How To Make Instant Pot Beef Birria Tacos

How to Make Instant Pot Beef Birria Tacos

This step-by-step guide will walk you through making the very best homemade beef birria, plus how to turn it into crispy quesatacos.

Makesabout 18 tacos

Prep30 minutes

Cook2 hours 45 minutes to 3 hours

Jump to Recipe
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Beef birria tacos on plate.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

On a chilly day, there’s nothing like a big bowl of birria with warm consommé. But birria tacos — and specifically quesatacos? Well, there’s a reason I can’t stop making them. Quesatacos (also known as quesabirria) are a cross between a taco and a quesadilla, filled with melty cheese and the delicious shredded beef. In this step-by-step guide, I’ll walk you through making the very best homemade birria, and, most importantly, how to turn it into quesatacos.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

What Is Birria?

Birria is a savory Mexican stew that originated in Jalisco. Although it’s traditionally prepared with goat or sheep, the beef version has gained popularity in the past three years since goat isn’t as readily available. (I’ve tried birria prepared with goat and it’s delicious, but I have to say, I prefer the beef version.) The surrounding states of Zacatecas and Colima have their own unique versions of birria as well. 

Ingredients To Use

Restaurants, street carts, and food trucks throughout Mexico and the United States are known as birrierias, and they each claim to have their own secret ingredient that makes their recipe the best. My secret is simply to use the freshest ingredients available: ripe tomatoes, soft chile pods (not ones that are old and cracking), and fresh herbs and spices. It may take you a few attempts to find the exact flavor that suits your palate, but that’s the fun part of cooking.

A few years back on a trip to Texas, I made it my mission to try as many kinds of birria tacos as I could, and I had to pace myself because there were so many restaurants to choose from! Many places are getting creative and adding the braised beef to burritos, flautas, empanadas, ramen, and pizza, too. I’ve tried them all — sooo good.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

The Quickest Path to Homemade Beef Birria

Birria is often reserved for special occasions, such as weddings, christenings, and holidays. But it doesn’t have to be — especially when you use a pressure cooker. Although I grew up working with low-and-slow recipes, my abuela and aunts in Mexico use their pressure cookers daily. A few years back, I challenged myself to learn how to cook with it, and it was the best thing I ever did. Beef birria in the pressure cooker is much faster than braising in a Dutch oven (it’s ready in about one third of the time) and the flavors are rich and deep.

You’ll start by cooking the aromatics: bring the chiles, onion, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, and water to a boil in the Instant Pot. You’ll then blend the cooked aromatics with apple cider vinegar and lots of dried spices to create a flavorful sauce. Sear the beef in the Instant Pot; cover it in the sauce, beef broth, and fresh thyme; and bring it up to pressure. As it cooks, you’ll prepare the toppings for your tacos.

Once the cook time is up and you shred the beef, you have two options for serving: in a bowl with plenty of consommé and a side of warm corn tortillas, or as tacos or quesatacos with the consommé on the side. To go the taco route, you’ll dip tortillas in the warm consommé, fill them with cheese (don’t be skimpy!) and shredded beef, and crisp them on the stovetop until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are browned and crispy. Either way you do it, a simple garnish of cilantro, onion, lime, and a spicy red salsa is a must.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell
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Here's how to make beef birria tacos in the Instant Pot.

How to Make Instant Pot Beef Birria Tacos

This step-by-step guide will walk you through making the very best homemade beef birria, plus how to turn it into crispy quesatacos.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 2 hours 45 minutes to 3 hours

Makes about 18 tacos

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 pounds

    boneless beef chuck roast

  • 3 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 4

    dried guajillo chiles

  • 2

    dried ancho chiles

  • 1

    large white onion

  • 5 cloves

    peeled garlic

  • 1 (1-inch) piece

    fresh ginger

  • 2

    medium plum or roma tomatoes

  • 5 cups

    water

  • 1/4 cup

    apple cider vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon

    black peppercorns

  • 1 teaspoon

    dried Mexican oregano

  • 1 teaspoon

    cumin seeds

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground cloves

  • 1/4 cup

    avocado, grapeseed, or canola oil

  • 5 cups

    beef broth

  • 4 sprigs

    fresh thyme

  • 18

    (about 6-inch) corn tortillas

  • 1 cup

    fresh cilantro

  • 2

    medium limes

  • 1 pound

    Chihuahua, Oaxaca, or Monterey jack cheese, shredded (optional for quesatacos)

Equipment

  • Chef’s knife and cutting board

  • 6-quart or larger pressure cooker

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Slotted spoon

  • Blender

  • Griddle or large nonstick frying pan

  • Fine-mesh strainer

  • Box grater (optional)

  • 2 forks

  • Kitchen shears

Instructions

  1. Cut and season the beef. Cut 3/12 pounds chuck roast into 12 pieces. Season with 2 teaspoons of the kosher salt and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper.

  2. Prepare the chiles, onion, and ginger. Using kitchen shears, cut the stems from 4 guajillo and 2 ancho chiles. Remove the seeds. Peel and halve 1 large white onion. Peel 1-inch fresh ginger and cut in half. Place the chiles, half the onion (reserve the other half of the onion), and ginger in a 6-quart or larger pressure cooker.

  3. Cook the aromatics. Add 5 peeled garlic cloves, 2 plum tomatoes, and 5 cups water. Using the highest Sauté setting, bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes.

  4. Blend the sauce. Turn off the cooker. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chiles, onion, garlic, tomatoes, and ginger to a blender. Add 2 cups of the cooking liquid, the remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves. Blend on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.

  5. Strain the sauce. Fit a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl. Strain the sauce and push it through the strainer with the bottom of a ladle until only a thick paste remains in the strainer. Discard the contents of the strainer.

  6. Sear the beef. Empty, wash, and dry the insert of the pressure cooker. Add 1/4 cup avocado oil to the pressure cooker and heat on the highest Sauté setting for 5 minutes. Add half the beef and sear until browned on a few sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat searing the remaining beef.

  7. Pressure cook the beef. Return all the beef and any accumulated juices to the pressure cooker. Add the strained sauce, 5 cups beef broth, and 4 fresh thyme sprigs. Lock on the lid and make sure the valve is set to seal. Set to cook on HIGH pressure for 40 minutes. It will take 15 to 20 minutes to come up to pressure. Meanwhile, prepare the toppings.

  8. Prepare the toppings. Dice the reserved 1/2 onion. (If you’d like a less spicy onion, rinse under cold water.) Finely chop 1 cup fresh cilantro. Cut 2 limes into wedges. Shred 1 pound cheese if desired. Refrigerate in separate containers.

  9. Release the pressure naturally. When the cook time is up, let the pressure naturally release for 15 minutes. Quick release any remaining pressure.

  10. Shred the beef. Heat the oven to 250ºF. Using a slotted spoon, transfer all of the beef to a large bowl. Shred the beef with 2 forks, discarding any chunks of fat. Discard the thyme sprigs. Taste and season the beef and cooking liquid (consommé) with kosher salt as needed -- they should be very well seasoned.

  11. Dip the tortillas. Heat a griddle or large nonstick frying pan over medium heat (or about 350ºF on a griddle). Working with as many tortillas will fit in a single layer in the pan or griddle, dip the tortillas one at a time in the consommé. Place in the pan in a single layer.

  12. Fill the tacos. If making quesatacos (cheese birria tacos), sprinkle about 1/4 cup of the cheese onto each tortilla first. Top one half of each tortilla with about 1/4 cup shredded beef. Drizzle the beef with a little more consommé.

  13. Cook until crispy. When the cheese is melted, fold each tortilla in half. Cook, flipping halfway through, until browned in spots and crispy, 5 to 6 minutes total.

  14. Keep the tacos warm. Transfer the tacos to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Repeat assembling and cooking the remaining tacos. Serve the tacos garnished with the diced onion, cilantro, and lime wedges, with small bowls of consommé for dipping.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The chile sauce can be made ahead of time and kept frozen for a few months.

Storage: Once cooled, the birria and consommé can be stored in the refrigerator in separate airtight containers for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator the day before and reheat over medium heat for until warmed through, adding some of the consommé to the birria if it seems dry.

Stovetop pressure cooking: If using a stovetop pressure cooker, cook the chiles and sear the beef in the cooker over medium-high heat. When ready to pressure cook, lock the lid on. Place over high heat. In about 10 minutes, the pressure cooker will come up to high pressure. Reduce the heat to below medium and pressure cooker for 40 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally.

Slow cooker: Cook the chile sauce and sear the beef in a Dutch oven, then transfer to a slow cooker. Use some of the beef broth to deglaze the browned bits from the pan, and add that to the slow cooker also. Proceed with the recipe and cook on the LOW setting for 6 to 8 hours.

Dutch oven cooking: Sear and braise in a covered Dutch oven for 4 hours over medium heat.