Beef Birria tacos
Rich and hearty, these Beef Birria Tacos are a traditional Mexican recipe that can easily be made at home. Tortillas are first filled with shredded cheese and beef that’s been marinated and cooked to tender, flavourful perfection, dipped in the birria consomme and panfried. A tasty flavourful taco inside and out!
I’m a huge fan of Mexican cuisine. I love the bright, colourful ingredients and variety of flavours and spices used. I’m not a huge fan of spice of super-duper spicey I do appreciate the depth and warmth provided by many Mexican recipes. And, of course, I love tacos. Who doesn’t?
While I love some Baja fish tacos or classic ground beef tacos, those are a bit more Tex-Mex than Mexican. When it comes to authentic Mexican tacos, you can’t find many dishes with more of a history than these Beef Birria Quesatacos.
While they do require a bit of prep (and a few hours of cooking time), these rich, hearty, and flavourful tacos are worth every second. Trust me on that – once you make these for the first time, they’ll quickly make an appearance on your meal plan again and again.
Whether you’re looking for a new Taco Tuesday idea or just want to switch things up, if you love tacos then this beef birria recipe is worth a shot!
What are Beef Birria Quesatacos? What is The Origin?
Beef birria tacos, also called quesatacos and quesabirria tacos, are a rich, hearty and absolutely delicious Mexican dish. They are tacos that are loaded with shredded beef, dipped in the cooking juices, and cooked until crispy. They are meant to be enjoyed by dunking each bite in even more dipping sauce.
Birria tacos have a long story in Mexican history and were actually traditionally made with goat meat, not beef. The story goes that the Spanish conquistadors gifted goats, which they considered to be worthless meat, to the Mexican people, who marinated and cooked the meat to make it more appetizing.
This meat was referred to as “birria”, which translates to “worthless” as that’s what the Spanish considered the meat to be. It was served in tortillas, as it is today, on bread, or even just enjoyed by the spoonful.
Fast forward to the 1950s and a taquero named Guadalupe Zarate began serving goat birria next to his other tacos in Tiajuana, Mexico. He soon introduced beef birria as beef was easier to obtain than goat and beef birria quesatacos quickly became a popular dish across Mexico, with each state making some adaptions to the recipe.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Chuck roast – Sirloin roast, blade roast, tri-tip roasts all will work. A little fat goes a long way for flavour.
- Guajillo peppers – Traditional chiles used in birria tacos. These have a mild flavour and give colour to the meat. They can be found in most grocery stores these days I find. They are usually near the dried mushrooms and other peppers.
- Seasonings – Salt, pepper, cumin, smoked paprika, dried oregano, and cinnamon add warmth to the birria meat.
- Olive oil – Other neutral oils will work as well.
- Tomato paste – Gives a light tomato base and richness to the stew.
- Chicken broth – Adds more flavour than using water, though you can add extra water if needed. Beef broth can be used as well.
- Bay leaves & cloves – Added in a spice pouch to infuse the meat with even more flavour.
- Chipotle peppers in adobo – Adds slight heat to the dish and also deepens the flavour of the stew.
- White vinegar – A little bit of acidity balances out the many rich flavours and adds a pop.
- Chopped onion & garlic – Aromatics that appear in nearly every taco recipe.
- Flour tortillas – For serving. You can use corn tortillas as well if that’s your preference.
- Optional toppings – Fresh cilantro and red onion and grated or crumbled cojita or Mexican cheese of choice.
What’s The Best Cheese To Use?
Grated Chihuahua or Oaxaca cheese is traditionally added to quesatacos. If you can’t find either of them, shredded mozzarella, Monterrey Jack, or a Mexican cheese blend will also work.
Can I Make These With Other Types of Meat?
Birria quesa tacos are traditionally made with goat, though beef birria has become a very popular variation. You can also make these tacos with veal, lamb, pork, or chicken depending on your preferences. Pretty much any protein except for fish would work.
How to Make Beef Birria Quesatacos
To begin making your quesabirria tacos, toast the peppers by adding them to a pan, without any oil, for a few minutes.
At the same time, bring a large pot of water to boil. Remove the pot from the heat and add the roasted peppers. Soak for 15 minutes. Remove the tops of the peppers and hang them upside down. The seeds should slip right out. Set the peppers aside.
Prepare the beef by cutting the roast into 2 or 3 steaks. Pat each one dry and season with salt and pepper. Add one steak at a time to a large dutch oven over medium heat. Sear the meat on both sides to brown and lock in the juices. Once seared, set aside.
Lower the heat and quickly add in the olive oil, cumin, cinnamon, and paprika. Stir for just 30 seconds then add in the tomato paste. Cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
Then add the water to the pot to create the birria taco dipping sauce. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pot. Stir well.
Create a spice pouch with cloves and bay leaves. Toss it into the pot.
Add the chili peppers, half of the onion, garlic, chili in adobo sauce, and vinegar to a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Add to the pot and stir to combine.
Add the seared meat back to the pot. Top with the chicken stock and oregano. Stir to combine, then bring the pot to a simmer.
Once everything is added to the pot, the beef should be just covered with liquid. If it’s not, add a little more water.
Cover the pot and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. The meat should be fork-tender and shred easily with forks.
Remove the pot from the heat. Transfer the beef to a serving dish and shred using two forks. Discard any fatty pieces.
Add ¼ cup of the sauce to the beef and mix to moisten.
Fill a taco shell with the birria taco meat, then dip the bottom of the shell in the birria taco dipping sauce – aka all of the liquid still in the pot.
Preheat a non-stick pan to medium-high heat. Place the dipped taco in a non-stick pan. Cook on both sides to crisp the outer shell.
Top the taco with shredded cheese, some chopped red onion, and cilantro. Serve immediately with a dipping bowl of leftover birria sauce to dip each bite in before enjoying.
Can I Make Quesatacos In The Slow Cooker?
Yes, beef birria can also be made in the slow cooker. You’ll still want to sear the beef on the stovetop but after that, simply combine all the ingredients in the slow cooker, stir well, add the beef, and cook for 6 to 8 hours on low. Remove the beef from the pan to shred, add a bit of the juice to keep it moist, and prepare the tacos as normal.
How to Serve Beef Birria Tacos
Birria is most commonly served in tortillas, as we do in this beef birria quesatacos recipe. However, if tacos aren’t your thing, the beef birria can be served as a stew. You can also use the meat in burritos and quesadillas or as a topping on salads, taco bowls, or anything else that needs a rich, hearty meat topping.
I love to serve my birria tacos with some fresh cilantro, diced red onion, and a sprinkle of crumbled cotija cheese. Here are a few other ideas:
- Avocado slices
- Diced tomato
- Fresh pico de gallo
- Other types of cheese
What To Serve With Quesabirria Tacos
While tacos can certainly stand on their own as a meal, they also pair well with other Mexican and Tex Mex sides. Here are a few of my favourite things to serve with these quesatacos:
- Mexican Corn Salad
- Bean Salad
- Garden salad
- Cilantro Lime Fire Roasted Veggies
- Refried beans
And, of course, you can’t forget the drinks! Nothing pairs better with some tacos than a Myer Lemon Margarita – except for maybe a traditional Paloma!
Storage & Freezing
Leftover birria can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. You’ll want to wait until serving to assemble the tacos and store all of the toppings, like the cheese, separately. Be sure to store the birria with all of the extra sauce, to keep it nice and moist.
If you want to freeze the birria stew, you can do so in a tightly sealed container or freezer bag for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge then reheat in a pan before serving. You can also toss it in a slow cooker and heat it on low for 2 to 3 hours until heated through.
If the reheated beef birria appears dry, add in more beef broth as needed.
Note that you should not freeze the taco shells, the toppings, or the assembled birria tacos. You’ll want to assemble, dip, and cook the tacos after reheating the birria stew, just before serving.
More Mexican-Inspired Recipes:
Beef Birra Tacos
- 2 1/2 lb chuck roast
- 3 dried guajillo peppers
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp smoke paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 5 1/2 oz tomatoe paste
- 1 cup water
- 1 quart chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 9 whole cloves
- 7 oz chipotle peppers in adobo sauce or 1 small can
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 1 large onion; chopped
- 6 cloves garlic
- 10-12 4" corn tortillas
- 2 cups shredded Chihuahua or mozzarella cheese
- chopped red pepper; optional
- fresh shredded cilantro; optional
- Add peppers dry to a pan over medium-high heat and toast for a 3-5 minutes.
- While they are toasting boil a large pot of water. Remove from heat and then soak the toasted peppers for about 15 minutes. Remove the tops of the peppers after soaking and then hang them upside down over the pot of water and the seeds should slip right out. Set aside.
- Cut the roast into 2 or3 steaks. Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and then season with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Add one steak at a time to a large dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Do not preheat the dutch oven. Heat with the meat inside from the start to avoid damaging your dutch oven.
- Sear the meat on both sides to brown and lock in the juices. Remove and set aside.
- Lower heat to medium and quickly add in the olive oil, cumin, cinnamon and paprika stirring for about 30seconds. Add the tomato paste and let cook stirring occasionally for another minute.
- Add one cup of water to the pot and use a wooden spoon to deglaze and stir together with the water.
- Add the meat back to the pot and pour in the chicken stock and add the oregano. Toss in the spice pouch of cloves and bay leaves. Stir to combine bringing the pot to a simmer.
- To a blender or food processor add the chili peppers, ½ of the onion, garlic, chili in adobo sauce and vinegar. Blend on high until smooth.
- Add the chili mixture to the pot and stir to combine.
- Cover and let simmer for 2-3hours or until meat is fork-tender and can be shredded. Ensure meat is just covered with liquid and if need be add a little water.
- Remove from heat. Shred the beef using two forks in a separate serving dish and discard any fatty pieces. Add a ¼ cup of sauce and mix to moisten.
- Fill a taco shell with the Birria Taco meat and a small handful of cheese. Dip the bottom of the shell ⅓ of the way up the side/bottom of the taco shell. Place the dipped taco on its side in a non-stick pan heated over medium-high heat and cook on both sides flipping carefully to crisp up the outer shell.
- Top with some chopped red onion and cilantro and dip into a bowl of the birria consumme.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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For the step-by-step version of this recipe, check out the How To Make Beef Birria Tacos Story.