15 Delicious Side Dishes to Serve with Barbacoa Beef

Barbacoa beef is a delicious Mexican shredded beef dish that is slowly cooked until tender and infused with bold spices and flavors. While barbacoa beef makes a fantastic taco or burrito filling, it also pairs well with a variety of side dishes that complement and enhance its rich, savory taste.

When planning your next barbacoa beef meal, consider rounding out your menu with one or more of these 15 tasty side dish ideas:

Spanish Rice

Spanish rice is a staple side dish in Mexican cuisine, and it makes a perfect pairing with barbacoa beef. To make Spanish rice, rice is cooked in a tomato sauce seasoned with garlic, onions, and spices like cumin and oregano. The rice soaks up the flavors of the sauce, resulting in rice that is flavorful, aromatic, and ruddy in color. The savory tomatoey flavors of the rice stand up well to the bold barbacoa beef.

Refried Beans

Warm, creamy refried beans are another excellent accompaniment for barbacoa. Their smooth, rich texture complements the shredded beef wonderfully. Make your refried beans from scratch by cooking dried pinto beans until very tender, then mashing them with onions and seasonings. Or opt for easy canned refried beans, warmed up with extra spices. Either way, refried beans add protein and fiber to your barbacoa meal.


Cool, creamy guacamole makes a refreshing contrast to hot barbacoa beef. The avocado-based dip adds a touch of luxury, and its bright green color livens up the plate. Make chunky guacamole by mashing avocados with tomato, onion, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, and salt. Serve it alongside the shredded beef or use it as a taco topper.


For a fun, shareable appetizer or side dish, serve barbacoa beef over a platter of nachos. Layer tortilla chips with the shredded beef, then top with melted cheese, jalapeños, salsa, guacamole, and sour cream. The crispy chips, gooey cheese, and barbacoa beef make a mouthwatering combination.


Tostadas are another excellent vessel for enjoying barbacoa beef. Bake or fry corn tortillas until crispy, then top them with the shredded meat, refried beans, lettuce, tomato, avocado, cotija cheese, and Mexican crema. The contrast of the crunchy tostada and the rich, tender beef is fantastic.

Grilled Corn on the Cob

Charred grilled corn on the cob adds sweetness and smokiness to a barbacoa meal. Leave the corn unseasoned to let its natural sweet flavor shine, or brush with a mixture of lime juice, chipotle powder, cilantro, and olive oil while grilling. The juicy kernels pair nicely with the hearty shredded beef.

Pico de Gallo

Fresh, vibrant pico de gallo salsa is an easy side to throw together using chopped tomato, onion, cilantro, lime juice, and jalapeño. It adds a pop of color and brightness to balance the rich barbacoa beef. Pico de gallo can be served as a salsa alongside the shredded meat or used as a taco topping.

Mexican Street Corn Salad

For a cool, creamy salad, try Mexican street corn salad with your barbacoa beef. It combines charred grilled corn with a tangy, spicy mayonnaise dressing flavored with cotija cheese, cilantro, lime juice, and chili powder. The salad’s mix of textures and bright flavors complements the slow-cooked shredded beef wonderfully.

Flour Tortillas

Warm flour tortillas turn barbacoa beef into tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and more. Let people build their own barbacoa creations by serving shredded beef alongside flour tortillas, taco toppings, salsas, and other sides. The soft, pliable tortillas work perfectly to wrap up the shredded meat.

Jicama Slaw

For crunch, make a refreshing jicama slaw with thinly sliced jicama, red cabbage, cilantro, and a light vinaigrette. Jicama is a crunchy, slightly sweet tuber vegetable that adds great texture. The slaw cuts through the richness of the barbacoa beef, making it an ideal accompaniment.

Cilantro Lime Rice

Herby cilantro lime rice provides a quick and easy side for barbacoa beef. Simply stir cilantro, lime zest and juice into hot cooked rice along with a bit of olive oil or butter. The bright, zesty flavors pair beautifully with the slow-cooked shredded beef.

Steak Fajitas

Transform your barbacoa beef into sizzling steak fajitas by sautéing sliced bell peppers and onions and serving them alongside the shredded meat. Fajitas add a pop of color and extra flavor to your barbacoa meal. Wrap the beef, peppers, and onions in tortillas for tasty handheld meals.

Queso Fundido

For ultimate indulgence, try barbacoa beef with warm queso fundido, a Mexican melted cheese dip. Make it by melting Monterey jack and Oaxaca cheeses with cream or milk, then stir in the shredded barbacoa beef. Serve with tortilla chips for scooping. The combo of molten cheese and savory shredded beef is incredible.

Black Bean Salad

A fresh black bean salad complements barbacoa’s richness nicely. Toss black beans with diced red onion, bell pepper, corn, cilantro, and a tangy lime vinaigrette. The salad provides color, crunch, and a dose of fiber and plant-based protein.

Chiles Rellenos

Roasted poblano peppers stuffed with barbacoa beef and cheese make delicious chiles rellenos to serve alongside the remaining shredded meat. Stuff the peppers with the beef, Monterey jack cheese, and a bit of adobo sauce from the canned chipotles. Roast or fry the stuffed peppers, then top with salsa and crema.

Tips for Serving Barbacoa Beef

Once your tender, flavorful barbacoa beef is ready, keep these serving tips in mind:

  • Allow the shredded beef to soak up the juices and seasoning in the slow cooker for maximum flavor.

  • Use two forks to shred the beef right before serving time while it is still moist.

  • Transfer the shredded meat to a serving dish and spoon some of the cooking juices over the top to keep it moist.

  • Offer tortillas, tortilla chips, tostadas or crackers for scooping up the beef.

  • Have taco toppings set up so guests can build their own tacos: shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes and onion, salsa, guacamole, cheese, sour cream, etc.

  • Add some diced avocado, lime wedges, chopped cilantro or sliced radish to brighten up the rich shredded beef.

  • Combo meals: serve the barbacoa beef with suggested sides like Spanish rice and refried beans.

  • For meal prepping, portion out the beef and grains into individual containers, keeping veggies/salsas/guac separate.

With its incredibly rich and savory shredded beef, barbacoa makes a fantastic centerpiece for a Mexican meal. Pair it with any of these 15 delicious side dishes for a meal that is sure to satisfy. ¡Buen provecho!

Perfect Homemade Barbacoa Tacos (2 Ways)


What is traditionally served with barbacoa?

Barbacoa is traditionally served with freshly made corn tortillas, fresh chopped onions and cilantro. The onions and cilantro add a sharp and herbaceous contrast to the rich, strong flavors of the meat.

What vegetables go well with barbacoa?

If you are wondering, “What to serve with barbacoa beef?” Serve it over rice with whatever fresh veggies you like. You can’t go wrong with corn, black beans, green onions, tomatoes, avocados, and some cilantro!

What is the best way to eat barbacoa?

If you’re not into soft tacos, you can definitely serve this barbacoa meat Chipotle-style in a burrito, or “burrito” rice bowl, or a salad, or crispy tacos. Or it’s also great in everything from quesadillas, to enchiladas, to soups, to tostadas, to sandwiches and more.

What kind of meat is barbacoa?

Barbacoa is a method of cooking meat (historically lamb or goat, though beef or pork is often used today) that produces tender and juicy results. It’s traditionally steam-cooked underground, but modern barbacoa can be prepared over an open fire, on the stove, or in a slow cooker.

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