By now I’m sure you’ve tried, or at least heard of, trendy Birria Tacos. Tender braised beef in a birria consome sauce sandwiched into a tortilla with cheese and dipped back in more toasty sauce. Welp, they don’t just come in beef flavor!
These delicious handhelds can also be made into chicken birria tacos, also known as birria de pollo or birria chicken. In fact, most traditionally they are made with goat or lamb, but the American version is usually beef.
I Thought Birria Tacos Were Beef?
Many times they are- but chicken can be just as tasty! I imagine you can also make them with pork shoulder (pork butt) but I haven’t tried it yet. As with beef, the richly-flavored birria sauce is a match made in flavor heaven — they’re only made better with the topping of melted cheese, salsa macha (more on that goodness, later) and birria consome.
What makes birria tacos different from other tacos is that they’re prepared with a sauce that combines a wide variety of flavors including hot, sweet, and spicy that all combine beautifully with the deep flavor of the meat’s juices. Changing the protein will also change the profile of the sauce. They never quite taste the same so you’ll never get bored.
The best thing about this recipe is that it can be as fast or as slow to make as you like. It can take less than an hour in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot or a little over 3 hours in the oven — that means you can prepare to make a big batch for a party or you can pop it in when you get home from work.
What is Salsa Macha?
A course, flavorful mixture of grapeseed oil, peanuts, dried chiles, peanuts, sesame seeds, vinegar, and sugar, you couldn’t find a more amazing topping for this meaty goodness wrapped in a tortilla. It adds texture and even more incredible depth of flavors in this already-rich dish.
You also needn’t reserve salsa macha for tacos. Keep the recipe up your sleeve for the likes of salad or ceviche or even try it on pizza.
Why You’ll Love Birria Tacos
Who doesn’t love a delicious taco recipe?
- Delicious – With meat that’s moist and juicy and tons of spices that are not only good, but good for you, this is a hearty meal that hits the spot.
- Affordable – Boneless chicken thighs are one of the most inexpensive cuts of protein but have so much more flavor.
- Flavorful – With spices and sauces that range from smoky to hot and acidic to slightly sweet there are layers of flavors in these tacos.
- Easy – It only takes a little time to brown the meat before heating it in the Instant Pot or oven and it’s a short, quick process to make the accompanying sauce, too. The meat and sauce can be made ahead of time so all you need to do is assemble the tacos and cook!
Chicken Birria Tacos Ingredients
The list may look a little long, but rest assured that the ingredients are easy to source and that many of them are probably already on your shelves.
- Boneless Chicken Thighs – Chicken thighs are considered to be a dark meat and have so much more flavor than chicken breasts. Using a boneless version saves times when shredding the meat. Of course, you can also use boneless, skinless chicken breasts as an alternative with little change to the cooking time whether you choose the Instant Pot method or oven braising.
- Vegetable oil – You can use any oil you prefer, but this one is inexpensive and its neutral flavor won’t interfere with the other layers of flavor in the recipe.
- Coarse kosher salt – Use a good quality salt to make sure it brings out the other ingredients.
- Ground black pepper – I prefer to use freshly ground pepper but you can use your table shaker if that’s what you have handy.
- Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce – The peppers add smoky heat while the adobo sauce adds an acidic zing.
- Adobo sauce – More adobo sauce increases the tomato and vinegar content of the dish along with other spices.
- Crushed tomatoes – Crushed tomatoes add bright acidity.
- Garlic – Minced fresh garlic is most ideal but you can use packaged minced garlic as well.
- Yellow onion – Chop up the onion in small, uniform pieces.
- Ancho chile powder – Consisting of dried, ground poblanos, ancho chile powder adds more heat than a chili powder you might use to make a pot of chili.
- Dried oregano – Oregano adds a touch of warm flavor to the mixture.
- Ground cumin – Cumin lends an earthy flavor to the tacos.
- Paprika – This mild and mellow spice brings bright flavor to the dish.
- Ground cloves – This aromatic seasoning brings warmth to the tacos as well.
- Ground cinnamon – Cinnamon adds depth of flavor to the sauce.
- Apple cider vinegar – This type of vinegar adds a slightly sweet yet vinegary zing.
- Vegetable oil – Again, the neutral flavor of the oil is ideal for this dish. If you choose another oil, just make sure that it has an appropriate smoke point.
- Small corn tortillas – Smaller tortillas are better for these tacos to make sure that there’s not too much time for the sauces to make the tacos soggy.
- Monterey Jack or oaxaca cheese – Either of these cheeses will work well – just choose whichever is your preference, or easiest to find at your grocery stores.
- Cilantro – Chop up the cilantro finely. It’s best to serve it on the side to account for people who do not like the flavor of cilantro.
- White onion – Chop the white onion finely.
- Fresh lime wedges – Serve these to squeeze over top of the tacos.
How to Make Chicken Birria Tacos
- Add the chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, tomatoes, garlic, onion, ancho chile powder, oregano, cumin, paprika, cloves, cinnamon and vinegar to a large bowl or food processor.
- Using the food processor or an immersion blender, pulse the mixture until it becomes a paste.
- Add water and pulse until combined.
- Sprinkle the chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
- Pour the vegetable oil into the Instant Pot and heat it using the sauté setting.
- Place the sear the chicken thighs in the Instant Pot (or pressure cooker), using tongs to brown on all sides.
- Pour the reserved sauce into the pot with the chicken.
- Lock the lid and set to manual high heat for 13 minutes.
- When ready to remove, use the quick release method.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken and transfer it to a bowl.
- Use 2 forks to shred, discarding any large pieces of skin or fat.
- Use a mesh sieve or colander to remove the large chunks, allowing the fats to remain on top.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the vegetable oil.
- Dip corn tortillas first into the birria broth and then place them into the hot pan.
- Add cheese and shredded chicken to the tortilla, then fold the tortilla to make the taco.
- Sear the first side of the tortilla then turn. Continue to cook until cheese is melted and the tortilla is browned.
- Remove the tacos from the heat and garnish with salsa macha, onion, fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
- In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat on the stove, heat the oil.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the hot pan, browning on all sides.
- Make the sauce, then add it to the chicken
- Cover and place into the pre-heated oven (300°F) for 2 hours, or until chicken easily shreds with a fork.
- Pick back up with the step of removing the chicken and shredding it.
I love this chicken birria taco recipe just like this, but you can try your own twists, too.
- Oils – Use any alternative that you like such as olive oil or avocado oil.
- Powders – If you don’t have fresh garlic or onion, in a pinch you can use powdered versions.
- Cilantro – If you don’t enjoy the flavor of cilantro you can try garnishing with parsley, Mexican oregano, or Thai basil.
- Beef – You can use other cuts as well, but this will give you the most bang for your buck.
- Paprika – Instead of regular paprika, try swapping in smoked paprika for more smoky flavor.
- Meat – Instead of beef you can try anything from pork to chicken or lamb or goat meat.
- Bay leaves – For additional flavor, try using bay leaves. Just remember to discard the bay leaf after cooking.
- Tortillas – If you prefer, you can use flour tortillas instead.
- Onions – You can use other onions, like green or red onions, in place of the white onion for garnish.
- Cheese – Any melty cheese makes these tacos delicious. Feel free to use another variety like mozzarella cheese or whatever you prefer.
Storage, Make Ahead and Freezing
With tacos this delicious, it’s likely you won’t have leftovers. But if you do, here are some storage tips.
Make-Ahead: You can do all of the prep work and wait until you’re ready to toss the beef into the oven or Instant Pot so it’s ready when you need it.
Refrigerator: The beef will stay fresh in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You can choose to store it with the broth or to keep them separate.
Freezer: Store the beef in the freezer in a ziploc bag or freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. It’s recommended to freeze the broth separately.
More Tasty Taco Recipes
Chicken Birria Taco Recipe
- 2-3 pounds boneless chicken thighs
- 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
- ½ cup crushed tomatoes
- 2-3 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 yellow onion , chopped
- 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- In a large food processor or a large bowl with an immersion blender, combine the chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, tomatoes, garlic, onion, chili powder, oregano, cumin, paprika, cloves, cinnamon and vinegar. Pulse until you form a paste. Add 2 cups of water and pulse several times. Set aside.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the vegetable oil over sauté in the instant pot.
- Add the chicken, browning on all sides, about 2-3 minutes per side.
- Add the reserved sauce. Place the lid on, lock in place and set to manual high pressure for 13 minutes. Use quick release method.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken to a bowl and use 2 forks to shred, discarding any large bits of fat.
- Pour the sauce through a mesh sieve or colander to remove larger pieces. Allow the fats to settle on top.
- Heat 1-2 teaspoons of the vegetable oil in a large skillet. Dip 2-3 corn tortillas (how many will fit in the skillet) in the birria broth and directly into the hot skillet.
- Sprinkle 1 tablespoons of cheese in each tortilla, then 2-3 tablespoons of shredded chicken. Fold over the tortilla to form a taco. Sear on each side for 1-2 minutes or until browned.
- Remove and serve with fresh cilantro, onion, lime wedges and extra birria consommé for dipping.