Birria (a.k.a. birria en caldo or birria de res) is a traditional Mexican dish that has gained immense popularity in recent years, both in Mexico and across the world. It’s a savory stew that is typically made with goat or beef meat, although other meats like lamb, pork, and chicken can also be used.
Birria’s popularity has skyrocketed in the 2010s into the 2020s, especially in the United States, where its variations have become trendy food items. Many restaurants and food trucks across the country now offer variations of this Mexican dish on their menus, and it’s also possible to find pre-packaged birria meat and consommé in grocery stores.
Birria traces its roots back to the Mexican state of Jalisco, particularly the city of Guadalajara. It is believed to have been created by the indigenous people of the region, who combined their traditional cooking techniques with Spanish influences brought by the conquistadors. The word “birria” itself is thought to be derived from the Spanish term “berrear,” which means “to bellow” or “to roar,” reflecting the robust flavors and tender texture of the dish.
Beyond its gastronomic appeal, this traditional stew carries deep cultural significance in Mexico. It is often featured in celebrations, such as weddings, birthdays, and holidays, where families and friends gather to savor its rich flavors together. Birria’s growing popularity worldwide has contributed to a greater appreciation and understanding of Mexican cuisine and its diverse regional specialties, making it an ambassador for Mexican culinary heritage.
What is consomme?
One of the unique things about birria is the consommé that’s often served with it. The consommé is a flavorful broth made from the meat juices, bones, and spices used to cook the meat. It’s typically served on the side or in a bowl and can be used for dipping or pouring over the meat.
Traditional preparation methods
Traditionally, birria is made from goat meat, although variations using beef, lamb, or even pork have become popular over time. The meat is marinated in a combination of spices and seasonings, including dried chilies, garlic, onion, cumin, oregano, and vinegar. The marinated meat is slow-cooked for several hours, allowing the flavors to meld together and the meat to become incredibly tender. The resulting dish is typically served with corn tortillas, diced onions, fresh cilantro, lime wedges, and a savory consommé, which is the flavorful cooking liquid from the meat.
Variations of birria
As this flavorful Mexican stew gained international recognition, creative chefs and food enthusiasts started experimenting with fusion cuisines, combining birria with other culinary traditions to create exciting new flavor profiles. Fusion dishes and even cocktails have emerged, pushing the boundaries of traditional Mexican cuisine while honoring the essence of birria’s distinctive taste. Some popular variations of this versatile traditional dish include:
- birria tacos
- quesabirria (birria quesadillas)
- birria ramen
- birria burritos
- birria nachos
- birria tortas
- birria pizza
- birria sopes
- birria maria (an adaptation of a michelada)
Where to find birria
You can find traditional Mexican birria at many authentic sit-down restaurants. Here is an interactive map where you can find specific locations that serve this meaty stew near you.
How to make birria
To make this dish, the meat is traditionally slow-cooked for several hours with a blend of spices and herbs, including cumin, oregano, garlic, and chili peppers. The exact recipe and spice blend can vary from region to region and from family to family. Here is a relatively simple, yet flavorful recipe you can follow.
- 3 pounds (1.4 kilograms) of beef (such as chuck roast or beef shanks)
- 4 dried guajillo chilies
- 2 dried ancho chilies
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 4 cups (960 milliliters) of beef broth
- 1 tablespoon of dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- Freshly chopped cilantro (for garnish)
- Lime wedges (for serving)
- Corn tortillas (for serving)
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C).
- Remove the stems and seeds from the dried guajillo and ancho chilies. Place the chilies in a bowl and cover them with hot water, allowing them to soak for approximately 15 minutes until they become soft.
- While the chilies are soaking, cut the beef into large chunks and season them with salt and black pepper.
- Heat some oil in a large oven-safe pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the beef chunks and brown them on all sides. Once browned, remove the beef from the pot and set it aside.
- Drain the softened chilies and transfer them to a blender or food processor. Add the finely chopped onion, minced garlic, dried oregano, ground cumin, ground coriander, and a splash of beef broth. Blend the ingredients until a smooth sauce is formed.
- Pour the chili sauce into the pot and cook it over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Return the browned beef to the pot and add the remaining beef broth, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves. Stir well to ensure all ingredients are combined.
- Cover the pot and transfer it to the preheated oven. Allow the birria to cook for approximately 3 to 4 hours, or until the beef becomes tender and can be easily shredded.
- Once the beef is cooked, remove the pot from the oven. Use two forks to shred the beef into smaller pieces.
- Serve the birria hot, garnished with freshly chopped cilantro. Accompany it with warm corn tortillas and lime wedges on the side. Enjoy!
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