This Mexican chicken birria tacos recipe can be made on the stovetop, oven, crockpot / slow cooker, or instant pot. Please see the full recipe for easily converting this recipe into any of the various cooking styles. Quesa birria tacos are easy to make and are a great dinner recipe for family, game-day snacks, easy entertaining for parties like Cinco de Mayo. It's SO versatile! Try this recipe as tacos de birria con consomé, as birria tacos, Barria Ramen (or Ramen Barria), or quesabirria tacos.
Prepare & Soak the Dried Chiles. With a pair of kitchen scissors, snip the chiles in half and remove the seeds. Then snip off the stem. Repeat with all the remaining chiles you've selected. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and then take it off the heat, add the chiles to the pan and soak the dried peppers for about 5 minutes.
Prepare the meat. While you wait for the peppers to soak, trim up any excess fat and add the chicken to a 6-Qt Stockpot or Dutch Oven. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Add the bay leaves and set the pan aside.
Make the Adobo Sauce. Into a blender, add all the adobo ingredients plus the softened chilis with liquid. Do not worry about any residual seeds. Blend until smooth, about 40 seconds. Intermittent pulsing helps blend the ingredients up smoothly. Straining this step with a fine-mesh sieve (strainer) is optional. For a true consomé, strain. If you do not mind a thicker sauce, add the adobo to the chicken as is. I left mine as is. I have a Ninja Blender, so the sauce was very smooth like tomato sauce.
Simmer. After you've added the adobo sauce to the chicken, set it over medium heat and bring it to a low boil. It will just begin to bubble and splatter along the outside edge. Cover and reduce to a simmer over low heat. Simmer for about 40 minutes or until the chicken is tender and the internal temperature reaches 165° F.
Cool & Shred. Once the meat is cooked through, remove it from the heat and set aside. Transfer the chicken to a large bowl and allow it to cool. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it with your hands, or two forks. Remove any excess fat and discard. At this point, you can return the meat to the pan and toss to coat or add the meat to the bottom of a bowl and add sauce. Top with optional garnishes and serve with warm corn tortilla shells.
Prepare Birria Tacos. Bringing the meal one step further, make the birria de pollo (Chicken Birria stew) into a taco by first warming a corn tortilla on both sides in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. This will give the tortilla some structure to hold the sauce without tearing. Next, dip the tortilla in the consomé and place it back into the hot pan. Allow it to cook for about 30 seconds to one minute before flipping to the second side. On one-half, fill the shell with meat, fresh onions, cilantro, pico de gallo con nopalitos, and diced jalapenos or your other favorite toppings. Fold the empty half of the shell over the filled side. Flip the shell and cook the other half for a few seconds before transferring to a serving plate. If preparing many at a time, place on a rimmed baking sheet and keep warm in a 175 °F oven until ready to serve.
Prepare Birria Quesatacos. Prepare the same as above in step 6, except add a thick layer of cheese to half of the shell before adding the other ingredients.
The best cut of chicken for birria is always going to be the thighs. The dark meat chicken has a little more fat and quite a bit more flavor than the white meat of the breast. It's also a juicer cut of chicken and can stand up to the slow braise without turning dry making it perfect for this dish. Opted for boneless skinless thighs to cut down on the prep time and reduce the amount of fat rendered from the skin. You may trim up some of the residual fat if you'd like, but do not remove it all. This will add flavor to the consomé and excess fat will be removed when the meat is shredded.
Dried Peppers: The best peppers are the ones readily available to you in your local grocery store. I find mine in the international aisle usually near the Mexican food section. Alternatively, you can find the dried peppers at your local Mexican Market. Alternatively, you can buy them on Amazon or another online retailer. I chose Guajillo and Arbol peppers for this recipe. The Guajillo chile peppers are relatively mild while the Arbol chiles pack a little heat. These are peppers I already had in my pantry from making tamales, however, while I was shopping for this recipe I did note that my local store also carried "California chiles" also called Anaheim chiles. Other names you might find are ancho, New Mexico, or pasilla chiles. All of these will work. For all things relating to the heat levels of the various chiles, check it out here in "The Complete Guide to Dried Chiles."
Mexican Oregano - This oregano is usually sold in clear plastic bags on the hang tabs of the Mexican spice section. It's usually much less expensive than the oregano on the spice aisle itself. So if you need oregano for this recipe, look for it on the Mexican aisle, it's usually under $1 USD. If you happen to already have a jar of "Italian" oregano in your pantry, skip buying Mexican oregano and just use that instead.
The best cheese for birria (not pictured above) - For this, I typically use a quality shredded queso or quesadilla cheese. This is usually found near the Mexican cheese selection of the dairy section of the local market. If you can not find a quesadilla melting cheese, a good substitute is a mixture of mozzarella and Colby jack cheeses.
Alternate Cooking Methods:
Crockpot or Slow Cooker - This recipe can be adapted for the Crockpot or slow cooker by following the same steps outlined in the recipe, but instead layer it into the base of a crockpot or slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours. Once the chicken is cooked, proceed with the instructions as outlined in the original recipe.
Dutch Oven - This can also be braised in the oven. Follow all the same steps, except preheat the oven to 350 °F and but the oven-safe covered casserole dish, Dutch oven, or 9x13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish covered tightly with aluminum foil in the oven and bake for 40 to 60 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear at 165°F n a digital cooking thermometer. Once the chicken is cooked, proceed with the instructions as outlined in the original recipe.
Instant Pot - Layer the chicken into the bottom of the cooking insert. Add the bay leaves. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Prepare the adobo sauce according to the instructions and pour it into the pot covering the chicken. Place the lid on the Instant Pot, and set it to high pressure, for 15 minutes. Perform a quick pressure release, and remove the lid when the pressure valve is down. Once the pressure is released, proceed with the instructions as outlined in the original recipe.
Gluten-Free - This recipe is naturally gluten-free. Be sure to select GF corn tortillas.
Pork, lamb, or beef - You may opt for a different cut of meat. Pork shoulder, leg of lamb, beef chuck roast or beef ribs, and goat are all very traditional to this dish.
Flour tortillas - if you prefer flour tortillas, you can absolutely swap out the corn tortillas in favor of the flour tortillas.
Spicy - You can increase the spice level of this dish with the dried peppers you chose, but also by adding chipotle in adobo, hot paprika, cayenne, dried pepper flakes, or dried pepper seeds from the hot peppers.
Birria Ramen(Ramen Birria) - Making Birria Ramen is easy. After following this recipe, stir in a batch of cooked and drained Ramen noodles (do not add the packet if your ramen comes with one) into a bowl of birria de pollo (Birria stew). Top with onions, cilantro, diced jalapenos, and nopalitos for an Asian fusion dish.
What does the Vinegar do in a Birria recipe?
Vinegar tempers the heat of the chile peppers without changing their distinct flavors in the consomé.
What Is barbacoa Meat?
Barbacoa is a cooking method where the meat is cooked wrapped in banana leaves in an underground pit lined with hot rocks similar to Kalua pork in Hawaii. Today the term is also used for similar preparations made on the stovetop, slow cooker, Dutch oven, or Instant Pot. Birria is a Mexican dish, made with barbacoa-cooked meat that's braised in Mexican adobo sauce.
Are Birria Tacos Spicy?
They can be as mild or as spicy as you'd like them to be depending on the combination of chile pepper you use to make the adobo sauce.
What is Mexican Adobo?
Adobo is actually a generic term for a sauce or marinade. The ingredients vary by country: Mexico, Puerto Rico, or the Philippines, for example. Mexican Adobo Sauce is a rich, reddish-brown sauce that usually contains chipotle and ancho peppers. An Ancho pepper is a Poblano (mild) chili that is dried after it turns red. The Adobo sauces are used as marinades and add a smoky, spicy flavor to the dish. The exact amount of spicy heat is dependent upon the chiles used to create the adobo. The resulting adobo sauce has the consistency of a thick BBQ sauce.