These slow cooker Short Rib Tacos are filled with fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth tender meat full of rich, sweet n’ spicy flavor. After a few minutes of prep, your crockpot will do the rest. Plus, instant pot and braising instructions are included!
Short ribs are one of those tougher cuts of meat that's best cooked low and slow until fall apart tender. And while they cook, they’re steeped in a super delicious sauce flavored with a blend of dried chiles, spices and beef broth.
The beef absorbs all this intense flavor making it a perfect taco filling that doesn’t need a lot of toppings. I’m happy with some sliced red onions for crunch, fresh cilantro, grated queso fresco and a squeeze of lime. That’s it!
Why You’ll Love this Recipe
- A delicious crowd-pleaser!
- Easy, year-round recipe
- Short rib meat can be used numerous ways
- Great for meal prep
- Freezer friendly!
- Boneless Short Ribs or bone-in
- Dried Chiles – chipotle, guajillo and ancho chiles
- Beef Broth or beer
- Garlic Cloves
- Brown Sugar
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Adobo Sauce
- Spices – cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, kosher salt, black pepper, bay leaf
- Corn Tortillas or Flour Tortillas
- Taco Toppings – see list below!
How to Make Short Rib Tacos
You’ll kick things off for this recipe by reconstituting the dried chiles in a medium pot of simmering water until they’re softened.
When they are soft, drain them and place in a high-speed blender or in a food processor. Add the onion, garlic, brown sugar, spices, vinegar, adobo and beef stock. Blend until completely smooth and silky.
Pat ribs dry with a paper towel and season generously with kosher salt and ground black pepper. Heat vegetable oil large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown ribs on all sides.
Transfer browned ribs to the slow cooker. Pour the pureed sauce over the meat and toss in bay leaves. Cover and cook on low 5-7 hours until it’s falling apart and can be easily shredded.
Remove short ribs from sauce and place on a cutting board. Shred the beef into bite-size pieces with two forks.
Stir the shredded beef into the sauce in the slow cooker. You can serve immediately or keep the meat on low heat on the warm setting.
This short rib taco recipe is even better the next day! Just let it cool some before placing in the fridge. When ready to serve, rewarm on either the high or low setting of your crockpot, or over medium heat on the stove.
- Short Ribs: You can also use bone-in short ribs or a blend of the two. Buy more when using bone-in because they’re heavier and discard the bones when shredding the meat. Let the short ribs come to room temperature for 45-60 minutes before cooking.
- Dried Peppers: Remove their seeds unless you’re looking for super spicy tacos. But don’t go crazy; a few left behind are fine.
- Adjust Seasoning: Once the shredded beef is stirred into the sauce, give it a taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
- To Make Ahead: You can make the recipe up to 5 days before serving but don’t assemble the tacos. They’ll get soggy. Plus, you can freeze the meat up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight and rewarm on the stove over medium heat or in your slow cooker.
Braising and Instant Pot Instructions
To braise short ribs, you’ll follow the same steps to make the sauce. But you’ll want to sear the ribs in a large Dutch oven instead of a large heavy skillet. When the ribs are browned, pour the sauce over them in the pot. The sauce acts as the braising liquid.
In a preheated 325-degree F oven, place the covered pot on the center rack and cook 3 to 3 ½ hours until the ribs are very tender. Shred the meat and stir back into the sauce. See our beef birria recipe for more braising tips!
For quick short rib tacos in a pressure cooker, check out this instant pot bbq short rib taco recipe for all the details.
Although I keep the toppings pretty simple when it comes to these boneless beef short rib tacos, here is a list of ideas to complement the flavorful meat!
- Sour cream
- Mexican crema
- Queso fresco, cotija or cheddar cheese
- Avocado slices
- Sliced jalapeños
- Salsa verde
- Pico de gallo
- Fresh cilantro or parsley
- Lime wedges
More Ways to Use Mexican Short Ribs
That mouthwatering beef full of Mexican flavors has no reason to be limited to tacos. Use as a filling for fajitas, quesadillas, burritos and enchiladas. Plus, it’s amazing over nachos, mixed into pasta, piled into a hearty roll, or make the ultimate short rib grilled cheese!
Short Rib Tacos FAQs
When making shredded beef tacos, boneless or bone-in short ribs are a great choice. You can also use chuck roast or brisket but cut them into large chunks before cooking.
If you don’t cook short ribs long enough, they will be really tough. It takes time for the beef to tenderize. However, if you’re not planning to shred the meat, cook them until just before they’re about to fall apart.
It is best to sear well-seasoned short ribs on all sides for extra caramelized flavor, to render the outer layer of fat, and to lock in the beef’s juices. It will still take them a long time to cook before becoming fall-apart tender.
When trimming short ribs, you can trim some of the outer layer of excess fat. But don't remove internal layers of connective tissue that keeps the ribs together. And leave the silver skin or membrane that holds the meat to the bone intact.
More Taco Recipes
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Slow Cooker Short Rib Tacos
- 3 dried ancho chiles
- 2 dried guajillo chiles
- 2 dried chipotle chiles
- 1 onion , cut into chunks
- 4 garlic cloves , peeled
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
- 1 teaspoon each ground cumin, smoked paprika, kosher salt and black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 ½ cups beef broth
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 4 ½ pounds boneless beef short ribs or 6 pounds bone-in
- 2 bay leaves
- corn or flour tortillas , warmed
- queso fresco or cotija cheese
- sliced jalapeños
- sliced red onion
- fresh cilantro
- lime wedges
- With a sharp knife or scissors, remove stems from chiles and shake out the seeds.
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the dried chiles, reduce the heat and simmer until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain and discard the liquid.
- Place the peppers in a blender or food processor and add the onion, garlic, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, adobo, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne, and beef broth. Puree until smooth.
- Pat ribs dry and generously season with kosher salt and black pepper. Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the ribs on all sides in 2 batches, about 6-7 minutes per batch. Transfer the browned ribs to a 6-8 quart slow cooker.
- Pour the pureed chile sauce over the ribs. The sauce will reach about halfway up sides of the meat. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low 5-7* hours until fall-apart tender.
- Skim as much fat as you can off the top. Allow the ribs to cool a little in the sauce before transferring them to a cutting board to shred.
- You can shred the meat with your hands or with 2 forks. Place the shredded meat back into the sauce in the slow cooker pot. Serve immediately with warm tortillas and toppings or let cool and refrigerate.
- Short ribs will last 5 days in the fridge or freeze up to 3 months. If frozen, let thaw completely and reheat in the slow cooker or in a pot on the stove over medium heat.
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