Beef Birria Tacos

Photo of Beef Birria Tacos with broth for dippingThe Humble Taco
Life is good at keeping you humble in big and small ways. My latest karmic reminder that I’m not as cool and all-knowing as I thought I was, came in the form of a taco.

I think I have made it obvious over the many years that I have been writing these posts that I am a big fan of Mexican cuisine. So much so that I felt confident that I had a better than average knowledge of regions, techniques, and any number of popular recipes. Imagine my surprise a few months back when I was introduced to Birria Tacos.

For something that is as ubiquitous and widely revered as Birria Tacos, you would think that someone for whom Mexican food is life would have come across it early on in the love affair. You would be wrong. And, since my introduction, I see them everywhere.

In case you are also one of those souls who is ignorant of the beauty of a Birria taco, they are essentially the taco version of a French dip. You start by making a rich and flavorful stew that you can eat as is. Or you can take the meat out, chop it up, fry up some tortillas, fill them with the chopped meat and some cheese, then grill them. To eat you dip the taco in the consume which is simply the broth from the stew and enjoy.

If you are wanting to try them yourself, I would first recommend doing a search for a local taqueria that makes them. Making your own is a bit of a process (as you might imagine) since they have to cook slow and low for a number of hours. Also, most recipes, like ours listed below, make enough for at least 8 people. If you are cool freezing some of it, then you are set. But, this might be better saved for a weekend get-together. The traditional meat used for this dish is goat. But, beef is just as popular. And, you can make Birria Tacos with lamb or pork if you want to be a rebel.

No matter which method you choose, I strongly encourage you to give these a try. Your mouth will be very happy you did…

Beef Birria Tacos
Recipe adapted from House of Yumm
Yields 8 servings

7-8 cups hot water
4 pounds boneless chuck roast quartered into large pieces
2 pounds bone-in short ribs
1 large white onion, cut in half crosswise
1 garlic bulb top cut off (no need to peel it)
1 carrot quartered
5 bay leaves
8 guajillo chiles, stems cut off and seeds removed
3 tablespoons chicken bouillon
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

For the tacos
14-16 white corn tortillas
2 cups quesadilla cheese or any good melting cheese

Make the Birria
You will need a large Dutch oven or similar pot that can hold approximately 7 quarts.

In a large pot add the meat (both boneless chuck and short ribs), onion, garlic, carrots, bay leaves, and dried peppers. Cover with water. Add the chicken bouillon, oregano, cumin, salt, and stir to combine. Bring the liquid to a boil.

After 30 minutes, skim the foam from the top of the liquid.

Process the peppers
Remove the peppers (they should be softened by now) and place them in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. You can add up to 1/4 cup of broth to help get a smooth consistency. If there are bits of skin in the puree, strain the peppers.

Add the blended peppers back into the broth and stir to combine. Add in the chili powder as desired to turn the broth into a nice deep red color.

Simmer the Birria
Cover and continue to simmer the stew, stirring about every 45 minutes. Cook until the meat is tender and begins to easily shred on its own (about 3 hours).

Skim the grease from the top of the broth and reserve it for making the tacos (if using). Remove the onion, garlic, carrots, and bay leaves from the broth.

Prep the meat for servings
Remove the meat from the broth and cut it into large chunks for serving. Remove any bones.

To serve Birria as a stew
Place a couple of pieces of meat into a bowl, spoon the broth on top and sprinkle it with diced onion and fresh cilantro. Serve with a wedge of lime for squeezing.

Quesabirria Tacos
Prep the meat
Remove the meat from the broth, and finely chop it until only small pieces remain.

Cook the tortillas
Heat a large skillet/griddle over medium heat. Dip the corn tortilla into the reserved grease from the broth. Place the tortilla on a heated griddle, top with the chopped meat and cheese.

Fold the taco over and press down with a spatula. Continue cooking until the taco is crisp and golden on the bottom (about 2-3 minutes). Then flip and continue cooking the other side. It’s ok if some of the cheese leaks out while frying.

Cook until both sides are crisp. Remove the tortilla from the heat and allow it to cool briefly before serving, will be very hot. Continue until all tacos are cooked.

To serve
Top the tacos with fresh cilantro and onion. Serve with a bowl of broth topped with onions and cilantro on the side. Dip the tacos into the broth while eating.

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