Birria (a Family Recipe)

Tacos de birria
Traditional Mexican tacos de birria with consomé and green sauce. photo (c) Romana Lilic / Getty Images
    28 hrs
Ratings (17)

A traditional Mexican dish, often 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 is also often served for brunch the day after a celebration.

In Mexico, birria is often sold at street stands or little mom-and-pop cafés. It’s is most often made with goat meat or mutton, but beef, veal, or pork are also commonly used.  Many people will combine more than one 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; 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.

What You'll Need

  • 4 guajillo chiles
  • 3 ancho chiles
  • 3 cascabel chiles
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 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 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 - 4 pounds goat meat, mutton, beef, veal, and/or pork, with or without bones
  • 1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • Corn tortillas

How to Make It

  1. 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.

  2. Make the meat rub: Mix the salt, pepper, cloves, oregano, cumin, cinnamon and thyme. Rub the meat well with this mixture.

  1. Marinate the meat: Coat the meat with half of the chile paste and let it marinate overnight.

  2. 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 sauce. 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 Fahrenheit (176 Celsius).

  3. Finish and serve your birria: Remove the meat and distribute it among your serving bowls. Then decide if you want to serve your birria with broth (as a soupy stew) or as a saucy taco filling:

    Brothy Birria- Let the liquid cool slightly and remove the bay leaves. Some people leave the broth as is, while other blend it into a homogenous sauce; do as you prefer. Add enough hot water to make at least 2 cups. Ladle the liquid over the meat and top with chopped onion and cilantro. Serve with a spoon and warm corn tortillas.

    Saucy Birria - Remove bay leaves from liquid. If liquid is watery, reduce it by boiling in a small pan to thicken. Coat the meat chunks with the reduced chile sauce. Use meat to make taco by filling the tortillas and topping with chopped onions and cilantro.

-Edited by Robin Grose