After weeks of making vegetarian dishes I started to crave this rich, succulent Birria de Res for some reason 🙂
And while Birria is traditionally made with goat in Mexico, I get way more mileage from a batch of Beef Birria so I used beef brisket for this batch.
This 3 lb. recipe makes a big batch and will give you all sorts of options with your leftovers! Feel free to use it as a starting point for on-the-fly tacos, burritos, tostadas, etc.
How To Make Beef Birria (Birria de Res)
Regardless of the protein you choose, the underlying sauce stays the same and is built using dried chiles, roasted tomatoes, and some depth from the aromatics.
It's a wonderfully rich sauce and I think it's a great example of Mexican cuisine at its finest. Ready to dig in?!
Beef brisket or chuck roast are both great options for this recipe, and since they respond well to low-and-slow cooking we'll go ahead and whip out the slow cooker. But don't sweat it if you don't have a slow cooker as simmering on the stove will give you an equally good result.
As usual, I start by putting the tomatoes in the oven (400F) for a quick roast. We'll be waiting on the chiles to reconstitute so I usually just leave the tomatoes in until I need them.
And since the oven is on we'll use that to wake up the dried chiles.
For this batch I used:
4 Ancho dried chiles What are Anchos?
3 New Mexican dried chiles
2 chipotles in adobo (from a can, so added later on)
I love this combo of Ancho and New Mexican chiles and I use it quite often, but there is leeway on the dried chiles so feel free to improvise.
And since both of these chiles are mild in heat I went ahead and added 2 chipotles. Using 2 chipotles gives the sauce some real zip, but you can always use less or omit them for a milder batch. More info on working with chipotles.
To wake up the dried chiles you can always use a dry skillet over medium heat, but lately I just put them in the oven for 1-2 minutes or until they are warm and fragrant.
Rehydrating the chiles makes them easier to grind up so we'll cover them with hot tap water for 20-30 minutes.
If the chiles float to the surface you can always use a plate or small bowl to keep them submerged.
We'll also saute a roughly chopped onion and 6 peeled garlic cloves in some oil over medium heat.
It's all going in the blender eventually, so I just roughly chop the onion and leave the garlic cloves whole.
We're also going to give the meat a quick sear before adding it to the slow cooker. This is 3 lbs. of beef brisket cut into chunks:
After a good salting you can add it to an oiled, pre-heated skillet on medium-high heat and give it a few minutes per side.
This quick sear will add in some extra flavor, but you can consider it optional if you're in a rush. More info on the Maillard reaction.
And when possible, I usually deglaze the pan to pick up any priceless bits of fond. And since this recipe calls for 2 cups of stock I used some Better Vegetable Stock to deglaze the pan that seared the meat.
I didn't reduce the stock down, I just brought it up to a simmer and scraped up the solid bits of flavor that were leftover in the pan. It had a rich, savory, beefy flavor and I had to stop myself from slurping it down 🙂
And now everything goes in the blender along with a few other ingredients:
the roasted tomatoes
the cooked onion-garlic mixture
the deglazed stock
the drained, reconstituted chiles
2 chipotles in adobo
1-2 tablespoons adobo sauce from the can
2 teaspoons Mexican oregano What is Mexican Oregano?
1 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of ground clove
2 teaspoons salt
freshly cracked black pepper
Give it a whirl and take a taste.
Hello Birria sauce! It has a massively satisfying flavor that will only get better as it simmers away with the beef. Awesome 🙂
A couple notes on this sauce:
Half of the world will prefer to use the chiles' soaking liquid to liquefy the sauce, as opposed to using stock. The other half, including me, thinks the soaking liquid tastes bitter. To test this, just take a taste of the chiles' soaking liquid and you'll know if it's an option for your kitchen. More info on tasting the dried chiles' soaking liquid.
Two teaspoons of salt is a lot for just the sauce so it will taste a little salty. But once the beef gets shredded you're going to need it so I usually add it in now. Alternatively, you can add 1 teaspoon of salt now and more to taste once the beef is cooked.
And it only takes a small amount of cinnamon and clove to give the sauce some depth, so don't go overboard with those or they'll dominate too much.
Okay, time to plop the seared beef pieces in the slow cooker and cover them with the Birria sauce.
Cook on low for 4-6 hours. That gives the beef plenty of time to tenderize.
As mentioned, you are welcome to simmer this on the stove (covered) for a few hours and you can get an equally good result.
Once cooked you can optionally skim off any fat that has risen to the surface.
I usually shred the cooked beef with two forks and set aside any fatty chunks that have done their job for flavor but don't necessarily want to be eaten (see left side in above photo).
Note: the flavor of the sauce won't penetrate into the beef chunks as much as you might think despite co-existing for 5 hours. Rather, the flavor of the beef imparts itself into the sauce, so adding the sauce back into the shredded beef is the key to the recipe!
I usually add the shredded beef to a bowl and douse it with enough sauce to completely coat it.
You'll get a wonderfully savory batch of shredded beef that you can use in all sorts of dishes.
You'll have enough sauce to turn this into a delicious Birria Soup (recipe coming soon) but I chose the simplest route possible because I was getting hangry, i.e. tacos!
The meat is so flavorful that you can just plop it on some cheesy, crispy corn tortillas and dinner is served 🙂
I usually crisp up the tortillas for a couple minutes in a dry skillet and if the meat has cooled I will add it on top for a quick reheat. Once the underside of the tortillas has light brown spots forming they are ready to roll.
That means there was time to whip up a quick Salsa de Aguacate as the tortillas were crisping up in the skillet:
This is a creamy Avocado sauce that will taste mild and maybe even a little bland out of the blender, but something awesome happens when you pair it with bold, spicy meats.
You can see that recipe here but the ingredient list look like this:
1/4 cup water
juice of 1 lime
4-5 sprigs cilantro
1/2 garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon salt
I also added some raw onion, freshly chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lime to these tacos.
And they were carnivorously delicious 🙂
Feel free to get creative with your Birria de Res. It has such a rich, satisfying flavor and you can build all sorts of quick meals from it:
Tacos (see Dark Birria for tips on crispy, cheesy Tacos)
And here are a few more ideas for toppings that will work well on your freshly made Birria:
Curtido - Pickled Cabbage Slaw
Pico de Gallo
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Birria de Res -- Beef Birria
- 3 lbs. beef brisket or chuck roast
- 4-5 Roma tomatoes
- 1 onion
- 6 garlic cloves
- 3-4 Ancho dried chiles
- 2-3 New Mexican dried chiles
- 2 chipotles in adobo (optional)
- 1-2 tablespoons adobo sauce (from the can, optional)
- 2 cups stock
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch of ground clove
- 2 teaspoons salt (plus more to taste)
- freshly cracked black pepper
- olive oil
For the tacos (optional):
- corn tortillas
- Salsa de Aguacate
- finely chopped raw onion
- squeeze of lime
- Start by rinsing and de-stemming the tomatoes. Roast them in a 400F oven for 20-25 minutes or until you need them.
- Wipe off any dusty crevasses on the dried chiles. De-stem and de-seed the chiles, but don't worry about getting rid of every last seed. Roast them in the oven for 1-2 minutes or until warm and fragrant. Add the chile pieces to a bowl and cover them with the hottest tap water you've got. Let them reconstitute for 20 minutes or so.
- Roughly chop 1 onion and peel 6 garlic cloves. Add a glug of oil to a skillet on medium heat and saute the onions and whole garlic cloves. Once the onion has softened and lightly browned you can add this mixture to the blender.
- Add a thin layer of oil to a skillet and preheat to medium-high. Chop up the brisket into chunks and give it a good salting. Sear each side of the beef in the skillet for a few minutes or until it is browning. Add the seared meat pieces to the slow cooker. You can optionally deglaze the pan with the 2 cups of stock that's used to liquefy the sauce.
- Before draining the reconstituted chiles take a taste of the soaking liquid. If it tastes bitter to you then use stock for the sauce. If you like the flavor you are welcome to use the soaking liquid in place of the stock.
- Add the drained chiles, roasted tomatoes, and the onion-garlic mixture to a blender along with: 2 cups of stock (or what you used to deglaze the meat pan), 2 chipotles in adobo (optional), 1-2 tablespoons adobo sauce from the can (optional), 1 teaspoon cumin, 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano, 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, pinch of ground clove, 2 teaspoons salt, and some freshly cracked black pepper. Combine well. Note: if you're using stock that's high in sodium you can consider starting with a single teaspoon of salt and going from there.
- Take a taste of the sauce. An easy to way to add more heat is to add an additional half or whole chipotle. Keep in mind that the sauce has to compete with the big flavor of the beef so I tend to make it salty and fiery at this point.
- Cover the seared meat pieces with the sauce. Slow cook on low for 4-6 hours.
- Once cooked you can optionally skim off any fat that has risen to the surface. Shred the beef using two forks and discard any fatty chunks that you don't want to eat.
- Add the shredded beef (or as much as you are using for tonight's meal) to a separate bowl and add enough sauce to give it a thorough coating. Adding the sauce to the shredded beef is the key so don't skip this step!
- One serving option is to simply add the shredded beef back to the sauce and serve it soup style -- you may need to thin out the sauce with some stock if you choose this option.
- But I chose tacos for this batch. Add corn tortillas to a dry skillet over medium heat along with slices of cheese. Once the cheese is melted and the underside of the tortillas are forming light brown spots they are ready to go. You can optionally add the meat to the tortillas in the skillet for a quick reheat.
- I topped these tacos with Salsa de Aguacate, finely chopped raw onion, freshly chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.
- Store leftover Birria in the fridge where it will keep for a few days.
You can use similar ingredients to make an awesome batch of Chili con Carne.
And here are 9 other recipes you can make with Ancho chiles.
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I wanted a meat dish to have with fiesta corn and this was it! I brought it to an annual picnic and it was the most popular dish that the guests ate. I had several friends asking for the recipe. This is a keeper!
Hey thanks much for the feedback Mary. Cheers.
Marcello S. Pecchenino
Patrick My Friend,
I was wondering, can you roast and add other FRESH Chilies to this ? I have a bag of Dried pablano chilies, Here in the Philippines the standard Dried chilies are hard to come by or very expensive and sold in a small bag like 3 or 4 for over $20,00 USD? Where in Winco in Reno Nevada they are cheap and in a huge pile in the Bulk Bin ! I actually have all the seeds to the Birria chilies, and I am waiting to plant !
Hi Marcello, yeah there is tons of leeway on the dried chile combo, so feel free to experiment!
As an example, here are some combos I tested for Mole sauces:
The recipe is a real keeper. My wife, who is no fan of Mexican cuisine, ate 3 Brisket Birria tacos. The rest of the family ate entirely too much! if you don't have a crockpot, a good substitute is a dutch oven and an oven set at 275 degrees; this is actually a great (no burn) technique for stews and chilis of any kind. [Bring the stew to a boil on the stovetop and throw it, covered, into the oven]. My suggestion is to hold the salt for the sauce to 1 teaspoon and salt to taste at the end; admittedly at 1 teaspoon the sauce tastes a bit anemic, but the recommended 2 teaspoons were overkill (for me). Your mileage may vary.
I used the brisket point for this cooking session. I am going to smoke the leftover flat to 160-170 degrees and finish it off in the oven with the sauce. That batch is going into the freezer for future use.
Hey thanks much for your note Paul, I'm so glad you tried out this recipe as it's one of my favorites on the site!
And thanks for your feedback on the salt level, I'll make a note of this in the recipe box. Some store-bought stocks can be high in sodium and this could affect how much additional salt you'll need. Cheers.
Wow! Was this ever a hit with my foodie friends. So much flavour, not surprisingly from 6 hours in the slow cooker (always a secret weapon for creating dense flavours), but the recipe itself is spot-on. I was able to find most everything, except the exact list of dried peppers (but as the author says, it's not crucial to have exactly those peppers, so the ones I had definitely worked).
I served with 50/50 corn/wheat tacos, the aforementioned Salsa de Aguacate recipe, crumbled cojito cheese, and my own homemade lime/citranto/coleslaw. Sensational! I'll be getting back to this recipe multiple times. Thanks!