Beef Birria (Birria de Res)

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Birria is a Mexican stew made with seasoned, braised meat that can be served in a variety of ways. The most popular being birria tacos!

Top view of beef birria in a serving bowl next to jalapeños, limes, onion, radishes, and cilantro

What is Birria?

Birria is a traditional Mexican dish originating from the state of Jalisco that is similar to stew. The meat is braised and slow cooks in a chile sauce for several hours until perfectly tender. It can be eaten as-is (as a stew) or the meat can be shredded and used as a filling in your favorite Mexican dishes. The possibilities are endless! 

Ingredients for Birria

The Meat:

Traditionally, in Mexico, birria is made with lamb or goat meat but here in the U.S. it is most commonly made with beef (also called birria de res). I used a chuck roast for this birria recipe and cut it into large chunks for better braising. You can also use stew meat, rump roast, short ribs, flank steak, or even brisket. 

Braised beef in a red sauce to make birria in a large Dutch oven

The Sauce:

The sauce for birria can vary depending on what you are making the birria for. You can make a thicker sauce, almost like a gravy or stew or you can choose to make a consommé by making the sauce on the broth-y side. For this recipe I wanted to aim for something more in the middle. The sauce in this recipe is slightly thicker than a consommé but still thin enough to use as a dipping sauce with birria tacos. You can adjust the broth amounts to your liking. Here are the key ingredients in this sauce:

Peppers, onions, chiles, tomatoes, seasonings, and broth in a large Dutch oven to make sauce for birria
  • Chiles – Using dried chile peppers is the way to go for this recipe. They are super cheap (I got each pack of chiles for around $1) and they have a great, smoky, flavor. You can use fresh chiles or even canned chiles and get similar results but you can’t beat the ease of dried. Popular chiles used in birria include: adobo, ancho chiles, guajillo chiles, 
  • Tomatoes – You can use fresh Roma tomatoes or you can use canned, fire roasted tomatoes or whole San Marzano tomatoes. If you want a thinner sauce (more like a broth), you can leave the tomatoes out. 
  • Onions – Yellow, white, or red onions work great. I opted for a white onion in this recipe because I like the mild flavor. 
  • Broth/Liquid – Beef broth, beef stock, or consommé can be used to braise the beef. You can add or take away some of the broth depending on how thick (or thin) you want your sauce. 
  • Additional Spices and Seasonings – Seasonings for birria can vary greatly from recipe to recipe. Honestly, use that you like! In this recipe I kept it pretty simple and used garlic, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, paprika, and salt and pepper. Then I garnished with fresh lime wedges and cilantro. If you feel so inclined, you can also add thyme, cloves, bay leaves, chili powder, or a whole cinnamon stick. 
Sauce made from birria in a Dutch oven with a ladle

How To Make Birria

Birria may seem intimidating because it takes a while to cook and the sauce is made from scratch but it is actually really easy to make! It can be broken down into just a few simplified steps:

  1. Toast and soak the chiles 
  2. Brown the beef in a Dutch oven
  3. Cook the sauce ingredients and then blend until smooth
  4. Pour sauce over the beef and cook in the oven for several hours
  5. Serve as a stew or shred and serve as a filling
Tongs picking up a chunk of braised beef birria from a serving bowl

How to Serve Birria

As mentioned above, there are several different ways you can serve birria. The first way is to serve the birria as a stew (or beefy soup). Just remove the birria from the oven, give it a good stir, then serve in bowls and top with chopped onions, lime, and cilantro. The next way to serve birria is as a filling. To do this you will want to separate the beef from the consommé and shred it. Place it in a bowl with a little of the sauce to keep the beef from drying out. Use the extra sauce/consomme as a dip for birria tacos or quesabirria tacos. Serve the shredded birria with softened corn tortillas and top with cheese and your other favorite toppings. You can also use as a filling for any of your other favorite Mexican-inspired dishes like taquitos, burritos, enchiladas, tacos, and more!

Instant Pot / Pressure Cooker Birria

Don’t have a lot of time but still want to make birria? Instant Pot to the rescue! You don’t want to blend the sauce before cooking it in the Instant Pot because you run the risk of getting the burn notice. It’s better to blend the sauce afterwards. Here are the step-by-step instructions to make birria in the Instant Pot:

  1. Soak and prepare the chiles according to the recipe below
  2. Put Instant Pot on “Saute” setting, add oil and sear beef on all sides.
  3. Remove chiles from soaking water and place in a mixing bowl. Discard soaking water.
  4. Add 2 cups broth to the Instant Pot and then 2 cups water to the mixing bowl with the chiles.
  5. In the mixing bowl, add onionstomatoes, garlic, vinegar, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and salt and pepper. Stir well to combine and pour over the beef in the Instant Pot. 
  6. Seal the Instant Pot and cook on high pressure for 45 minutes or until beef shreds easily. 
  7. Remove beef from the Instant Pot and set aside. Place remaining ingredients from the Instant Pot in a blender and blend until smooth. Place the beef back in the Instant Pot (if serving as a filling, shred beef before returning to pot) and pour sauce over the top, stirring to combine. Add more broth for a thinner sauce. Keep warm until ready to serve. 

CrockPot Beef Birria

For Crock Pot (or slow cooker) beef birria, follow steps 1-5 in the Instant Pot instructions above. For step 2, searing is an optional step. If you want to still sear the beef, simply sear it in a large skillet before adding to the CrockPot. Slow on high heat for 4-5 hours or low heat for 6-8 hours. After the beef is cooked through and shreds easily, continue with step 7 in the Instant Pot instructions above. 

What to Serve with Beef Birria

If you are looking for inspiration or ideas on what to serve as a side dish with your beef birria, here are a few ideas:

Top view of beef birria in a serving bowl next to jalapeños, limes, onion, radishes, and cilantro

Beef Birria (Birria de Res)

Birria is a Mexican stew made with seasoned, braised meat that can be served in a variety of ways. The most popular being birria tacos!
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs 30 mins
Total Time 3 hrs 55 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican/Spanish
Servings 10

Equipment

  • Dutch Oven

Ingredients

For the Meat

For the Sauce

  • 3 dried ancho chiles
  • 3 dried arbol chiles (chiles de arbol)
  • 2 dried guajillo chiles
  • 2 cups water (to soak chiles)
  • 1 large white onion
  • 3-4 Roma tomatoes
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 quarts beef broth divided
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Before preparing the meat, you will want to prepare the chiles for the sauce. First, cut the chiles open and remove the stems and seeds. In a small saucepan, toast the chiles over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes to release the chile oils. Stir constantly and remove from heat if they begin to char. They burn easily!
    Dried chile peppers that have been cut open to show seeds inside
  • Add 2 cups of hot water to the pan, turn off the heat, and allow chiles to soak for 15 minutes.
    Peppers soaking in a small sauce pot of water
  • While chiles are soaking, prepare the meat. Remove beef from packaging and pat dry with paper towels. Cut beef into chunks, season with salt, and set aside.
    In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add beef to the Dutch oven and sear until brown on all sides. Avoid overcrowding the meat while browning. You may have to do this in batches to accomplish this. Remove the beef from the Dutch oven and set aside.
    In the same Dutch oven (do not clean out), prepare the sauce.
    Chunks of uncooked meat in a large Dutch oven being cooked to make birria

For the Sauce:

  • Reduce heat to medium heat. Cut the onions and tomatoes into fourths and place in the Dutch oven with the garlic cloves. Cook, stirring often and gently, until onions have browned on all sides and tomatoes are soft.
    Tomatoes, onions, and garlic in a large Dutch oven
  • Use a slotted spoon to remove chiles from the soaking water and add chiles to the Dutch oven. Discard soaking water. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
    Onions, tomatoes, garlic, and seasonings being cooked to make sauce
  • Deglaze the Dutch oven by adding one quart of the beef broth a little at a time while scraping the bottom and sides of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula. Scrape up as much of the browned bits and cooked-on layers as you can into the sauce (that's pure flavor). 
    Reserve the remaining beef broth to thin the sauce later if needed.
    Peppers, onions, chiles, tomatoes, seasonings, and broth in a large Dutch oven to make sauce for birria
  • Add remaining sauce ingredients and cook another 5 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and allow to cool until you can safely scoop all of the sauce contents into a blender. Do not clean out the Dutch oven. You are still going to use it.
    Onions, peppers, tomatoes, and broth in a blender container to make sauce for birria
  • Blend or puree the sauce ingredients until smooth. Set aside
    Red sauce in a blender that has been blended into a puree

Making the Beef Birria:

  • Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
    Place the beef pieces back into the Dutch oven and cover with the sauce. If you want a thinner sauce, add more of the beef broth until you reach your desired thickness.
    Pieces of chuck roast that have been browned and put in a Dutch oven. A red sauce is poured over the top
  • Place the lid on the Dutch oven and place in the oven for 3 ½ hours or until beef is completely cooked through and shreds easily.
    When you remove the birria from the oven, you may notice the some of the oils from the beef has risen to the top. You can skim some of these oils off or you can leave it in for added flavor.
    Braised beef in a red sauce to make birria in a large Dutch oven

For Stew:

  • Garnish birria with fresh cilantro, chopped onions, and/or sliced radishes. Serve in bowls as a soup/stew.
    Beef birria in a black serving bowl topped with onions and cilantro

For Filling:

  • Remove the meat from the sauce and place on a cutting board. Shred the beef and place in a bowl. Add some of the sauce to the meat to keep it from drying out. Serve with tortillas or use as a filling for enchiladas, burritos, and more!
    Braised beef birria being shredded with a fork
  • Reserve the rest of the sauce to use as a consommé for dipping birria tacos or quesabirria.
    Sauce made from birria in a Dutch oven with a ladle

Nutrition Information

Calories: 355kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 38gFat: 21gSaturated Fat: 9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 125mgSodium: 856mgPotassium: 793mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 227IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 60mgIron: 5mg

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About the author

Erica Walker

Erica lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, Jared, an attorney, and her beautiful three girls. Beyond the world of recipes, she loves adventuring with everything from kayaking, to cruising, to snowboarding and taking the family along for the thrill ride.

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