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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 stovetop, or Instant Pot. Naturally gluten-free.

Two bowls of Mexican stew atop a blue towel with a bunch of cilantro and radishes in background.

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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.

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 birria stew next two two spoons.

Ingredients (+ notes & substitutions)


Ingredients for beef birria stew (see recipe card).
  • 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.
  • Kosher salt: To season the beef and the stew.
  • Ground black pepper: To season the beef.
  • Olive oil
  • 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.
  • White onion
  • Garlic: A whole head!!!!
  • Clove: You can use whole or ground cloves. For some 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.
  • Black peppercorns: If you don’t have any, you may sub for ground black pepper.
  • Beef broth: Could sub for chicken broth or even water.
  • Apple cider vinegar: A little bit of vinegar brings balance to the dish, cutting some of the richness.
  • 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 ginger
  • Bay leaves
  • Cinnamon stick: If you do not have a cinnamon stick, you can use 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
  • Optional toppings: Freshly squeezed lime juice, cilantro, and diced white onion. I highly recommend not skipping the toppings!!

How to make beef birria stew ( + 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.

1. Liberally sprinkle the beef chuck roast with salt and pepper and set it aside.

2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil.

3. Meanwhile, heat one teaspoon of olive oil in a medium skillet. Toast the chile de árbol and guajillo chiles for 1-2 minutes. Once boiling, remove the pot of water from the stovetop and submerge the chiles for 10-15 minutes.

Chiles soaking in water in a saucepan.

4. Meanwhile, heat two teaspoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion and garlic cloves and cook for 4-5 minutes until slightly browned. If using whole spices, add the black peppercorns and cloves and cook for another 1-2 minutes then transfer everything to your blender.

Sautéed onion and garlic in a Dutch oven.

5. Add the chiles, one cup of beef broth, apple cider vinegar, paprika, cumin, oregano, two teaspoons of salt, and ginger and pulse until smooth. ***If you opted not to use whole black peppercorns and cloves, add one teaspoon of ground black pepper and 1/2 tablespoon of ground ginger.

Chile sauce in a blender.

6. Heat one tablespoon in your pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sear the chuck roast for 2-3 minutes then flip and sear for another 2-3 minutes.

Seared chuck roast chunks in a Dutch oven.

7. Add the chile sauce from step six and the remaining beef broth and stir to combine. Add the cinnamon stick and bay leaves.

8. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for at least 3-4 hours; shred meat, if desired, discard any chunks of fat, discard the cinnamon stick, and bay leaves, and return to stove to simmer for another hour. ***You can let the birria cook on low all day. if you like. That’s what I do!!

Close up of shredded beef.
Stew in a Dutch oven.

9. To serve: Ladle into bowl and top with diced white onion, cilantro, and lime wedges.


FAQ


What is birria?

Originating in the state of Jalisco, Birria is a Mexican stew made up of a rich chile broth and protein. Traditionally it was made with goat, however, this recipe calls for beef as it is more accessible. It can also be prepared with chicken, veal, lamb, or pork.

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.

Is birria gluten-free?

Yes, it most definitely is!!!

Can I prepare birria in an Instant Pot?

Yes, you can make Instant Pot birria. Follow recipe steps 1-5 as written. Set your Instant Pot to the sauté feature. Heat two teaspoons of olive oil, then in batches cook the beef for 4-5 minutes flipping halfway through. Add additional olive oil if needed.

Add the chile sauce and the remaining beef broth and stir to combine. Add the cinnamon stick and bay leaves.

Close the lid and pressure valve and pressure cook on high for 45 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally, then do a quick release. Discard the cinnamon stick and bay leaves, shred the meat, and return it to the pot.

Can I prepare birria in a slow cooker?

Yes! For slow cooker birria complete steps 1-6 as written. Transfer the beef and the chile sauce to your slow cooker and add the remaining beef broth, the cinnamon stick, and the bay leaves.

Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours then discard the cinnamon stick and bay leaves, shred the meat, and return it to the slow cooker. You may then go ahead and serve it or allow it to cook another hour.


Storage


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



Three garnished bowls of beef birria stew surrounded by lime wedges, cilantro, radishes, and two spoons.
Close up of beef birria Mexican stew garnished with onion, cilantro, and sliced radishes.

Ideas for leftover beef birria


  • Beef Birria Tacos with 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 with 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!!
  • Birria Fries: My favorite way to use up leftover birria, these loaded birria fries are what dreams are made of. These crispy fries crowned with melted cheese, juicy beef birria, and your choice of toppings are simple to prepare and so damn delicious. Naturally gluten-free.
  • Birria Baked Potato: Don’t let a single bit of birria go to waste. Use up your leftovers to make this birria baked potato loaded with cheese, white onion, and cilantro. Naturally gluten-free and dairy-free adaptable.

If you make this stovetop, 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 ♥

Two bowls of birria stew next two two spoons.

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

  • 3-4 pound beef chuck roast, cut into 2"-3" chunks
  • 2 teaspoons salt + more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns or ground black pepper + more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 10 dried chile de árbol peppers, destemmed and seeded (see notes)
  • 6 dried guajillo chile peppers, destemmed and seeded
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and quartered 
  • 1 head garlic, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons whole cloves or 1/2 tablespoon ground clove (See notes) 
  • 5 cups beef broth, divided
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons paprika, preferably smoked
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Optional (but highly suggested) toppings: Fresh squeezed lime juice, diced onion, and cilantro. 

Instructions

    1. Liberally sprinkle the beef chuck roast with salt and pepper and set it aside.
    2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil.
    3. Meanwhile, heat one teaspoon of olive oil in a medium skillet. Toast the chile de árbol and guajillo chiles for 1-2 minutes. Once boiling, remove the pot of water from the stovetop and submerge the chiles for 10-15 minutes.
    4. Meanwhile, heat two teaspoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion and garlic cloves and cook for 4-5 minutes until slightly browned. If using whole spices, add the black peppercorns and cloves and cook for another 1-2 minutes then transfer everything to your blender.
    5. Add the chiles, one cup of beef broth, apple cider vinegar, paprika, cumin, oregano, two teaspoons of salt, and ginger and pulse until smooth. ***If you opted not to use whole black peppercorns and cloves, add one teaspoon of ground black pepper and 1/2 tablespoon of ground ginger.
    6. Heat one tablespoon in your pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sear the chuck roast for 2-3 minutes then flip and sear for another 2-3 minutes.
    7. Add the chile sauce from step six and the remaining beef broth and stir to combine. Add the cinnamon stick and bay leaves.
    8. For stovetop: Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for at least 3-4 hours; shred meat, if desired, discard any chunks of fat, and return to stove to simmer for another hour. For slow cooker: Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours; shred meat and return to pot. Go ahead and serve or allow to cook another hour. 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.
    9. 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

    • To cut some of the heat, I recommend either cutting down the chile de árbol or leaving them out completely and instead add2-3 extra guajillo 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: 749Total Fat: 45gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 25gCholesterol: 215mgSodium: 1458mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 4gSugar: 8gProtein: 69g

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 Facebook

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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