Beef Birria marries the richness of slow-cooked beef with a vibrant palette of spices. The meat, tender to the point of melting, mingles with guajillo peppers, cinnamon, ginger, and tomatoes in a broth that’s as layered as it is bold. Each bite is a carnival of flavors—enticingly complex yet comfortingly familiar.
In the vibrant tapestry of Mexican gastronomy, Birria stands out for its humble origins. When goat meat was the most available option, Mexican cooks tamed the often gamey, ropey meat by cooking it low and slow, sometimes even overnight in an underground pit, with a fragrant blend of herbs, chilies, and spices, until it was tender and infused with flavor.
This beef recipe replaces gamey goat with tender chunks of beef, but still includes all the intense flavors and the resulting hearty chile-based broth.
This Beef Birria recipe starts is slow-cooked in a Dutch oven, stockpot, or other large pot on the stovetop, but you could make this recipe in an Instant Pot or slow cooker, too.
Why You’ll Love This Dish
There’s a particular magnetism to Beef Birria that transcends the sum of its parts. Its layered, complex flavor profile explores the borders of spicy, sweet, savory, and earthy, grounded by the unctuous, slow-cooked beef.
The delight comes from the contrasts—the heat of chili, the sweetness of onion, the smoky depth of cumin, the sweet-sour of tomatoes, and a surprising hint of cinnamon’s warmth. One spoonful and you’ll be hooked.
Ingredients You Need
Here are the ingredients you need to make the birria:
- Beef: Choose a cut of beef that lends itself well to slow cooking, such as beef chuck or brisket. Rich in connective tissue, these cuts break down over time, imparting a tender, melt-in-the-mouth texture. Birria is traditionally made with goat, so you could certainly substitute goat meat if you like.
- Guajillo peppers: These dried chiles are the supporting act. They’re mildly hot and offer a complex fruity flavor. If unavailable, ancho or pasilla chilies can serve as substitutes.
- Onion and garlic: The backbone of any savory dish. Fresh is always best.
- Tomatoes: Canned tomatoes add a bit of acid, sweetness, and umami. You can substitute fresh tomatoes if you like.
- Spices: Cumin, chili flakes, ginger, cinnamon, and dried oregano—it’s a quintet that creates the song of Birria.
- Broth: Beef stock or broth serves as the backdrop for the dish. You could use another type of broth, like chicken or vegetable, but use beef if you can for the best depth of flavor.
- Apple cider vinegar: Adding a hit of acidity, it brightens up the flavors and cuts through the richness of the dish.
- Bay leaves: Bay leaves are subtle, but they add cohesiveness to the flavors that you would surely miss if you left them out.
- Onion and cilantro: Fresh, vibrant final touches to serve with your Birria.
How to Make It
Making Beef Birria is more of an unhurried waltz than a quick step. It’s about slow-cooking beef to the point where it falls apart at the prod of a fork. It’s about balance, patience, and giving each ingredient its time under the spotlight. Here’s how to make it:
- Rehydrate the guajillo chile in boiling water.
- Brown the meat.
- Sauté the onion and garlic, then add the spices and cook briefly to release their flavors.
- Add broth, vinegar, and bay leaves and bring to a boil.
- Put the rehydrated chiles with the tomatoes and the sauce and onions from the pot into a blender and puree the mixture.
- Return the pureed chile sauce and the beef to the pot and simmer for at least 2 hours, until the meat is fall-apart tender.
- Let the beef and sauce cool in the pot for a while, then remove and shred the beef, adding some of the sauce to make it moist. Save the sauce for drizzling over dishes or to use as a dipping sauce.
- Serve with beans, rice, salad, and tortillas or use the meat to fill Quesabirria Tacos, which is my favorite way to serve birria, or burritos. Birria is perfect as a topping for tostadas or in Birria de Res or Salpicon de Res. Be sure to save the birria sauce and offer it alongside for drizzling or dipping.
What to Serve with It
True to its street food roots, Beef Birria struts its flavors best when folded into a warm corn tortilla with a sprinkle of cilantro, a scatter of onions, and a squeeze of lime. You can serve it as a stew or use this delicious Mexican beef birria to make birria tacos or Quesabirria Tacos.
You can serve it as a stew, with Refried Beans or Black Beans on the side, and tortillas for scooping. Tuck this authentic beef birria into a burrito. The possibilities are as endless as your creativity.
- 1 ½ pounds beef cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3 guajillo peppers stemmed, seeded, and torn into pieces
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 onion sliced
- 2 garlic cloves chopped
- 1 cup canned tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon chili pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/3 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 cups beef broth
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 bay leaves
- Cilantro and diced onion for serving
- Place the pieces of guajillo in a heat-safe bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes.
- In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate.
- Reduce to medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring, for 4 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
- Add the salt, chili flakes, cumin, cinnamon, and ginger and cook, stirring, for 1 more minute.
- Add the beef broth, apple cider vinegar, and bay leaves into the pan and bring to a boil.
- Drain the chiles and put them in a blender with the tomatoes.
- Remove the bay leaves from the pan and transfer the sauce from the pan to the blender. Process to a thick puree.
- Pour the sauce into the pot and add the beef. Cook on low heat for 2 hours. Add additional water or broth if needed.
- When the beef is cooked, let it cool for 15 minutes in the sauce.
- Remove the beef from the sauce, reserving the sauce, and shred it using two forks.
- Spoon some of the sauce into the beef and stir to make it more moist.
- Serve with tortillas and beans, or use the meat in birria tacos, quesabirria tacos, sloppy joe or other dishes. Save the sauce separately and use it to sauce other dishes or as a dipping sauce for tacos.