Slow Cooker Barbacoa Tacos

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 beef or even duck, turkey, goose, or goat.

Barbacoa Tacos

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

Special Equipment: Slow cooker

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  • 2 1/2 pounds bone-in venison trim, shanks, and necks or bone-in beef, duck legs, turkey legs, bone-in goat, or goose legs
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh 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
  • Store-bought or homemade vinegary hot sauce


  • 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.

    Curious to hear more about working magic with your slow cooker? Peruse our entire selection of slow cooker recipes.

Recipe Testers Reviews

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.

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!

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.

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