What Is Birria and How Do You Make It?

Here’s what you need to know about the classic Mexican dish.

<p>Robert Patrick Briggs/Getty Images</p>

Robert Patrick Briggs/Getty Images

Birria is bold and bodacious. In recent years, this meat served in your favorite Mexican foods across the United States has eclipsed the most famous menu items, like carnitas, barbacoa, and al pastor.

But what is birria? And why is it so good? Below, you’ll find out why we can’t get enough of it, the history of it, and how to make it at home.

Dotdash Meredith Food Studios
Dotdash Meredith Food Studios

What Is Birria?

Birria is a type of flavorful meat stew from Mexico, traditionally made with goat but also made with beef, lamb, mutton, or chicken.

The consomé, the chile pepper broth that the goat or beef is braised and stewed in, is the central component of this dish. Birria would not be birria without it.

This Mexican meal is famous for coming in taco form, and birria de res is one of the original ways this dish is served. The tacos are charged red, thanks to the consomé, the chile pepper broth the meat is stewed in. Quesabirria is a version of birria de res that comes with cheese, and Birria en caldo is a version served as a soup or stew.

Usually, the tortilla is dunked in the consomé, the meat is stuffed into the tortilla (sometimes with cheese) and pan-fried until the final result is a crispy yet chewy taco. Served similar to a French dip sandwich with au jus sauce, these tacos are presented with more consomé as a dipping liquid.

What Does Birria Taste Like?

Birria is moderately spicy and complex. Since it is traditionally made from goat, the meat can be a little more gamey than beef or lamb, but because it is stewed, it will also be super tender. Since beef is more accessible to most people, this is the meat that’s often used.

Loads of spices and seasonings are used in this dish as well, and they can vary depending on whose recipe you’re trying. Anything from marjoram, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, and cumin to cinnamon, cloves, and more can pop up in a recipe. Several types of chiles are also used, but generally speaking, dried red chiles are a must.

If served in taco form rather than as a stew, the meat is normally sopping in consomé, and the tacos are messy—but they are unparalleled in their flavor

Allrecipes Video
Allrecipes Video

Birria vs. Barbacoa

These two meats are similar in that they can be made with goat, lamb, or beef. Sometimes you'll see barbacoa made with pork or birria made with chicken.

However, their cooking methods are the clearest difference between these two items. Barbacoa is traditionally made in a steam pit underground, but its cooking methods have evolved over the years. Barbacoa can be made on an open fire, on the stove, or in a slow cooker. However, the traditional method mimics an oven made from the earth, banana leaves, and agave plants, heated with hot coals.

Birria, on the other hand, sits very much in the vein of a stew. Chiles and peppers are blended into a smooth broth, called consomé, and combined with your seasoned, seared meat to cook low and slow in an oven for about 3 to 4 hours in a covered pot, until the meat can shred easily. How birria is cooked has also evolved as more chefs and home cooks take a stab at the recipe, but the traditional method is still the best.

The History of Birria

While this dish rose to stardom over the past five years in the United States, birria dates back for centuries in Mexico, specifically the region of Jalisco.

According to Le Sends del Cabrito (The Path of the Goat) by Cárdenas Juan Ramón, when the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Mexico, they brought goats with them, among other animals. In time, these goats were used in cooking by native populations, and the Spanish looked down on the meat for its tougher texture. 

The meat made by indigenous Mexicans was called birria by the Spanish, meaning of no value or worthless. This name feels wrong considering how great this dish is, so it’s safe to say the Mexican cooks pioneering this meat got the last laugh.

Outside of Mexico, birria got its start in southern California. According to Bill Esparza’s Eater article, The Great Birria Boom, birria took off thanks to key players like Teddy Vasquez, the creator of Teddy’s Red Tacos, and brothers Omar Gonzalez and Oscar Gonzalez, the owners of Birrieria Gonzalez. By way of Mexico, they all took LA birria culture, as did many others, to a new place. Now though, birria can be found throughout America, for good reason.

How To Make Birria Tacos

Want to make your own birria at home? This top-rated Birria de Res recipe is a great place to start. Follow the link for a detailed ingredient list and step-by-step instructions on how to make this traditional meal, but here’s a brief overview of what you can expect:

"“Mexican birria tacos, Jalisco-style, made with braised beef that's slow-cooked in a fragrant 3-chile sauce with a delicious spice mix. Crispy tacos, and tender, mouth-watering beef team up with melted Mexican cheese in this impressive meal,” says recipe creator gem."

  1. Boil the guajillo, árbol, and ancho chile peppers for 5 minutes, then cut the heat and soak the peppers in the pot until the water is cool. Reserve ¼ cup water before draining the liquid.

  2. Season the beef and sear on all sides in oil in a Dutch oven until brown, about 10 minutes.

  3. Blacken tomatoes on a grill or on a cast iron griddle or skillet lined with aluminum foil. Blend peppers along with blackened tomatoes, vinegar, reserved chili water, garlic, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, thyme, marjoram, oregano, and salt until smooth.

  4. Strain the sauce and pour over browned beef. Cover the dutch oven and cook in a preheated oven for about 3 to 4 hours, basting the meat about every 45 minutes.

  5. Cook tortillas and assemble into tacos when meat is shredded and dressed with chili broth. Reserve some broth for dipping. Serve with white onions, cilantro, and cheese.

More Birria Recipes:

<p>Dotdash Meredith Food Studios</p>

Dotdash Meredith Food Studios

Read the original article on All Recipes.