Because Steph still has RSI, I’ve been cooking all of our dinners while we chat and watch YouTube every night, which means taco evenings at our house. While my go-to tacos are al pastor, carnitas, Carne adovada, and carne asada, Steph suggested birria tacos shake things up a bit. It was so delicious and easy to make that I think it’s now at the top of my list for all of our future taco evenings.
What are Birria Tacos?
Birria tacos are a sweet, sour, somewhat spicy, and absolutely flavorful Mexican beef stew that’s slow-simmered until the beef is soft and fall-apart juicy and wonderful if you haven’t heard of them yet all over social media and the internet. Someone had the brilliant idea of stuffing all of this beefy goodness into a taco shell, then dipping the whole thing in the stew and frying it. After that, they blew up, and the rest is history. However, unlike most fad foods, Birria tacos are so delicious that you’ll want to make them every week.
Best birria tacos are dipped in stew and then fried to crispy
The magic happens when you dip the tortilla into the stew and fry it to a crisp, so don’t neglect this step. Tacos are tasty, but only a few people outside of the southwest are aware that tacos are genuinely transcendent when the tortilla is cooked in lard. Traditionally, this is done in butter or lard, but we use the fat off the top of the stew to add a kick. You’ll never go back after biting into a crisp fried taco shell.
Instant Pot vs Slow cooker vs Stovetop
You can make this stew any way you want, but I prefer to make it in the instant pot because it’s so much faster and retains more flavor. Those delicious aromas that permeate your house after hours of slow cooking? Those are flavor particles, and that means that’s a flavor that’s not in your soup. But, regardless of how you make this, it’ll come out absolutely delicious, so pick whatever method is best for you.
The best cut of beef for birria tacos: Use a nice beef shank for the best birria tacos. This is unavoidable. For texture and diversity, you can and should blend in another cut. For tacos, I prefer meat that’s a little leaner, so I mixed it up with a cheap roast like cab sirloin, but Steph would use short ribs if she had her way. But, since she’s not cooking, we ended up with a cab sirloin.
Dried Guajillo Peppers: Sun-dried peppers provide a real touch of Mexican flavor to any dish, and they’re frequently found in the Mexican section of your local supermarket (if you live in America). You don’t have to be concerned because they’re similar to a mild-medium pepper and don’t provide much heat. If you can’t get ancho, New Mexico, California, or pasilla peppers, use whatever dried Mexican/southwestern pepper you can find instead. You can skip these if you can’t locate them, but they’re worth looking for!
Chipotle peppers in adobo: These come in a small can and are salty, sweet, and spicy. They’re the foundation of many Mexican stews and marinades, and they’re so delicious that you can find them pretty much anywhere in the world. We normally have three or four cans on hand solely for tacos al pastor.
Mexican oregano: If you’re already in the Mexican aisle, pick up a bag of oregano, which is always cheaper and virtually always fresher and better than the spice aisle stuff.
What to serve with Birria Tacos?
These birria tacos are delicious enough to devour by the dozen. If you wish to offer them as an aside, you may serve them with handmade tortilla chips, Mexican rice, and even birria tortilla soup if you have all the ingredients. Or Birria ramen, which is currently my personal fave.
- 1.5 lb beef shank(meat)
- 1 lb roast/steak
- 3 dried guajillo peppers (or dried mexican/southwestern peppers)
- 1 can chipotle peppers in adobo( adobo is spicy sauce)
- 1/4 cup vinegar(sirka)
- 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp cumin(jeera)
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 cinnamon stick(darchini)
- 2 bay leaves(taij pat)
- 6 whole cloves(long)
- chicken stock about 1 quart
- 4 corn or flour tortillas as needed
- 1 medium onion chopped, optional
- 1 bunch cilantro(dhnia) chopped, optional
- 1 cup mexican cheese blend grated, optional
- instant pot or slow cooker
- Bring a big saucepan of water to a boil, then turn off the burner. Allow 15 minutes for the dried guajillo peppers to soak. Meanwhile, cube your roast/steak and salt and pepper both the steak and the shank.
- In a blender, combine the marinade ingredients. When the peppers have finished soaking, hold them by the tip over the sink and cut the stem off with scissors, allowing the seeds to fall out before adding to the blender. Make a smooth paste out of the marinade. Marinate the meats for at least two hours and up to 24 hours.
- Use a skillet over medium heat or set your Instant Pot to sauté high. Saute the onions in 1-2 tbsp oil until golden.
In an Instant Pot, sauté your onions.
In a large pot, combine the meats, marinade, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, and cloves. Cover with chicken broth and cook for 45 minutes under high pressure. Set a slow cooker or stovetop to low heat for 4-6 hours if using a stovetop.
- Allow for a natural release after the instant pot has finished cooking, then remove the meat. The bones should be shredded, set away, and discarded.
- Warm some tortillas before dipping them in the stew. Build your tacos, then fry them in a nonstick skillet over medium heat with any optional toppings. Serve right away, ideally with a margarita or a cool Mexican beer.