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Beef Barbacoa (Paleo, Whole30 + Keto) Slow Cooker or Instant Pot

If you are like us, this summer has been full of barbecues, hikes, sunshine and lots of easy meals. You can make this Paleo + Whole30 beef barbacoa in your Instant Pot or Slow Cooker and save time, energy and extra heat in your house. You’ll find yourself craving beef barbacoa for the rest of the summer, making tacos, salads, bowls and more!

Beef barbacoa in a bowl with greens and rice and topped with chopped cilantro and lime wedges.

A Little Bit Of Prep Work

In the recipe below, we give you cooking instructions for both the Instant Pot and a Slow Cooker. Either way there is a little bit of prep work to do. We like to cut our beef into cubes and then brown the outsides in either our Instant Pot or quickly on the stove in a cast iron pan. Of course, it is nice if you have an Instant Pot because you can do this step in your Instant Pot and then have no extra dishes to clean up. Either way, it helps to lock in the juices and keep this beef barbacoa tender and moist once shredded! Don’t worry this little bit of effort is way worth it!

Beef barbacoa in a bowl with greens and rice and topped with chopped cilantro and lime wedges.

All About The Flavor

There is something real special about the flavors in this beef barbacoa! It’s a little smoky, with some spice and a hint of citrus. It’s just the right amount of all the things to make you crave it over and over again! You just mix all the juice and seasonings together and then pour the mixture over the beef, onions and garlic. Let your Instant Pot or Slow Cooker do all the hard work melding the flavors together and soaking them into the beef. It is really a tasty combo!

Beef barbacoa on a sheet pan topped with chopped cilantro and lime wedges.

Versatile Meal Prep Recipe

We love this recipe for many reasons including how crazy delicious it is, but we appreciate it because it makes a lot of extra meat that you can use for leftovers and you can enjoy it so many different ways that it never gets old! Some of our favorites are in Siete tortillas for tacos, in romaine lettuce shells, over greens and rice for a bowl, add it to a casserole for breakfast, serve it with grilled veggies, etc. The list goes on and we bet you guys can come up with some pretty great ideas too! Let us know what ends up being your favorite!

Beef barbacoa in a bowl with greens and rice and topped with chopped cilantro and lime wedges.

Some Other Instant Pot + Slow Cooker Recipes To Try

Your Turn To Try Our Beef Barbacoa

Go ahead and plan this into your upcoming weekend’s meal prep! You will love the leftovers and have fun finding the many different ways you can enjoy this beef barbacoa. Leave a  comment below to tell us what you think. Take a pic and tag us on Instagram @realsimplegood, so we can see! And if you don’t already follow us on Instagram, we’d love for you to give us a follow so we can stay connected!

Like this Recipe?


Beef Barbacoa (Paleo, Whole30 + Keto) Slow Cooker or Instant Pot

4.27 from 237 votes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Course: Main Course
Servings: 8
Calories: 368kcal
Make this Paleo + Whole30 beef barbacoa in your Instant Pot or Slow Cooker. It’s a little smoky with some spice and citrus, and it makes lots of leftovers! 
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  • 3 lbs beef chuck roast, cut into 2 inch cubes (can also use beef brisket)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (about 2 oranges)
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp chipotle powder (can be spicy, adjust to taste)
  • 2 tsp oregano (fresh or dried)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tbsp ghee (or other cooking oil)

For topping/serving:

  • romaine lettuce (or sub Siete Tortillas or other sturdy lettuce)
  • cilantro
  • avocado
  • lime wedges
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  • Cut beef into cubes and set aside. Prep onion and garlic as noted.
  • Combine orange juice, lime juice, vinegar, tomato paste, cumin, chipotle powder, oregano, salt and ground cloves in a bowl or jar and mix well.
  • Press the sauté button on the instant pot and add ghee. Once hot, add in the beef and brown it on all sides. Press cancel on the instant pot once the beef is browned.
  • Add in the diced onion and garlic cloves and pour the juice/seasoning mixture all over everything.
  • Secure the lid on the instant pot and close the pressure valve. Press the “manual” button (or “pressure cook” button) and set the time to cook for 30 minutes at high pressure. Once the time is up, let the pressure naturally release on its own for 20 minutes.
  • Manually release any remaining pressure and remove the lid. Shred the beef with two forks.
  • Serve beef in bowls over greens, in lettuce wedges or in tortillas with your favorite toppings.

Slow cooker instructions:

  • Follow steps 1-2 above.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add ghee. Once hot, add in beef cubes to brown, just a minute or so on each side until all sides are browned. Transfer beef to the slow cooker.
  • Add in the diced onion and garlic cloves and pour the juice/seasoning mixture all over everything.
  • Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Once the beef is finished, shred it in the slow cooker with two forks and mix it with all the juices. Serve as noted above.

Optional step (for crispy beef barbacoa):

  • Set your oven to broil.
  • After shredding the beef, use a slotted spoon to remove the beef and onions from the instant pot and place on a large sheet pan. Spoon some of the juices from the instant pot over the top of the beef in the sheet pan.
  • Place in the oven to broil for 6-8 minutes, until the beef begins to develop some brown and crispy edges. Watch carefully and cook to your preference.
  • Alternatively, you can simply transfer some of the beef to a skillet over medium heat and cook it until it’s crispy, stirring occasionally. This method is easiest if you are re-heating the leftovers from the fridge.


Nutrition facts are an estimate provided for those following a Ketogenic or low-carb diet and do not include topping/serving items for this recipe. See our full nutrition information disclosure here

Nutrition (per serving)

Calories: 368kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 10g
Tried this recipe?Take a picture and tag @realsimplegood so we can see it!
Beef Barbacoa (Paleo, Whole30 + Keto) Slow Cooker or Instant Pot

87 thoughts on “Beef Barbacoa (Paleo, Whole30 + Keto) Slow Cooker or Instant Pot

  • We order our beef from a farmer and are always looking for recipes to change up dinner. This would be a great way to use our bigger cuts.

  • rich, spicy, easy, delicious… can’t say a ouch good things about this meal! even my non-whole30 family members loved it!

  • Thank you for this fantastic recipe!
    Our family likes spicy foods, so this was a big hit.
    All of the ingredients for the sauce were placed in the blender to create a smoother texture.
    Due to missing ingredients there were some substitutions:
    * 2.3 lbs instead of 3.0 lbs grass-fed beef chuck roast. Having a little less meat did not seem to affect the result in any way.
    *We didn’t have any oranges. Instead I added 1/2 C of frozen pinapple pieces plus 3 dates, sliced. The pinapple gave it a little “island flavor” The dates were to help bring up the sweetness since pinapple is not as sweet as oranges.
    * Instead of tomato paste, some big chunks from out of an already open jar of savory spagetti sauce were added to the blender. (Using something from an open jar always wins over opening a new can.)
    * Instead of chipotle powder (none in our cabinet), an equal amount of chilli powder was added.
    We served over jasmine rice with shredded lettuce mixed with salsa on top.

    • Sounds delicious CJ, glad you were able to adapt this recipe to fit what you had. Thanks for taking the time to come back and leave a rating and review, we appreciate it 🙂

  • I tried this recipe on 4th of July celebration, everyone loved this recipe. Thanks for sharing this.

  • This is amazing!! I did the Instant Pot version. This is my husband’s favorite meat from Chipotle, and he liked this better (and liked that he didn’t feel ripped off on the quantity of beef in his burrito). The only substitution that I did was lessened the amount of Chipotle Powder (due to sensitivities to spicy stuff). I only used 1/2 tsp and could have easily done 1 tsp. This will definitely be made again and again in our house!

    • Hooray! So happy to hear it was a hit for your guys! It’s one of our personal favorites, too! Thanks for coming back to leave a rating and review. We appreciate hearing how it went! 🙂

  • This was absolutely delicious. I’ve been having it for lunch with whatever vegetables I have. My husband has been snacking on it at midnight as well as taking it to work. I followed the instructions and ingredients as written and used the slow cooker option. Possibly the best beef I’ve ever had! Thank you!

  • Just made this today for lunch. Oh my, the best Barbacoa beef recipe I have ever made. Love the ease of the instant pot. I put it under the broiler to crisp up and that took it up another notch. This will be on regular rotation for us. Loved it

  • Timing and proportions are perfect! Made a few subs for things we had on hand but will come back to this in the future for sure.

    • We are so happy it was a hit! Thanks for sharing on Instagram and for taking the time to come back and leave a rating and review. We really appreciate your support! 🙂

  • It doesn’t matter how many pounds of meat the cooking time for the instapot still the same 30 minutes?

  • So I made this recipe today and well…..😩. I don’t know if maybe I added too much cumin/cloves but my whole family felt like they were eating pie. I’m so sad that I didn’t like this recipe. 🥴

    • Sorry to hear that Anna. Did you follow the measurements in the recipe for the cloves? 1/2 tsp isn’t much for 3 lbs of beef but you can always cut it down further to suit your taste.

  • This recipe is amazing! Just made it and paired it with pineapple salsa, guac, roasted red peppers, and plain almond milk yogurt (as a dairy free sour cream), and tortilla chips. It’s the bomb. So good – broiling the shredded beef brought it to another level. Will be adding to our regular recipe rotation. Thank you Justin and Erica!

  • Has anyone ever tried making this using a Dutch oven and transferring it to the oven to slow cook? Wondering how they did that if so.

  • Real barbacoa is made from cow tongue. Not pot roast.
    The name’s literal translation is: meat from the HEAD of a cow.


  • It should state somewhere that this is super spicy!!! It was so hot I could barely eat it. I was really disappointed.

    • That’s weird, we haven’t received that feedback before and didn’t find this to have much spice. We even use a pretty spicy chipotle powder, but maybe yours had an extra kick? Sorry to hear that the recipe was too spicy, I’ve added a note to the recipe card based on your feedback.

    • I found if you shredded the meat in the sauce and don’t drain any sauce off mine to be really spicey. I solved that by draining the meat from the sauce and offering the sauce on side for those that like the kick.

  • Tried this in our slow cooker yesterday. Both my husband and I thought it was absolutely fantastic! I’m planning to make a double batch next in hopes that it freezes well for dinners this fall. Thank you for an amazing addition to my repertoire.

  • My husband and I love this beef recipe and I make it often! But I do have to say that the prep time is NOT 10 minutes! I am an experienced cook and it still takes me about half an hour to get this ready.

  • This was wonderful! I bought a brisket that I thought I’d use in a stir fry — and then realized that brisket probably wasn’t the right cut for stir fry … so I started looking for something else. This recipe was easy and delicious! After I shredded the meat, I looked at all the pan juices left in my pressure cooker and decided to use them somehow — so I mixed them with some mayo and we used it as a ‘sauce’ on the beef & rice. I used some as ‘dressing’ on my southwest cobb salad yesterday at lunch and it was fabulous! Thanks for the recipe. My 19-yo son was wandering in the kitchen last night and asked, “Mom, was there any of that barbacoa left? …” 🙂

  • SO good!
    My one question is about the oranges – I used 3 and still had to sub in some lime juice to get 3/4 cup. Am I juicing them wrong or do you have huge oranges?
    I usually don’t do crock pot recipes that ask you to brown the meat, but I made an exception and am glad I did! It was still very easy, I prepped the rest while browning – used venison in place of the beef – thanks for a great recipe!

    • Maybe we just have huge oranges? I really squeeze them and massage them to get all the juice out, maybe that’s why. Either way, glad you enjoyed the recipe.

  • Fantastic recipe. Mine was very citrusy which isn’t necessarily bad – maybe my Florida limes and oranges were just extra juicy! My fiance and I love spice and usually we have to liven up most recipes but I followed yours perfectly (a rarity for me) and I’m glad I did because the ratios and spices were great.

      • I made this for the second time- the first time was for a potluck in 2020 before the pandemic hit, and it was a hit! I don’t know why I waited so long to make this again, the whole family loved it! We’ll definitely be putting it in our Taco Tuesday rotation! 🌮❤️

  • This was very good but way too strong of a cloves flavor for my taste. If I make it again I will cut that ingredient in half at least.

  • Made this in the crockpot and had it with paleo wraps, guacamole and lettuce. Full of flavor! Will make again.

  • Made this last night with a caribou roast and it turned out amazing!! Did the instant pot version and will be making again I. The future!!!

  • This recipe was a crowd pleaser at my house. I love the fact that it has wholesome ingredients because I feel like most crockpot recipes are full of junk. We’ve made this twice now. Once I served it with rice and veggies. Yesterday we had it in tacos! Both times it’s been a hit. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Made this as a rice bowl. Used instant pot. The most time consuming part was cutting up & trimming that 3 lb chuck roast. So yummy! Leftovers will be tacos. This is going to be a standard

  • Can you recommend a certain kind of cheese and additional toppings that would go well with this?

  • This is SOOO good! We’ve made it several times and every time we’re like..,YUM!! we had some left over, so tonight, while hubby ate his Friday night pizza, I put the rest on some Siete Foods chips with a little cheese, tomato, green onion and guacamole, and OMG, best nachos! Hubby was stealing my nachos and leaving his pizza to get cold. Ha! Now he wants to make the recipe for just nachos. 😉

  • I’m planning on making this for dinner tomorrow and will use left overs for Tuesday dinner. ? Do you recommend one way over the other to cook this? Crock pot or pressure cooker?

  • Made this recipe yesterday. Hands down the BEST recipe I have come across. The dish was packed full of flavor with the right amount of heat. I added some cilantro and avocado when I served it. Thank you for posting such a great and flavorful recipe – we will be adding it to our regular rotation!

  • Amazing recipe! As always your recipe has our friends and family eating the healthy version of the food they love without knowing! Thank you so much!!!

    • Fantastic!! I absolutely love your barbacoa. I don’t know anything about Paleo or Whole 30 Plus or whatever you said it was but I was just looking for a recipe for barbacoa that I didn’t have to have chipotle peppers in adobo because I am out and couldn’t go to the grocery when I started cooking. I made a couple of small changes to your recipe like I added a little bit of both orange and lime zest because I always put it in when I make a mojo marinade which is basically what the orange and lime juices are the beginnings of. I have a 13-year-old granddaughter who is a very very picky eater and she surprised me because she loves it!! So that is a major plus. Next time I make it I am going to cut back on the amount of cloves probably by half. It definitely needs to be in the mix of spices but right now it is a little too pronounced for my tastes but all in all my family loves it especially my granddaughter. Thank you for posting it. I am curious now about paleo and whole 30 also so I have some reading to do.

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