Barbacoa beef cheek tacos

Cooking at home: barbacoa beef cheeks

Not everything I cook at home is slow-cooked meat, honest. However, I’ve been doing a fair bit of it lately as it’s just what I crave in this colder weather. We still haven’t acquired a slow cooker of our own but, to aid our pre-purchase research, two of our besties have loaned us theirs to try out. We’ve made a few different things in there, but the best by far has been this recipe for barbacoa beef cheeks.

If you’ve never tried beef cheeks, I cannot urge you enough to give them a go. Slow-cooked for hours, they produce tender, succulent dishes that will literally melt-in-your-mouth and leave you thinking about them for days afterwards. Our dinner last Christmas was a beautiful, rich beef cheek bourguignon and I’m only just moving on from talking about it. Sort of.

Not only are they damn tasty, beef cheeks are really economical, too. Like, seriously cheap. The meat required for our Christmas dinner (three cheeks) cost £3.50- that’s little more than a latte costs in many places, to say nothing of the usual cost of Christmas. I’m a big fan of Mexican food and have enjoyed many a burrito stuffed with barbacoa beef, so was excited to make my own version at home.

Here’s what I used- this recipe made enough for three hungry people, would easily do four:

  • Three beef cheeks, weighed about 770g in total (Cost around £3.50 from John Crawshaw’s; Simmonite also stocks them)
  • 2 teaspoons each salt & pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 limes
  • 1 litre beef stock
Raw beef cheeks ox cheeks
Beef cheeks ready to go


Barbacoa beef ingredients
Everything but the beef

And what I did:

  • Pop the beef in the slow cooker, spread out as much as possible. Season it with the salt and pepper.
  • Add all the herbs and spices, crushing the garlic cloves in as well.
  • Squeeze the juice of both limes over the meat, giving the lime halves a good shake to get every last drop.
Slow cooker barbacoa ingredients
Barbacoa beef cheeks, before the liquid’s added
  • Add the beef stock, stir it slightly and pop the lid on.
  • Set the slow cooker to high and cook for at least 6 hours- I left mine for 6.5 hours and let it sit on the warm setting after that while I prepared the garnishes and rice.
  • Be prepared for your house to smell amazing.
  • When you’re ready, remove the beef to a dish using a slotted spoon. Shred the meat (I used two forks) and add in some of the cooking liquid to the meat to taste- I added about 7 tablespoons in, which seasoned the meat beautifully and made for a good consistency.
Barbacoa beef cheek meat
Barbacoa beef, shredded and ready to eat

I dished it up as tacos, in some warm corn tortillas, with a range of garnishes including jalapeños, spring onions, diced radish, grated cheese, salsa, warmed refried beans and sour cream, as well as a big vat of lime and coriander rice. Olé!

Barbacoa beef cheeks
The spread- barbacoa beef cheek tacos


Barbacoa beef cheek tacos
The finished product, a delicious taco


4 thoughts on “Cooking at home: barbacoa beef cheeks

  1. I am trying your recipe this morning for tacos. I love authentic Mexican barbacoa but it is a pain to find here in Houston, at least good barbacoa anyway… 😊. I read your recipe and it sounds good. I will let you know how it comes out. Thanks for the recipe…

  2. This looks great – I had beef cheeks at the Pasta Bar on Sharrow Vale Road the other day and they were so tasty that I googled it and came across your blog. Will definitely be trying this soon! Your blog is awesome 🙂 xxx

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