, gelatinous stock, some of which should be used to moisten the meat, but the rest of which should be packed into the freezer for future use. A great two-fer and so very simple.

Testers Choice
Kara Vitek

Jan 04, 2013

Who doesn’t love tacos, authentic tasting tacos, cooked in a slow cooker? This recipe is superb. I substituted turkey legs for the venison. The turkey was incredible—moist, flavorful, fall-off-the-bone tender and easy-to-shred superb! I couldn’t find dried chipotles, so I used dried guajillos instead. These worked very well. Everything came together very quickly and easily. I wouldn’t change a thing, not even the turkey. I look forward to making this again!

Testers Choice
Sita Krishnaswamy

Jan 04, 2013

The only venison I could find was ground, which came from a local farm where the deer are grass-fed and allowed to roam freely. So I followed the recipe exactly, except I substituted ground venison. I tossed everything into my slow cooker, added a cup of water, and cooked it on low for about 4 hours. I served it with a raw onion salad, spiced vinegar, and homemade tortillas. I absolutely enjoyed the flavors. This was my first time eating venison, and I did like it. It was quite lean. I think this recipe could perhaps be used with pasta as well as tortillas, or even stuffed into puff pastry or samosa shells. Endless possibilities.


Comments
Comments
  1. Susan Buentello says:

    I’m sure this is tasty, but I’m sorry…barbacoa is from a cow’s head. Period.

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Susan, yes, barbacoa can be made from the cow’s head- the cheeks in particular. But this can vary due to local availability, with goat and lamb traditionally being used as well. Our recipe is a bit more inclusive of other options depending on what game you may have “bagged” that day.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Yes, Susan, as you see, we caved to the larger, albeit slightly bastardized definition of barbacoa as now understood by the masses. I have to admit, I’ve never had the real deal. And I’m certain to anyone who has experienced it, anything else is just wrong. But we gotta say, this recipe rocks, whatever you call it.

    • Amy says:

      “Barbacoa is a form of cooking meat that originated in the Caribbean with the Taíno people, from which the term “barbecue” derives. In contemporary Mexico, it generally refers to meats or whole sheep slow-cooked over an open fire, or more traditionally, in a hole dug in the ground covered with maguey leaves, although the interpretation is loose, and in the present day (and in some cases) may refer to meat steamed until tender.”

  2. phessicajay says:

    Wait…what do you mean cover by 2″? Do you mean you fill it up with water until it covers the meat by 2″ or do you mean put about 2″ water in the slow cooker? Please try to respond ASAP!

    • David Leite says:

      Hello phessicajay. Yes, the recipe means to put all of the ingredients in the slow cooker, and then top it off with enough water to cover by 2 inches. It sounds like a lot, but in actuality, because there’s so much volume already in the cooker, it’s not nearly as much as you think.

  3. debra says:

    Thanks for the recipe. I have plenty of venison in the freezer and will try this recipe this weekend. By the way, you mention that you were not certain what an aoudad is… it’s an exotic sheep. Pretty “randy” tasting (my taste buds)!

  4. tchangwhit says:

    thanks for the recipe! Had to tweak it a bit with allspice instead of clove (had none), and an addition of coriander and a dash of red wine (because: Why not?!) I used beef cheeks, and it’s bubbling away as I write. I’m looking forward to it :-D In my experience here in San Antonio, most places that sell barbacoa on Sundays tend to be “All Meat” and generally bland. Most of the flavor in their preparations are derived from the salt, chopped onion, cilantro, and salsa that you add after the meat has been prepared. The best barbacoa that I’ve eaten was from a man who sells Barbacoa de Chivo (goat) on Saturday from his food truck, outside a gas station a little ways outside of Austin. He always sells out before 9am!!! His was super flavorful and perfumed of clove. Soooo, it IS possible to gets other types of barbacoa, outside of regional specialties! (I’m looking at you San Antonio! Beef Barbacoa and Big Red!) Thanks again!

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