Originally from Jalisco, Mexico, birria is a stew traditionally prepared with beef, goat, or lamb. For this recipe, I use beef. Cooked slowly in a rich and spicy consomé—a deeply flavorful red broth made with dried Mexican chiles, herbs, spices, and aromatics—the meat becomes tender and is served shredded in the consomé. It’s a stew that is built on layers upon layers of flavor with smart techniques and little effort.
Pro Tips for the Best Tasting Consomé
The beef cooks low and slow in the highly flavorful consomé. That’s why it’s important that it tastes delicious. Here are some tips to getting a flavor-packed consomé:
- I use a blend of dried chiles de arbol, guajillo, and ancho chiles. In contrast to using just one type of chile, the combination creates an earthy, spicy, and deeply flavorful sauce.
- It is important to lightly toast the dried chiles before soaking them in hot water to rehydrate. Toasting wakes up the aromas and flavors of the chiles. Rehydrating makes them easier to blend into a smooth sauce.
- Lightly charred tomatoes, onions, and garlic, all of which add more flavor, get blended into the consomé. You want these vegetables to get charred, so there is no need to add oil to the pan.
- Use chicken or beef stock instead of just water for more added flavor.
- Cumin, dried oregano, and bay leaves are key flavors in birria—and in Mexican cooking in general. This recipe calls for Mexican dried oregano, which has a stronger flavor and is more pungent, earthy, and bitter than other varieties of dried oregano.
3 Ways to Cook the Birria
- Cook the birria on the stove top: This is my preferred method for cooking birria. Use a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot—both retain heat well and are great for low and slow cooking. By cutting the meat into bite-sized pieces, it can get nice and tender in two hours.
- Cook the birria in a slow cooker: This option is perfect for when you want to set and forget the birria. Set the slow cooker to high heat. It will take about 6 hours.
- Cook the birria in an Instant Pot: In a hurry? Use an Instant Pot or pressure cooker set to high pressure. The birria will be ready within an hour.
Equally Delicious and Traditional Substitutions
- This recipe calls for beef chuck, but goat, lamb shoulder, or any type of stewing meat can be used. You want to use a tough meat that becomes tender as it cooks low and slow, like beef shank, round, or brisket.
- Swap the chiles de arbol with pequin chiles, the guajillo for cascabel or Anaheim chiles, and the ancho with mulato or pasilla chiles. All are considered varieties of Mexican chiles.
How to Serve Birria
Birria is served in bowls with a good amount of tender meat and a ladle or two of the consomé. It’s garnished simply with the classic combination of cilantro and finely chopped white onions. A little pinch of crushed dried chiles de arbol add another layer of spiciness.
As with most Mexican meals, birria is accompanied by limes—a good squeeze of lime in the spicy broth is a match made in Mexican heaven—and corn tortillas or tostadas. The latter is better as they are sturdier and can hold up the meat and consomé. A very cold beer will helps cool down the spice.
Then, if you have leftover birria, make birria tacos.
More Low and Slow Mexican Cooking
- Slow Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork Tacos
- Pozole Rojo (Mexican Pork and Hominy Stew)
- Cochinita Pibil
- Beef Tacos de Lengua (Beef Tongue Tacos)
- Salsa Verde Carnitas
Homemade Beef Birria
- 10 dried chiles de arbol (10g), stems and seeds removed and discarded, divided
- 6 dried guajillo chiles (30g), stems and seeds removed and discarded
- 2 dried ancho chiles (25g), stems and seeds removed and discarded
- 5 very ripe tomatoes (about 1 pound), halved
- 1 large white onion, roughly chopped
- 3 large cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 cup water
- Finely chopped white onion, for garnish
- Fine chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
- Lime wedges, for garnish
Toast and rehydrate the chiles:
Set a kettle or small pot with 3 cups of water over high heat to boil.
Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 6 chiles de arbol, and all the guajillo and ancho chiles, and toast them for 1 to 2 minutes. The remaining 4 chiles de arbol will be used to garnish the birria. The chiles are ready when you can smell them.
Transfer the toasted chiles into a medium bowl and cover with the boiled water. Soak them for 20 minutes, until they turn nice and soft.
Char the vegetables:
Heat the same skillet used to toast the chiles over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, onion, and garlic. You don’t need to add any oil. Lightly char them all around, stirring occasionally. This will take you 15 to 20 minutes.
Blend the red chile sauce:
Transfer the rehydrated chiles and the soaking water, the charred vegetables, cumin, oregano, peppercorns, salt, and vinegar into a blender. Blend until you get a bright red smooth sauce. This is the flavor base for your consomé.
Make the birria:
In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, add the olive oil and heat it over high heat. Carefully add the red chile sauce and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Stir in the beef, bay leaves, beef stock, and water. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot with a lid and let it simmer for 2 hours.
Prepare the garnishes:
You’ll have three small bowls with garnishes: One with the finely chopped onion and cilantro mixed together. Use your hands to roughly crumble the remaining 4 chiles de arbol into a separate small bowl. And the last bowl will hold the lime wedges.
Shred the beef:
Remove the pot away from the heat. With a slotted spoon, transfer the meat into a large bowl. With the help of two forks, shred the meat and return it to the pot. Taste your birria and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper, if needed.
Serve warm in a bowl, garnished with the onions and cilantro, crushed chiles de arbol, and a good squeeze of lime. Enjoy and turn leftovers into birria tacos!
Refrigerate leftovers in a lidded container for 1 week and in the freezer for up to 1 month. To reheat, defrost it overnight in the fridge and warm it up in a saucepan on the stove top with a splash of beef stock or water.
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