This Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Beef is tender and juicy shreds of beef smothered in sweet and tangy BBQ sauce. Serve on toasted brioche buns with slaw and pickles for the perfect pulled beef sandwich! Or make rice bowls, tacos, or top homemade tostadas and add your favorite toppings.
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If there’s anything that is designed to be made in a slow cooker it’s chuck roast. Specifically, chuck roast in BBQ sauce.
This BBQ shredded beef recipe is made with super simple ingredients and results in the best-pulled beef sandwiches. Enjoy for BBQs or potlucks if you're serving a lot of people or whip it up for any easy weeknight meal, then enjoy the leftovers all week long. Your entire family will thank you!
📖Why This Recipe Works
Just like with my citrus shredded beef recipe, the magic of a slow cooker and just the right seasonings is amazing.
Homemade or Store-Bought BBQ sauce. You can use your favorite store-bought variety of BBQ sauce or whip up a super simple homemade version included in the recipe. My homemade BBQ sauce is gluten-free.
Hands-Off Recipe. Mix everything up in your crockpot and return the perfectly cooked beef.
Incredible Texture. The long, slow cooking time creates the best fall-apart, juicy, and tender texture.
This simple recipe requires just a few basic ingredients! Here's what you'll need:
Beef - Use an inexpensive cut of meat like boneless chuck roast, shoulder, or blade roast. You’ll need something in the 2-3 pounds range with good marbling.
Seasonings - You’ll season the beef with a simple combination of chili powder and cumin before cooking. I tested this recipe with garlic powder or onion powder too but I found that it didn't
Onion - Cooking the beef with onion adds texture and infuses it with great flavor. Be sure to cut it into thin slices so it incorporates well with the beef.
BBQ Sauce - You can use a homemade recipe listed in the recipe card below or a store-bought version of your favorite barbecue sauce.
Beef Broth - Adds moisture and flavor to the beef as it cooks. You don't need much, and yes, you can use water or water with a little beef bullion if needed.
Buns - I use gluten-free brioche buns, but feel free to use whatever you prefer.
See the recipe card for exact quantities.
⏲️How to Make BBQ Beef in A Slow Cooker
Just a few minutes of prep time is needed to whip up this delicious shredded BBQ beef! You can even put everything together the night before and store it in the fridge.
STEP 1 (optional) - Make the BBQ Sauce
Making homemade barbecue sauce is totally optional, but surprisingly simple! So, feel free to skip this step if you like and just use the bottled stuff.
To make your own sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, then add garlic and red pepper flakes.
Next, add the ketchup, apple cider vinegar, dark brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, and dijon mustard. Mix to combine and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 10 minutes.
You can serve the BBQ sauce as-is or blend it with an immersion blender so it’s nice and smooth. Either way is delicious!
STEP 2 - Cook the Beef
Trim excess fat from the beef. Sprinkle the beef with chili powder and cumin, then place it in the bottom of the slow cooker along with the sliced onion and BBQ sauce.
Cover the crockpot and cook on low for 8-10 hours. You can also crank it up to high for 4 to 6 hours but the texture might a bit chewier.
Once the time is up, remove the beef from the crockpot and shred it.
For shredding meat, I am a huge fan of Bear Paws meat shredders They look totally ridiculous but are inexpensive. They make quick work of shredding chicken, pork, and even spaghetti squash!
Skim the fat off the top of the sauce, optional but if your beef was heavily marbled it may benefit from reducing it slightly.
Add the shredded beef back to the crockpot. Cook for another 30 minutes, then taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
STEP 3 (optional) - Assemble Your Sandwiches
Lay your brioche buns, slider buns, or hamburger buns of your choice out onto a clean work surface. Butter the inside of each, then place the buttered side down onto a preheated griddle. Let the buns cook for just a couple of minutes or until they’re toasted to your liking.
Scoop the shredded meat onto each bun, top with coleslaw and pickles, then dig into your delicious barbecue sandwiches.
🥗What to Serve with BBQ Pulled Beef
Not feeling sandwiches? You can easily add this BBQ shredded beef to a number of different recipes. Try it over nachos or in tacos, mix it into your favorite mac and cheese, or add it to salads, you name it.
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tip
Don't salt the beef. There's plenty of saltiness in the broth and BBQ sauce, so it really doesn't need it!
Leftover shredded beef will last in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
When you’re ready to serve again, thaw in the fridge if frozen, then warm either in the microwave or on low on the stove until heated through.
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💬Frequently Asked Questions
While I do love the slow cooker method, you can definitely make your BBQ shredded beef in the oven too! Simply mix the beef, BBQ sauce, beef broth, and onion in an oven-safe pan with a lid. Place the pan into the oven and cook for 3 hours at 325ºF or until tender and easily shreddable.
That depends. There are some varieties of BBQ sauce that are considered gluten-free, but others that are not. To ensure that yours is gluten-free, I recommend making your own or using a variety that is certified gluten-free. For store-bought, I like Tessemaes or Stubbs.
If you cook the beef with just BBQ sauce, then it is more likely to burn. If you add a liquid along with the BBQ sauce, then it will be fine as long as you cook to the recipe instructions.
When making shredded beef in the slow cooker, it’s best to use an inexpensive cut of beef like chuck roast, shoulder, or blade roast. Although they’re traditionally tougher, they respond really well to the long cooking time and come out of the crockpot deliciously tender and juicy!
If you want to make it a little fancier, you can use beef brisket or short ribs instead. These are a little more expensive and have a little more fat on them, but have amazing flavor.
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📖 Printable Recipe Card
Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Beef
Homemade BBQ Sauce
BBQ Beef Sandwiches
- 8 brioche buns gluten-free if needed
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 cups vinegar-based coleslaw
- 1 cup dill pickle slices
- Sprinkle the beef with the chili powder and cumin. Place all the ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.3 pounds beef chuck roast, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 2 teaspoon cumin, 1 white onion, 2 cups BBQ sauce, ½ beef broth
- Remove the beef and shred. Before returning to the sauce skim off any excess fat.
- Return the beef to the sauce and cook for 30 minutes. Season to state with salt and pepper, if needed.
Homemade BBQ Sauce
- In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, add the onion, and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds.½ cup unsalted butter, 1 small white onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to simmer, cook 10 minutes over medium low heat.2 cups ketchup, ½ cup apple cider vinegar, ¼ cup dark brown sugar, 3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 1 Tablespoon Chili powder, 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Optional, puree with the an immersion blender to smooth out the onion.
BBQ Beef Sandwiches
- Butter the inside of each bun and place buttered side down on a griddle preheated over medium heat. Heat until toasted, about 4 minutes.8 brioche buns, 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- Place BBQ beef on bottom and top with coleslaw and pickle slices.3 cups vinegar-based coleslaw, 1 cup dill pickle slices
- I don't recommend salting the beef due to the salt in both the broth and the BBQ sauce. Season to taste at the end.
- Searing the beef before placing it in the crockpot is optional. But in my testing, I didn't find the extra step was needed due to the intense flavor of the BBQ sauce.
- Nutrition estimates are for the BBQ beef only.