Mexican Short Rib Tacos

Tender, falling off the bone braised beef short ribs, cooked low and slow in the oven with dried Mexican chilies, beef stock and stout – are about as satisfying as it gets. Made into tacos, to me, they are the epitome of comfort food.  I love making these on lazy days off, while puttering around the house in pajamas. They require less work than you would imagine, allowing time to lounge and read a magazine, fold laundry or clean out your closet.  At home when it’s just the two of us, I prefer them served up very simply- along with caramelized onions, melt-y queso fresco cheese and a little cilantro. The tender meat, is sufficiently flavorful. If entertaining,  pickled radishes or fresh pico de gallo  would make great side dishes.
Its important to use beef short ribs that look meaty, thick and red, about 2-3 inches tall. Remember all the fat will melt away, so its important to get a good cut. Call your  butcher ahead, and ask them to cut for you, the thicker, meatier end of the ribs. If you can’t find beef short ribs that look like this, use a beef roast instead.

Braising is a great technique to master, because it allows you to tenderize tougher cuts of meat,   completely transforming them into tender mouthwatering deliciousness. Another benefit of learning how to braise, is that these tougher muscly cuts of meat are generally quite affordable. Braises can be made ahead and actually taste even better, the next day. After making these in various ways, hundreds of times in our catering business, here is what I’ve learned:

5 tips to successful braising

1. Generous Salt.
2. Deep Sear.
3. Flavorful braising liquid.
4. Tight seal.
5. Low temperature.

Generously rub salt  and pepper into all sides of the ribs, using a little more salt than you think. 
Deeply sear each side of the rib  in a large oven proof dutch oven, or heavy bottom skillet. Don’t crowd, be patient, take your time, and do in batches if you need to. I do this on medium high to high heat. Searing all the outer edges will keep the juices in, and add a lot of good umami flavor to the beef. Once Beef is deeply seared, set beef aside. 
In the same pot, sauté onion, garlic and herbs and spices. Add crumbled dried chilies.

I used milder New Mexico Chilies, but this could easily be made with something spicier. 
Add the beer, beef stock and beef, and place the ribs, bone up, in the brazing liquid. Liquid should come up to at least ¾ the height of the beef.
Bring to a boil over the stove,  cover tightly and place in a 300F oven. 

Three hours later, it will look like this. Caramelized, and falling off the bone tender.
To prevent drying out, keep the beef in the braising liquid, covered until close to serving time.

When catering for very large groups, the beef is seared in giant heavy bottom skillets, then placed in large hotel pans along with the braising liquid. I use 3 layers of foil, crimping the edges well, to create the very important seal.

I tell you this because, even if you don’t own a dutch oven- you can still make this dish, by improvising a little. After searing in a skillet, use a deep baking dish, or even a large deep sauté pan or a pot. Sometimes, foil and a lid are called for… as long as you can create a seal.

This could also be made in a slow cooker, although, honestly I’m not sure about the cooking time, since I don’t have a slow cooker.  I would absolutely sear the beef, sauté the onions etc… before placing in the slow cooker.

While the beef is braising, caramelize the onions and prepare any sides you like.

Melted cheese on the taco shells, is a nice touch. Jut place right on the oven rack.

Or if melted cheese is not your thing,  “grill”the tortillas right over a gas flame.

Like I mentioned earlier, when its just the two of us, I like these simply served…. a little cheese, a little meat, caramelized onions, cilantro and a squirt of hot sauce.

And be sure to include some of the delicious chilies from the pot.

Thanks for reading! For more Feasting at Home … 

print recipe

Braised Short Rib Tacos- Serves 4
by S March-23-2014
6-8 meaty looking beef short ribs- 2-3 inches tall (3-4 lbs) 
(if you can’t find meaty short ribs like in the photos above, either order from a butcher or substitute a 3 lb beef roast)
kosher salt
1-2 T oil
4 C beef stock
1 16 oz dark beer
5 -6 dried New Mexico chilies-destemed, seeds removed, crumbled
8 garlic cloves- whole
1 large onion- rough chopped
1 T cumin seed
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp allspice
2 bay leaves
1 T mexican oregano
2 T brown sugar
one large onion sliced into ⅓ inch rings
1 T olive oil
Corn or flour Tortillas
handful Cilantro
hot sauce
½ Cup queso fresco cheese ( optional)

Pre-heat oven to 300 F
Generously salt and pepper all sides of the short ribs. (Use more salt than you think) Heat oil in a heavy bottom Dutch oven over medium high heat. When the oil is hot,add the ribs and brown all sides of the ribs – be patient, it takes time and this step is quite important. If splattering, cover partially with a lid. You want a nice deep color on all sides. This is crucial! Be careful not to overcrowd ( you may want to do in batches). Once they are nice and brown, remove and set aside. In the same pot, turn heat to down medium and add onions and whole garlic, stirring constantly until golden brown and just tender about 3-4 minutes. Add cumin, cinnamon stick, allspice, oregano and bay leaves, and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add chilies, beer, stock and place the short ribs in the liquid with the bone sticking strait up. Liquid will just come to the top of the ribs. Turn heat to high, bring to a boil. Cover with a tight fitting lid …or with two-three layers of foil, creating a tight seal. Place in the middle of the hot oven and bake for 3 hours, without opening the lid.

In the mean time, slice one large onion into ⅓ inch thick rings and sauté in a little oil on medium high for 5 minutes, turn heat to low and sauté until caramelized and golden, about 10 more minutes.
You could also make pico de gallo or pickled radishes ( optional) … see link above.

After 3 hours, the meat will be fork tender and flavorful. Leave the meat in the braising liquid until ready to serve. When ready, remove ribs from the liquid. Skim the fat, from the pot. Using a fork, or tongs, separate meat from bone and fatty parts and set meat aside. Taste the meat for salt, adding more if necessary. Fish out some of the flavorful chili peppers from the liquid and toss with the meat along with a few tablespoons of the juices left in the pot. The little bits of cumin seed are good too. Remember the meat will dry out quickly once removed from the cooking liquid, so if not serving right away, keep the ribs in the liquid.
Place cheese on tortillas, then place directly on the racks inside a 350 F oven, until melted. Remove from the oven, and place some of the meat, caramelized onion, cilantro and hot sauce inside the tortilla. Serve. 


Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4

thanks for sharing!
thanks for sharing!


  1. says

    Sylvia,i made your lovely tacos and added an avocado and cilantro sauce to put on them,I bought 31/2 pounds of the ribs which came out to 30.00 and it only came out to 1 cup(at the most) of meat..Did i do something wrong?
    I love your site..I am passing it along to every one I know!!! Thank you so much! Ally

    • says

      Hi Ally, thanks for your feedback. No, I don’t think you did any wrong. Unfortunately sometimes, short ribs, depending on the cut, can end up not having a lot of meat on them after all the fat has melted away. This has happened to me in the past, and it’s really disappointing and Im sorry it happened to you this time. When you pick our ribs, you can actually see how much meat/ bone and fat there is. You want ones that visibly look “meaty”. Packaged Ribs from the grocery store, will often lack in meatiness, so its almost not worth buying those. Now a days , I have my butcher cut for me the thick meaty ends of the ribs, about 2-3 inches tall. If you get a cut like this, you will end up with about ¾ C meat per rib. If you can’t get ribs like this, it’s best to use a roast for the recipe. I should clarify this in the recipe- and again I really appreciate your feedback…I think its really helpful!!

  2. Anonymous says

    Hi Sylvia, Do you have when to add the chiles and brown sugar? I am making this as we speak and added them at the same time as the spices. I added a little cross rib for more meat. We’ll see how that works. Your picture is beautiful at I’m looking forward for 3 hours to pass.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *