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27 December 2021

This birria recipe is an iconic meat stew from the Mexican state of Jalisco of lamb, goat or beef cooked low and slow in a seasoned chili sauce. Serve it in a bowl or as birria tacos.

We’re cooking up a flavorful Mexican meat stew in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen, my friends. It’s called Birria, and you’re going to want to make this right away.

What is Birria?

Birria is a classic Mexican meat stew or soup made with slowly braised meat – usually lamb, goat, or beef – with chilies and spices. It is one of the most iconic Mexican dishes, originally from Jalisco, Mexico, though has spread throughout Mexican and the U.S. because of its addictive flavor.

It was originally made with goat, as local Mexicans were given an overabundance of goats by the Conquistadors during the Conquest of Mexico. The name, “birria”, means “worthless” or “without value”, a pejorative term given by the Spanish who found eating goat beneath them.

Today, however, beef is more commonly used, as it is easier to obtain and is less lean, though it is delicious with any of these cuts of meat or what you can commonly find in grocery stores.

Birria is usually served a couple different ways – as a soup or stew, or as birria tacos. The soup/stew version is more classic and often served at family events or large gatherings. This way, the meat is shredded and served into bowls with the braising liquid, or consome.

As tacos, the meat is shredded and served over warmed corn tortillas dipped in the braising liquid, with the consome in a small bowl on the side.

There are different ways to make it, with different cuts of meat and variations to the chilies and seasonings. This is my preferred version adapted from a couple of my favorite Mexican cookbooks and some experimentation.

As a spicy food lover, I think you will love this recipe. It will smell amazing in the house with the meat cooking, enough to drive you wild with hunger.

Let’s talk about how to make birria, shall we?

Chunky Birria in a bowl with garnish

Birria Ingredients

  • Dried Peppers. Use ancho peppers and guajillo peppers. I also use a few chiles de arbol for a bit of extra spice and heat.
  • Olive Oil. For cooking.
  • Vegetables. Onion, fresh tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, garlic. You can also toss in some fresh peppers, if desired.
  • Seasonings. Mexican oregano, sea salt, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, black pepper. You can use others, like bay leaves.
  • Vinegar. I prefer apple cider vinegar for this recipe.
  • Beef Stock. 
  • Meat. Use lamb, goat or beef. Lamb shoulder or lamb belly are hugely popular options. For beef, use brisket, chuck roast or beef shank. 

Chunky Birria in a bowl

How to Make Birria – the Recipe Method

Dry Toast the Peppers. Heat a large pan to medium heat and add the dried chilies. Dry toast them in the hot pan 1-2 minutes per side, until the skins darken.

Toasting the chilies to make birria

Soak the Peppers. Remove from heat and add the toasted peppers to a large bowl. Cover with hot water and steep 20 minutes, or until softened.

Cook the Onions, Tomatoes and Garlic. While the peppers are rehydrating, heat the olive oil in the same pan to medium heat. Add the onion and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes to soften. Add the garlic and cook another 1 minute, stirring.

Food Processor. Add the cooked onion, tomatoes and garlic to a food processor. Remove the softened chilies and add to the food processor, but reserve the soaking liquid. Add the seasonings to the food processor along with the vinegar and 1 cup beef stock. Process until smooth. It should be fairly thick. You can strain if you’d like for a smoother sauce. See the RECIPE NOTES below.

Chili paste to make braised birria

Marinate the Meat. Cut the lamb (or beef) into large chunks and add to a large bowl. Pour the birria sauce over them and rub it into the meat. Cover and marinate the meat in the refrigerator for 2 hours minimum. Overnight is better.

Coating the cubed meat in chili paste

Simmer the Birria. When you’re ready to cook, add the meat with all of the marinade, the chopped roasted tomatoes and remaining 3 cups beef broth to a large pot or Dutch oven.

The first simmer of the meat in a large pot with chili paste and seasonings

Cover and cook at medium heat for 3 hours, or until the meat is fork tender and easy to shred. Add more beef stock or some of the reserved soaking liquid if needed for a soupier birria.

I removed the meat to make it easier to shred.

Shredding the Mexican Birria in a bowl

Then added the shredded meat back to the pot to simmer a bit more before serving.

Simmering the Mexican Birria in a large pot

Serve the Birria. Serve the braised birria stew meat into bowls as a soup, or shred the meat and serve it up onto warm corn tortillas as birria tacos, with the reserved liquid consome from the pot as a side soup/broth. Adjust for salt and pepper. Garnish with onion, cilantro, chili flakes.

Boom! Done! Your Mexican birria is ready to serve. This meat is so incredibly tender and flavorful. How are you going to enjoy yours? As a soup or stew in a bowl? Or as birra tacos? Try this birria ramen recipe!

Beef Birria in a bowl, ready to serve

Recipe Tips & Notes

  • Meat Options. You can make birria with many different cuts of meat. Use lamb meat, goat meat or beef. Lamb shoulder or lamb belly are hugely popular options. For the cut of beef, use brisket, chuck roast or beef shank. Short ribs are great, too. You can realistically make this with any cut of meat, but the best are the tougher cuts that require low and slow cooking. You’ll get more flavor with bone-in meats.
  • Strain the Pepper Puree. For a much smoother sauce, strain it through a fine sieve to remove any lingering bits if needed. Also, some people find the skins of anchos and guajillos to be slightly bitter, and straining can reduce this.

That’s it, my friends. I hope you enjoy this Mexican birria recipe. Let me know if you make it. I’d love to hear how it turned out for you and how you served yours. Keep it spicy!

Mexican Birria in a bowl, garnished with red onion, peppers and cilantro

Cookbook Recommendations

If you love traditional Mexican cooking, I love these cookbooks with recipes from all over Mexico. Definitely recommended.

Try Some of My Other Popular Mexican Recipes

Try Some of My Other Popular Soup and Stew Recipes

Mike taking Birria tacos from a platter

Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.

Mexican Birria Recipe
Print Recipe
5 from 9 votes

Mexican Birria Recipe (Goat or Beef Stew)

This birria recipe is an iconic meat stew from the Mexican state of Jalisco of lamb, goat or beef cooked low and slow in a seasoned chili sauce.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time3 hrs 30 mins
Marinating2 hrs
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: ancho, beef, goat, guajillo, lamb, stew
Servings: 6
Calories: 314kcal

Ingredients

  • 5 ancho peppers stems and seeds removed
  • 5 guajillo peppers stems and seeds removed
  • 2-3 chiles de arbol optional, for spicier
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large white onion chopped
  • 3 large tomatoes chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 large roasted tomatoes chopped
  • 4 cups beef stock separated
  • 3.5 pound lamb shoulder or you can use beef shank or chuck roast

Instructions

  • Heat a large pan to medium heat and add the dried peppers. Dry toast them in the hot pan 1-2 minutes per side, until the skins darken.
  • Remove from heat and add the toasted peppers to a large bowl. Cover with hot water and steep 20 minutes, or until softened.
  • While the peppers are rehydrating, heat the olive oil in the same pan to medium heat.
  • Add the onion and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes to soften.
  • Add the garlic and cook another 1 minute, stirring.
  • Add the cooked onion, tomatoes and garlic to a food processor.
  • Remove the softened chilies and add to the food processor, but reserve the soaking liquid.
  • Add the seasonings to the food processor along with the vinegar and 1 cup beef stock. Process until smooth. It should be fairly thick. You can strain if you’d like for a smoother sauce. See the RECIPE NOTES below.
  • Cut the lamb (or beef) into large chunks and add to a large bowl.
  • Pour the birria sauce over them and rub it into the meat. Cover and marinate the meat in the refrigerator for 2 hours minimum. Overnight is better.
  • When you’re ready to cook, add the meat with all of the marinade, the chopped roasted tomatoes and remaining 3 cups beef broth to a large pot. Cover and cook at medium heat for 3 hours, or until the meat is fork tender and easy to shred. Add more beef stock or some of the reserved soaking liquid if needed for a soupier birria.
  • Serve the braised birria into bowls as a soup, or shred the meat and serve it up onto tortillas as birria tacos, with the reserved liquid consome from the pot as a side soup/broth.

Notes

For a much smoother sauce, strain it through a fine sieve to remove any lingering bits if needed. Also, some people find the skins of anchos and guajillos to be slightly bitter, and straining can reduce this.

Nutrition

Calories: 314kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 38g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 107mg | Sodium: 1607mg | Potassium: 1111mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 2125IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 74mg | Iron: 5mg