As a devout follower of all things meat, my culinary journey led me to discover birria eight months ago, and it was nothing short of a revelation. The slow-braised meat has now become my weekend culinary ritual, an indulgence that allows me the time to let flavors marinate and meld into something extraordinary.
In this article, I'll unveil the magic that is birria meat—covering everything from its rich Mexican heritage to pro tips on cooking and serving this gastronomic delight. Whether you're new to birria or looking to elevate your existing recipe, prepare for a feast of flavors that will captivate your palate.
Now, let's dive into this epicurean adventure and elevate your weekend cooking game!
- Birria is a famous meat dish in Mexico made with goat and lamb meat, then braised in a slow cooker.
- The spicy flavor of birria is from the hot Mexican chilies used in the dish.
- You can eat birria meat as is or make some birria tacos.
What is Birria Meat?
Birria is a part of traditional Mexican cuisine from the state of Jalisco. It's a tasty stew that comes with its own braising sauce.
While there are other varieties of birria, the one prepared from goat meat is now Mexico's most renowned main course cuisine.
Birria is made from either of these meats:
- Goat meat
- Cow's head
Different Birria Variations
You can make different birria variations using different meat cuts, but the cooking process is the same.
You can have birria meat in two ways either as:
- Birria consommé: Consommé is a typical holiday and special occasion stew cooked with goat or sheep meat. The meat is usually slow-cooked in an intensely flavored adobo (sauce) until it is tender. It is then ladled into bowls with enough of its liquid.
- Birria tacos: Birria tacos/quesabirria tacos are made with braised beef inside a corn tortilla that has been skillet-fried in the fat that rests on top of the birria stew. Afterward, the birria tacos are stuffed with creamy quesillo (Oaxacan cheese), cilantro, white onion, and lime.
The Best Way to Make Birria
Before you get on with making beef birria, here's a list of a few ingredients you must have.
1. Chiles (dried)
I adore the combo of these three easily accessible dried chilies in my birria meat chile sauce:
- Chiles de árbol (a thin, typical Mexican pepper that's way hotter than a jalapeno).
- Ancho chiles (dry poblanos).
- Guajillo chiles (a sour, sweet chili that's incredibly tasty).
"No matter which method you use for your beef birria, what matters is the three chilies you use."
- Claudette Zepeda, Chef
2. Dried Herbs
You'll need one cinnamon stick, cumin, dried oregano, ginger, and bay leaf, to mention a few. Feel free to experiment with other spices on hand and see how that goes with your birria.
Whether you're making beef birria or goat recipes, you need to get a good quality steak, as this can affect the dish's overall taste.
I always go for the beef shank, short ribs, or chuck roast when preparing a low-and-slow braise like this one.
Also Read: What Type of Meat Is Barbacoa?
4. Other Ingredients
Apart from the three mentioned above, here are other ingredients you might want to have before you start cooking beef birria.
- Chopped onion and cilantro
- Garlic cloves
- Beef stock
- Apple cider vinegar
Here’s how to make beef birria de res:
- First, prepare the meat. Remove any significant fat chunks from the shank, short ribs, or chuck roast. Go heavy with kosher salt and cut it into big pieces.
- To prepare dried chilies, clean them, then use scissors to cut the stem and slit through the side to open and extract the seeds. Place these chilies, tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, and onion in a large pot, and using a slow cooker, bring to a gentle boil to make the chile sauce.
- Place the boiled guajillo chiles mixture in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour the mixture into the saucepan through a fine mesh sieve.
- Add your salted beef, bay leaves, and beef stock into the pot. Cook for at least six hours, covered, on medium heat until the meat is tender.
- Transfer the meat to a platter and cut or shred it into pieces. Remove the bones and bay leaves.
- Taste the broth and season with more spices or salt to your desire. Pour broth over the shredded meat in the dishes. Garnish with finely chopped white onion, coriander, and fresh lime juice. Enjoy!
Here are a few birria recipe variations you can consider:
- Meat: Although traditional birria is cooked with lamb or goat meat only, you can also use beef meat, which is readily available in most butcher shops. Always use bone-in beef since the bones give a rich flavor to the soup.
- Spice: Guajillo, Arbol, and pasilla chiles are the best for this dish. But if you can't get these peppers, use Mulato chiles instead. Because Arbol chilies are the hottest, I always remove the seeds for medium spice.
- Cinnamon: You can add Mexican cinnamon sticks to your birria because I find it's softer than the Cassia sticks found in many grocery stores.
- Cooking: If you don't want to slow cook on the stove for extra long hours, you can use an instant pot which takes less time to cook (about 60 minutes under high pressure).
The Best Way to Serve Birria
I like to serve my birria in soup bowls with plenty of tender beef and a scoop or two of the consommé. The typical garnish to go with this is cilantro and finely sliced white onions.
You can add a pinch of crushed dried chiles de Arbol to add another layer of heat.
Birria, like other Mexican dishes, is served with limes-a nice squeeze of lime in the fiery broth is a tag team-and corn tortillas or tostadas.
These are superior since they are more robust and can support meat and consommé.
I recommend a cold beer on the side to alleviate the intense heat from the Mexican peppers.
I always make birria tacos with any leftover birria meat.
To make tacos, slightly fry up your corn tortillas and briefly dip them in the birria meat stock, adding taste and color.
Then, layer it with shredded birria meat, salsa, onions, coriander, salt, and fresh lime juice.
Feel free to top it off with your favorite cheeses.
Is Birria Cow or Pork Meat?
Birria is cow meat. Apart from the traditional lamb and goat meat used for birria, beef is also an excellent substitute for the dish.
Does Birria Taste Like Barbacoa?
No, birria doesn't taste like barbacoa. Birria is spicy and super savory, while barbacoa is slightly tangy and has a distinct spiciness. Birria is also saucier than barbacoa.
Are Birria Tacos Healthy?
Yes, birria tacos are healthy because beef meat has adequate protein, saturated fat, and cholesterol content.
Enjoy an Authentic Mexican Dish Experience
The birria meat is tasty, and the tacos are crisp, cheesy, and jam-packed with delicious and fragrant herbs and spices.
I love this Mexican dish because it's sweet, moderately spicy, and loaded with fall-apart delectable beef and Mexican cheese.
The secret to any drool-worthy birria meat is using good-quality beef. The best meat for birria is one that has perfect flecks of fat and a good bone-to-meat ratio for a thick, savory sauce.
If you're looking for a place to buy such meats, here are my top meat delivery companies that have the perfect beef to take your birria and taco Tuesday game to the next level.