In Mexico, important celebrations call for Birria, eaten as a savory stew or stuffed into tortillas for tacos. Steam the meat on the stove (as is tradition), or make it in your slow cooker or Instant pot. It’s a great example of simple, delicious food.

Garnished birria on a silver baking sheet.

Every region in Mexico has their own version of Birria, and my version comes from Aguascalientes. This is exactly what they make (and how they make it) when they are feeding hundreds of family and friends for weddings, baptisms, and birthday parties.

Table of Contents
  1. Recipe ingredients
  2. Ingredient notes
  3. Step-by-step instructions
  4. Recipe tips and variations
  5. Birria Recipe

Recipe ingredients

Birria ingredients in various bowls.

Ingredient notes

  • Sachet: A sachet is a fancy term for herbs, spices, and garlic tied up in a piece of cheesecloth with twine. You could also use a tea ball or loose leaf tea bag to hold them. It makes it easier to pull these small ingredients out later.
  • Beef: Boneless beef chuck roast, short ribs, stew meet, oxtail, or beef cheeks work great here (or substitute a bone-in cut). In Mexico, it is common to use lamb or goat for Birria, too.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. To make the sachet, lay a piece of cheesecloth on a flat surface. Add cloves, garlic, cumin seeds, and peppercorns. Tie with kitchen twine.
A clove of garlic, cloves, and other spices on a white towel (a sachet of spices).
  1. Season beef liberally with salt on all sides. Fill the bottom of the pot with 1-2 inches of water and add steam insert. Set seasoned beef on steam insert.
Beef in a silver steamer basket inside a pot.
  1. Add the sachet of spices, cover the pot, and bring water to a simmer over medium-low heat. Steam the beef in the pot until tender and falling apart, about 4 to 5 hours. Check the pot occasionally, adding more water if necessary, to prevent the pot from burning.
Cooked birria in a colander.
  1. Remove beef from the pot and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet or cutting board. Pull apart the beef to shred the meat, separating and discarding any fat or gristle.
Shredded birria on a wooden cutting board.
  1. Transfer to shredded beef to a serving platter or bowl. Serve with tortillas, onion, cilantro, lime wedges, and Salsa de Birria, if desired.
Birria on a silver platter with garnishes.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes 4 servings, 1 cup (4 ounces) each. 2 ½ pounds of beef chuck roast cooks down to 1 pound total (with some slight variations depending on how fatty the roast is and how meticulous you are about pulling out the fat).
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Make ahead: Make this 1 day ahead for parties and reheat with a small amount of water in a pot or slow cooker until heated through.
  • Slow cooker: In the bottom of a slow cooker, add the meat, salt, spice sachet and water. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 to 6 hours or LOW for 8 to 10 hours. Pull apart the beef to shred the meat, separating and discarding any fat or gristle. To serve the Birria from the slow cooker, drain excess juice before adding back the shredded meat. Serve with tortillas, onion, cilantro, lime wedges, and Salsa de Birria, if desired.
  • Instant Pot: In the bottom of an Instant Pot, add the meat, salt, spice sachet and water. Cover, seal, and set to HIGH PRESSURE for 45 minutes. Let the pressure cooker release naturally before opening. Pull apart the beef to shred the meat, separating and discarding any fat or gristle. Serve with tortillas, onion, cilantro, lime wedges, and Salsa de Birria, if desired.

Salsa de Birria

The best Birria tastes even better with Salsa de Birria, a simple red salsa made with tomatoes, tomatillos, serranos, and chiles de arbol. It’s a gold-standard salsa recipe that you can enjoy with birria and…

20 minutes
View Recipe

More recipes from Mexico

Garnished birria on a silver baking sheet.

Birria

In Mexico, important celebrations call for Birria, eaten as a savory stew or stuffed into tortillas for tacos. Steam the meat on the stove (as is tradition), or make it in your slow cooker or Instant pot. It's a great example of simple, delicious food.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 5 mins
Servings 4 servings (1 cup each)
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Calories 520

Ingredients 

For the sachet (see note 1):

  • 4 whole cloves or ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 clove garlic peeled and smashed or ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds or ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 8 whole black peppercorns or ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the birria:

  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast (see note 2)
  • Corn tortillas (warmed), minced onion, minced cilantro, and lime wedges, for serving
  • Salsa de Birria

Instructions 

  • To make a sachet, lay a piece of cheesecloth on a flat surface. Add cloves, garlic, cumin seeds, and peppercorns. Tie with kitchen twine. (To use ground spices, in a small bowl, whisk together ground cloves, garlic powder, cumin, and ground black pepper.)
  • Season beef liberally with salt on all sides (if using ground spices, rub the beef all over with the spice mixture). Fill the bottom of the pot with 1-2 inches of water and add steam insert. Set beef on steam insert and add sachet of spices.
  • Cover the pot and bring water to a simmer over medium-low heat. Steam the beef in the pot until tender and falling apart, about 4 to 5 hours. Check the pot occasionally, adding more water if necessary, to prevent the pot from burning.
  • Remove beef from the pot and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet or other rimmed work surface. Pull apart the beef to shred the meat, separating and discarding any fat or gristle.
  • Transfer to shredded beef to a serving platter or bowl. Serve with tortillas, onion, cilantro, lime wedges, and Salsa de Birria, if desired.

Notes

  1. Sachet: A sachet is a fancy term for herbs, spices, and garlic tied up in a piece of cheesecloth with twine. You could also use a tea ball or loose leaf tea bag to hold them. It makes it easier to pull these small ingredients out later.
  2. Beef: Boneless beef chuck roast, short ribs, stew meet, oxtail, or beef cheeks work great here (or substitute a bone-in cut). In Mexico, it is common to use lamb or goat for Birria, too.
  3. Yield: This recipe makes 4 servings, 1 cup (4 ounces) each. 2 ½ pounds of beef chuck roast cooks down to 1 pound total (with some slight variations depending on how fatty the roast is and how meticulous you are about pulling out the fat).
  4. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  5. Make ahead: Make this 1 day ahead for parties and reheat with a small amount of water in a pot or slow cooker until heated through.
  6. Slow cooker: In the bottom of a slow cooker, add the meat, salt, spice sachet and water. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 to 6 hours or LOW for 8 to 10 hours. Pull apart the beef to shred the meat, separating and discarding any fat or gristle. To serve the Birria from the slow cooker, drain excess juice before adding back the shredded meat. Serve with tortillas, onion, cilantro, lime wedges, and Salsa de Birria, if desired.
  7. Instant Pot: In the bottom of an Instant Pot, add the meat, salt, spice sachet and water. Cover, seal, and set to HIGH PRESSURE for 45 minutes. Let the pressure cooker release naturally before opening. Pull apart the beef to shred the meat, separating and discarding any fat or gristle. Serve with tortillas, onion, cilantro, lime wedges, and Salsa de Birria, if desired.

Nutrition

Serving: 4ozCalories: 520kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 55gFat: 33gSaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 196mgSodium: 233mgPotassium: 978mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 37IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 63mgIron: 6mg
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Comments

  1. I use large, loose-leaf tea balls for whole spice sachets – I’m not so good with scissors, cloth and string. This looks so good and since it’s a low n slow cook, I imagine that plain old cheap stew beef would work too. This is a nice “fiesta-style” recipe with all the other suggestions and is definitely on my “to make” list.
    I don’t have to make it first because I know it’s going to taste superb as do all your recipes. Cheers……5 stars