RECIPES:
Nov 3, 2021

Authentic Birria Tacos Recipe

Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 3 hrs
Chunks of meat are stewed in a flavorful broth with spices. Dipping the corn tortillas in the spiced cooking liquid before pan-frying them gives the tacos their signature deep red color.

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Birria de res is a tender meat stew packed with chili flavor served on its own, or chopped and piled onto doubled up corn tortillas (tacos de birria). Now ubiquitous in California, the best birria tacos I’ve ever had came from a small food cart in an industrial parking lot in Boyle Heights. It was one of the first times I had ever had the tender beef tacos and as I dunked the corn tortillas into the rich broth, red oil dripped down my chin.

I love anything that comes with broth or sauce – adding additional punches of flavor wherever possible. In fact, I became hooked on the tender meat wrapped in the corn shell. After moving to New York I decided to create my own authentic birria taco recipe. I’ve included instructions for making birria on the stovetop, braised in a Dutch oven, or cooked in a slow cooker or Instant Pot.

Authentic Birria Tacos Recipe

What is Birria?

Chunks of meat are stewed in a flavorful broth with spices. The dish is traditionally made using goat meat, but it is also commonly made with beef, veal, lamb or pork. In the United States, you can expect birria to be made with beef, specifically with chuck roast.

Dipping the corn tortillas in the spiced cooking liquid before pan-frying them gives the tacos their signature deep red color. The birria tacos are topped with a simple mixture of chopped white onion and cilantro with a side of sliced radish and lime wedges. Then a small cup of consumé, the cooking broth, is served alongside the tacos for dipping. 

A lean, tough cut of beef is used for this recipe. It’s a cheaper cut, perfect for stewing so the meat has time to break down as it’s slowly cooked over a longer period of time. While it’s a recipe that takes some time, the flavor and tender meat makes it well worth it. 

What is Birria?

Where Does Birria Come From?

Traditional Birria made with goat meat comes from Jalisco, Mexico and can be traced back centuries. In addition, the style of birria de res (made with beef) originated in Tijuana, Mexico where it’s become extremely popular. 

In the past few years, birria has become one of the most trendy recipes in the US. It’s definitely “Instagram-able” food. Teddy’s Red Tacos in Los Angeles and Birria-landia have become two of the most popular trucks. Teddy’s has even opened brick and mortar restaurants featuring the tacos once reserved for trucks. 

Ever since 2019 my recipe feed has been filled with tacos teeming with tender meat shown dipping into a bright red consumé, glossy from the greasy broth. While dipping the tacos in the broth is not traditional in Mexico, it’s become a popular way of eating birria in the US. Social media has led to the increase in popularity of smaller taco stands – allowing people to track down locations of roadside businesses with the tap of a location tag.

Key Ingredients in This Recipe

  • Beef – Boneless beef chuck roast is used in this recipe. This primal cut comes from the front portion of the cow. It’s a tougher meat perfect for slow cooking over a long period of time. As a result, the cut has time to break down and become tender. Chuck is known for its rich, beefy flavor which infuses the broth as it cooks. The cut is classically used for pot roasts since it’s ideal for braising and stewing. 
  • Dried chilies – While there are plenty of variations of chilies used recipe to recipe I use a combination of guajillo, ancho and chile de arbol. I first rehydrate the chilies before removing the stems and seeds because I find it easier to clean them. While they can be found in many grocery stores they can also be found online at Amazon here.
  • Mexican oregano – Mexican oregano, with lemon and citrus flavoring, has a stronger, more intense earthy flavor. While the name implies similarities with Mediterranean and Italian oregano that most people are familiar with, they are actually from different plant families. But if Mexican oregano is unavailable, substitute dried marjoram. 
birria de res recipe

How to Make Birria de Res

For the chili braising liquid

Step 1: Rehydrate the chilies.

Add the guajillo, ancho and chiles de arbol to a large bowl and then top with boiling water. Let sit until the chilies are soft. Remove the stems from the chilies and shake out the seeds and discard. Save the soaking liquid.

Step 2: Blend the chili mixture.

Add the chilies, apple cider vinegar, tomatoes, garlic, organo, paprika, cumin and 2 cups of the chili soaking water to a blender and blend until the mixture is smooth.

For the birria de res

Step 1: Sear beef.

Heat oven to 300ºF. Season the cubed beef generously with salt and pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat, then add the oil and heat through. Working in batches, add the beef and sear until golden brown on all sides, about 8 minutes.

Step 2: Add ingredients to Dutch oven.

Add all of the seared beef back to the pot and top with the blended chili mixture, onion, beef stock and 2 cups of water. Wrap the bay leaves, thyme, cinnamon stick and cloves in cheesecloth, tie to close and then add to the pot.

Step 3: Braise the meat.

Bring to a boil over medium heat then cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Braise the beef until fork tender, about 3 hours.

Step 4: Chop beef.

Discard the spices. Remove the meat from the braising liquid to a cutting board. Let cool slightly then chop the meat with a cleaver or large knife.

Step 5: Mix meat with some of the braising liquid.

Add to a large mixing bowl with about 2 cups of the braising liquid and ½ cup of the chopped cilantro.

For serving

Step 1: Make onion topping.

In a small mixing bowl stir together the onion, remaining cilantro and lime juice. Season with salt and then set aside.

Step 2: Fry tortilla.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, Dip the tortilla into the top fat of the braising liquid. Add to the pan and then fry for about 30 seconds.

Step 3: Assemble tacos and cook.

Serve topped with the beef and onions or to make quesabirria add some of the cheese on top followed by some of the beef. Fold over and continue to cook like a quesadilla, until the cheese melts, about 1 minute. Repeat with remaining tacos and meat.

Step 4: Assemble and serve.

Ladle the consommé into small bowls for dipping. Top both the tacos and consommé with the onion mixture and serve hot with sides of limes and radishes.

How to Make Birria de Res

Other Methods of Cooking Birria

  • Dutch oven – This is my favorite way to make birria and other braises because it’s hands off and doesn’t require any fancy products. A Dutch oven is versatile and great for soups and stews. 
  • Slow-cooker – Sear the beef in a pan (or in the slow cooker if yours has a sear option) as directed below then add to a slow cooker and cook on high for 6 to 7 hours. 
  • Instant Pot – To make the recipe in the Instant Pot, sear the meat then add the broth as directed and cook on the Stew setting which should cook on high for 45 minutes. 
Authentic Birria Tacos Recipe ingredients

Authentic Birria Tacos Tips

Meat substitutions

In this recipe I use chuck roast though bone-in short ribs or a combination of both can be used. The beef can be substituted for more traditional ingredients like goat.

Variations

There are a few different non-traditional variations on serving birria apart from tacos. It can be served as a soup (en caldo) with chunks of the shredded meat sinking to the bottom.

Quesabirria, as it’s served below, refers to the term for birria and melted Oaxaca cheese (I use mozzarella based on availability) in corn tortillas which are dipped in the red fat and pan fried. It can also be served as quesadilla in flour tortillas. 

It can also be served sandwiched between small corn tortillas (mulitas) or cooked on a toasted crispy tortilla with cheese like a meaty, cheesy tostada that was crisped on the plancha or in a pan (vampiros).

Serving Suggestions
  • Serve birria on it’s own as a stew in the consomé. 
  • Serve as directed below as tacos with shredded or chopped meat in corn tortillas dipped in the braising liquid. Top with diced onions and a squeeze of lime. 
  • If there is not enough fat on top of the braising liquid to dip the tortillas in, then I recommend adding ¼ cup of vegetable oil to it. It will rise to the top for additional dipping. 
  • Add birria meat with Oaxaca cheese in between two small corn tortillas. Cook like a quesadilla for a crispy mulita.
To Make Ahead

Braises like this are great made ahead of time. As they sit the flavors can really meld and develop. You can start by making the chili braising liquid a week ahead of time. Store it refrigerated in an airtight container. The braise can also be made ahead of time and stored refrigerated in an airtight container or frozen until ready to use. I recommend storing the meat and remaining braising liquid for dipping/cooking the tortillas separately. Simply reheat on the stove for about 10 to 20 minutes.

Authentic Birria Tacos Recipe

Other Recipes to Try

If you enjoy this recipe, I recommend checking out some of these:

Authentic Birria Tacos Recipe

Authentic Birria Tacos Recipe

Authentic Birria Tacos Recipe
Print Pin
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs
Serves 8

Ingredients:

For the chili braising liquid:

  • 5 large guajillo chilies
  • 4 large ancho chilies
  • 4 chiles de arbol
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin

For the birria de res:

  • 3 pounds beef chuck roast, cut into 2” chunks
  • Kosher salt, as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ teaspoon whole cloves

For serving:

  • 1 cup chopped cilantro, divided
  • 1 cup diced white onion
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Kosher salt, as needed
  • Small corn tortillas, warmed
  • 3 cups shredded Oaxaca cheese, or part-skim mozzarella
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • 2 radishes, thinly sliced

Instructions:

For the chili braising liquid:

  • Add the guajillo, ancho and chiles de arbol to a large bowl and top with boiling water. Let sit until the chilies are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove the stems from the chilies and shake out the seeds and discard. Save the soaking liquid.
  • Add the chilies, apple cider vinegar, tomatoes, garlic, organo, paprika, cumin and 2 cups of the chili soaking water to a blender and blend until the mixture is smooth.

For the birria de res:

  • Heat oven to 300ºF.
  • Season the cubed beef generously with salt and pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add the oil and heat through. Working in batches, add the beef and sear until golden brown on all sides, about 8 minutes.
  • Add all of the seared beef back to the pot and top with the blended chili mixture, onion, beef stock and 2 cups of water. Wrap the bay leaves, thyme, cinnamon stick and cloves in cheesecloth, tie to close and add to the pot.
  • Bring to a boil over medium heat then cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Braise the beef until fork tender, about 3 hours.
  • Discard the spices. Remove the meat from the braising liquid to a cutting board. Let cool slightly then chop the meat with a cleaver or large knife.
  • Add to a large mixing bowl with about 2 cups of the braising liquid and ½ cup of the chopped cilantro.

For serving:

  • In a small mixing bowl stir together the onion, remaining cilantro and lime juice. Season with salt and set aside.
  • Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, Dip the tortilla into the top fat of the braising liquid. Add to the pan and fry for about 30 seconds.
  • Serve topped with the beef and onions or to make quesabirria add some of the cheese on top followed by some of the beef. Fold over and continue to cook like a quesadilla, until the cheese melts, about 1 minute. Repeat with remaining tacos and meat.
  • Ladle the consommé into small bowls for dipping. Top both the tacos and consommé with the onion mixture and serve hot with sides of limes and radishes.

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