Chunks of beef simmer in a smoky, savory, spicy broth until fall-apart tender then added to corn tortillas that are dipped in broth and pan-fried. These birria tacos are crispy on the outside, juicy and flavorful on the inside, and topped with onions, cilantro, and a squirt of lime! Don’t forget to keep some extra broth for dipping!
Table of Contents
It’s No Surprise They’re So Popular!
Just like a carne asada taco these are the special kinds of tacos that draw crowds of people to taco trucks who are willing to wait ridiculous amounts of time just to sink their teeth into one.
They’re made with beef birria cooked low and slow in a spicy, smoky, and savory broth, also known as consomme until the meat meltingly falls apart. The tortillas are then dipped in the grease from the broth and then filled with shredded beef and cheese and fried until crispy.
I may have gotten into trouble by learning to make homemade birria tacos because my entire family always wants them!
What are Birria Tacos?
Birria tacos are filled with beef birria, or birria de res, which is a classic Mexican stew. Originally made with lamb or goat meat, the version made popular on social media and here in the U.S. uses beef and sometimes chicken. I make mine with beef.
Once the shells are dipped in the flavorful grease, they are filled with the stewed meat and cheese and then pan-fried until crispy. There is so much flavor involved here that this is a case where the fewer toppings the better!
They’re almost like a quesadilla in that they’re folded closed and crispy, held together by melted cheese, and the dipping of the taco birria is basically the way you’d dip a sandwich in au jus. They’re just the best!
Birria Tacos Recipe Ingredients
Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.
- Two kinds of meat: I’m using a combination of chuck roast cut into 4 large chunks and bone-in short ribs. You can also use bone-in back ribs.
- Aromatics: Onion, garlic, and bay leaves give the broth beautiful aromatic flavors.
- Dried guajillo chiles: Dried chili peppers are one of the signature ingredients in any birria recipe. It’s what delivers the smoky, spicy element and what gives the consomme a deep red color.
- Hot water: Adding hot water to the pot rather than cold will help the bouillon dissolve faster.
- Chicken bouillon: I like to use chicken rather than beef broth so that it doesn’t overpower the flavor of the actual beef in this birria tacos recipe. The chicken flavor is a little more mellow but still adds great flavor.
- Herbs & spices: Salt, ground cumin, chili powder, dried oregano. If you can find Mexican oregano use it!
- Olive oil: Used for the pan when crisping up the tortillas.
- Corn tortillas: White or yellow, whichever you prefer.
- Cheese: If you can find Oaxaca cheese, use it! It’s a Mexican cheese that’s a cross between Monterey Jack and Mozzarella. Use either of the other two if you can’t find Oaxaca.
- Toppings: Onions, fresh cilantro, lime juice (and additional lime wedges for serving), and salt.
Quesabirria Tacos Variations
There are a few versions of beef birria tacos circulating which means the ingredients are quite flexible, and you’ll still get the best results!
Use beef shank, sirloin, short ribs, or oxtail instead of chuck roast or in addition to it. It’s nice to have a combination of flavors and texture in the meat.
Guajillo peppers can be found in your Mexican shops or in your local grocery store in the Mexican food aisle. If you have trouble finding them, you can use ancho chiles or chipotle peppers in adobo.
You can also up the flavor of the liquid by adding things like tomatoes for a bit of acidity, or a bit of apple cider vinegar. Toss in a cinnamon stick and coriander along with the other spices as they all pair well with each other.
Serve taco style as pictured or use the meat to make this easy tostada recipe!
How to Make Birria Tacos
Making the Birria
- Combine ingredients for the first simmer. In a large stockpot or Dutch oven add the beef, aromatics, bay leaves, and dried chiles. Cover with water and then add the bouillon, oregano, cumin, and salt. Bring everything to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce it to a low simmer for 30 minutes. Skim the top to get rid of any impurities that get extracted from the bone.
- Puree peppers and add chili powder to the broth. Transfer the softened peppers to a blender and pulse until smooth. If you need liquid, add 1/4 cup of broth. Strain the pepper if any noticeable peel remains and then add it back into the stew along with the chili powder.
- Second simmer until the beef falls apart. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer for 3 hours, stirring approximately every 40 minutes. The beef should be tender and shredded easily when it’s done. Take a little bite and add any season to taste. Skim any grease from the top of the broth and pour it into a shallow bowl. Set it aside, you’ll need it for dipping your tortillas.
Assembling the Tacos
- Shred the beef. Use tongs to lift your beef out of the consume and transfer all the pieces to a cutting board to shred. Discard any bones from the meat and discard the onion, garlic, and bay leaves from the liquid. Save a cup of broth for dipping (not the same portion you’ve reserved for the tortillas).
- Assemble the tortilla. Dip 1 tortilla at a time into the reserved broth (the one in the shallow bowl) then place it into a prepared non-stick skillet. Keep it there for 15-20 seconds and then flip it before it crisps up completely. Quickly, add the beef and cheese to one-half of the tortilla, topped with onion, cilantro, lime juice, and salt.
- Fry tacos until crispy and serve! Fold the tortilla in half and press down with a spatula. Fry until both sides are crisp and then transfer to a plate while you repeat with the remaining tortillas. Serve birria tacos with toppings if you didn’t add yours earlier, and a cup of warm broth for dipping. Enjoy!
- A high-powered blender will puree the peppers enough so that straining the skin isn’t necessary.
- Bone-in meat will provide more flavor than boneless.
- Make sure the meat is fully submerged in the liquid. Not only to keep it moist but to make sure it’s cooking evenly.
- You can adjust the spice level of your birria tacos by starting with the guajillo peppers and adding the chili powder as needed. Remove the seeds from the peppers or keep some in if you can handle extra spice.
They can be! Although guajillo peppers are medium spicy, it’s the addition of chili powder that takes it up a level. If you want them very mild, use ancho chilis instead, which are just dried poblano peppers, and use the chili powder sparingly.
The meat and broth can be made up to 5 days in advance. Keep everything in an airtight container until you’re ready to make birria tacos.
It’s the Spanish term for stewed meat. It’s what we use to fill the tacos.
I must admit, I don’t serve many sides when I make these birria tacos. We’re all about the tacos, and not much else!
However, if you’re planning a menu for your Cinco de Mayo festivities, or you’re serving a dinner crowd, having slices of this Spanish omelette recipe on hand or a basket of homemade tortilla chips along with some avocado salsa or Rotel dip as an appetizer is always a good idea!
Keep any leftover meat and broth in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months and then thaw it in the fridge the night before you want to reheat it.
To reheat it, you want to make sure you’re not drying out the meat. I’d say the microwave is your last resort as it can overcook the meat quickly. Simmer it on the stove over medium heat in the liquids until warmed through.
More Flavorful Taco Recipes
Birria Tacos Recipe
Birria Meat and Sauce
- 2 pounds chuck roast , cut into 4 pieces
- 1 pounds bone-in short ribs or bone-in back ribs
- ½ large white onion , peeled and halved
- 1 whole garlic bulb , unpeeled and top cut off
- 3 bay leaves
- 4 dried guajillo chiles , stems and seeds removed
- 5 cups hot water
- 1 ½ Tablespoons chicken bouillon
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt , or to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1-2 teaspoons chili powder , or to taste
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- Olive oil , for the pan
- 12-16 white or yellow corn tortillas
- 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella , Monterey Jack, or Oaxaca cheese
- 1 medium onion , diced
- 1 bunch cilantro , chopped
- 1-2 limes , some cut into wedges
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
Birria Meat and Sauce
- In large Dutch oven or large stockpot, add chuck roast, ribs, onion, garlic, bay leaves and dried peppers. Cover with water. Stir in bouillon, oregano, cumin, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 30 minutes. Skim any impurities from the bone from the top of the broth.
- When the peppers are softened, transfer to a blender. Blend until smooth, adding up to 1/4 cup broth if needed. Strain the pepper mixture if any peel remains.
- Stir the pepper puree and chili powder into the stew. Cover and simmer, stirring every 40 minutes or so, 3 hours, or until the beef is tender and shreds easily. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Skim any grease from the top of the broth and reserve in a shallow bowl for dipping the tortillas. Discard the onion, garlic, and bay leaves. Transfer the beef to a cutting a board and shred into small pieces, discarding any bones. Save a cup of broth for dipping.
- Mix together the onion, cilantro, juice from 1 lime and salt in a small bowl.
- Spray a large non-stick skillet with olive oil. Dip 1 tortilla into the skimmed broth and place in the skillet. Flip after about 15-20 seconds before it crisps and then quickly top one half of the tortilla with a spoonful of shredded beef and about 2 Tablespoons of cheese. You can add the topping now if preferred.
- Fold tortilla in half and press down with a spatula. Fry until both sides are crisp, about 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate for serving. Repeat with remaining tortillas, beef, cheese, onion, and cilantro.
- Serve with topping, lime wedge and a cup of warm broth for dipping.
Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.
Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!