Some background: Birria tacos are blowing up on tiktok, every time I open the app I see a recipe or just someone eating them. It also happens to be hatch Chile season right now and I found a bag of them at my Trader Joe’s.
Traditional Birria originates from Mexico and is made with goat, beef, lamb, or pork. It is served either as a stew or as quesabirria (tacos) with a side of consommé (broth) for dipping. Typically the recipe uses Guajillo and Ancho chiles along with chipotle peppers. I was feeling inspired by the method used and switched up my ingredients. I used chicken because I prefer chicken to red meat and wanted a lighter version. There are tons of good traditional Birria recipes out there and naturally they all vary based on preference and how you learned to make it.
Time: Up to 3 hours
Serves: 4 people
You’ll need (stew only)
2 lbs chicken thighs, bone removed
3 hatch or green Chile peppers
1 medium white onion
4 large garlic cloves
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce *canned
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon paprika
salt to taste
toppings: cilantro, onion, sour cream, cheese
For quesabirria style tacos:
Corn tortillas (12-16 depending on size and how much chicken you add to each)
freshly shredded white cheddar or quesadilla cheese
toppings: cilantro, onion, sour cream
Heat a large pot (mine holds 4 quarts) over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and add in the chicken. Sear each side for about 5 minutes or until they easily pull loose from the pan.
While the chicken is searing, remove the stem and seeds from your chiles. Cut the chiles into thirds. Cut the onion into quarters, keeping the root in tact so the layers don’t fall apart. Remove the skin from the onion and from your garlic cloves.
Add water to the pot until the chicken is covered by two inches. Add in the chiles, onion, garlic, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves into the pot. Stir everything together then cover the pot and simmer for an hour.
After an hour, remove the lid. Now you can go one of two ways here. If you have an immersion blender you can remove the meat, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick, and blend all the veggies right in the pot. If you do not have an immersion blender, remove the veggies (chiles, onion, garlic) and add them to a blender. Either way, before you blend add in tomato paste, oregano, paprika, and chipotle peppers. After blending add the meat or blended veggies back into the pot. Taste for salt and adjust. Cover and simmer for another hour.
After an hour, remove the chicken. Use forks to shred it up and then transfer to a skillet and cook on medium heat until the edges start to crisp.
If you are eating it as a stew: add the chicken back into the pot. Split into bowls, top with toppings and enjoy!
If you are eating it as tacos: one at a time you’ll want to dip your tortilla into to the consommé (broth). Heat the tortilla in a skillet over medium heat. After 20-30 seconds (or once the bottom side starts to brown) flip the tortilla. Add a couple tablespoons of freshly shredded cheese to the whole tortilla, then add a little bit of shredded chicken and let the cheese melt. You can also add diced onion and cilantro to the filling. Flip the tortilla in half once the cheese is melted. Repeat until you either run out of ingredients or have as many as you want.
If you are enjoying this as a stew, I like to add cooked rice. You can either add 1 cup of rice and 2 cups of water and let it cook for 20 minutes at the end OR you can cook rice separately and just add it in. If you cook the rice in the soup you’ll need to turn the heat up a little to get a rolling simmer.
I used hatch chiles because they were in season, you could sub in regular green chiles or Anaheim peppers. You can experiment here!
If you want it hotter, add hot sauce