What is Beef Birria? A Guide to This Flavorful Mexican Stew

Beef birria is a hearty Mexican stew made by braising beef in a savory, chile-based broth. With its deep red color and robust flavor profile, beef birria is a warming and satisfying dish with origins in the state of Jalisco.

What is Birria?

Birria is a traditional Mexican meat stew that is most authentically made with goat meat, but beef birria has become very popular. The name birria comes from the Spanish word “birre” meaning stew.

The dish originated in the state of Jalisco, where goat herding and ranching is common. However, birria recipes are now found all over Mexico and often made with beef instead of the traditional goat.

History and Origins of Birria

Birria dates back hundreds of years to colonial Mexico when Spanish conquistadors brought European livestock including goats. The native people incorporated the goats into their cooking but found the meat to be quite tough and gamey.

To make the goat more tender and flavorful, they began to marinate it in a paste of dried chiles, garlic, herbs and vinegar. The marinated meat was then slowly simmered in the marinade which both tenderized the meat and allowed the flavors to meld.

This technique resulted in the dish we now know as birria. The name birria comes from the Spanish word “birre” for stew. However, the term was originally used in a derogatory manner by the conquistadors, implying the native’s food was worthless.

Over time, birria became a celebrated part of Mexican cuisine, especially in Jalisco where goat herding was prominent. Today it is served for holidays, parties, and special occasions.

What is Beef Birria?

While classic birria is made with goat, beef birria has become very popular, especially outside of Mexico. Beef birria uses the same chile-based marinade and braising technique but subs in beef for the goat meat.

Almost any cut of beef can be used such as chuck roast, brisket, short ribs, or rump roast. Chuck roast is one of the more common cuts as it becomes fall-apart tender when braised slowly.

How is Beef Birria Made?

The process of making beef birria takes some time but is fairly straightforward:

  • Marinate the beef: The beef is marinated overnight or up to 24 hours in a puree made from dried chiles, garlic, herbs and vinegar. This maxes out the flavor.

  • Brown the meat: The marinated beef is patted dry and then seared to develop fond on the exterior.

  • Build the braising liquid: Onions, spices like cumin and oregano, and beef broth are added to the fond in the pan to create an ultra-flavored braising liquid.

  • Braise the meat: The beef and braising liquid go into a covered pot or dutch oven and braise for 2-3 hours until fork tender.

  • Shred and serve: Once cooked, the beef is shredded with two forks. The tender braised meat and concentrated braising liquid is served warm, often with corn tortillas.

Birria Chile Paste

The marinade and braising liquid that gives birria its trademark flavor is made from pureeing roasted dried chiles. The paste typically contains a combination of these chiles:

  • Guajillo chiles – Tangy, berry-like flavor
  • Ancho chiles – Fruity with mild heat
  • Chiles de árbol – Very spicy

Onions, garlic, oregano, cumin, vinegar, and Mexican lager are also blended into the paste. This builds incredible depth of flavor.

How To Serve Beef Birria

There are many excellent ways to enjoy beef birria:

  • On tortillas – Warm corn tortillas are used to scoop up the tender beef and flavorful broth. Chopped onion and cilantro are common garnishes.

  • In tacos – Birria tacos with melted cheese have become very popular. Dip the tacos in the broth.

  • In quesadillas – Birria makes a fantastic filling for quesadillas paired with Oaxaca or mozzarella cheese.

  • On nachos – Top corn tortilla chips with shredded beef birria, cheese, onions, cilantro and jalapeños.

  • In burritos or tortas – Stuff tortillas with birria, rice, beans, and fixings for a hearty meal.

  • **As a stew ** – Serve the beef and braising liquid as a comforting meal in itself, with warm tortillas for dipping.

Toppings and Garnishes

Birria is typically served with an array of fresh garnishes:

  • Chopped white onion
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Lime wedges
  • Thinly sliced radishes
  • Jalapeño or serrano chiles
  • Mexican crema or sour cream

Birria FAQs

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about beef birria:

What beer is used in birria?

Mexican lager like Victoria or Modelo are commonly used. The light malty flavor enhances the chiles.

Can I make birria in a slow cooker?

Yes, birria can definitely be made in a slow cooker but reduce liquids since there is less evaporation.

Can I freeze leftovers?

Absolutely! Birria freezes very well for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.

What cut of beef is best?

Chuck roast is ideal but short rib, brisket, or rump roast also work very well. Look for well-marbled cuts.

Can I make it with chicken or pork?

The recipe can be adapted to make chicken or pork birria, though beef is traditional. Adjust cook times as needed.

Should it be greasy?

Some fat is needed to keep the meat tender but excess fat can be skimmed after cooking if needed.

Is birria spicy?

It can range from mild to very spicy depending on the types and amounts of chiles used. Tailor the heat to your tastes.

Why Beef Birria is So Delicious

There are several keys that make beef birria one of Mexico’s most crave-worthy dishes:

  • The marinade – An overnight soak in the chili-vinegar paste infuses the beef with layers of flavor

  • Slow braising – Gently cooking the meat makes it incredibly tender and concentrated in flavor.

  • Balance of flavors – Savory, sweet, tangy, and spicy flavors combine in perfect harmony.

  • Textural contrast – The fall-apart tender beef and rich broth are offset by crispy onions, cool cilantro, and warm tortillas.

How to Make Beef Birria at Home

Want to make this Mexican favorite at home? Here is an easy recipe to try:


  • 3 pounds beef chuck roast
  • 6 dried guajillo chiles
  • 4 dried ancho chiles
  • 1⁄2 onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • Lime wedges, onion, cilantro, etc. for serving


  1. Prepare the chiles – Seed, stem, toast and soak in hot water for 15 minutes until soft. Drain.

  2. Make the adobo paste – Blend together the chiles, onion, garlic, spices, and 1⁄2 cup of the broth until smooth.

  3. Marinate the beef – Coat beef with adobo paste, cover and refrigerate overnight.

  4. Sear the meat – Drain marinade then sear beef in batches until browned on all sides.

  5. Simmer – Place meat in Dutch oven, cover with remaining broth and adobo sauce. Simmer 2-3 hrs.

  6. Shred and serve – Shred beef with two forks. Serve with broth, tortillas, and garnishes. Enjoy!

With this easy birria recipe, you can impress your family with this flavorful Mexican favorite. The incredible depth of flavors make beef birria an unforgettable dish. Give it a try today!

Beef Birria – Mexican Stewed Beef


What is beef birria made of?

It is a rich stew that’s typically made with either goat or lamb. But now, beef (rez) is the most commonly used meat. It’s traditionally served in a consomé broth, along with a mixture of white onion, cilantro and fresh lime juice. Birria is most commonly made for special occasions: Christmas, weddings and parties.

What part of animal is birria?

Birria is a dish from the Mexican state of Jalisco made with beef or goat, typically rib meat. It is usually served as a stew, but can also be served as a sandwich. Birria is made with a variety of spices, including chili peppers, cumin and oregano.

Is beef barbacoa and birria the same?

In short, birria is a type of barbacoa, but barbacoa is not birria. Barbacoa is more closely related to barbecue, while birria is braised or steamed. Barbacoa is traditionally slowly steamed in its own juices with a marinade, and most barbacoa is made from beef (although lamb or mutton are also common).

What’s the difference between a taco and a Birria taco?

The tacos are prepared by soaking the tortillas in the adobo liquid, cooking them on a flat top, and filling them with the delicious stewed beef. Birriras are usually sold with a side of the cooking liquid and a topping of freshly chopped onion and cilantro.

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