What Is Birria?
Birria is a goat-based soup that hails from the state of Jalisco in Mexico, though surrounding states like Michoacán, parts of Durango, and Zacatecas also make versions, including beef birria (birria de res). It’s typically served with tortillas, toppings, and salsas. Birria is often used to sweat out a cruda, or hangover. You’ll also find birria around holidays like Christmas and Easter and at baptisms.
Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco, is full of birrierias, or shops specializing in birria, but if you can’t get there, it’s not hard to make your own delicious birria at home. The goat meat is typically marinated in a paste made from dried chile peppers, then braised until tender. The stewed meat can then be served in tacos or quesadillas, or floating in broth (“con comsomé”).
Traditionally birria takes hours on the stovetop, but cooking the meat in a low oven, slow cooker, or pressure cooker can make birria a fairly hands-off dish.
Prep Time1 hr
Total Time5 hr
Cook Time4 hr
For the marinade:
- 3 dried guajillo chiles
- 3 dried ancho chiles
- 3 dried chiles de árbol
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ 15-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried Mexican marjoram
- 2 whole cloves, briefly toasted and ground
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, briefly toasted and ground (or 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black peppercorns
- Salt, to taste
For the birria:
- 3–4 pounds bone-in goat meat (or substitute other stew meat such as lamb shoulder, lamb ribs, beef shank, short ribs, or beef chuck)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Corn tortillas, for serving
- 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and stems
- Lime wedges, for serving
- Prepare chiles. Cut dried chiles open to remove seeds, then briefly toast in a dry skillet. Cover chiles with hot water and soak until rehydrated, about 10–30 minutes.
- Make the marinade. Drain chiles. In a food processor or blender, combine rehydrated chiles with diced onion, garlic, vinegar, tomatoes, and ground spices and puree until smooth, adding a little water if needed. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Marinate the meat. Transfer meat to a Dutch oven. Add bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Rub the chile sauce all over the meat and cover the Dutch oven with a lid or aluminum foil. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
- Braise. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Transfer Dutch oven (with lid or aluminum-foil cover) to oven and braise until meat is falling-off-the-bone tender, about 4 hours.
- Shred the meat. Remove the meat from the braising liquid. (Do not discard.) When cool enough to handle, shred the meat off the bones and set aside.
- Assemble. For soup (birria con consomé), add 3 cups water to the braising liquid and stir to combine. Add the meat back into the soup and bring to a simmer. Ladle soup into bowls and serve the soup with warm corn tortillas, cilantro, and lime. For birria tacos, reduce the braising liquid to a thick sauce. Fry the shredded meat until crispy and briefly dip warm corn tortillas in the sauce. (You can crisp the meat and warm up the tortillas on the same hot griddle.) Fill sauced tortillas with crispy goat meat and top with cilantro and lime.
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