This outstanding beef birria recipe is a wonderfully satisfying and hearty recipe that you will want to make again and again. It is no wonder that birria with its deep rich flavors is a long-standing Mexican favorite and is now a global favorite.
This centerpiece birria recipe consists of a lean, full-flavored beef cut simmered with a sensational melding of fruity, tangy, and smoky chile pepper flavors creating a spectacular tasting meat stew. Make beef birria once and eat twice using the leftover birria for these amazing birria tacos.
Originating in the Mexican state of Jalisco, birria spread in popularity across Mexico and then burst onto the scene in the United States. The original birria recipe, made for special occasions, typically uses goat meat or lamb. Like any favorite recipe, even the best birria recipe gets modified but the flavorful broth and tender meat remains a constant.
This birria recipe uses beef (birria de res) in the Tijuana-style and because beef is more readily available in grocery stores. Check out this article about the rise of birria popularity if you'd like more about the history and how the authentic birria recipe has traveled.
⭐ Why This Birria Recipe Is a Keeper
Deep rich flavor that will arouse your senses. The combination of chile peppers, herbs, and spices, slowly simmered in a large pot with a lean full-flavored cut of beef produces a deep reddish-brown rich broth with deliciously tender meat.
Unlimited variations. Serve beef birria as a beef stew with warm corn tortillas on the side. Use leftover birria for these superb birria tacos. Adapt your birria tacos recipe to quesabirria tacos that ooze with melty cheese, or how about some birria quesadillas or birria tortas.
Comfort food bliss. Beef birria is a type of Mexican beef stew (guisado). A hearty beef stew is an all-time comfort food. To me, birria tacos or any kind of taco is a comfort food favorite too.
🥘 Ingredients for Birria
The items below are the recommended and tested ingredients for the best birria recipe. You can find alternatives in the Variations section below in case you want to change up some ingredients or can't find everything you need.
- Dried guajillo chiles. They are one of the most popular dried chiles in Mexican cooking and are the foundation of many sauces and marinade. Guajillo peppers are sweet, fruity, tangy, and smoky with a mild heat level. They register 2500 to 5000 Scoville heat units which is between a mild poblano and a spicier jalapeño.
- Ancho chiles. They are the dried version of red poblano chiles. Ancho chiles have a light smoky fruity flavor that is ideal for adobe sauce. They are also very mild, registering 1000 to 1500 Scoville heat units.
- Fire roasted tomatoes. For simplicity in this birria recipe, I like to use a can of fire roasted tomatoes. Fire roasting deepens the flavor of the tomatoes and adds even more depth to this dish.
- White Onion. Use the onion both in the simmering birria sauce and as a garnish on top of the finished dish.
- Apple cider vinegar. A perfectly acidic ingredient that adds a sweet-sour flavor.
- Garlic cloves.
- Herbs and spices. Black pepper, kosher salt, dried Mexican oregano, dried thyme leaves, cumin seeds and a dried bay leaf. Fresh cilantro is used for a garnish.
- Beef tri tip roast. This cut is a favorite because it is semi-lean and has a terrific beefy flavor. This cut of beef lends itself to braising and oven roasting, among other methods.
- Lime wedges. For garnish.
- Corn tortillas. Served warm they are the ideal accompaniment to beef birria. The tortillas can be dipping in the juices or used to make the best birria tacos.
How To Warm Tortillas and Keep Them Soft
Oven Method: Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Wrap up to 8 tortillas in aluminum foil and put them in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until heated through. If you want to warm more than 8 tortillas, make separate packs for them. Keep them wrapped until ready to use. The steam inside the foil packet keeps them soft.
Microwave: Stack up to 4 tortillas on a microwave-safe plate and cover with a slightly damp paper towel. Microwave for 30 seconds. Keep covered and set aside until ready to serve. If your tortillas aren't quite warm, microwave in bursts of 5 seconds. Overheating them can cause them to dry out.
- Soak the chiles. The guajillo and ancho chiles need to be simmered in a small pot of water. This step rehydrates the chiles so you can blend them for the adobo sauce. The hot water also makes removing the seeds and stems much easier. Don't discard the cooking liquid!
- Blend. Add the softened chiles, 1 cup of their cooking liquid, the tomatoes with juice, ½ of the diced onion, the vinegar, garlic cloves, peppercorns, oregano, thyme, cumin and 1-½ teaspoons kosher salt to a blender and cover. Blend about 1 minute or until your sauce is nice and smooth.
- Marinate. Pour the adobo sauce in to a 1-gallon zip-top bag or another airtight container. Add the beef chunks and bay leaves and seal the bag, tossing gently to coat the beef with the sauce. Refrigerate for 4 hours and up to 1 day to allow the beef to absorb all the wonderful flavors or the birria sauce.
- Simmer. Transfer the beef and adobo sauce into a large Dutch oven or a heavy-duty large pot. Stir in 4 cups of water. Over medium-high heat, cook, stirring occasionally, until boiling. Reduce the heat to medium heat, cover, and cook 3 to 4 hours or until the meat pulls apart easily with a fork. Discard the bay leaf. Season to taste with kosher salt.
- Serve. Ladle the beef and broth into individual serving bowls. Top with the remaining onion and the cilantro. Serve with the lime wedges and warm corn tortillas.
More Helpful Steps
Wear kitchen gloves when handling chili peppers and avoid touching your face or eyes.
Before blending the ingredients make sure the liquid has cooled. Hot liquid can explode in a blender.
💭 Cook's Tips
- Tri tip is shaped like a triangle with a slightly bent tip. The intersection of those two parts is where the grain changes direction. You will want to change the direction of your cutting and shredding at this intersection for the most tender results.
- Save time chopping the onion. Chop only half of the white onion to use for garnish. The other half of the onion can be cut into wedges and put into the blender where the blender will do the chopping for you.
- Save a zip-loc bag. Instead of transferring the sauce and the beef chunks to a plastic bag for marinating, transfer them directly into the Dutch oven you will use for cooking the beef birria. Make sure the Dutch oven is sealed tightly and transfer it to the refrigerator.
- Storing leftovers. Beef birria can be refrigerated for 3 to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
🧂 Ingredient Substitutions
- Tomatoes. Replace the can of diced tomatoes with 1-½ cups diced tomatoes which equates to about 3 medium tomatoes.
- Mexican oregano. Use dried marjoram in place of Mexican oregano. Marjoram more closely compares with Mexican oregano because of its floral citrusy flavor. Do not substitute with dried Mediterranean oregano because their flavors are very different.
- Thyme. If you want to use fresh thyme, use about ½ teaspoon of fresh leaves since dried leaves are more concentrated in flavor than fresh.
- Water or broth. You can add beef broth or beef stock to this birria recipe. I strongly recommend that you replace, at most, only half of the water with broth and use low sodium or unsalted beef broth. This way you can control the saltiness of your beef birria and still have a flavorful broth.
- Cinnamon stick. You can add a cinnamon stick to the birria recipe at the same time you add the bay leaf if you prefer. After simmering, discard both the bay leaf and cinnamon stick.
This recipe for beef birria calls for beef tri tip. However, you can use other cuts of meat if they are easier to for you to find or if their price point is much better. Beef birria doesn't require an expensive cut of beef to be delicious.
Beef roast variations:
- Beef chuck roast. Chuck roast is a flavorful cut that lends itself well to slow cooking. A chuck roast can contain more fat than a tri tip. You can always skim some of the fat off if you want or use that fat to make birria tacos or quesabirria tacos.
- Bottom sirloin. Roasts from the sirloin section are a very good alternative for making beef birria.
- Combination cuts. Beef shanks are an inexpensive cut to add along with larger roasts. For example, you could use a smaller sirloin (about 2 pounds) and add in a pound or more of beef shanks. Beef shank adds enormous beefy flavor to beef birria. Short ribs are another good addition to add beefy flavor and fat.
Cooking methods. You can make Instant Pot beef birria or a slow cooker birria recipe since these small kitchen appliances are both well suited for cooking amazingly tender and flavorful beef.
Make tacos. Arrange the shredded beef birria on top of the warm tortillas. Top with the chopped onions and cilantro. You may also want to top the birria taco with a little Oaxaca cheese or your favorite shredded cheese
🍽 Kitchen Equipment
For this birria de res you will want a Dutch oven or large deep pot. I use this All Clad Dutch Oven that was a gift from my mom many years ago and it works beautifully. If you don't already have one, there are many good Dutch ovens in all price points.
A countertop blender or immersion blender for making the birria broth.
If you love this birria recipe, the next time you are ready for fantastic Mexican cuisine, try another of my favorites the best birria tacos recipe.
The Best Beef Birria Recipe - Mexican Birria de Res
- 1-¼ ounce dried guajillo chiles 5 large chiles
- ½ ounce ancho chiles 1 chile
- 1 14-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes with juice or 1 ½ cups diced tomatoes
- 1 white onion, finely chopped divided
- ¾ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic peeled
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano see Chef's Tips
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
- Kosher salt
- 4 cups water approximately
- 2-½ pounds beef loin tri-tip roast cut into large chunks
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ bunch fresh cilantro coarsely chopped
- 1 lime cut into wedges
- Corn tortillas, warmed
- In a medium saucepan over high heat, add the guajillo and ancho chiles. Add enough water to cover the chiles and heat until boiling. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes or until the chiles are soft. Remove from the heat and let cool. Using gloves, remove the stems and seeds.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chiles to a blender. Add 1 cup of the chiles’ cooking liquid, tomatoes with juice, ½ of the diced onion, the vinegar, garlic, peppercorns, oregano, thyme, cumin and 1-½ teaspoons kosher salt. Cover and blend, 1 minute or until smooth.
- Pour the adobo sauce in to a 1-gallon zip-top bag. Add the beef and bay leaf and seal the bag, tossing gently to coat the beef with sauce. Refrigerate for 4 hours and up to 1 day.
- Transfer the beef and adobo sauce into the Dutch oven. Stir in 4 cups of water. Over high heat, cook, stirring occasionally, until boiling. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook 3 to 4 hours or until the meat shreds easily with a fork. Discard bay leaf. Season to taste with salt.
- Ladle the beef and broth into individual serving bowls. Top with the remaining onion and the cilantro. Serve with the lime wedges and warm tortillas.