These birria quesa tacos are beyond delicious! Each crispy taco is filled with tender and juicy braised beef and melty cheese. It's a cross between a taco and a quesadilla, which is why they are called quesa tacos. The best part is dipping the taco into the savory consommé.
This recipe was first published April 18, 2022.
As an Arizonian I am in love with Southwest and Mexican cuisine. I could eat it every single day. Living in the Southwest there is always an abundance of Mexican food every which way you go, and it's all my favorite! Birria tacos have been all the rage lately, so I'm sharing my recipe with you today.
If you are wondering, "what in the world is a birria quesa taco?", let me tell you in an easy to understand explanation.
It's a taco that looks like a quesadilla. Inside it's stuffed with juicy shredded beef and Oaxaca cheese (that's a melty Mexican cheese, similar to mozzarella). You make a braising (braise = slow cook in the oven) liquid with dried chili pods, onions, spices and more.
Before you think about high tailing it out of here as soon as you saw chili pods, don't be intimidated. I have a whole section below all about dried chili pods and just how easy they are to use. Once you've done it, you won't even blink twice the next time.
These tacos are so good my kindergartener asked to put one in her lunch for school.
How To Use Dried Chili Pods
Chili pods are dried peppers. You get them in the hispanic section of the grocery store or you can go to a Mexican market. They are sold in plastic bags, about 6" x 8" big.
For this recipe I'm using a mix of two chili's, the New Mexican chili pod and the pasilla chili pod. I've found that these two varieties are the easiest to find in the store.
To use a dried chili pod you first have to rehydrate. Before rehydrating you are welcome to toast the chili's in a pan to bring back some flavor. I usually skip this step just because of time, but it's up to you.
Cut the stem off the top of the chili pod and remove all the seeds.
To rehydrate the chilis all you need to do is put them in a large bowl with very hot water covering them. Let them soak for 20 minutes and they will be ready to use.
During one of the recipe tests, I rehydrated the chili pods in the broth before pureeing it. I didn't like the way it made the consommé taste, it had an overall bitter taste and too much smokiness by doing this. Rehydrating them separately was a much better choice.
Preparing The Beef
This recipe calls for both chuck roast and bone-in beef short ribs.
Let the meat sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to doing anything.
Cut the chuck roast into very large chunks. Season the chuck roast and the short ribs generously with salt and pepper.
You can see in my pictures that I left all the fat on the meat. This is important, do not trim off any fat. That fat will rise to the top and is what you need to dip the tortillas in to cook to get crispy tacos.
In a large dutch oven add a small amount of high heat oil to the bottom. Let the pan get hot. In batches, add the meat to the pan, pressing down on the top of each piece to make sure it's in contact with the pan.
Do not overcrowd the meat. It won't sear properly if there isn't space between each piece. You are looking for crispy golden edges each time you sear a new side.
Preparing the Consommé
After searing the meat don't wipe anything out of the pan.
Add chopped onion and whole garlic cloves to the pan and sauté for 5 minutes. Then add in the oregano, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, bay leaves, fire roasted tomatoes, beef broth, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar and salt.
Bring this to a boil and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add in the rehydrated chili pods. Use an immersion blender to turn it into a thick consommé. You can make it as smooth as you like, my preference is to get it as smooth as possible.
Using an immersion blender instead of a regular blender is safer and my suggested method. Hot liquids in a regular blender can be unsafe if you do not know how to handle that process.
After pureeing the liquid add all of the beef back into the pot.
Cover the pot with a lid and transfer it to your oven. Cook in the oven for 3 hours at 325 degrees.
You can see in the photo below after my meat is done cooking there is a distinct layer of fat on top! This is exactly what you need to dip the tortillas in.
When you remove the meat, don't stir, just pull it straight out of the pot.
Shred the meat with two forks and you are ready to fill your tacos! If the meat doesn't readily shred, it wasn't cooked long enough, it needs the full 3 hours.
Frying The Taco
Birria quesa tacos are fried on a pan in the layer of fat that has accumulated at the top of the pot during the braising process.
All the fat from searing the meat and the slow cooking in the oven release out the grease from the fat on the meat and rises to the top of the consommé.
This fat layer on top of the liquid is crucial to getting perfect birria quesa tacos.
Without this layer of fat you won't be able to fry the corn tortilla. If you are just dipping the tortilla into the consommé and trying to fry it on the pan, it will not work. What you will end up with is a soggy tortilla and then it will start to burn from trying to cook out the sogginess.
Dip (more so, gently swipe or lay) the corn tortilla in the grease. Do not submerge it, just the very tippy top layer. Place it on a hot nonstick pan that has a little oil on it. It takes less than a minute for the first side to cook so be ready to flip.
After you flip the tortilla lay down some oaxaca cheese on it and shredded beef. Once the cheese starts to melt fold it over. If it needs to crisp up more continue cooking, otherwise take it off the pan.
**If you don't have the fat layer on top, for whatever reason, then skip dipping the tortilla. Instead drizzle a high heat oil (I like sunflower oil) on a nonstick pan. Lay the tortilla down and cook the first side, once it's not as pliable flip it over and continue cooking.
Lay down some oaxaca cheese and the meat. Once the cheese starts melting fold the taco over. This method should give you a crispy taco.
Consommé is a liquid that has been thickened by pureeing it. All of the ingredients in the pot get pureed by an immersion blender which turns it into consommé.
Birria is a Mexican dish, traditionally made with goat meat but can also be made with beef. Quesa means cheese in Spanish. So birria quesa is the beef dish accompanied with cheese.
You must use the fat on the very top of the pot of liquid to dip the tortillas in. Not even dip, but gently lay them on. If you do not have the fat on top of your liquid then this method will not work and the taco shells won't crisp up. If you dip it way down into the consommé you will just have a soggy birria taco.
If the meat was seared correctly there should definitely be some fat on top. But if there isn't don't panic. You can use some high heat oil (sunflower oil is good). Drizzle some in your pan and lay down the tortilla as if you were using the fat from the liquid.
In recipe testing I found that using a nonstick pan was the only way my birria quesa tacos did not stick. Cast iron skillet just did not work for me, and neither did stainless. My nonstick pan with a little oil in the bottom was the best route. If your tacos are sticking then try switching to a nonstick pan or you may need some oil in your pan.
- 2 lb chuck roast
- 1 ½ lb bone-in beef short ribs
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, whole
- 1 tbsp Mexican oregano
- ⅛ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp coriander
- 2 tsp cumin
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 14.5 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
- 4 cups beef broth
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 pasilla chili pods
- 4 New Mexico chili pods
- 8 oz Oaxaca cheese
- Corn tortillas
- White onion, diced
- Cilantro, chopped
- Cotija cheese
- Lime wedges
- Preheat oven to 325
- Cut the chuck roast into large chunks (do not trim off any fat on the meat), about the same size as the short ribs
- Pat the meat dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper
- Salt and pepper the meat, pat dry
- Sear all sides of the meat on high heat, especially the fatty sides of the short ribs (see notes) and do not crowd the meat, each pieces needs space, sear the meat in batches
- Set all of the meat aside for now
- Tear out the seeds in the chili pods
- Cover the chili pods with hot water and soak for 20 minutes
- Over medium heat add 1 tablespoon of oil in the pan used to sear the meat
- To the pan add the onions and garlic cloves, sauté for 3 minutes
- Stir in the Mexican oregano, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, bay leaves and brown sugar
- Add the roasted tomatoes, beef broth and apple cider vinegar
- Bring to a rolling boil for 5 minutes
- Add in the soaked chili pods (discard the soaking water) and turn the heat off
- Wear oven mits and use an immersion blender to blend everything together, being very careful since the liquid is hot
- Place the meat back in to the pan
- Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven, cook for 3 hours
- Remove the pan from the oven and take out the meat
- Do NOT stir the sauce
- Shred the meat with two forks
- *You MUST have a layer of grease fat at the top of the pan to lay the tortilla in or else it won’t fry or work for this method, if you don’t have any fat then use oil in your pan and don’t dip it in the sauce it will just get soggy*
- Dip the tortilla in the very top layer of grease left in the pan
- Lay the tortilla on a nonstick hot pan
- Cook one minute then flip, add the Oaxaca cheese then the meat and sandwich like a quesadilla, continue cooking until the cheese has melted
- After using up all the grease in the pan, ladle the consommé into individual little bowls, top with diced onion and cilantro
- Optionally you can add more diced onion, cilantro and cotija cheese into or on top of your taco
- Dip the taco into the consommé
The meat should be a dark golden color and have crisp bits around the seared edges, if it doesn’t then the meat wasn’t seared at a high enough temperature or the pan was crowded. Each pieces of meat needs a bubble of space around it to sear properly or else it will just release steam and moisture.
The tortilla will not fry if you do not have any grease on the top of the consommé. Skip this and fry it with some oil if this is your situation. Making sure to sear the fatty sides of the short ribs really well helps release fat.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 30 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 322Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 79mgSodium: 764mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 24g
This information comes from online calculators. Although moderncrumb.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.