How to Make Beef Birria Tacos

No need to travel across the border for birria tacos. This step-by-step recipe will make your kitchen the most popular taco spot in the neighborhood!

Birria tacos have gained traction all over social media. If you haven’t seen them yet, they’re juicy tacos loaded with brothy red sauce and tender shredded meat. What a treat!

What Is Birria?

Birria is a popular lamb or goat stew from the Mexican state of Jalisco. The preparation process is long and tedious. The meat is salted and rubbed with a red chile paste to marinate for 12 hours. Then, it’s wrapped in aloe leaves and cooked for four hours (or more) in a large pot with more red chile marinade, covered with a thick layer of masa to avoid the escape of any heat. The result is fall-off-the-bone tender, juicy meat that shreds with the touch of a fork.

Served in bowls with a scoop of its own red chile broth, this delicacy from Jalisco is considered a celebratory dish. It’s served at weddings, quinceañeras and baptisms.

What Are Birria Tacos?

The taco version of this Mexican delicacy has become popular with food trucks and taco stands all over Southern California. First originating in Tijuana, the recipe for beef birria tacos made its way across the border and was eventually modified to be served with extra caldillo, broth for dipping.

There are many variations on how the meat is cooked, how the taco is assembled and what it’s topped with. The quesabirria (quesa, meaning cheese), has a sprinkle of melting cheese that takes things to the next level.

If you’ve got that birria taco craving and there isn’t a taco truck in sight, I developed a recipe that you can easily make at home! The ingredients are readily available at your nearest Latin supermarket. You’ll also need a few essential Mexican cooking tools.

How to Make Birria Tacos

This recipe makes approximately 20 tacos. If you’d like to cook the beef in a pressure cooker or slow cooker to save time, see my notes at the end of the recipe. Follow up your birria tacos with my paletas recipe.

Ingredients

Birria Tacos IngredientsEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

  • 8 dried guajillo chiles, wiped clean and stems removed
  • 2 dried pasilla chiles, wiped clean and stems removed
  • 3 pounds boneless beef chuck, sliced in big pieces
  • 1 medium white onion, halved, divided
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 roma tomato, quartered
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tablespoon chicken bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 8 black peppercorns

To assemble the tacos:

  • 20 corn tortillas
  • 3 cups shredded Oaxaca cheese or other melting cheese
  • Toppings: chopped onion, chopped cilantro, radish slices and limes, for juicing

Editor’s tip: You can buy tortillas at the store—or make your own corn tortillas.

Directions

Step 1: Soak dried red chiles

Chiles Soaking birria tacosEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

Place the chile skins in a medium bowl and add 4 cups hot water to cover. Soak for 30 minutes or until skins are soft and tender.

Step 2: Season beef

Beef With Spices birria tacosEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

Place beef, half an onion and bay leaves in a 5-quart Dutch oven. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Step 3: Make red salsa

Salsa Before Blending birria tacosEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

Place the remaining onion half, tomato, garlic, bouillon, oregano, cumin, thyme, peppercorns and soaked chiles with water in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Step 4: Marinate beef

birria tacos Blended Salsa MarinateEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

Run the red sauce through a fine mesh sieve into the Dutch oven with beef. Add 2 cups water and stir, making sure beef is submerged in red sauce.

Cover. Place in refrigerator and marinate for at least 2 hours.

Step 5: Cook beef

Salsa In Beef Pot birria tacosEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

Cook beef (covered) over medium heat for 90 minutes or until the beef is tender enough to pull apart with a fork. Using a slotted spoon, remove garlic cloves, bay leaves and pieces of onion.

Cooked Beef birria tacosEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

Step 6: Shred beef

Shredding Beef birria tacosEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

Using two forks, pull the beef apart into bite-size pieces.

Step 7: Make tacos

Dipping Tortilla birria tacosEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

To start, dip an entire corn tortilla in the red chile broth.

Tortilla With Cheese birria tacosEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

Transfer the dipped tortilla to a griddle, comal or skillet over medium heat. If you decide to make your birria tacos into quesabirria tacos, add 2-3 tablespoons of Oaxaca cheese to the tortilla.

birria tacos Tortilla With Chees And OnionEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

As soon as the cheese melts, top with shredded beef. Top the beef with chopped onion and cilantro.

Folded Birria TacoEricka Sanchez for Taste of Home

Fold tortilla over filling to make it into a taco.

Transfer to a serving plate. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Top with radish slices, a squeeze of lime and a side of red chile broth for dipping. Serve!

Other Methods for Cooking Birria

Slow Cooker Birria

After beef has marinated in red sauce, transfer meat and marinade to a slow cooker. Add 2 cups water. Cook on low for 8 hours or until beef is tender enough to shred with a fork. Using a slotted spoon, remove garlic cloves, bay leaves and pieces of onion.

Instant Pot Birria

After beef has marinated in red sauce, transfer the meat and marinade to your Instant pot. Add 2 cups water. Set Instant Pot to Pressure Cook on High. Cover with Instant Pot lid and close pressure valve to “seal.” Cook for 40 minutes. Allow to naturally release pressure for 30 minutes before doing a quick release. Using a slotted spoon, remove garlic cloves, bay leaves and pieces of onion.

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Ericka Sanchez
Ericka Sanchez is a recipe developer, food stylist, creator of the award-winning culinary website nibblesandfeasts.com and author of two cookbooks: Aguas Frescas & Paletas and ¡Buen Provecho! (October 2021). Ericka's cooking style is inspired by her life as a bicultural Latina living in California and her cherished memories in the kitchen with her grandmother and mother in Mexico. Ericka was born in Torreón Coahuila, Mexico, and immigrated with her family to El Paso, Texas, at eight years old.