Making the decision to move to Mexico was easy because I thought I loved Mexican food.
As it turns out, I do, but what I thought was Mexican food is actually TexMex. And what’s really Mexican can be even better. Today’s example? Birria.
For those who have never had it, birria is slow cooked meat usually tough cuts of beef, lamb or goat.
It bathes in a rich chili spiced sauce and looks like something a witch would brew up. The first time I had it was on an empty stomach. I was skeptical of my ability to deal with that much chili. Surprisingly, there’s something magical about the fat, salt and spices that just makes the intensely flavored broth perfect for a sour stomach.
There are two common ways to consume it. The first is in tacos de birria. The other is when it’s just eaten just as you see here, as a stew with a stack of warm tortillas on the side for the purpose of being used as edible napkins.
If you ask me, there’s also nothing quite like warm rolled tortilla dunked in a bowl of birria like a breadstick. The locals roll up tortillas tightly for eating with soups.
To get the best flavor, try and not eat any and just put it away to be reheated later. It was a huge enough difference to where I plant to either slow cook it next time, or put it away before eating any to allow for all the flavors to adequately marry.
This is written for the Instant Pot but there will be notes below for both slow cooker and stovetop/oven options.
This was originally adapted from this recipe.
1.5 k beef leg, cut into smaller cubes
1.5 T salt
4 c beef bone broth
Water if needed
5 Guajillo chiles
3 Pasilla chiles
2 T beef tallow
1 red onion, roughly chopped
8 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped (use more if the cloves are smaller)
9 pan blackened tomatoes
2 T vinegar
1.5 T oregano
2 sprigs dried thyme
3 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
7 whole cloves (½ t cloves)
1 t cumin seeds or 1.5 t ground cumin
2 t coriander seeds or 1 t ground coriander
8 whole peppercorns or 1 t ground black peppercorn
1 T honey
Note: If you use powdered cumin, pepper, coriander ect do not toast it. Only toast whole seeds.
1) Prepare meat with salt and set aside.
2) Break chiles apart getting as much seed out of them as possible. Toast in a dry pan with no oil until slighly soft and darkened. Don’t burn them, keep them moving constantly. Should take less than 2 minutes.
3) Add the chiles to a pan with the bone broth and bring to a simmer. Set aside for 20 minutes.
4) Using the same dry pan, add the whole spices to it and toast. Skip this step if just substituting ground spices. Note, the flavor will not be as complex and wonderful.
5) Put all those spices except for the cinnamon stick in the blender and pulse.
6) Start frying the onion an garlic in beef tallow in the Instant Pot on the saute setting. Keep cooking until golden.
7) Make pan grilled tomatoes by setting tomatoes in a dry pan with no oil or water on medium heat. Allow the skins to blacken, then chop the tomatoes and add them to the Instant Pot once the onions are ready and also add the vinegar at this time to deglaze the pan. Then allow the juices to cook into a sauce.
8) Add the broth and chiles to the blender with 1 cup of the tomato blend in the pot. Blend until smooth and add to the instant pot.
9) Add the salted meat. If the meat isn’t fully covered by the sauce add a little water until it is. Set the pressure cooking lid on top and set it to sealing positions. Press the pressure cooker button and turn the timer to 45 minutes.
10) When the timer goes off, allow to natural release. At this point you can leave it on in the instant pot on warm. The longer you leave it the more flavorful it becomes. You can also harness the flavor by allowing to cool after this and putting it away, to be eaten only as “leftovers”.
Best served with toppings, my favorites are diced fresh onion and avocado but cilantro and lime are technically mandatory for birria in Mexico. You could put all sorts of things including radishes, cheese and tomatoes as well.
For birria tacos, heat or fry corn tortillas then dip in broth before building the taco. The broth adds extra flavor and fat to the taco.
For a slow cooker, cook for 6-8 hours on low-medium temperature. If you use an Instant Pot slow cook method I recommend still pressure cooking for a short time either before or after and definitely set the Instant Pot on medium.
However if you only have a stovetop, you can simmer this all day in a pot on low heat but you will have to pay attention and add water every half hour or so. If you have an oven, that’s best because you’ll only have to add water every few hours.
This was originally posted here at The Homestead Guru.