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Crock Pot Birria Tacos

Birria Tacos are pan-fried shredded meat tacos in a corn tortilla with a rich chili sauce. Goat or beef is slow cooked in an amazing warmly-spiced sauce for an incredible explosion of flavor. 

Crock Pot Birria Tacos - classic Mexican food of shredded tender beef braised in a chili sauce fried in a corn tortilla with cheese. An incredible taco recipe!

Birria Tacos have taken social media and the internet by storm over the last year, and for a good reason!

They are all things crispy with an irresistible pan-fried taco shell, tender with amazing juicy slow-cooked braised meat, gooey with delicious cheese, and an incredible amalgamation of sweet, savory, spiced (but not too spicy) flavors to really make you fall in love.

PLUS: they come with dipping sauce. What could possibly be better?

We tried Birria Tacos for the first time in Costa Rica last year after watching videos on YouTube and hearing all sorts of rave reviews about them.

They are worth every step it takes to prepare them!

If you’ve tried my Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja or my Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef, you may enjoy this recipe for Crock Pot Birria Tacos just as much, if not more!

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves and start with the basics!

What Are Birria Tacos?:

Birria tacos originate from Mexico and consist of tender shredded meat that has been cooked slowly in a rich chili sauce then fried in a corn tortilla with more sauce poured on top. Also known as quesabirria tacos, birria de res or birria quesatacos, these blissful tacos are marvelous for special occasions.

Originally, goat meat was used for tacos de birria, but the authentic recipe evolved to include beef as an alternative. Today, you’ll see some restaurants and households stick with the goat meat approach, while some go with beef. 

Cheese is optional for these tacos, and some people leave them cheese-free. The advantage to including cheese in birria tacos is not only the amazing gooey deliciousness they provide, but also an adhesive factor to keep the tacos held nicely together through the pan-frying process.

The real kicker and the important thing here is that the sauce used to cook the meat is also the same rich consommé served with the tacos for dipping. Trust me, this is what makes a birria taco a birria taco!

Because birria tacos are all about the sauce, it is important to ensure you’re sourcing the traditional dried chilis and spices so that the flavors turn out rich, bold, and authentic.

What Makes This Recipe Different?:

Traditionally, birria was cooked in a cast iron pot, then placed underground with coals for a slow cooking process. Today, most people simply cook the meat in a Dutch oven or large pot on the stove top for several hours. 

We’re taking a different approach by employing a crock pot, so that the meat doesn’t need to be monitored closely and to allow the meat to become so incredibly tender. By the end of the slow cooking process, the meat will be so tender that it mashes easily with a fork, almost like you’re mashing softened butter. 

The end result is the same authentic flavor and texture with just an improvisation of cooking method.

Hand holding a birria taco dipping it into consommé sauce.

Ingredients for Crock Pot Birria Tacos:

Meat (Beef or Goat): As mentioned before, you can use either goat or beef for birria tacos. The folks who use beef typically use a combination of beef roast and oxtail or bone-in beef short ribs. Bone-in beef pieces add wild richness and flavor to the meat, so if you have access to oxtail or short ribs, be sure to include them! You’ll need a total of 4.5 to 5 pounds of meat.

Oil: You’ll need a high-temperature cooking oil such as avocado oil or vegetable oil to sear the beef and cook the tacos. I don’t recommend using olive oil because it has a lower smoke point and will burn during the cooking process.

Chilis: Dried chilis are what make up the iconic birria taco sauce. Use a combination of ancho chilis, guajillo chilis, and chili arbol. If you can’t find all three, you can make substitutions based on what is available, but you can find dried chilis at almost any grocery store!

Seasonings: Black peppercorns, coriander seed, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, ground cumin, dried Mexican oregano, and sea salt make up the spices portion of the sauce. Traditionally, the whole spices are toasted to bring out their flavors, then ground in a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder. As an alternative, you can leave the spices whole (this is what I do) after toasting them, and make a spice sachet which is removed from the sauce after cooking. 

Sauce: The liquid is a combination of beef broth, apple cider vinegar, and the water used to rehydrate the dried chilis. This varies greatly from person to person, as some people use chicken stock, some people make their own beef bone broth, whereas some folks stick with water. Just know that you’ll need a total of 7 cups of liquid and how that pencils out for you is up to your personal preference.

Onion, Garlic, Tomato Paste: Sautéed white onion and garlic provide a marvelous depth of flavor to the meat and sauce, and tomato paste brings a lovely acidity. Some people use fresh tomatoes, and some people use canned crushed tomatoes. There is room for adaptation here depending on what is available to you.

For Making the Tacos: Corn tortillas, oaxaca cheese, asadero or mozzarella cheese (remember, cheese is optional), pickled red onions (also optional), lime wedges, fresh cilantro. While it is certainly possible to use flour tortillas, corn tortillas are the traditional route in this Mexican food classic.

Stack of birria tacos on a white plate with a white background

Tools Needed to Make Birria Tacos:

You will need a Crock Pot that holds at least 6 quarts or more in order to slow cook the beef for birria tacos. 

For searing the beef and sautéing the onion and garlic, you’ll need a cast iron skillet (a large skillet is preferable because there is a lot of meat to sear). 

Tongs are very helpful for flipping the beef and transferring it to and from the crock pot. 

A cutting board and a good sharp knife makes the process much easier. 

Cheesecloth and kitchen twine are helpful for creating the spice sachet so that it can easily be removed from the sauce at the end of the cooking process. 

You can also grind the toasted spices using a spice grinder so that they are incorporated into the sauce rather than going with the sachet method.

Meat Selection:

Birria tacos are traditionally made with goat meat, so if you have access to it, feel free to use a large goat roast!

A combination of beef chuck roast and either oxtail or bone-in short ribs is the common selection when using beef. Bone-in pieces like oxtail and short ribs provide an added richness the the sauce that is difficult to describe. If they are not available to you, sticking with chuck roast is perfectly fine.

Just be sure it has plenty of fat marbling so that the shredded meat turns out very tender and flavorful. Regardless, the slow braising process will result in the most tender meat.

A stack of birria tacos on a white plate with melted cheese and sprinkled with fresh cilantro

How to Make Slow Cooker Birria Tacos:

Place the chilis in a saucepan with 3 cups of water and bring it to a full boil on the stove top. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the chilis to sit and rehydrate while you’re working on the rest of the recipe.

Transfer the black peppercorns, coriander seed, bay leaves and cinnamon stick to a small skillet and toast over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes. Transfer these spices to a cheesecloth and wrap in kitchen twine to create a removable spice packet. Note: If you have a mortar and pestle, you can crush the spices before making the spice packet. If you’d like, you can also grind the spices using a spice grinder and add them to the sauce directly without making a removable spice packet.

Cut the beef chuck roast into many large chunks.

Heat the avocado oil in a large cast iron skillet over high heat until the skillet is sizzling hot (if you have a laser thermometer, wait for the temperature of the skillet to be 400 degrees or above). 

Sear the chunks of beef on two sides for 3 to 4 minutes, or until a deep golden-brown crust forms. Transfer the chunks of beef to your slow cooker.

Use the same skillet to sauté the onion. Cook the onion over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until it has softened. Add the garlic, tomato paste, ground cumin and oregano and continue cooking for another 3 minutes or until very fragrant. Transfer this mixture to the crock pot with the seared beef.

Remove any stems from the chilis and transfer the rehydrated chilis WITH the water you used to soak them into the slow cooker, along with the beef stock, apple cider vinegar, and the spice sachet. Give everything a stir and make sure the beef is covered in liquid as much as possible.

Secure the lid on your slow cooker and slow cook on low heat for 8 to 10 hours.

Once the slow cooking has finished, remove the meat from the crock pot and transfer it to a cutting board. 

Beef for birria tacos on a cutting board ready to be shredded

Use two forks to shred the meat to your desired consistency, then transfer it to a large bowl.

Transfer the chilis to a blender along with 2 cups of the liquid from the crock pot. Blend until completely smooth (note: you can also use an immersion blender to blend all of the braising liquid) Pour this mixture back into the crock pot. This liquid will now serve three purposes: for dipping the corn tortillas prior to frying the tacos, for pouring on the tacos during the frying process, and for serving as dipping sauce.

Heat a large cast iron skillet with a generous amount of avocado oil or canola oil over high heat.

Dip corn tortillas in the birria sauce, then transfer them to the hot cast iron skillet. Immediately sprinkle the whole surface of the corn tortilla with desired amount of cheese (if adding). Place the shredded meat on one side of the tortilla, then once the cheese is melted, fold the meat side of the tortilla over, creating a taco.

Transfer spoonfuls of sauce over the taco, then flip and repeat for the other side. Continue cooking and flipping until the taco reaches your desired level of crisp.

Serve birria tacos with pickled red onions, fresh cilantro, and a bowl or ramekin of the flavorful consomé for dipping the tacos.

Can I Use an Instant Pot to Make Birria?:

If you’re more inclined to use a pressure cooker, this is an option too. Follow all the same steps listed above but cook on high pressure for 1 hour. Naturally release for 1.5 hours for the best results. I know that sounds like a lot of time, but trust me on this: You need the time for that ultimate shredded beef effect!

What to Do with Leftovers:

Store any leftover sauce and meat in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. The tacos are best when fresh off the skillet, so rather than making tacos and saving them, simply save the components instead.

You can use the leftover meat and sauce in burrito bowls or burritos as well.

Hand holding a birria taco that has been dipped in sauce with a bite taken out

And that’s all there is to these Crock Pot Birria Tacos! I hope you love this wild adventure!

Two plates of birria tacos sprinkled with cilantro

Crock Pot Birria Tacos

Yield: 6 to 8 People
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 9 hours

Crock Pot Birria Tacos are tender shredded beef tacos in a corn tortilla with cheese and a rich chili consommé for dipping. Make these amazing tacos for a special occasion!

Ingredients

  • 5 dried ancho chilis
  • 4 dried guajillo chilis
  • 5 dried arbol chilis
  • 1 Tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp coriander seed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4.5 to 5 lbs boneless beef chuck roast*
  • 3 Tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 quart beef broth
  • ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp sea salt, to taste**

For serving:

  • Corn Tortillas:
  • Grated Mozzarella cheese or oaxaca cheese
  • Pickled red onions
  • Cilantro

Instructions

    1. Place the chilis in a saucepan with 3 cups of water and bring it to a full boil on the stove top. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the chilis to sit and rehydrate while you’re working on the rest of the recipe.

    Chilis soaking in water in a saucepan

    2. Transfer the black peppercorns, coriander seed, bay leaves and cinnamon stick to a small skillet and toast over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes. Transfer these spices to a cheesecloth and wrap in kitchen twine to create a removable spice packet. Note: If you have a mortar and pestle, you can crush the spices before making the spice packet. If you’d like, you can also grind the spices using a spice grinder and add them to the sauce directly without making a removable spice packet.

    3. Cut the beef chuck roast into many large chunks and sprinkle all sides with sea salt.

    Chunks of beef sitting on a cutting board

    4. Heat the avocado oil in a large cast iron skillet over high heat until the skillet is sizzling hot (if you have a laser thermometer, wait for the temperature of the skillet to be 400 degrees or above). Sear the chunks of beef on two sides for 3 to 4 minutes, or until a deep golden-brown crust forms. Transfer the chunks of beef to your slow cooker.

    5. Use the same skillet to sauté the onion. Cook the onion over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until it has softened. Add the garlic, tomato paste, ground cumin and oregano and continue cooking for another 3 minutes or until very fragrant. Transfer this mixture to the crock pot with the seared beef.

    Onion and garlic sautéing in cast iron skillet

    6. Remove any stems from the chilis and transfer the rehydrated chilis WITH the water you used to soak them into the slow cooker, along with the beef stock, apple cider vinegar, and the spice sachet. Give everything a stir and make sure the beef is covered in liquid as much as possible. Secure the lid on your slow cooker and slow cook on low heat for 8 to 10 hours.

    7. Once the slow cooking has finished, remove the meat from the crock pot and transfer it to a cutting board. Use two forks to shred the meat to your desired consistency, then transfer it to a large bowl.

    8. Transfer the chilis to a blender along with 2 cups of the liquid from the crock pot. Blend until completely smooth (note: you can also use an immersion blender to blend all of the braising liquid) Pour this mixture back into the crock pot. This liquid will now serve three purposes: for dipping the corn tortillas prior to frying the tacos, for pouring on the tacos during the frying process, and for serving as dipping sauce.

    Chilis in a blender with sauce

    9. Heat a large cast iron skillet with a generous amount of avocado oil or canola oil over high heat. Dip corn tortillas in the birria sauce, then transfer them to the hot cast iron skillet. Immediately sprinkle the whole surface of the corn tortilla with desired amount of cheese (if adding). Place the shredded meat on one side of the tortilla, then once the cheese is melted, fold the meat side of the tortilla over, creating a taco.

    Two corn tortillas in a cast iron skillet with cheese and shredded meat

    10. Drizzle spoonfuls of sauce over the taco, then flip and repeat for the other side. Continue cooking and flipping until the taco reaches your desired level of crisp.

    Sauce being poured on a taco as it is pan frying

    11. Serve birria tacos with pickled red onions, fresh cilantro, and a bowl or ramekin of the flavorful consommé for dipping the tacos.

    Birria tacos on a plate with dipping sauce to the side

Notes

*You can use a combination of beef chuck roast, oxtail, or bone-in beef short ribs.

**Sea salt is needed to season the beef and also to season the sauce. You can wait until the end of the cooking process before adding more salt to the sauce according to your personal taste.

Nutrition Information
Yield 6 Serving Size 2 Tacos
Amount Per Serving Calories 522Total Fat 32gCarbohydrates 34gFiber 2gSugar 4gProtein 26g
Crock Pot Birria Tacos, also known as quesabirria tacos, birria de res or birria quesatacos. Slow cooked meat in a rich chili sauce pan-fried in a corn tortilla with cheese, served with consommé sauce.

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BJ

Sunday 4th of September 2022

this. this is gold. so good. extra sauce freezes/keeps well and goes great on eggs & left over tortillas or rice.

Julia

Monday 5th of September 2022

I'm so happy you like it, BJ!

BJ

Sunday 4th of September 2022

PS! also translates perfectly well to IP.

Nicky

Wednesday 16th of March 2022

Am planning to make this at the weekend Julia. Looks super tasty! What sides would you recommend? Am thinking rice, guacamole, maybe some veggies? Many thanks in advance.

Nicky

Friday 18th of March 2022

@Julia, thank you. Have tried your Spanish rice which is yummy! Just wondering if I can freeze any leftovers. Thanks 😊

Julia

Thursday 17th of March 2022

I love the idea of serving the tacos with rice and guacamole! I love them with Spanish Rice, and if you like black beans or refried beans, that would be great too. If you like cotija cheese, I'd recommend adding that to the tacos in addition to the mozzarella for that amazing tangy flavor. A side salad may be a great option to add something fresh to the meal as well :) I hope you enjoy the tacos!

Shirley

Tuesday 1st of March 2022

OMG! My mouth is so ready for Birria tacos! This would be a treat any night of the year.

Julia

Tuesday 1st of March 2022

They're just so loaded with flavor and amazing texture! Truly addicting! :D

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