This delicious Mexican stew, Birria de Res (Beef Birria), is cooked in a broth that is full of spices, flavorful, and comforting. It is topped with fresh chopped onion and cilantro, a spicy salsa of choice, and served with homemade corn tortillas. Within the broth is a sauce made from dried chiles, herbs, and aromatics. It is all a labor of love and not meant to be a quick weeknight meal but that is exactly what makes this so special. The time and love put into this dish makes it absolutely worth it. Oh and, of course, the insane flavors and tasty stew that comes out of it all is more than worth it.
Birria is traditionally a slow-cooked goat meat stew and you can still find this served in various places in Mexico. Birria is sold at different restaurants or food stands but most popularly found in birrierias, restaurants or stands dedicated to this dish. Traditional Birria can be hard to make at home due to inability or difficulty in finding goat meat. Honestly, I am not a fan of goat meat and would rather have the same flavors with something more palatable to me and I am sure many others. Plug in this Birria de Res (Beef Birria). This also became very popular in Mexico due to the convenience and economical ease of buying beef instead of goat. Trust me, the flavor is there and you won’t miss out on any of the spiced goodness here!
You’ll start with choosing the cut of beef you desire. I have tried it with various types including bottom and top round roast, chuck roast, and stewed meat. Most of the time stew meat is cut up chuck roast, but always double check. In my opinion the best kind of roast to use is chuck roast. It is perfectly marbled and produces a lot more flavor when slow-cooked. It becomes so tender and easy to shred. There is nothing wrong with using the other cuts but they may not be as tender. I would suggest if using a leaner roast like top or round roast to add some beef bones to provide more flavor. Even further I would suggest something like oxtails or short ribs for the bones and extra meat. Again, just a suggestion but highly recommended.
Let’s talk about the sauce. This sauce is crucial in making the broth and meat so flavorful. Ok maybe crucial is reserved for the bay leaves the broth needs to simmer with BUT the sauce is definitely up there. To make this sauce you will need to use dried peppers, herbs, aromatics, and a few extra ingredients. Here’s exactly what you’ll need to make it:
- Ancho chiles
- Guajillo chiles
- Arbol chiles (optional)
- Cumin seeds
- Whole cloves
- Cinnamon stick
The cumin seeds, peppercorns, and cinnamon stick get toasted to really bring out their flavors and the garlic, onion, and tomatoes get sautéed. I think using whole cumin seeds and whole peppercorns makes a difference in flavor so I like to toast these then grind them with a mortar and pestle. With that said, you can definitely use ground cumin and ground black pepper if you don’t have the whole versions of these, no big deal! I do want to remind you that anytime you use dried chiles to make a sauce, they need to be softened by either soaking them in boiling water or bringing a sauce pan with the chiles and water to boil. Another reminder regarding dried peppers is to remove the veins and seeds from the chiles to reduce the heat level. Once the chiles are soft they will be added to a blender with the rest of the ingredients. Make sure this is blended thoroughly, really give it a few minutes to blend. You can use the sauce straight from the blender but I highly, highly recommend straining the sauce. It makes for a smoother sauce without tiny little pieces of chiles. This step adds a little more time to the process but it seriously is worth it. It’s all part of the labor of love that makes this dish so special.
Once the sauce is done it gets poured in the pot with the seared meat, broth is added, and the bay leaves are added as well. This will cook slowly, (or quicker in the instant pot but with high pressure and not rushed), and all the flavors will combine and make for an incredibly flavorful and comforting birria. It is meant to be eaten as a stew topped with chopped cilantro, onion, and a spicy salsa. However, you can use the beef to make various things. Think tacos, burritos, quesabirria, so many possibilities!
Birria de Res (Beef Birria)
- 3 lb chuck roast roughly cubed
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp white vinegar can use apple cider vinegar
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 cup water
- 4 ancho chiles
- 5 guajillo chiles
- 2 arbol chiles
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 onion cut in half
- 3 roma tomatoes cut in half
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 4 whole cloves
- 10 peppercorns
- ½ cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp marjoram
- 3 tsp salt
- 2 cups water
- Remove all seeds and veins from chiles (peppers).
- Add peppers and 2 cups of water to saucepan and bring to boil.
- On medium heat place a medium skillet with olive oil and add onion, tomatoes, and garlic cloves. Cook until tomatoes and onion are soft, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
- Use a new skillet or same skillet used for tomatoes, (wipe oil off), and place over medium heat. Add cumin seeds, whole cloves, peppercorns, and cinnamon stick. Toast until aromatic, about 5-7 minutes. *This is optional but adds depth to the sauce.
- With a mortar and pestle or using small blender or coffee/spice grinder, grind toasted spices except cinnamon.
- To a blender add chiles, tomato mixture, ground spices, cinnamon, oregano, marjoram, water, and salt. Blend until smooth, about 5 minutes.
- Strain sauce with fine sieve/strainer.
Birria (Slow Cooker)
- In a large dutch oven or skillet over medium heat add olive oil.
- Once oil is hot, add beef and sear each side until just browned.
- Add beef, sauce, water, vinegar, and bay leaves to slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours, or low 8-10 hours. The meat becomes more tender the longer you leave in the crockpot but will be thoroughly cooked and tender at the lesser times.