Birria tacos are so good you’ll be making them every week.
Birria is traditionally a spicy and super savory Mexican beef or goat stew that’s slow cooked until the meat is tender and fall-apart juicy and delicious. Someone had the amazing idea to stuff this meaty goodness into a taco shell, and then dip the whole thing into the stew and fry it up. These birria tacos blew up after that, and the rest is history.
While birria is traditionally made with goat, for most of us it’s easier to get beef so that’s what I’ve gone with here. Beef is also the safer choice for crowds, but if you’re an adventurous eater and want to go with goat, you should totally go(at) for it. The recipe remains the same, just switch out the beef shank and sirloin for goat.
It’s really in dipping the tortilla into the stew and frying it to a crisp that the magic happens, so don’t skip this step. Tacos are good but very few people who don’t live in the southwest know that tacos only become truly transcendent once you cook the tortilla in fat. Traditionally they do this in butter or lard, but here we use the fat from the top of the stew to give it that extra kick. Once you bite into a crisp fried taco shell, you’ll never go back.
Making Birria stew is easy and quick:
Once you have the stew, making the tacos is super easy:
You can make this stew any way you like, but I prefer it in the instant pot because it’s so much faster, and keeps more of the flavor locked inside the dish. Those yummy smells that fill up your house when you slow cook for hours? Those are flavor particles, and that means that’s flavor that’s not in your soup. But, regardless of how you make this, it’ll come out absolutely delicious, so pick whatever method is best for you.
To cook this in a dutch oven, you’ll need a fairly large dutch oven. Follow the instructions all the way until you close the lid of the Instant Pot. Instead, cover the dutch oven and set it on as low heat as possible on your stove, or alternatively, pop it in a 200ºF oven for 4-6 hours.
The only hard part of making this in a slow cooker is sauteing the onions. My solution was to just skip that step entirely. It didn’t seem to make much of a difference. What I did was pop all the ingredients into the slow cooker and set it to low for 8 hours. This recipe as given didn’t fit in our smaller slow cooker, so I halved it, but I think it will fit a standard sized slow cooker just fine. Let me know in the comments if you end up trying this out.
These tacos use street sized corn tortillas, but you can use anything you want. I like to use locally made uncooked corn tortillas or flour tortillas and cook them myself. Whole foods often carries really good local tortillas, even uncooked ones in the fridge section.
If you are in a place without access to good locally made tortillas, some of the best mass-produced tortillas around are La Tortilla Factory and Santa Fe Tortilla Company. If you go one level up to the national brands, Mission Foods is my fave.
With store bought tortillas, you need to warm them to make them pliable and delicious. If your tortillas are breaking when you fold them, warming them will fix that. The best way to warm tortillas is to wrap 6-12 at a time in a damp paper towel and microwave for 10-30 seconds, then let them rest for another 10-30 seconds.
Everyone loves cheese, and quesabirria tacos might just be more popular than standard birria tacos. To make quesabirria tacos, shred some Oaxaca cheese into the tacos before you fold and fry them. If you can’t find Oaxaca, feel free to use mozzarella or cheddar. For me though, I like to crumble some aged Cotija cheese into the tacos instead for extra cheese pull and delicious meltiness. The contrast of the melty cheese, soft birria, and crispy tortilla is one of my perfect bites in this world.
These birria tacos are good enough to eat dozens on their own. If you wanted to do a side though, you can serve them up with homemade tortilla chips, mexican rice, and you even have all the ingredients necessary to make a birria tortilla soup. Or my current personal favorite: Birria ramen (pictured above).
Step up your next taco night with our ultimate guide to the best homemade tacos ever.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and then remove from heat. Soak your dried guajillo peppers for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cube your cab sirloin, then season both the steak and the shank with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Add marinade ingredients to the blender. When the peppers are done soaking, hold them by the tip over the sink and use scissors to cut the stem off and allow the seeds to fall out, then add to blender. Blend the marinade into a smooth paste. Marinate the meats for a minimum of two hours or up to overnight.
Set your Instant Pot on saute high or use a skillet over medium heat. Add 1-2 tbsp oil, then saute the onions until golden and translucent (6-8 minutes).
Add the meats, marinade, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and cloves to the pot. Cover with chicken broth, then set to high pressure for 45 minutes. If using a slow cooker or stovetop, set to low heat for 4-6 hours.
When the instant pot is finished, allow a natural release, then remove the meat. Shred, set aside, and discard the bones.
Warm up some tortillas, then dip the tortillas in the stew. Build your tacos, top with any optional toppings, then fry over medium heat on a nonstick skillet. Enjoy immediately, preferably with a margarita or cold Mexican beer.
If you can’t find dried guajillo peppers, sub any dried mexican/southwestern peppers you can find, such as ancho, new mexico, california, or pasilla.
Birria Tacos Recipe
Amount Per Serving (3 tacos)
Calories from Fat 157
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 4.2g26%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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