Fall-apart tender Beef Birria with guajillo and ancho chiles is a satisfying, hearty, home-cooked meal. You’ll love this flavorful beef, served in tacos, burritos, or over rice. Juicy, tender, perfectly seasoned, and feeds a crowd!
Best Ever Homemade Beef Birria
Have you seen those pictures of beef birria tacos floating around the Internet? This latest taco trend is mouthwatering, to say the least – and it’s all about that birria. If you’ve never made beef birria, it’s a bold, traditional shredded beef stew flavored with stewed chiles.
Not only is it amazing in tacos, but it’s also fantastic over rice, tucked into warm tortillas, or served just about any other way you can imagine.
Originally, birria was made with goat, but birria de res (aka beef birria) is hugely popular these days, too. This recipe uses easily accessible chuck roast for a homemade beef birria that’ll have your mouth in party mode. Are you hungry yet?!
Is Beef Birria Just Barbacoa?
These two beloved dishes are pretty similar, so you may be wondering if beef birria is just another phrase for beef barbacoa. There are a few key differences, though!
For one thing, beef barbacoa is usually about smoking or grilling, rather than braising, while beef birria is a soupy, slow-cooked braise with plenty of flavorful juices. Sometimes those juices are served separately from the meat, and sometimes not.
Another difference is that beef barbacoa may or may not have dried, reconstituted chiles involved, while chiles are a huge part of beef birria, giving the dish its distinctive flavor.
The Ingredients You’ll Need
I absolutely love the spice blend in this recipe. The addition of cumin and ginger is so warming, and works so well with pungent bay leaves, thyme, and Mexican oregano! Paired with chiles and beef, this is one satisfying dish.
- Dried Chiles: You’ll need some dried guajillo chiles and dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed.
- Hot Water: For soaking the chiles.
- Onion: One large onion, cut into quarters. I used a white onion, but any kind is fine.
- Tomato: Quarter a large tomato, as well.
- Garlic: No need to mince or anything – just smash the cloves with the side of your knife, and remove the papery skins.
- Herbs and Spices: Dried thyme, Mexican oregano, cumin, ginger, salt, and pepper. If you don’t have Mexican oregano, marjoram is a good substitute.
- Olive Oil: For browning the beef.
- Chuck Roast: Cut the roast into four large pieces.
- Bay Leaves
- Beef Broth: I like low-sodium beef broth, but you could use regular beef broth, bone broth, chicken broth, or even water.
- Garnishes: Chopped white onion and fresh cilantro are bold, zesty garnishes!
What Cut of Beef Is Used for Birria?
For beef birria, you want a cut that’s fatty and good for low-and-slow cooking. Short ribs can be great, but I use a chuck roast. They are generally easy to find, nice and flavorful, and affordable, as well – can’t beat that!
How to Make It
You’ll need a blender to make this recipe, because it starts with a homemade blended chile sauce. From there, you just need to brown the meat on all sides, and let it cook low and slow until tender. Here’s the rundown:
- Make the Chile Sauce: First, you’ll need to soften the dried chiles by soaking them in hot water for about 20 minutes. Next, put half the onion in a blender, along with the tomatoes, garlic, thyme, oregano, cumin, ginger, chiles, and the soaking liquid from the chiles too. Process until you have a smooth sauce.
- Brown the Beef. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot or Dutch oven, set over medium heat. Sprinkle your chuck roast with salt and pepper, and brown it in the hot oil for about 3 minutes per side.
- Add the Remaining Ingredients and Bring to a Boil. Toss the bay leaves and the remaining onion into the pot with the beef, and pour the chile sauce all over the meat. Add the beef broth, as well. Let all of these ingredients come to a boil.
- Simmer Until Tender. Once the liquid is boiling, turn the heat down so that it’s gently simmering. Cover the pot, and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Check on the meat every so often and make sure nothing is scorching, adjusting the heat if necessary.
- Finish the Dish. Once the beef is fall-apart tender, transfer it to a large dish or cutting board. Let it rest while you remove the onion and bay leaves from the cooking liquid. Simmer the liquid for about 20 minutes more, until it’s reduced by half. At that point, shred the beef and add it back to the pot.
- Enjoy! Stir the beef and sauce together to coat, and then place in a serving dish. Garnish with onions and cilantro, and serve warm with tortillas or other sides.
Tips for Success
There are almost as many recipes for beef birria as there are cooks, so you can bet there are tons of ways to tweak this basic recipe. Here are just a few tips for making adjustments:
- Slow Cooker: If you like, you can make this recipe until the step where you simmer the beef, and then let it finish in the slow cooker. It should take 2 to 3 hours on LOW, or 5 to 6 hours on HIGH for the beef to become tender.
- Add Cinnamon: Some birria recipes include cinnamon, which is a wonderful, warm option! If you would like to add cinnamon to yours, start small – I recommend adding ¼ to ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon to the sauce.
- Heat It Up: Because this recipe uses only guajillo and ancho chiles, it doesn’t have a whole lot of heat. If you’d like to spike it with some spicier chilies, cayenne pepper, or crushed red pepper, go for it!
Beef birria is perfect piled into tacos, or layered into a quesadilla. But it can also be a hearty main course with a few simple side dishes. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Elote: Elote, aka Mexican Street Corn, is a gorgeously messy corn-on-the-cob dish loaded with a creamy topping that includes cilantro, lime, and chile flavors.
- Rice: This saucy dish is amazing served over your favorite rice. If you’re trying to keep things low-carb, I got you – just follow this easy tutorial on How to Make and Store Cauliflower Rice and you’ll have the perfect side dish.
- Salsa: No matter how you serve beef birria, make sure you include some fresh Restaurant-Style Salsa on your menu!
How to Store and Reheat the Leftovers
- To store the leftover beef birria, place it in a zip-top bag or airtight container, along with the juices. Keep refrigerated until you are ready to reheat and serve. Properly stored, it will keep for 3 to 4 days.
- To reheat, place the steak and juices in a covered skillet over low heat. Allow to heat until the meat is completely warmed through, but do not overcook or it may become dry.
Can I Freeze Beef Birria?
- Yes, you can definitely freeze this dish. Cool it down first, to avoid excess moisture (and the dreaded freezer burn). Then pack the meat and juices into freezer bags, mark with the date, and freeze for up to 3 months.
- Thaw in the fridge before reheating.
- 4 dried guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed, and discarded
- 2 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed, and discarded
- 4 cups hot water
- 1 large white onion, quartered and divided
- 1 large tomato, quartered
- 6 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried mexican oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 pound boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 4 pieces
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups low sodium beef broth
- chopped white onion, for garnish
- chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
- Combine the chilis and the hot water in a large pot or bowl, and let stand 20 minutes, or until chiles are softened.
- In a blender, combine two quarters of the onion, tomatoes, garlic, thyme, oregano, cumin, ginger, and the chiles and liquid. Process until smooth.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a Dutch oven set over medium heat.
- Season the beef with salt and pepper.
- Add beef to the heated oil and brown on all sides; about 3 to 4 minutes per side.
- Add in the bay leaves and remaining onions.
- Stir in the blended sauce, and add in the beef broth.
- Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat.
- Cover and simmer for 1-½ to 2 hours, or until meat is fall-apart tender.
- Remove meat and transfer to a cutting board.
- Remove the onions and bay leaves from the pot.
- Continue to simmer the liquid, uncovered, until reduced by half; about 20 to 30 minutes.
- Shred the meat with forks, and stir back into the pot.
- Transfer to a serving bowl or plate.
- Garnish with onions and cilantro.
- Serve in warm tortillas, over rice, or as a filling for tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and more.
- Beef: I only use chuck roast to make this recipe, but it’s important to note that different regions in Mexico all prepare birria in their own way. Some places use beef, others use goat, or even lamb.
- Chile Peppers: The Guajillo and Ancho peppers are mild, so if you want to add some heat, don’t skip the guajillo, but go ahead and add in some cayenne pepper, or even arbol chiles.
- Cinnamon: Birria recipes can include cinnamon, and if you would like to use cinnamon, start small, with about 1/4 teaspoon, and adjust later. Or, you can use a small cinnamon stick, too.
- Using Beef Birria: Use the shredded meat to make tacos, or as a consomme (soup), fill tamales, serve over noodles, serve over rice, etc…
- Make Ahead: Make this recipe up to 3 days ahead of time. Warm it up on the stove and then use the shredded meat in tacos, quesadillas, or as you wish.
Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.