Birria Tacos (or Quesatacos) are made with tender beef, a rich adobo sauce, gooey cheese, and earthy corn tortillas! Once pan-fried to cheesy crisp perfection, these tacos are repeatedly dipped into broth for a flavorful, texturally exciting experience! If you love this, you will also love my Carne Asada, Taco Soup, Blackened Shrimp Nachos or Chicken Pozole.
My love for Mexican food is endless and eternal, like my love for my husband (maybe even more so, but don’t tell him that). On a 100 degree day, all I can think about is spicy margaritas, ceviche, and carne asada. The bold flavors and the refreshing sips keep me coming back for more!
Living in Dallas, I’m basically in Mexican food heaven, and lately my knowledge and love for South of the Border cuisine has gone above and beyond what I thought possible. If you’re not on the same band wagon, you’re about to be.
This Winter, I’ve struck gold in the form of Birria Tacos. On a chilly day, there’s nothing like a plate of Birria Tacos with a side of warm, saucy broth. Quesatacos (also known as quesabirria) are a cross between a taco and a quesadilla, filled with melted cheese and flavor-packed shredded meat. These out-of-this-world tacos are then dipped into a homemade broth and pan-fried to crispy perfection.
Today, I’m walking you through how to make the very best homemade birria, and then we’re turning it into some epic quesatacos. Pay close attention, this is about to get GOOD.
WHAT ARE BIRRIA TACOS?
Birria is an addictivally sweet, sour, slightly spicy, and deliciously savory Mexican beef stew. Simmered to tender, fall-apart juicy goodness, this traditionally prepared beef is irresistible. Someone (bless their soul) had the bright idea to stuff this saucy, meaty goodness into a tortilla, and then dip the whole mess into the soup and pan fry it. The result of this ingenuity is an indescribably unique, flavorful dish so good that you’ll find yourself making them again and again!
There might be a few ingredients in today’s recipe that you’re unfamiliar with, so let’s break down the most important ones.
- Beef or Lamb- Birria is traditionally made with either meat (it’s usually up to budget or availability). I highly recommend using a beef shank cut; I just find that the meat has an incredible texture and value for the price.
- Dried Guajillo Peppers- These sun dried peppers offer up an authentic Mexican flavor that simply can’t be omitted. Guajillo is a mild-medium pepper, so it won’t add any heat. These smoky peppers can be found in the Mexican/international aisle of your local grocery store. If you can’t find them, sub any other dried Mexican/Southwesten pepper you can find: new mexico, california or pasilla.
- Dried Ancho Chiles- Similar to guajillo peppers, sun dried ancho chiles introduce a smoky, slightly fruity taste to the stew. I find that ancho has a subtle mild to medium heat that I really enjoy.
- Chipotle Peppers in Adobo- These come in cans (varying in size) that you can find in Mexican aisles at the grocery store. These saucy, sweet-spicy peppers serve as the base for many Mexican stews, soups, and marinades. I like to keep multiple cans of this stuff on hand at all times, they’re that good.
TIP: Use Mexican Oregano! This recipe calls for the use of oregano, but did you know there are multiple varieties of the herb? Mexican Oregano has lemon and citrus flavors that pair beautifully with spicy chili peppers. I also find that this variety is cheaper and fresher than the one you’ll find in the regular spice aisle. Give it a try!
HOW TO MAKE BIRRIA TACOS
If you’re a bit intimidated by this recipe, don’t be. There’s some prep and a good amount of waiting, but minimal active work. In a few short hours (they breeze by), your house will smell glorious and you’ll be munching on God-sent tacos.
Here’s what we’re gonna do to make it happen:
- Soak the Peppers- We basically want to reanimate the peppers to get their full flavor. Rehydrated peppers will also blend more smoothly.
- Season and Sear the Meat- This step is crucial! Seasoning will help to flavor and tenderize the meat. Searing creates a seal that retains moisture during cooking.
- Make the Stew- the broth is the BEST part of this recipe; it’s flavorful and succulent. The stew is actually made using a chile paste (made from the chiles we discussed earlier), beef stock, and the slow-simmered juices that are released from the meat and onions. Yummmmm!
- Shred the Meat- Once fully cooked, and removed from the broth, use two forks to finely shred the meat, then add it back to the broth.
- Dip and Fill!- Okay, this is the fun part y’all! Dip your tortillas (one at a time) in the broth, then top them with beef, onions, cheese, and cilantro.
- Fold and Fry- You’re almost at the finish line, I promise. Pan fry your tacos in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until they crisp up, about 2-3 minutes per side. Serve with a side of broth for dipping!
TIP: Warm up the tortillas! I like to work with softer, more pliable tortillas, so I choose to warm them up a bit before dipping. To do so, wrap them in a paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds (or use a tortilla warmer).
WHAT TO SERVE WITH BIRRIA TACOS
I’m gonna be honest, these Birria Tacos are good enough to eat about a dozen of all on their own. But, if you’re feeding a crowd or looking to build a spread, you can serve them with these:
For the Chili Paste
- 4 dried ancho chiles
- 2 dried guajillo chiles
- 4 chipotle peppers in adobo
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tsp thyme
- 2 tsp whole oregano
- 1 tsp ground ginger or fresh ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp paprika
For the Meat and Dipping Sauce (Consomme)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 1/2 lbs beef or lamb chopped in chucks, see notes below
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1 bouillon cube
- 32 oz beef stock or broth
- 2 cups water
For QuesoTaco Assembly
- 18 corn tortillas
- 1 1/2 cup chopped white onion
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- Shredded oaxaca or monterey jack cheese
For the Chili Paste
- Start by removing stems and seeds from all of the dried ancho and guajillo chiles.
- Add about 2 cups of water to a medium sized pot and bring to a boil. Add chiles to a large pot then cover and allow it to sit for 15-20 minutes.
- When peppers are done, add them to a heavy duty blender or food processor along with all of the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth and thick.
For the Meat
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Add oil to a large pot over medium high heat. Season the meat with salt and light pepper and then add to hot pot to sear. Remove the meat working in batches and set to the side on paper towels to drain. Remove pot from heat.
- Next saute the onion until it gets some color (about 3-4 minutes).
- Add the beef back to the pot along with the onion and pour paste over the top. Next add beef stock, bouillon cube and water to the pot and stir everything together.
- Bring temperature down to medium heat and bring to a simmer then add to the oven and braise for about 2 ½ hours or until beef is incredibly tender and falling apart.
- Remove meat from the broth and place on a cutting board.
- Taking two forks, shred beef in the broth. Taste the broth and season to taste with salt then add beef back into broth.
For Taco Assembly
- Remove 1 ½ cups of broth from the beef and add to a small bowl. Add some cilantro and onion to the top of the dipping sauce and set aside.
- Add a pan over medium heat with a bit of olive oil or butter.
- Carefully dip a tortilla into the top part of the broth and place in the hot pan. Fry for a few seconds then flip over.
- Top with meat, onion, cilantro and cheese allowing the cheese to melt and get nice and gooey then fold in half and remove from the pan. Repeat with all tortillas. Serve with dipping sauce and enjoy the heck out of this!