If you haven’t heard of Birria Tacos making the rounds on social media, let me introduce you to what I can only describe as a Mexican version of Nihari – a slow cooked beef broth served with a crispy stuffed tortilla shell! 😉
What is a Birria Taco?
It is a simple tangy and subtly sweet beef broth or consomé made by slow cooking (instant pot-ing) beef until it is fall-of-the-bone tender and juicy. And because it is not enough to have a deliciously tender stew to eat, you take the delicious morsels of beef add cheese and stuff them into a tortilla shell and toast them up till crisp. Then dip your crispy tacos into the stew and enjoy!
Unlike the Pakistani version called Nihari that is made with flour, this version is a bit thinner and totally gluten free. There are no flours used to thicken the consomé. The flavours are also quite different since this is a Mexican stew.
And probably my favourite difference is the Taco part. The flavour secret to a Birria Taco is to dip the tortilla in some sort of fat (e.g. butter) before frying to help crisp it up. For my version, I’m using the stew liquid and any fat on top to help add extra flavour to the tortilla. Just dip the tortilla into the top layer of the stew first, to get it coated in that flavourful fat. Then fry it up to get crisp! Top with cheese and the beef and enjoy!
If this has not already got your mouth watering I don’t know what will! 🙂
Substitutes for the Traditional Ingredients in a Birria Taco
Dried Mexican Peppers. Some of the dried peppers used in the stew portion of a Birria Taco may not be in your pantry or readily available at your grocery store. I tried a few grocery stores but was not able to find dried guajillo (pronounced wha-hee-yo) peppers ( I did see them on Amazon but they are $$$ there!) But no worries if you can’t find dried guajillo peppers. Substitute any dried mexican/southwestern peppers you can find, such as ancho, new mexico, california, or pasilla. These peppers tend not to be too spicy so they are all just for flavour. Whatever you can get your hands on will help.
And if you still can’t find any mexican peppers, no stress. The slow cooked flavour will still be very good without any of these. I used fresh jalapeños and tossed in a couple of dried whole kashmiri red chillies that I had in my pantry. And it turned out delicious! Just use what you got!
Mexican Cheese . Another ingredient that will help make these Birria Tacos more authentic is using a Mexican cheese like Oaxaca. But again if you cant find a Mexican cheese, substitute for mozzarella. Or any mozza-blend you like. Any melty-cheese will work.
Mexican oregano. If you cannot find the Mexican oregano, feel free to substitute for the standard stuff you have in your pantry. Mexican oregano just has a bit more flavour than its Italian counterpart.
So don’t let the ingredients list scare you. This is a super simple dump and go stew that is really easy to make. Perfect for a refresh of your next weeknight taco night!
Instant Pot v Stove Top Birria Tacos
I personally do not notice a difference between stove top and Instant Pot versions of the stew (Birria). Since the secret to the flavour is in slow cooking the beef till it is fall off the bone tender, the instant pot really does make quick and hands off work of this. And helps intensify the flavour even more since it is not escaping through evaporation.
With the stove top version I fell like I can get a good golden brown sear on the meat before slow cooking it. Not so much with the Instant Pot. I did still partially cook the meat on saute before pressure cooking, but the sear wasn’t as nice. But I dont think it made a noticeable difference in overall flavour in the end.
I have included all three versions of the recipe below – instant pot, stove top and slow cooker birria tacos.
What to do with Leftover Birria Taco Broth?
Leftover Birria? Give it a Leftover Makeover! You know I love me a leftover makeover so when you have any leftover consomé (broth) leftover do not throw it away! You can repurpose in so many ways!
- Use the Birria broth in place of gravy for a Mexican poutine – top fries with some cheese curds and the leftover warm birria for a great spin on this Canadian classic.
- Make a Birria Ramen – add some hot consome to boiled ramen, add a boiled egg, top with some chilli oil and any leftover taco ingredients toppings you might have on hand.
- Warm some Birria broth as a dip for tortilla chips
- Saute Birria broth with leftover rice for a mexican fried rice.
A big batch of Birria Tacos is exactly what you need for a crowd pleasing meal and lots of options for leftovers for days!
Birria Tacos (Instant pot and Stove top directions)
For the Marinade
- 3-4 dried guajillo chiles or any mexican dried chilli – ancho, morita, pasilla, etc. or skip it if you can't find any.
- 1.5 lb. short ribs, or beef shank bone-in meat means a more flavourful stew
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2 tsp. dried oregano (Mexican oregano if you can find it!)
- 1 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 can diced tomatoes approx. 26.9 fl. oz. or 796ml
- 1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce approx. 6.8 oz. or 186 ml
- 1-2 fresh jalapeno peppers, rough chopped de-seeded, if you like
For the Birria (Stew)
- 1.5 lb. boneless beef brisket or beef chuck roast, cut into cubes boneless sirloin also works
- Salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 6 whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon stick
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 2-3 bay leaves
- sodium free chicken or vegetable stock to cover the ingredients in stew.
For the Tacos
- 12-16 4" corn or flour tortillas, as needed or any tortilla of choice.
- 1 medium onion chopped optional
- 1 bunch cilantro chopped optional
- 1 cup mexican cheese blend, grated oaxaca or mozarella cheese works
- lime wedges, for garnish
- jalapeno slices, for garnish
For the Birria (Stew)
- Boil a large pot of water and add the dried chillies to help them rehydrate. Set aside for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the rest of the marinade.
- Season all the beef with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a blender add the garlic, oregano, cumin seeds, jalapeno, adobo peppers in sauce and crushed tomatoes. When the dried chillies have rehydrated, hold them upside down over a separate bowl or the sink, and cut off the stem end so the seeds drop out. Discard the seeds. Add the remaining flesh of the chilli into the blender along with about 1 cup of the liquid the chillies had been soaking in.
- Blend into a smooth paste. Set aside.
Instant Pot Instructions
- Turn the Instant Pot on to saute setting. Add the beef and 2 tbsp oil and saute until starting to turn brown on the outside. Turn off the heat and add the prepared marinade, and remaining stew ingredients (cloves, cinnamon stick, onion, bay leaves and stock). Making sure the liquid level doesn't go past the maximum level and making sure all ingredients are covered in liquid. Cook on high pressure for 45 minutes.
Stove Top/ Slow Cooker Instructions
- In a large dutch oven pan heat 2 tbsp of oil. Add the beef and saute until starting to turn brown on the outside. Turn heat to low (or transfer to slow cooker). Add the prepared marinade, and remaining stew ingredients (cloves, cinnamon stick, onion, bay leaves and stock). Making sure the liquid level is just to the top of the ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours until the beef starts to fall off the bone.
To Make Tacos
- Remove the beef chunks from the stew liquid (de-boning as you go) shred the beef chunks and set aside. Dispose of any bones and whole spices you find.
- Prepare your taco making station by the stove: Keep the pot of beef broth close by, corn tortillas, shredded cheese, chopped onions and cilantro. Heat a large frying pan on medium heat.
- Optional – Add the shredded beef to the pan. Saute for a few minutes to get the beef golden and slightly crisp. Remove from the pan and keep by your taco station. Keep the frying pan on medium heat for the tacos.
- Using tongs, dip a corn tortilla in the top layer of the broth (there will be a layer of fat on top, this is what you want to dip the tortilla in for max flavour and crispiness). Immediately transfer to the frying pan. Top with shredded beef, onions, cheese and cilantro. Fold in half and continue to cook till golden brown on the bottom and cheese is melted inside (about 2-3 minutes). Flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes to get golden and crisp on the other side. Repeat for as many tacos as you like.
- To serve, squeeze a bit of lime juice on the tacos, sprinkle with jalapeno slices and dip into a bowl of the broth (consomé) and enjoy! Save any leftover broth! See notes for leftover makeover ideas!
- Use like gravy and pour over fries with cheese for a mexican version of poutine.
- Use it as a dip for tortilla chips or fries.
- Turn it into Birria Ramen! Add some ramen, a boiled egg and any other remaining taco toppings you like.
- Or try sauteing with some leftover rice and veggies for a mexican fried rice.
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