Mexican Birria

Mexican Birria

The Spruce

Prep: 45 mins
Cook: 4 hrs
Marinate: 12 hrs
Total: 16 hrs 45 mins
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
575 Calories
28g Fat
23g Carbs
58g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 575
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 28g 36%
Saturated Fat 10g 48%
Cholesterol 172mg 57%
Sodium 300mg 13%
Total Carbohydrate 23g 8%
Dietary Fiber 5g 17%
Protein 58g
Calcium 166mg 13%
*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, and beef, veal, or pork can be used, 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 sits inside.


  • For the Chile Paste:
  • 4 dried guajillo chiles
  • 3 dried ancho chiles
  • 3 dried cascabel chiles
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • For the Meat Rub:
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon 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 onion (peeled and coarsely chopped)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cloves garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • For Serving:
  • Warm corn tortillas
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro (chopped)
  • 1 cup onion (chopped)

Steps to Make It

Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this Mexican birria dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for birria
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Make the Chile Paste

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

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

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

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

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.
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  3. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Cook the Meat

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

  2. 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.
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  3. Place the meat on a rack that sits just above the liquid mixture.

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

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.

    Cooked birria meat
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  2. Distribute the meat among 6 to 8 bowls.

    Cooked birria beef in bowls
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  3. Serve as a soupy stew or as a taco filling with warm corn tortillas; garnish with the chopped cilantro and onion.

    Birria on a corn tortilla
    The Spruce

Recipe Variations

  • To Serve as 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.
  • To Serve 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 them with the reduced liquid. Fill warm corn tortillas with the birria and top with chopped onions and cilantro.