Birria is a traditional Mexican stew that originates from Jalisco. It has gained in popularity over the last few years due to some inventive street taco vendors making the delicious quesabirria. Traditionally birria is make with goat, but as that’s harder to find than beef, I am making mine with beef.
Now, I’m going to say right upfront that my recipe isn’t the most traditional. I do stick to the tried and true methods I learned in Mexico, however being in Eastern Europe means some ingredients are near impossible to come by. Namely, the specific dried chilies. However I will explain what the authentic ingredients are, so if you have access to them you are more than welcome to change things up.
Does Birria Take A Long Time To Make?
Some recipes for birria will recommend using an instant pot or pressure cooker and thus the cook time is much shorter. However I quite like cooking things low and slow so my recipe should be started the day before. As for actual cook time, my beef birria takes 5-6 hours.
How To Make The Adobo For Beef Birria
An adobo is simply the marinating sauce for the meat. The adobo for beef birria is traditionally made by re-hydrating some toasted guajillo chilies and blending them with other seasonings and spices. I do not have access to these dried chilies where I live in Europe, so I used some fresh cayenne and some orange aji peppers. Fry them up a bit and then add to a blender.
Also in the pan I toast up some black peppercorns with ground cinnamon and cumin. Yes, I used far to many peppercorns in this picture and had to remove about half before adding it to the blender. Just toast everything for a minute, add a splash of water at the end to dislodge whatever is sticking to the bottom, and pour into the blender with the peppers.
Back in the pan add 6 tomato halves skin out and cook on medium high heat until the flesh is charred. Then, add these to the blender as well.
Finally add in a quarter cup of vinegar, a quarter cup of olive oil, 1 white onion, 6 cloves of garlic, a tablespoon of Mexican paprika, a handful of cilantro, a tablespoon of oregano. Blend everything up until you get a liquid sauce. If it is not liquid enough you can add a bit of water, but we don’t want this to be really thin.
Marinating The Beef For Birria
For this semi-authentic beef birria recipe I am using 2kg of beef shoulder. As this is a stew recipe, you don’t need to buy an expensive cut of meat. Rather I specifically chose a piece with a lot of fat because fat is delicious. Also I will be making the popular quesabirria tacos and you need the rendered fat to fry the tortillas.
Chop the beef up into large cubes and place in a big pot. Season with salt and pepper. I’m using a dutch oven as I love slow cooking meats in it. Pour over the adobo until the meat is just covered. Agitate the pot to help the liquid seep down if needed. Then, put on a lid and place into the fridge for at least 12 hours (overnight).
Making Beef Birria In A Dutch Oven
If you use a dutch oven then baking the meat is a breeze. Just place the covered pot into the oven, turn the temp up to 160 Celsius, and let braise for 5-6 hours. Take the pot out, try to shred a chunk of meat with a fork, and if it is fork-tender you’re all done.
As you can see, even though the meat is tender, the remaining liquid has a layer of fat. I strain the meat from the liquid and shred the meat separately. Do not throw out the liquid, it is very important.
After shredding all the beef with a couple forks I place the meat into a serving dish. I ladle over some of the fatty liquid to moisten the meat and give everything a good stir. All done! You can use this beef birria in a variety of dishes like stews, tacos, burritos, eggs, and more.
Click Here To Turn This Beef Birria Into The Delicious And Trendy Quesabirria!
- Pot / Dutch Oven
- 2 kg Beef I used shoulder, but any stew cut will work. Aim for something quite fatty as lean beef won't render as much fat for frying later.
- 1 White Onion
- 5 Chili Peppers traditionally dried guajillo is used. However if you can't find them just use what you can…the flavor will be a bit different, but still delicious.
- 1 tbsp Black Peppercorns
- 1 tsp Cinnamon ground
- 1 tsp Cumin ground
- 1 bunch Cilantro
- 3 Tomatoes cut in half
- 6 cloves Garlic
- 60 ml Olive Oil
- 60 ml Vinegar white vinegar is okay
- 1 tbsp Oregano
- 2 tbsp Salt I know this might seem like a lot, but we are working with 2kg of beef so it quite needs it.
- Black Pepper freshly cracked, to taste
- Chop up the meat into large chunks and place in a big pot or dutch oven. Season with salt and pepper and mix.
- In a pan toast/fry your chilies for a minute or two. If using dried chilies then place them in some water for 10 minutes after toasting to soften them up. Add to blender.
- Grill the tomato halves for a minute or two, until the flesh is charred. Add to blender.
- Fry the peppercorns, cumin, and cinnamon for just a minute on high heat. Add some water to the pan to dislodge anything stuck to the pan and then tip everything into the blender.
- Add to the blender the garlic, cilantro, olive oil, vinegar, oregano, and the white onion. Blend everything up. If it is too thick add some water or beef broth to thin it down, but we don't want it TOO watery.
- Pour the adobo (blended chili sauce) over the meat. Shake the pot to help the liquid seem through all the beef. Pour over just enough to cover the meat. Place the lid on and put into the fridge for at least 12 hours.
- Preheat your oven to 160 Celsius and place the pot into the oven. Let braise for 5-6 hours, or until the meat is fork tender and easily shreds.
- Strain the meat from the liquid (save the liquid!) and shred all the meat with a couple forks. Place in a serving bowl and ladle over some of the liquid you previously strained out. Mix everything together and enjoy.