Easy smoked tri-tip tacos cooked low and slow on your backyard smoker or grill. These beef-filled tacos combine tender tri-tip roast with our homemade barbecue rub, crumbled queso fresco, and toasted corn tortillas for some seriously juicy flavor.
These smoked tri-tip tacos are loaded with tender BBQ beef and fresh fillings to create the perfect spin on Mexican street tacos. Prepared with our irresistible homemade tri-tip dry rub and smoked over oakwood, these barbecue tacos strike the perfect balance between sweet and smoky.
No need for complicated marinades or sauces – a well-crafted dry rub is all you need before placing the tri-tip on your smoker’s grates. Ready in just a couple of hours, this spin on smoked tri-tip is perfect for barbecue beginners or smoke pros who just want a hassle-free meal when you’re short on time.
From mastering meat trimming to choosing the best smoking woods, discover how to create amazing smoked tri-tip tacos today.
What is Tri-Tip?
From the bottom sirloin of the steer, beef tri-tip is a flavorful and tender meat cut that’s perfect for barbecue beef tacos thanks to its lean connective tissue and fat content. It has a unique triangular shape that tapers at one end, and typically weighs between two and three pounds.
Tri-tip has a strong and rich beefy flavor unlike any other beef cut. Due to its low fat content, tri-tip is often quite chewy, but if sliced properly, will be melt-in-the-mouth tender and ideal for these smoked beef tacos.
How to Make BBQ Tri-Tip Tacos
Tri-tip tacos are easy to make and loaded with juicy, tender beef. Here’s how to make them from scratch:
- Fire Up: Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit (107 Celsius)
- Meat Prep: Trim your tri-tip of any excess fat or silver skin along the surface
- Season: Prepare your chicken with our homemade tri-tip dry rub, covering evenly and working it into any crevices or folds along the meat surface
- Smoke: Place the seasoned tri-tip on your smoker’s grates and smoke to medium-rare, for just under two hours
- Fillings: While the tri-tip smokes, prepare the homemade fresh salsa with diced tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno, and cilantro
- Rest: Pull the tri-tip from the heat and allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes
- Tortillas: Warm the tortillas in a skillet over low heat
- Serve: Cut the tri-tip against the grain into thin slices. Serve into tortillas and top with the fresh salsa, crumbled queso, avocado, and cilantro.
For our dry rub, we’ll be using our homemade tri-tip rub. It features a blend of smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, ground cumin, chili powder, and a touch of brown sugar for a perfect balance of earthy, spicy, and slightly sweet flavors. If you prefer a milder heat, simply reduce the amount of chili powder and add more smoked paprika or a little extra brown sugar.
Before applying the rub, ensure you pat the tri-tip with a paper towel to dry the surface. This will help the rub adhere better to the meat and form a flavorful crust during the smoking process, enhancing the taste and texture of your smoked tri-tip tacos.
The best wood for smoking tri-tip is oak, particularly red oak. Oakwood burns at a consistent rate over long periods of time, making it perfect for low and slow barbecue smoking. It also provides a smokey taste without being too bitter, which allows the naturally deep beefy flavors of tri-tip to come through.
If you want to try a different wood, look for hardwoods that deliver a good balance of robust and subtle flavors that won’t overpower the beef. Hickory or a hickory-mesquite blend are good options to try.
Smoked Tri-Tip Tacos
- 2 lbs tri-tip roast
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- ½ tbsp ground cumin
- ½ tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 4 tomatoes diced
- ½ red onion finely chopped
- 1 jalapeno seeded and minced
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro chopped
- 1 lime juiced
- kosher salt to taste
- ground black pepper
- 8 corn tortillas
- 1 avocado sliced
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup crumbled queso fresco
- fresh cilantro
- 2 limes juice of
- Fire up your smoker to 225°F (107°C). If using a charcoal grill, ensure you are set up for 2-zone indirect cooking. Place wood chips on coals or in wood tray.
- While the smoker heats up, prepare the tri-tip by trimming any excess fat or silver skin from the meat surface
- Next, prepare the dry rub. In a small bowl, combine the salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, ground cumin, chili powder, and brown sugar. Use a fork to remove or break down any lumps that may have formed.
- Apply a thin layer of olive oil to the tri-tip, covering the entire surface. Next, apply the dry rub to the tri-tip, covering all sides.
- Once the smoker has hit 225°F, place the tri-tip on the smoker grates. If using a charcoal grill, ensure you place the tri-tip on the indirect side of your 2 cooking zones.
- Smoke the tri-tip to an internal temperature of 130°F (54°C), about 2 hours
- While the tri-tip is smoking, prepare the fresh salsa. In a medium bowl, combine diced tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to let the flavors meld.
- When the tri-tip has reached the desired internal temperature, remove it from the smoker and let it rest for at least 15 minutes
- While the tri-tip is resting, warm the tortillas in a dry skillet in your smoker or grill. Keep them warm by placing each tortilla between paper kitchen towels.
- Slice the tri-tip against the grain into thin strips
- To assemble the tacos, serve the sliced tri-tip into each tortilla and top with fresh salsa, avocado slices, sour cream, and crumbled queso. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and a squeeze of lime. Serve immediately.