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Birria Tacos are juicy, cheesy, crispy, and incredibly popular! Birria de res stew is slow cooked with spices and chiles, shredded and put into corn tortillas with cilantro, onion, and Oaxaca cheese, and fried in a pan until crispy, melty, and absolutely delicious. Don't forget the consomme, it's bursting with rich, savory flavor."
Y'all if you're a beef stew fan like me, you probably had your mind blown when you found out that this Tik Tok craze is actually a traditional Mexican beef stew that is put into tacos!
Honeyyyyyyy, let me tell you! We are a house full of foodies, and while we've had birria before we've never thought to put it into taco form! This was just a God-send and I knew I needed to get my hands into it.
We've made plenty of Latin food (my husband is Dominican, I'm part Panamanian, and I grew up in Miami so hispanic food is completely in my wheelhouse) but these birria quesatacos are something made of magic, y'all. No wonder they've taken the U.S. by storm.
What is Birria?
Birria (pronounced beer-ria, with the rolling 'r') is a dish from the Mexican state of Jalisco. Traditionally, it's a savory stew made with goat meat or even mutton, slow cooked with herbs and spices for hours until the meat is fall apart tender. Nowadays birria de res, or birria made with beef, is the most mainstream way to make it. I love using chuck roast and short ribs, because the consomme needs that delicious beefy sticky-lipped sensation that you can only get from bone-in beef.
Birria is made for celebrations, birthdays, graduations, but because it's become so popular it's now a fantastic weekend dinner dish that you can make at home.
Birria tacos are simply tacos that are filled with birria meat and other toppings like stringy Oaxacan cheese, onion, and cilantro. The corn tortillas are dipped in the fat that sits on top of the broth the meat was braised in, then pan fried until crispy. The tacos are then dipped in the broth, called consomme, and devoured because they are just so good.
Origins of Birria
Some say it came from shepherds and the dish slowly slipped into homes and restaurants, others say it came from indigenous Mexicans who were trying to get rid of the overly-populous-goat-pest problem they had after the Spanish colonizers brought the animals with them. Either way, a delicious stew (and one day, taco) was born.
As for the origins of the name birria, it's also a controversy.
The term 'birrioso' is the adjective of birria, and it means 'low class' or 'worth nothing'. Many people don't like the derogatory connotation, and have come up with different ideas including that the origin of the name comes from 'berrear' which is the Spanish onomatopoeia for a goat's bleating.
But in modern times, people use the gastronomic term for birria: “a meal of exquisite flavor, tradition, and culture.” I like this definition the most...the second favorite is the goat bleat, I mean come on! Who doesn't like that?
How to Make Birria de Res
I love the birria stew itself, and it's not too hard to make! It only has a few steps:
- Sear the Meat. This creates the Maillard Reaction, or the savory browned crust that is where the flavor resides. And that's on Mary had a little lamb. I use chuck and short ribs because they have a great marbling of fat in them and are tougher cuts that hold up to long braising times. The bones in the short ribs give the broth great flavor and texture, their collagen giving consomme a little body and that awesome sitcky-lipped goodness.
- Make the Sauce. Our birria sauce is made chiles, tomatoes, herbs, and spices that is simmered for about 20 minutes, then blended in a high powered blender until nice and smooth. This is what gives that rich, delicious flavor the meat will take on while braising in this along with the beef stock.
- Braise the Beef. Our birria de res can be slow-braised in a dutch oven on stove top or in a 300 degree oven for about 3 to 4 hours. It can also be put in the Instant Pot or a slow cooker, there are many ways to cook your birria de res.
Making the Birria Tacos
This may seem intimidating, but I promise it's easy.
The tortillas are lightly dipped in the fat that sits on top of our birria stew then fried with the shredded beef, some Oaxacan cheese (mozzarella works great too since Oaxacan cheese is a string cheese), cilantro, and onion.
After that, it's served up with the consomme, which is the broth the beef was braised in. I like adding extra cilantro and onion in there, but it's optional. The consomme is honestly one of the best parts of birra quesatacos simply because it adds another layer of flavor and texture.
All these ingredients should be easy to find at your local Latin market, especially if you have a Bravo or Sedanos nearby.
Beef Chuck Roast and Short Ribs. If you can find a bone in chuck roast, get it. Chuck yields a really great amount of meat but we want the bone. Which is why I also add in short ribs, they have excellent flavor, great marbling, and of course, have the bones to help make the broth. You could substitute the short ribs for oxtail, which I absolutely love for their amount of collagen but hate their price tag.
Dried Chiles. It's not birria without these chiles, y'all. They don't make it super spicy or anything, they give just a little kick so it's still family friendly, but they pack a lot of flavor. Remember to cut them open and remove the seeds before preparing them, those seeds are really spicy!
You'll need guajillo peppers, which are mild heat chiles (between 2,500 and 5,000 on the Scoville Scale) that are sweet, smoky, tangy and fruity in flavor.
Next is the ancho chili pepper, which is the dried almost-ripe poblano pepper. You've probably already seen a fresh, green poblano pepper, which is picked when it's still not ripe. The ancho is dried when the poblano turns red and develops a sweet, chocolatey flavor.
The next chili is chipotle pepper in adobo sauce. It's just a tad bit more spicy than the ancho, but I love that familiar smoky flavor. Did you know a chipotle pepper is just a smoked, ripened, dried jalapeño? They keep heckin' bamboozlin' me, I need these chiles to get their stuff together.
Anyway, get the chipotle in the adobo sauce. Comes in a little can with about four or five peppers in it.
Okay, after the chiles comes the herbs and spices.
First up, Mexican Oregano! I like the fresh stuff (found at Bravo and Sedanos *i.e. hispanic grocery stores* in the refrigerated section!) but you can find dried Mexican oregano on Amazon or in the Hispanic aisle at the local box box grocery store.
A whole head of garlic. Because garlic is life. Just use the whole cloves, they're getting blended up.
Smoked paprika. It's so good, another smoky element with a lot of flavor.
Coriander seeds, cumin seeds, whole cloves, and a cinnamon stick. We're toasting these in a dry pan before simmering in the sauce. This helps release so much of their flavor and gives them even more depth. Sure you can just dump them in, but the extra step is quick and easy!
Oh, and remember to grab that cinnamon stick before blending the sauce. It won't blend up well and you'll have shards of cinnamon in your consomme.
Tomatoes. If you've got some fresh tomatoes from the garden, go ahead and use them! But I love canned pureed fire roasted tomatoes for this.
Beef Broth. This makes the sauce looser and gives more liquid for braising. Always use stock instead of water when you can for added flavor.
Apple Cider Vinegar. Brightens it up with some tanginess. You could also use regular white vinegar or white wine vinegar.
Tortillas. Use corn tortillas for birria tacos, when they're dipped in the fat and fried, they're just *chef's kiss*. I've got a homemade corn tortilla recipe right here!
Cilantro. I know, I know. Some people have that whole cilantro-soap gene. This tip is for y'all: just use flat leaf parsley, honey. Parsley has a milder taste of what cilantro actually tastes like, without the soap.
Tips for the best Birria Tacos
- You can totally use goat, lamb, or chicken to make the birria stew.
- Can't find Oaxaca cheese? Substitute string cheese or mozzarella in your tacos easily.
- You can make the birria de res ahead of time. In fact, I insist on it! The fat will solidify at the top of the stew, so you can easily scoop it out, warm it up in a small saucepan, and dip the corn tortillas into it without risking the tortillas soaking up the broth. No soggy quesatacos here!
- Don't have a Latino/Hispanic supermarket near by? That's okay, I've found the ingredients on Amazon: Mexican Oregano, Ancho Chiles, Guajillo Chiles, Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce, and Whole Cumin Seeds!
Here are more amazing Latin recipes to try:
- Churrasco Steak
- Chimichurri Sauce
- Caipirinha Cocktail
- Crispy Instant Pot Pork Carnitas
- Cuban Mojo Criollo Marinade
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Birria de Res
- 2 tbsp neutral, high smoke point oil (grapeseed, vegetable, canola, etc)
- 4 lbs boneless chuck roast, cut in half
- 2 lbs short ribs, English cut*
- 6 cups water
- 1 large white onion, peeled and quartered
- 1 head garlic, peeled
- 4 dried guajillo peppers, deseeded and stems removed
- 1 can chipotle peppers in adobo
- 1 tbsp Mexican oregano, fresh or dried
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1 (28 oz) can pureed tomatoes
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 3 bay leaves
- Corn Tortillas
- ½ medium white onion, small diced
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- Limes, for serving
- Oaxacan Cheese, for serving
- Bring the meat to room temperature for about 30 minutes and then sprinkle liberally on all sides with kosher salt.
- In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the high heat oil. When the oil is shimmering hot, add the chuck roast, making sure not to crowd the pan, and sear on all sides until browned. Repeat with all the pieces of chuck roast and the short ribs until every piece of meat is well browned. Set meat aside on a plate or in a large bowl for later.
- An optional step: in a medium fry pan or skillet, dry toast the whole spice: the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, and cinnamon stick over medium heat. Place all the spices in an even layer across the pan, then give the pan a nice, gentle shake to ensure the spices get evenly toasted. They're done once they smell super fragrant. Set the spices aside.
- In a clean, medium sized pot, add the dried guajillo chiles, chipotle peppers and the adobo they come in, the large white onion quarters, garlic cloves, pureed tomatoes, all the spices, bay leaves and pour enough cold water in to cover everything. Place over medium-high heat; once it comes to a simmer bring it to medium heat and simmer gently for about 15 minutes. Pour through a mesh strainer and discard the liquid, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves (they don't puree!), then transfer all the solids to a high powered blender. Blend until nice and smooth.
- Add the seared meat, the blended sauce, and cups of beef broth to the dutch oven and stir well. Let simmer over medium heat, covered, for about 3 to 3.5 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender, stirring to ensure the bottom doesn't burn every half an hour.
- Remove the meat from the consomme, shredding all of it with forks and removing the bones.
- Use a large spoon to skim some of the fat off the top of the consomme and into a shallow dish. This fat is what you'll dip the tortillas into to fry them with.
- Pour some of the consomme into a small serving bowl and add the chopped cilantro.
- Heat a nonstick pan to medium heat. Use tongs (or clean fingers) to dip both sides of a tortilla into the fat in your shallow dish. Place it flat into the hot nonstick pan and add a little birria meat and Oaxaca cheese to one side, fold the tortilla, and let cook for about 30 seconds to a minute, then flip and cook for another 30 seconds so the other folded side gets crispy as well.
- Move the cooked birria quesataco to a serving plate and repeat until you have enough tacos for serving immediately with consomme, diced onions, limes, and cilantro.
- Reserve the rest of the birria meat, the consomme, and the fat in their own separate airtight containers in the fridge for up to five days. This can also be done as a make ahead meal. Simply do Step 4 and Step 5, melting some of the cooled fat in the nonstick pan and cooking the tortillas and meat as written.
Serving Birria Tacos
*English cut short ribs are the typical 'short rib' cut, where the ribs are chopped into 4 inch long pieces. We're not looking for 'flanken style' as they don't have a lot of bone. Flanken style is mostly seen in Korean bulgogi recipes!
Not everyone has a high powered blender, so if you have one that makes the consomme sauce chunky no matter what, just strain all it again through a mesh sieve so you can keep out any chile skins, uncrushed spices, and whatever else your blender didn't blend up.
Can't Find Short Ribs?
You can use bone in chuck roast, extra beef bones from your butcher (we really want those bones for the collagen!), or oxtails instead of short ribs.
Don't Have Oaxacan Cheese? Use this!
Mozzarella is a perfect replacement if you can't find Oaxacan cheese. OR any stringy cheese will do!
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 663Total Fat: 44gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 204mgSodium: 232mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 58g
All nutrition facts are estimations. Please see a physician for any health-related inquiries.
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.