A few months ago, I was introduced to the deliciousness that is birria.
Birria, according to the “My Latin Table” website, is a Mexican dish that traditionally uses lamb but is often made with beef, too. The article goes on to note that it can be eaten as a soup or made into tacos.
The reason birria is so delicious is that, as the meat cooks, it creates a delicious stock that is served as either base of the soup or as a side for dipping the tacos. Between the spices, reconstituted dried chile peppers and beef, you almost want to pour yourself a glass and drink it. (But I didn’t do that. Because that’s weird.)
After trying birria at an amazing Mexican restaurant, I decided I wanted to give the recipe a try myself. Being short on time, though, I opted for a slightly less-than-authentic version that relies on a crockpot. Either way, this turned out absolutely amazing. I was so sad when the final container of leftovers exited our refrigerator.
This recipe comes from Nicki Mejia. You can find her on Instagram under “tastewithnicki.” I added extra seasonings and changed the directions slightly in my version.
- 2 pounds beef roast
- 1 small yellow onion diced
- 8 cloves garlic minced
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 tablespoon pepper
- 4 teaspoons chili powder
- 4 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons adobo
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon all spice
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 16 ounces beef broth or stock
- 6 dried guajillo chiles
- 3 dried chiles de arbol
- 1 half large tomato
- Monterrey jack cheese shredded (for serving)
- Corn tortillas for serving
- Combine the roast, onion, garlic, bay leaves, salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, adobo, oregano, thyme, all spice and garlic powder in your crockpot. Pour the beef broth over top of everything in the pot.
- To prepare the chiles, pull the stem off of each one and shake out as many seeds as you can.
- Add the chiles to a medium-sized pot and cover them with water. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for about five minutes or until the chiles are soft. (Do not get rid of the water you boiled the chiles in!)
- Add the softened chiles, tomato and about one cup of the boiling liquid to a blender or food processor and blend until the mixture is smooth.
- Pour the chiles mixture into your crockpot. If the liquid isn’t covering the ingredients in the crockpot, add more of the boiling liquid until it is.
- Cook for eight hours on low or four hours on high.
- When the roast is done, shred it with a couple forks.
- To make the tacos, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Spray it lightly with cooking oil. Dip a corn tortilla in the stock. Place it in the hot skillet and sprinkle on one to two tablespoons cheese. Put a large spoonful of the meat mixture onto half of the tortilla and carefully fold it over. When the tortilla is browned to your liking, gently flip the taco over to brown the other side. When it is done, transfer the taco to a warm plate.
- Continue until you have as many tacos as you want to serve for your meal. Serve the tacos sprinkled with a little extra cheese and alongside a small bowl of the stock for dipping.
- Refrigerate any leftovers.
Like I said, the flavor of these tacos is absolutely phenomenal. They weren’t at all spicy, but you could easily kick them up a notch with some salsa. Birria is also traditionally served with fresh diced onions and cilantro, if you want to add some color.
The trick for the leftovers is to wait to put the actual tacos together until you’re ready to eat them rather than assembling 100 percent of them right away and storing them in the fridge. They assemble just as easily as leftovers as they do the first time.
And if you are having any trouble finding the dried chiles mentioned in the recipe, try looking in the Hispanic foods section of your local grocery store. They’re normally sold in big plastic bags in that area.
Despite looking complicated, birria tacos were actually very simple to make, and they bring a little bit of a wow factor to the dinner table. Put this one on your list for your next taco night this winter.
This piece first appeared in print on Dec. 8, 2022.
Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.