- 3 lbs stew meat (beef, lamb or goat) cut into 1- 2 inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon salt
- pepper to taste
- 2 cups chicken or beef broth
- 4 dried guajillo chile (see notes)
- 2 dried Pasilla chilies (optional)
- 1–2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted (and juices) or 1 1/2 cups fresh, diced tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons vinegar (white or apple cider)
- 1 tablespoon dried Oregano(or thyme)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- optional: 3-inch piece of orange zest ( 1/2 inch wide) use a veggie peeler
- optional: (not traditional) 1-2 canned chipotle peppers or 2-3 tablespoons adobo sauce (from the can) for a smoky flavor.
- 1 tablespoon honey, or sugar
Toasted Whole Spices
- 1 small cinnamon stick (or see notes)
- 6 whole cloves (or see notes)
- 2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 8–10 peppercorns
- Read all the way through before starting. 🙂
- Season meat with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Toast and rehydrate chilies: Break dry chilies apart, remove stems and most seeds, and toast them in a dry large skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant and slightly darkened (do not burn- or they get bitter!). Place toasted chiles in a small pot with the chicken broth, bring to a simmer, cover, and let stand 20 minutes covered, turning the heat off, until softened.
- In the same warm skillet, toast any whole spices you are using-cinnamon stick, cloves, cumin, coriander, peppercorns– until it smells amazing- 1-2 minutes, turn the heat off, set aside.
- Saute: Heat oil in Instant pot on SAUTE setting, (or large Dutch oven over medium heat) and add onion and garlic, stirring and sauteing until fragrant, tender and golden. Add tomatoes and their juices,, simmer 2-3 minutes until tomatoes are breaking down, then add vinegar, oregano, the toasted cinnamon stick, (or ground cinnamon) bay leaves and allspice. Stir and scrape up any browned bits (important, to prevent burn error) using a wood spoon. Turn heat off.
- Place the rehydrated chilies and broth to the blender along with the toasted spices plus roughly one cup of the tomato mixture from the Instant Pot (leave the rest of the tomatoes in the instant pot). Place a towel over the blender lid, and hold it firmly down (to prevent a blender explosion!), starting on low, and increasing to high, blending until smooth. Turn blender off. (At this point you could add the canned chipotle peppers if using. 1-3 peppers will suffice, or for milder, just use the adobo sauce out of the can.) Blend again till very smooth.
- Pour this flavorful sauce back into the instant pot or Dutch oven and stir. Add the salted meat and stir to coat well. Feel free to add a piece of orange zest if you like.
- INSTANT POT: Set instant pot to 45 minutes on high pressure. Let it naturally release. Shred the meat using two forks. You can skim the fat if you like, or use it for dipping tortillas, before frying them (traditional).
- Dutch Oven: If using a dutch oven, cover tightly, and either simmer on the stove over medium-low heat, 3 hours or bake in a 350F oven, 3 hours. Check at hour 2, for dryness, adding a little more broth if you think necessary.
- SLOW COOKER: You could also place this in a slow cooker for 6-8 hours.
- Season: After the meat is shredded and mixed back into the cooking liquid, stir in the honey. Taste, adjusting the salt, honey or vinegar to your liking. Sometimes I’ll add a little more ground cinnamon or cumin to taste.
- Serving Options: BOWL OF STEW: you could serve this as a hearty stew (feel free to thin this out with a little more broth if you prefer) in a bowl, topped with cilantro, radish, cucumber, chopped onion or pickled onion, cotija cheese or sour cream and lime. (Fresh chopped things add good texture.)
- TACOS: You can use Birria as a taco filling. Often you’ll see (Food truck versions) the tortillas dipped into the rich broth, before being fried in a skillet, covered in melty cheese (Oaxacan string cheese) then filled with the Birria and all the fixings’. Decadent, but amazing!
If cooking in a Dutch oven, preheat oven to 350F
Use dry mild chilies like Guajillo and Pasilla Chiles, to add flavor and depth – but not too much heat. (Feel free to use other dried chilies, paying attention to heat level.) Add Chipotle for more heat and smoky flavor. If you want a milder stew, I suggest using only Guajillos (like 6). You can always add more spice at the end (cayenne, chili flakes, chipotle powder) if not sure. Using dried chilies really makes this dish.
If you prefer a brothier stew, you can always add more chicken or beef broth at the end of cooking, seasoning with a little more salt.
MEAT: I used a mixture of lamb and beef. Tougher cuts of meat work great here like stew meat. Shoulder, shank, leg, etc. Goat meat is traditional.
FAT: This can be made ahead; cooled – the fat will solidify, and then can be removed more easily if going for a leaner version.
Keywords: Birria Tacos, Birria Recipe, How to Make Birria, Instant Pot Birria, Slow Cooker Birria, Beef Birria, Lamb Birria