Birria is a traditional Mexican dish most often made with goat meat or mutton, but beef, veal or pork can be used. It can be served as a stew or taco filling.
A dish associated with the state of Jalisco but eaten in many parts of the country, birria is often served at celebrations such as weddings. Widely touted as a hangover cure, this dish also is often served for brunch the day after a celebration.
In Mexico, birria is often sold at street stands or little mom-and-pop cafés. Many people will combine more than one meat in the same dish, so use the meat or meats that you like the most (or the ones that are on sale at the time) when preparing your own birria.
Plan ahead when you make this recipe because the meat needs to marinate overnight. You will need a Dutch oven (or casserole dish) with a tight-fitting lid and a rack that sits inside.
- For the Chile Paste:
- 4 guajillo chiles
- 3 ancho chiles
- 3 cascabel chiles
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- For the Meat Rub:
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme or 2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- For the Meat:
- 3 to 4 pounds goat meat, mutton, beef, veal, and/or pork, with or without bones
- 1 cup water
- 1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced
- For the Garnish:
- 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 cup chopped onion
Make the Chile Paste
Toast the chiles on a hot griddle or skillet over medium heat until browned, but not burned.
Remove the seeds and veins, then place the chiles in a bowl and cover them with very hot water for 15 to 20 minutes.
When chiles have rehydrated, drain them.
Process chiles and vinegar in a blender to make a paste.
Make the Meat Rub
- In a small bowl, mix together the salt, pepper, cloves, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and thyme.
- Rub the meat well with this mixture.
Marinate the Meat
Coat the meat with half of the chile paste.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
Cook the Meat
Pour the water into a Dutch oven or deep casserole dish and add the coarsely chopped onion, bay leaves, diced garlic and the remaining chile paste.
Place meat on a rack that sits just above the water mixture. Place lid on the pot, making sure that it covers tightly, and bake for 4 hours at 350 F (176 C).
Finish and Serve the Birria
Remove the meat from the Dutch oven and distribute it among 6 to 8 bowls.
Finish the birria and serve with broth (as a soupy stew) or as a saucy taco filling with corn tortillas.
Brothy Birria Variation
- After removing the meat from the Dutch oven, let the liquid cool slightly and remove the bay leaves.
- The broth can be left as is or it can be blended into a smooth sauce.
- Add enough hot water to the broth to make at least 2 cups. Ladle the liquid over the meat and top with chopped cilantro and onion. Serve with a spoon and warm corn tortillas.
Saucy Birria Variation
- After removing the meat from the Dutch oven, remove the bay leaves from the liquid. If the liquid is watery, reduce it by boiling in a small pan to thicken.
- Break the meat into chunks and coat them with the reduced liquid. Fill warm corn tortillas with the filling and top with chopped onions and cilantro.
-Edited by Robin Grose