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Beef Birria (Mexican Stew) – Stovetop, slow cooker, or Instant Pot

Beef birria is a slow-cooked, savory Mexican stew made with beef, a blend of chile peppers, onion, garlic, and a variety of spices. This dish is warm and inviting with a depth of flavor that goes unmatched. Prepare it in a slow cooker, on the stove top, or Instant Pot. Naturally gluten-free.

bowl of beef birria topped with lime wedge, cilantro, and diced white onion on a blue towel shot from above

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I am so excited to share this recipe with you. Like SO, SO excited!!!! It’s by far my favorite dish. The absolute best recipe I’ve ever developed! Hands down.

So I was browsing social media one day and happened to watch a short video about a food truck that was serving birria tacos. They looked so freaking amazing that I was bound and determined to replicate them.

Prior to that, I’d never heard of birria. How about you??

Anywho, birria is a Mexican stew originating from the state of Jalisco. Traditionally it was made with goat, however, this recipe calls for beef as it is more accessible. Alternately it can be made with chicken, veal, lamb, or pork. Aside from beef, I’ve only tried it with pork. And it was delicious but not as good as the beef version in my opinion.

The incredible depth of flavor and richness of this dish is the result of the plethora of spices and aromatics that were originally incorporated in an attempt to mask the gaminess of the goat meat.

Since it is slow-cooked at a low temperature the beef is super tender and infused with flavor. It will smell so good that you may be tempted to dig into it before it’s stewed long enough, but I urge you not to; the longer you cook it the better!! You have to allow time for the meat to tenderize and the flavors to meld.

The broth is hearty, uber flavorful, and contains just the right amount of fat. The majestic aroma lures you in and the pure comfort of each bite leaves you longing for more. The flavors of this dish are so complex and enticing I swear you’ll be left dreaming about it. For real, I’ve made it four times in the last six weeks!!!

two bowls of beef birria on distressed wood surface with denim towel and side of diced white onion, cilantro, and lime wedges


onion, dried chile peppers, and garlic cloves on a distressed wood surface.
  • Beef chuck roast: You may also make this dish with chicken, veal, goat, lamb, pork, or even another cut of beef such as short ribs, oxtail, or beef cheek another option is to use a combination of any of the aforementioned proteins. Aside from beef, I have only tried pork thus far. If you opt to sub pork, I recommend a pork butt roast. The recipe calls for three pounds, however, it does not need to be exact. I’ve used the same ratio of ingredients for a 3 1/3 pound roast.
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chile de árbols: Chile de árbol are a small Mexican chile pepper that falls between a Serrano pepper and a cayenne pepper on the Scoville scale. Your local grocery store may carry them if they have a decent Mexican section. If not they can be found at Mexican markets and are available for purchase online. Check out my product recommendations below for a link to my favorite chile de árbol on Amazon. Additionally, the chiles will need to be destemmed and deseeded. The stems can easily be pulled off. The simplest way to deseed them is to cut them open with kitchen shears and then scoop/scrape out the seeds.
  • Guajillo chile peppers: Guajillo chiles are the dried version of mirasol chili. They are one of the most commonly used Mexican dried chiles and like the chile de árbol can often be found in the grocery store as well as Mexican markets and online (I have included an Amazon link below). These chiles are rich in flavor; smokey and fruity and are mild to medium as far as heat goes. If you are unable to find these chiles, pasilla or ancho would be the best alternative.
  • Garlic: The recipe calls for six cloves, but feel free to use up to an entire head of garlic.
  • White onion
  • Water
  • Paprika: Traditionally birria does not contain paprika, so feel free to leave it out if you’d like to keep it more authentic. Personally, I love paprika and what it adds to this dish, especially the smoked variety.
  • Ground cumin
  • Dried oregano: Mexican oregano if you have it.
  • Ground clove: For some people, the taste of clove can be overpowering. If you are not a big fan of clove, feel free to leave it out or add just a pinch.
  • Bay leaves
  • Cinnamon stick: If you do not have a cinnamon stick, you can use 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
  • Optional toppings: Fresh squeezed lime juice, cilantro, and diced white onion. I highly recommend not skipping the toppings!!

How do you make beef birria? ( + tips)


Birria is actually very simple to make. It requires little prep but does need to cook for a significant amount of time. However, since it’s kept at a simmer, it requires little monitoring.

The first step is to sprinkle the meat liberally with salt and pepper. Make sure you cover both sides, then rub it in and set it aside.

Next you will need to remove the stems and seeds from the chiles and place them in a pot along with the onion and garlic. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Continue boiling for 15 minutes.

chiles, onion, and garlic in dutch oven with water, shot from above

Transfer one cup of the cooking liquid, the chiles, onion, and garlic to a blender. Add the paprika, cumin, oregano, ground clove, salt, and black pepper and pulse until smooth.

birria produce covered in spices in blender shot from above
chile paste in blender shot from above

Cut the meat into large chunks and place in a large pot or dutch oven. Pour in the chile mixture and add just enough water to submerge the meat. You don’t want to add too much water or it will dilute the consomé and you will lose flavor. Add the bay leaves and cinnamon stick.

beef birria in dutch oven with bay leaves floating atop broth shot from above

For stovetop: Bring it to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for four to six hours. The longer the better as the meat will be much more tender and flavorful.

Remove the meat and shred it using two forks.

shredded beef on cutting board with two forks

Return it to the pot/dutch oven and simmer for an additional one to two hours.

beef birria in dutch oven with wooden spoon

For slow cooker birria: Cook on low heat for 8-10 hours or high for 5-6 hours; shred meat and return to pot. At this point, you can go and serve it or allow it to cook an additional 1-2 hours if time allows. The extra cooking time really allows the meat to absorb more flavor and tenderizes it more.

For Instant Pot: Close the lid and pressure valve and pressure cook on high for 45 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally, then do a quick release. Shred the meat and return to the pot.

Prior to serving remove the bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Serve warm with your choice of toppings.

two bowls of beef birria on distressed wood surface with denim towel and side of diced white onions and lime wedges

FAQ


Is it spicy?

As is common with chile peppers there can be quite a bit of variation in the level of heat. This variation does affect the end result of this dish as far as spiciness goes. Regardless of the batch of chiles used, it is a bit spicy. If you would like to make this recipe but would prefer it to keep on the milder side my recommendation is to either cut down on the number of chile de árbol or to leave them out altogether and instead add 2-3 extra guajillo chiles.

Is this recipe authentic?

This is my take on birria and it is not authentic. I have no connection to the state of Jalisco where the recipe originated nor have I ever traveled there. As mentioned above, birria was originally made with goat or lamb meat. My recipe calls for beef instead as it is more accessible in America and also more palatable to most Americans. I have also included paprika in this dish which is not traditional.


How to store


Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to four days or freeze for up to three months.

close up of beef birria in bowl topped with diced white onion, cilantro, and lime wedge with lime wedges in background
close up of beef birria in bowl topped with diced white onion, cilantro, and lime wedge

What else can I do with birria?


  • Beef Birria Tacos w/ Consomé: These birria tacos are EVERYTHING!! They start with two corn tortillas dipped in consomé, then stuffed with cheese, and fried (Quesadilla!!). Next comes succulent, flavorful beef topped with onions, cilantro, and fresh lime juice. Served with a side of consomé for dipping.
  • Birria Ramen w/ Quesadilla Strips: Birria ramen is a wonderful way to use up leftover birria. It begins with a consomé based broth that is thick, rich, and a bit spicy, then noodles, tender beef, soft boiled eggs, crispy quesadilla strips, and of course, TOPPINGS! This fusion style ramen is guaranteed to knock your socks off!!

If you make this stove top, Instant Pot, or slow cooker birria I’d love your feedback. Please leave a comment and/or a rating below as I greatly value your opinion. Or snap a pic and tag me on Instagram @taoofspiceblog. Love, light, and happy cooking ya’ll ♥

bowl of beef birria topped with lime wedge, cilantro, and diced white onion on a blue towel shot from above

Beef Birria (Mexican Stew)

Yield: ~ 10 1/2 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 hours 15 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours 30 minutes

Slow-cooked savory Mexican stew made with beef and a blend of chile peppers, onion, garlic, and a variety of spices. This dish is warm and rich with a depth of flavor that goes unmatched. Naturally gluten-free.

Ingredients

  • 3 pound beef chuck roast (see notes)  
  • 2 teaspoons salt + more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper + more to taste
  • 10 dried chile de árbol peppers, destemmed and seeded
  • 6 dried guajillo chile peppers, destemmed and seeded
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Water
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and quartered 
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground clove (See notes) 
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Optional (but highly suggested) toppings: Fresh squeezed lime juice, diced onion, and cilantro. 

Instructions

    1. Liberally sprinkle beef chuck roast with salt and pepper, rub into roast, and set aside.
    2. Place the chile de árbols, guajillo chiles, garlic, and onions in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes.
    3. Remove from stove. Transfer one cup of cooking liquid, the chiles, garlic, and onion to a blender. Add the paprika, cumin, oregano, ground clove, salt, and pepper. Pulse until smooth. *If you wish to remove any chunks from the sauce you can run it through a fine sieve.
    4. Cut beef chuck roast into large pieces. Place in dutch oven or stockpot, slow cooker, or Instant Pot. Add the sauce from step three and enough water to cover the beef by no more than one inch. Add the bay leaves and cinnamon stick.
    5. For stovetop: Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 4-6 hours; shred meat and return to stove to simmer for an additional 1-2 hours. For slow cooker: Cook on low heat for 8-10 hours or high for 5-6 hours; shred meat and return to pot. Go ahead and serve or allow to cook an additional 1-2 hours. For Instant Pot: Close the lid and pressure valve and pressure cook on high for 45 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally, then do a quick release. Shred the meat and return to pot.
    6. Remove the bay leaves and cinnamon stick and serve warm topped with cilantro, onion, and fresh-squeezed lime juice.

Storage: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to four days or freeze for up to three months.

Notes

    • You may sub the beef for chicken, veal, goat, lamb, or pork. I have personally only tried pork. If you opt to sub pork, I recommend a pork butt roast. Additionally, this recipe calls for three pounds of meat however, it does not need to be exact. I have used all the way up to a 3 1/3 pound roast.
    • To cut some of the heat, I recommend either cutting down the chile de arbol or leaving them out completely and instead adding 2-3 extra guajilo chiles.
    • For some people, the taste of clove can be overpowering. If you are not a big fan of clove, feel free to leave it out or add just a pinch.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 7 Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 525Total Fat: 31gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 161mgSodium: 810mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 3gSugar: 7gProtein: 51g

The nutritional information provided is computer generated. It is only an estimate and intended for informational purposes only. Nutrition details may vary depending on various factors such as origin, freshness of ingredients, etc

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

Monique

Wednesday 29th of December 2021

Have compared using the instapot vs stove stop? If so which one tastes better?

Jessica Halverstadt

Thursday 30th of December 2021

I think it turns out more flavorful cooked on the stovetop so that's my vote.

Dennis

Sunday 7th of November 2021

It has been so cold here and this was the perfect dinner last night. My family finished off the whole batch!

Jessica Halverstadt

Monday 8th of November 2021

So wonderful to hear! It definitely warms you up.

Marie

Sunday 31st of October 2021

This looks like such a flavorful, comforting dish! I love all the cooking options you're offering to make this stew. Super helpful!

Jessica Halverstadt

Monday 1st of November 2021

You got that right - it is so comforting and flavorful which is why it's one of my favorites!

Leslie

Sunday 31st of October 2021

This is the perfect comfort food for this time of year! I love the spices for this stew as well!

Jessica Halverstadt

Monday 1st of November 2021

You are correct! All the spices make this dish is so incredibly comforting.

Amy Casey

Sunday 31st of October 2021

We love Mexican food in our house and I can't wait to give this recipe a try. I loved your suggestions to use any leftovers in tacos and quesadillas.

Jessica Halverstadt

Monday 1st of November 2021

How could you not love Mexican food? We could eat it at our house every day. Hope you love the recipe as much as we do!

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