Mexican Birria

Mexican Birria

The Spruce

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 4 hrs 5 mins
Soak & Marinate Time: 12 hrs 15 mins
Total: 16 hrs 50 mins
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
441 Calories
8g Fat
25g Carbs
65g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 441
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 11%
Saturated Fat 2g 12%
Cholesterol 170mg 57%
Sodium 481mg 21%
Total Carbohydrate 25g 9%
Dietary Fiber 4g 16%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 65g
Vitamin C 3mg 17%
Calcium 105mg 8%
Iron 10mg 55%
Potassium 1173mg 25%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Associated with the state of Jalisco, and eaten in many parts of the country, birria is a traditional Mexican dish most often made with goat meat or mutton in the barbacoa method, which means the meat is steamed. It is served as a stew or can be used as a taco filling and is often part of the meal at celebrations such as weddings. Widely touted as a hangover cure, this dish frequently makes its way onto the brunch menus the day after a celebration.

In Mexico, birria is sold from street stands or little mom-and-pop cafés. Many people will combine more than one meat in the same dish, like beef, veal, or pork, so feel free to use the meat(s) that you like the most (or the ones that are on sale at the time) when preparing your own birria. You should plan ahead when you make this recipe as the meat has to marinate overnight. You will also need a Dutch oven or casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid and a rack that can sit inside.


Click Play to See This Traditional Mexican Birria Come Together

"The birria was flavorful, and it was quite easy to prepare. Once the chile peppers are toasted and seeds removed, it's just a matter of blending or processing the paste mixture and letting the meat marinate." —Diana Rattray

Mexican Birria Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


For the Chile Paste:

For the Meat Rub:

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon freshly black ground pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, or 2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme

For the Meat:

  • 3 to 4 pounds goat meat, or mutton, beef, veal, and/or pork, with or without bones

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped

For Serving:

  • Warm corn tortillas

  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

  • 1 cup chopped onion

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for birria
    The Spruce

Make the Chile Paste

  1. Toast all of the chiles on a hot griddle or in a skillet over medium heat until browned, but not burned.

    Chiles in pan.
    The Spruce
  2. Remove the seeds and veins and discard; place the chiles in a bowl, cover them with very hot water, and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.

    Seeds removed from chiles.
    The Spruce
  3. When the chiles have rehydrated, drain them.

    Soaked chiles.
    The Spruce
  4. Place the chilies and vinegar in a blender and process to make a paste.

    birria family recipe

    The Spruce

Make the Rub and Marinate the Meat

  1. In a small bowl, mix together all of the rub ingredients. Rub the meat well with this mixture.

    Mixed birria spices
    The Spruce
  2. Coat the meat with half of the chile paste.

    Meat and birria rub.
    The Spruce
  3. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the meat marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

    Marinate Birria Meat

    The Spruce

Cook the Meat

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Pour the 1 cup of water into a Dutch oven or deep casserole dish. Add the coarsely chopped onion, bay leaves, chopped garlic, and the remaining chile paste.

    Birria broth in dutch oven.
    The Spruce
  2. Place the meat on a rack or steamer basket that sits just above the liquid mixture.

    Beef for birria
    The Spruce
  3. Place the lid on the pot, making sure that it covers tightly, and bake for 4 hours.

    Cooked Birria Meat

    The Spruce

Finish and Serve the Birria

  1. Remove the meat from the Dutch oven to a cutting board. Cut or break into pieces a little larger than bite size. Distribute the meat among 6 to 8 bowls. Add a bit of the broth to each serving, more if serving as a stew, less if for tacos.

    Cooked birria beef in bowls
    The Spruce
  2. Serve as a soupy stew or as a taco filling with warm corn tortillas, garnished with the chopped cilantro and onion.

    Birria on a corn tortilla
    The Spruce

How to Serve

You can serve the meat and broth as is, or you can increase or decrease the broth to meet your needs.

  • As a Stew: If you would like the birria to be more like a stew or soup, you can turn the liquid into a broth. After cutting up the meat, let the liquid in the pan cool slightly and remove the bay leaves. Add enough hot water to the broth to make at least 2 cups and cook for about 15 minutes. Ladle the liquid over the meat and top with chopped cilantro and onion. Serve with a spoon and warm corn tortillas.
  • As Taco Filling: If you are planning on using the birria to fill tacos, you may want a thicker sauce. Remove the bay leaves from the liquid in the pot and discard. If the liquid is watery, reduce it by boiling it in a small pan to thicken. Break the meat into chunks and coat with the reduced liquid. Fill warm corn tortillas with the birria and top with chopped onions and cilantro.


  • If the chile paste mixture is too thick for your blender, food processor, or immersion blender, add small amounts of the chile soaking liquid until a paste is formed.
  • Always marinate meat in the refrigerator, and use a non-reactive container, such as plastic, glass, or an enamel-lined Dutch oven.

How to Store and Freeze

  • Refrigerate leftover birria in shallow containers within 2 hours and use within 4 days.
  • To freeze, transfer leftover cooled birria to zip-close freezer bags or containers. For best quality, use within 3 months.

What's a Good Cascabel Pepper Substitute?

Dried cascabel chiles are small, round peppers, and are mildly hot with around 1,000 to 3,000 Scoville Heat Units. The cascabel has a unique, nutty flavor that can't be duplicated with another variety, but a chile with a similar heat profile may be substituted. If you can't find cascabel chiles, use 2 to 3 additional guajillo or ancho chiles. For extra heat, substitute with 1 or 2 pequin or chipotle peppers.