These braised beef short rib tacos are perfect for taco night. Slow cooked to tender perfection in an easy sauce, the Mexican beef short rib ragu is then piled into tortillas with all your favourite taco fillings.

  • Succulent, flavoursome barbacoa beef. 
  • Rich with a light tang from lime juice.
  • The oven does most of the work or use your slow cooker!
  • The jalapeno relish topping is the perfect accompaniment.
  • Slow cooker, oven and pressure cooker instructions.

Short ribs are very rich in flavour and, while a tougher meat, they become beautifully tender when slow cooked or braised as these are. Because of their rich flavour, these tacos don’t need loads of fillings. I like some avocado for it’s creaminess and my pink pickled onions or my latest love – fresh jalapeno relish

You’ll love these pork belly tacos too or if you’re after some lighter and quicker, try these Baja fish tacos.

This recipe was originally published here on February 18th, 2017 and has been updated with recipe tweaks and new images.

Close up of a beef short rib taco with coriander on top.

Ingredients for short rib tacos

Ingredients for short rib tacos on a baking tray.

Detailed quantities and instructions in the recipe card below.

  • Beef short ribs: Beef shortribs are a meaty cut from brisket area of the cows ribs. They have a layer of meat and fat sitting atop the wide bone and are very flavoursome but need slow cooking to tenderise them. Use short ribs on the bone – not the type where the bones have been removed – as the bones add so much flavour and pull straight out easily once cooked.
  • Beef stock: Beef stock or beef broth are what you need here for the rich, savoury flaovur.
  • Tinned tomatoes: Just 1 tin (400g / 14oz) of crushed tomatoes or finely chopped tomatoes.
  • Chipotles in adobo: Chipotles in adobo are dried chipotle peppers that are rehydrated in a flavourful sauce (adobo sauce). They’re spicy, sweet and tangy all at once. Sometimes it will be whole chipotles and others may already be chopped up – both are fine. I use this Latin Deli brand or La Morena, just depending on where I’m shopping at the time. If you aren’t sure where to find them, check the Mexican section of a good supermarket.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar adds a little tang and sweetness and helps to tenderise the meat.
  • Garlic and onion: Use fresh as they have so much more flavour than their powdered counterparts.
  • Spices: The dried spices are very simple here – just a little dried cumin and dried oregano.
  • Sugar: A little brown sugar helps to make the sauce a little sweet and richer.
  • Lime juice: The Mexican barbacoa ribs are finished off with some lime juice for a great tang to the rich sauce. That tanginess helps to cut through the rich and fatty flavour of the short ribs.
  • Tortillas: Use your favourite tortillas. Corn tortillas or flour tortillas are both wonderful here.
  • Toppings: All tacos need a variety of toppings. See my toppings section further down the page for loads of great ideas.

Classic Mexican barbacoa beef is made using beef cheeks which would also be good here. You can also use a chuck roast if you can’t find short ribs.

How to make short rib tacos (step by step)

A collage showing how to make short rib tacos.

Detailed quantities and instructions in the recipe card below.

  1. Searing the short ribs: While optional, I recommend browning the short ribs first as it adds flavour to the final result. Brown them in batches in a large dutch oven or other large oven safe pan medium high heat.
  2. Make the sauce: Mix together the sauce ingredients in the pan and then add the seared ribs, turning them so they’re well coated.
  3. Cook the ribs: Cook in the oven for 2 hours uncovered and a further 30-60 minutes covered. Alternatively, you can cook them in a slow cooker on low for 7-8 hours until the meat is falling off the bone or on high for 3 ½ – 4 hours.
  4. Finish the sauce: When the short ribs are falling off the bone tender, set them aside. Tip the pan on an angle and you’ll see a pool of oil – scoop that out with a spoon onto some paper towel and discard it. Now add in some lime juice and ½ cup water and give it all a mix. 
  5. Shred the meat: Use two forks to pull the meat off the bones and tear it into shreds.
  6. Combine the sauce and meat: Now combine the shredded ribs with the sauce and it’s ready to be served.

What is barbacoa beef?

This method of cooking, is a take on the traditional Mexican barbacoa (aka barbeque) where meat is slow cooked in broth and spices until tender. Barbacoa beef was traditionally cooked in pits but these days we have the convenience of the oven or slow cooker at our disposal.

A batch of short rib tacos on sheet of parchment paper.

Other cooking methods

You can cook the short ribs for these barbacoa beef tacos in a number of ways.

Slow cooker / crockpot method

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a dutch oven or large skillet on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the short ribs in batches and cook a little, turning when required, until browned on the outside. Add the sauce ingredients to the slow cooker bowl and mix well. Add the browned beef ribs. Place the lid on and cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for  3½ – 4 hours (until falling off the bone and the meat is fork tender).

Pressure cooker method

Sauté the ribs in a little oil in the cooker pot until browned all over. They don’t need to be cooked through. Transfer them to a plate. Add all the sauce ingredients and mix well, scraping any bits off the bottom, before adding the ribs back to the pot. Seal the lid in place and set to high pressure for 40 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally.

Short rib taco toppings

These short rib tacos don’t need a lot of toppings but choose 3-5 of your favourites like:

  • For creaminess: avocado slices or guacamole, sour cream, queso fresco (a Mexican cheese – use a mild creamy feta if you can’t get it) or try my chipotle lime mayo.
  • For sourness / to cut through the richness: Jalapeno relish is the absolute perfect condiment for these short rib tacos but others that work well are pink pickled onions, fresh red onion, pickled jalapeños, pickled red cabbage, wedges of lime.
  • For crunch and freshness: crunchy red cabbage, lettuce, radish or capsicum (bell pepper), fresh coriander (fresh cilantro) and / or fresh jalapenos.

Toppings shown in the photos: shredded red cabbage, sliced avocado, the shredded Mexican short rib meat, creamy feta, sour cream, jalapeno relish and fresh coriander (cilantro).

What to do with leftovers

Leftover pulled beef short rib does not need to go to waste. The meat in the sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. You can use this meat again in tacos, quesadillas or nachos. Try it turned into grilled cheese sandwiches too – so so good.

A hand holding a taco to show the filling.

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Top down view of short rib tacos showing the fillings.
4.9 from 20 ratings
These braised beef short rib tacos are loaded with succulent, slow cooked fall-off-the-bone beef, smothered in a rich sauce. This is what taco dreams are made of.


  • 1.8 kg beef short ribs (4lb)
  • 1 ¼ cup beef stock
  • 400 g tinned crushed tomatoes (14oz)
  • cup chipotle in adobo
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (note 1)
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (note 1)
  • 16 flour or corn taco tortillas
  • jalepeno relish, optional
  • Toppings: avocado, shredded cabbage or lettuce, sour cream, creamy feta and coriander (cilantro).

For best results, always weigh ingredients where a weight is provided



  • Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) / 350F.
  • Trim visible excess fat from the top of the ribs.
  • On the stove top, in a dutch oven or large oven safe braiser pan, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium-high heat.
  • Add the ribs in 2-3 batch, browning all over – they don’t need to be cooked through, just sealed and browned.
  • Set the ribs aside and add the remaining sauce ingredients except the lime juice to the pan – the beef stock, tomatoes, chipotle in adobo, vinegar, garlic, onion, salt, cumin, oregano and sugar. Mix it all together then add the beef ribs back and turn to coat them in the sauce.
  • Bake for 2 hours, uncovered, or until falling off the bone, turning the ribs over after 1 hour.
  • Prepare your sides at any point while the meat is cooking.
  • Cover the pan (with lid or aluminium foil) and bake a further 30 mins or until the meat shreds easily.
  • When the ribs are ready, remove them from the pot and transfer to a warm plate. Cover with aluminium foil.
  • The sauce should be reduced to almost a paste. Tip the pan to one side and use a spoon to scoop out the excess oil and discard.
  • Add ½ cup of hot water and 1 tablespoon lime juice and stir through. Taste and add the remaining lime juice if you want a little more tang.
  • Shred the beef using forks, or your hands if you can handle the heat, and discard the bones and any gristle. Stir the shredded beef back into the sauce.
  • Warm the tortillas then serve with your toppings on a large platter so everyone can dig in.
  • Please take a moment to leave a comment & rating. It’s appreciated and so helpful.


  1. I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (equal to 4 teaspoons worldwide). Many countries use a 15ml tablespoon – check yours before measuring.
Have you tried this recipe?Don’t forget to leave a rating and comment below and let me know how it was! I love hearing from you. Nutrition information is approximate and derived from an online calculator. The brands you use may cause variations.
Nutrition Facts
Short Rib Tacos
Amount Per Serving (438 g)
Calories 512 Calories from Fat 198
% Daily Value*
Fat 22g34%
Saturated Fat 9g56%
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 8g
Cholesterol 97mg32%
Sodium 1418mg62%
Potassium 923mg26%
Carbohydrates 39g13%
Fiber 5g21%
Sugar 7g8%
Protein 38g76%
Vitamin A 124IU2%
Vitamin C 7mg8%
Calcium 141mg14%
Iron 7mg39%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.