How To Make Beef Birria

Birria is a type of Mexican stew with a hearty amount of meat that's so tender it falls apart with a fork. It's cooked for hours in an adobo marinade made with chile, garlic, onion, bay leaves, cilantro, Mexican oregano, and other spices. It's fiery, savory, and uber-flavorful. 

That’s why birria is a fantastic filling for tacos! Instead of waiting for the beef birria to simmer for half the day, we've crafted an easy Instant Pot Beef Birria recipe that delivers the same flavor in less than two hours.

Where Did Birria Come From?

This dish originated in Jalisco, Mexico, and was initially created with goat meat. There are many versions of how the original birria recipe came to be, from mischievous goats to the first recipe book containing instructions on how to make birria tacos.

The most likely scenario is that Spaniards traveled to Mexico with goats years ago. They believed goat meat was too chewy and challenging to eat, so they gave the native people permission to consume it. However, the natives had recipes and techniques that helped craft deliciously tender goat meat by marinating and tenderizing it. 

Now, birria is made from various meat, including beef, pork, and lamb, and is typically served in taco form with a spicy consommé as a dipping sauce.


Prepping the Chile Peppers

The first step in creating tacos de birria is prepping the dried chiles. While you can decide which chiles to include in the recipe based on your taste preference and desired heat level, this dish typically includes ancho chiles and either pasilla or guajillo chiles. You can also use a combination of the three. 

These chiles are typically available dried, making it easier to toast them for extra flavor. Prepping the chiles only takes a few steps. First, they need to cook for a few minutes in an Instant Pot to help bring out their richness. Then, you can soak the chiles in warm water to rehydrate them. 


Browning the Beef

While the chiles are soaking, it’s time to prep the beef chuck roast for the birria recipe. Aim for a chuck roast without bones, as it saves you time later in the recipe. If you can only find chuck roast with bones, you can still create this recipe though you’ll need to fish out the bones later.

Season the beef with salt before adding half the protein to the pan with one tablespoon of oil. Sear each side until there is no visible pink or red on each side. Remove the browned beef and add in the second half with the remaining oil. Searing is essential for any slow cooker beef dish, as it helps create a delicious, caramelized flavor while removing some of the fat from the protein.


Creating the Sauce

Once your peppers have rehydrated (about 10-15 minutes), you can start whipping up the sauce. Remove your chiles from the water and add them to a blender with one cup of beef stock, tomatoes, onion, garlic cloves, cumin, oregano, thyme, and black pepper. The key to creating the best sauce is ensuring you blend it until smooth. For this recipe, you want to avoid chunks, which means the flavors won't be properly combined (or you may have overly spicy bites). 

Once you have a smooth sauce, it's time to pour it into the pot with the remaining ingredients: beef broth, a cinnamon stick (for a warm flavor), bay leaves, and apple cider vinegar. Add the seared beef into the pressure cooker with the sauce and lock/seal the lid. By cooking the birria meat with the sauce on high pressure, you're tenderizing the beef, infusing it with the marinade, and thickening the sauce simultaneously.

The beef should only take about 45 minutes to become tender and ready to eat. Then, you'll need to remove the herbs (bay leaves and cinnamon stick) using a ladle. Set aside a small portion of the sauce and fat skimmed from the top of the pan before shredding the beef.


Crafting the Beef Birria Tacos

The final steps in this recipe include assembling the tacos and enjoying the complex flavors of the adobo sauce. Start by putting some of your reserved sauce into a pan and warming it to medium heat. Soak a few corn tortillas in the mixture, flipping, so both sides are covered. By placing your tortillas in a warm consommé, the tortillas become more pliable and easy to work with.

Fill the tortillas with shredded meat, cheese, and chopped onion. Then, fold the tortillas in half and pan-fry until they are crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. As you work through the tortillas, cover them with foil and place them on a baking sheet to help them stay warm. Continue until all the tortillas and beef are gone.

You can serve the Instant Pot birria tacos with extra chopped onions, cilantro, and lime wedges. This adds flavor and texture to the dish. If you'd like, you can also serve bowls of birria sauce on the side to dip the tacos to your liking.




Tips for the Best Birria Tacos

If your birria comes out a bit too fiery, don't fret. You can fix it by adding a small amount of honey or sugar to the sauce. This will change the flavor slightly and help mellow out the spiciness. You can also add in more tomatoes, onions, broth, etc., to help mellow out the heat of the chiles. Always taste the birria sauce before adding the beef to ensure the flavors are right for your palate. It's much easier to fix during this step than later in the recipe.

Since beef generally has a good amount of fat, this dish may be too heavy for some. If that's the case, you can lighten the birria tacos by removing the beef from the sauce and putting the sauce in the fridge. 

As the birria stew cools, the fat will solidify on the top. You can skim and remove the fat at this point. However, you'll need some fat to fry up the tacos. Otherwise, the pan-fried tacos won't be crispy. So, ensure you leave some fat in the sauce. Or, add some oil to the pan when frying the tacos.

Now you're a birria expert and can make this delicious dish anytime in the comfort of your home. Check out our recipe here for ingredients and our recipe video.