These crispy Birria Tacos are full of bold Mexican flavors. A taco shell brimming with flavor from savory juices is stuffed with mouthwatering spicy beef stew and cheese then fried until crispy and delicious. Impress your entire family with these spectacular tacos and take Taco Tuesday to another level!
There are a few moving parts to these tacos, and perhaps a special trip to the grocery store, but I promise, try them and you will understand why they’re trending all over social media! The little bit of extra effort is worth every last bite!
I’ve had my fair share of shredded beef tacos, but these completely knocked my socks off when I made them for the first time. They’re kind of like a cross between a taco and quesadilla and couldn’t be any tastier!
You start by making a beef stew (Birria). Traditionally the stew is made low and slow so the meat becomes melt-in-your-mouth tender. I wanted to make a version that would be faster for weeknight dinners, so I created this recipe for your pressure cooker or Instant Pot. I also provide timings for the slow-cooked method as well. Each gets the job done, so whichever method you choose delivers the same results.
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What you’ll love about this recipe:
- It’s adaptable. You can make the stew in a pressure cooker, slow cooker, or on the stovetop.
- Make ahead. You can make the stew (Birria) ahead of time and store the meat in the refrigerator until you’re ready to make the tacos.
- Bold flavors. These tacos are not shy on flavor! The stew filling is bursting with spicy flavors and the tortillas are dipped in the juice and fried to make them crispy.
For the Marinade
- Guajillo peppers: These peppers are mild to moderate in spiciness.
- Chipotles in adobo: These peppers are dried smoked jalapenos in a sweet tangy tomato sauce. They usually come in cans.
- Whole cloves of garlic: Fresh garlic works best.
- Apple cider vinegar: I add a little bit of vinegar to the stew as the acidity will help to break down the collagen in the meat making it melt-in-your-mouth tender.
- Spices: Ground cinnamon, ground cumin, whole Mexican oregano, ground cloves, ground coriander: These spices really flavor the Birria. A note about Mexican oregano, it has a sour citrus taste which is quite different from regular oregano. You can find it at most Latin grocery stores or online. If you can’t get your hands on some, then you can add marjoram as a substitute.
- Canned crushed tomatoes: Add some sweetness and body to the stew.
For the Stew
- Beef: You can opt for boneless or bone-in meat. I used boneless stew meat in the photos.
- White Onion: You can also use yellow onion if that’s what you have on hand.
- Canola oil: A neutral oil works best.
- Chicken stock: Homemade or low sodium store-bought stock works well.
- Bay leaves: They leave a peppery flavor with a hint of bitterness which complements the rich beef stew.
For the Tacos
- Corn tortillas: I use small “street taco” corn tortillas.
- Cotija: This is a crumbly Mexican cheese with a salty flavor. Parmesan or feta would be good substitutes.
- Cilantro: Not to everyone’s taste, cilantro adds a lemony, peppery flavor to foods. Serve it on the side so people can choose to add it on their own!
- Lime: Fresh lime juice brightens up the rich flavor of the meat.
How to make Birria tacos
Making the stew is the first step. If you’re short on time, use the pressure cooker method. If you want to try a slower cooking method, either a slow cooker or on the stovetop will work.
Pressure Cooker/Instant Pot
- Soak the peppers. Boil water and soak the guajillo peppers for 20 minutes. Once soaked, cut the stems off and squeeze and massage the seeds (which is where most of the heat comes from) out of the peppers.
Rehydrating dried peppers brings out the flavor but also softens them up making them easier to blend into the marinade.
- Make the marinade. Use a food processor or blender to blend the peppers, garlic, vinegar, spices, and crushed tomatoes. Put the beef in a shallow 7×11 baking dish and pour the marinade over it. Make sure the beef is coated completely in the marinade. Wrap the dish with plastic wrap and put it into the fridge for at least 2 hours to let the flavors of the marinade infuse with the beef.
- Pressure cook. In a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, turn on the sauté function, and when it reads HOT add the canola oil and chopped onion. Sauté the onions for about 3 minutes or until they start to sweat. Turn off the sauté mode then add the beef and marinade, the chicken broth, and the bay leaves. Give the mixture a quick stir, then close the pressure cooker. Pressure cook on high/manual for 45 minutes. Allow the pressure cooker to release naturally (for better flavor). With a slotted spoon, transfer the beef onto a cutting board, and chop roughly or shred.
- If you’re making the Birria in a slow cooker, make the marinade in the same way as above. Then sear the beef before adding it to the slow cooker. Searing the beef first adds extra flavor to the stew.
- Pour over the marinade and cook the stew on high for 6 hours or low for 8 hours. The meat will fall apart when it’s done.
- When making the stew on the stovetop, make the marinade in the same way as above. Sear the beef in a large pot on the stovetop and then pour the marinade over top and give everything a good stir.
- Cover the pot and cook on low for 4 – 6 hours until the meat is very tender.
How to assemble the tacos
Now the fun part! Making the crispy tacos!
- Dip tortillas. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat and spray it with cooking spray. Dip a tortilla into the stew liquid then lay the tortilla down in the skillet.
- Fill tortillas. Add the shredded beef, crumbled Cotija, and chopped cilantro (if using it) and fold the tortilla in half.
- Flip tacos. Carefully flip the taco over and heat for 1-2 minutes until the taco starts to crisp up.
- Repeat. Continue building your tacos until you’ve made as many as you need.
- Serve. Fill a small bowl with the stew juices for dipping. Garnish with cilantro, limes, and cotija.
- For crispier tacos, cook the tacos in the skillet per the directions, then place the tacos in an air fryer in one layer. Air fry at 400° for 2 minutes.
- You can use just one type or a combination of a couple of different types of meat.
- If you make the birria ahead of time, you can use the fat that has solidified at the top to add to your skillet instead of the oil! Super flavorful.
- Don’t overfill the tacos or the filling will ooze out as you fry them.
- Keep prepared tacos in a warm oven on a baking sheet until you’re ready to serve.
How to store Birria
Birria can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The fat will have solidified at the top but will dissolve once it is heated up again. Reheat the stew and give everything a good stir.
Typically beef or goat meat is used. Boneless options are stew meat and chopped chuck roast. For bone-in short ribs, oxtail, and beef shank work well. Bone-in adds a depth of flavor, but you may also find you get less bank for your bunk in terms of the amount of meat you end up with. So, it’s totally up to you!
If you find that your tortillas are breaking when folding them, you can wrap them in a paper towel and warm them up for 10 – 15 seconds in the microwave before filling and frying. Doing this will soften them up a bit, making them slightly more flexible.
Birria can be eaten on its own as a stew. I mean, you’ll find it hard to resist not digging in before the tacos are even made!
Any leftover broth or consommé from the birria can be used in place of stock when making soup. You can also add it to homemade ramen or serve the meat in breakfast burritos or on top of chilaquiles.
Share this irresistible birria taco recipe with your friends, trust me, they will thank you. Let me know in the comments below what you loved about them!
For the Marinade:
- 7 cups water
- 3 dried Guajillo peppers
- 2 Chipotles in adobo
- 8 whole cloves of garlic peeled
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1×28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 2½ pounds Beef stew meat
- ¾ cup white or yellow onion diced
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 32 ounces chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 20 4-inch Corn tortillas
- Cilantro chopped
- Lime quartered
In the Instant Pot:
- In a large pot, boil 5 cups of water. Soak the guajillo peppers for 20 minutes. Cut the stems off of the peppers, then over a bowl or sink squeeze and massage the seeds out of the peppers.
- In a food processor or blender, add the guajillo peppers, chipotles, garlic, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, oregano, cumin, cloves, coriander, and crushed tomatoes. Blend on high for about 1 minute, or until the peppers are finely chopped.
- Place the beef into a shallow dish (7×11 baking dish works perfectly), and pour the marinade on top. Stir the beef to make sure it all gets coated, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (more time is better).
- In a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, add the canola oil and chopped onion. Sauté the onions for about 3 minutes or until they start to sweat. Add the beef and marinade, the chicken broth, and the bay leaves. Give the mixture a quick stir, then close the pressure cooker. Cook for 45 minutes, then let the pressure cooker release naturally (for better flavor). With a slotted spoon, transfer the beef onto a cutting board, and chop roughly or shred.
In the Slow Cooker:
- If you’re making the Birria in a slow cooker, make the marinade in the same way as above. Then sear the beef with onion before adding it to the slow cooker. Searing the beef first adds extra flavor to the stew.
- Pour over the marinade (plus the chicken stock and bay leaves) and cook the stew on high for 6 hours or low for 8 hours. The meat will fall apart when it’s done.
Over the Stovetop:
- When making the stew on the stovetop, make the marinade in the same way as above. Sear the beef in a large pot with the onion on the stovetop and then pour the marinade over top, add chicken stock and bay leaves, and give everything a good stir.
- Cover the pot and cook on low for 4-6 hours until the meat is very tender.
To Assemble the Tacos:
- Heat a medium, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray. Dip a corn tortilla into the stew in the pressure cooker, then put the tortilla in the skillet. Add the chopped beef, and crumbled Cotija and chopped cilantro (if desired) then fold the tortilla in half. Flip the taco over and heat for 1-2 minutes, or until the taco starts to crisp. Repeat until the desired number of tacos is cooked.
- Fill a small bowl or ramekin with the stew juices for dipping. Garnish with cilantro, limes, and Cotija. Serve warm.
- For crispier tacos, cook the tacos in the skillet per the directions, then place the tacos in an air fryer in one layer. Air fry at 400°F/200°C for 2 minutes.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Use the leftover beef for breakfast burritos or on top of chilaquiles.
I use small “Street Taco” corn tortillas.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.
© Little Sunny Kitchen