Blend

Birria De Res Tacos With Queso Oaxaca From Salvador Alamilla

February  1, 2021
3 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
Author Notes

The traditional Mexican dish birria de res (beef birria) has leapt from California taco hashtags to the rest of the United States and beyond over the past couple of years. Worthy renditions are generating the word of mouth necessary for success away from social media and beyond large coastal cities.

Case in point: Becca and Salvador Alamilla opened Amano, a Mexican restaurant set in a former bank lobby (complete with vaults) in Caldwell, Idaho, in August 2019. Though Caldwell has a population of just under 57,000, the Alamillas have sold close to 25,000 birria de res tacos (listed as “L.A. Birria Tacos” on the menu) during the pandemic.

“We were very familiar with birria de res, since I grew up eating it as a celebratory dish and even had it at our wedding,” says Sal. “My grandfather, Guadalupe, used to make it for us growing up the way he made it from el rancho in Michoacan. When we were deciding which dishes to put on the menu, we realized we had a real opportunity to bring this dish to Idaho, since no one was doing this type of meat or style of taco. Our opening also coincided with tacos de birria exploding on the food scene in California, which helped drive their popularity here.”

The spicy, salty, meaty comfort of birria de res lends itself to countless cross-cultural applications. For example, birria ramen mania has firmly taken hold in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, two sizable regions where the dish is also seen in pho and on top of pizzas, gyros and burgers. We imagine it won’t be long before we see the stew inside Chinese potsticker wrappers or with a side of crispy Persian rice. If there was such a thing as a Comfort Meat Hall of Fame, birria de res would surely now deserve induction.

Amano, which also has a birria hash on its brunch menu, grinds masa from heirloom corn in-house daily to make tortillas for their L.A. birria tacos, which Becca attests “does make a big difference.” Serve Salvador’s approachable recipe below, with store-bought or homemade corn tortillas, homemade salsas, and plenty of stringy queso Oaxaca. —Tamara Palmer

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe makes enough marinade and salsa for several batches. Both freeze nicely, which will save you a lot of effort next time the craving for these incredibly hearty tacos strikes. —Jess Kapadia

  • Prep time 24 hours 45 minutes
  • Cook time 5 hours
  • Serves 6
Ingredients
  • For the salsa cruda, salsa picosa, and marinade
  • Salsa Cruda
  • 6 Roma tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/4 white onion, peeled
  • 8 chiles de árbol
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano, divided
  • 1/2 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1/4 white onion, peeled and finely diced
  • Salsa Picosa
  • 8 Roma tomatoes
  • 4 tomatillos
  • 1 quart water
  • 12 chiles de árbol (deseeded and destemmed)
  • 2 chiles guajillo (deseeded and destemmed)
  • 2 chiles morita (deseeded and destemmed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon sea salt
  • Birria Marinade
  • 1/2 gallon water
  • 20 chiles guajillo (destemmed and deseeded)
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 3 whole allspice
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • For the birria de res tacos
  • 2 1/2 pounds beef chuck roast, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup birria marinade
  • To serve:
  • Corn tortillas
  • Reserved birria consomé
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 ounce Queso Oaxaca, shredded
  • 1 ounce salsa cruda
  • 1 ounce salsa picosa
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white onion, finely chopped
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. For the salsa cruda, salsa picosa, and marinade
  2. For the salsa cruda: Add tomatoes, water, the 1/4 onion that hasn’t been diced, chiles de árbol, oregano, and sea salt in a blender, and blend with 2/3 cup water to desired consistency. Transfer salsa to a serving bowl, stir in the diced onion, and cover until ready to use.
  3. For the salsa picosa: In a medium pot, add tomatoes, peeled tomatillos, and a quart of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer for five minutes, then remove from heat and set aside. In a skillet over medium heat, add chiles de árbol, chiles guajillo, and chiles morita. Toast the chiles until slightly brown. Remove from heat and set aside. Add all the ingredients to a blender, and blend until smooth. Transfer contents to a serving bowl, and cover until ready to use.
  4. For the birria marinade: Add 1/2 gallon of water and the guajillo chiles to a medium pot, bring to a boil, and let steep for 10 minutes. Add all ingredients (including the water used for boiling) to a blender, and blend until smooth. Extra marinade will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week (or freeze to use next time).
  1. For the birria de res tacos
  2. For the birria de res: Add beef chuck to a medium roasting pan. Pour vinegar over beef, and rub with your hands to incorporate, then repeat with sea salt.
  3. Add marinade, and rub to incorporate evenly. Cover the pan with foil or plastic wrap, transfer to the refrigerator, and marinate for at least 24 hours or up to 48 hours.
  4. Transfer the roasting pan to a 325ºF oven and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the beef from the oven, reserving the drippings and juice (consomé).
  5. To assemble the tacos: Heat canola oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Dip tortilla into consomé and immediately lay down carefully over oil.
  6. In 12 seconds, flip the tortilla and quickly add queso Oaxaca, making sure to distribute evenly. Add birria, salsa cruda, salsa picosa, cilantro, and onion, and fold taco carefully in half. Let cook for 1 minute.
  7. Flip taco carefully and cook for another 2 minutes until crispy.
  8. Taco is ready to serve with salsa and consomé. Make sure to dip it before your first bite.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Smaug
    Smaug
  • Laura
    Laura
  • Lamegs
    Lamegs
  • anniew
    anniew

    6 Reviews

    Laura February 21, 2021
    The marinated, slow roasted meat is divine.
    The salsas leave a lot to be desired. I will not make them again.
    Serve the tacos with the cheese, cilantro and pickled red onions.
     
    Lamegs February 13, 2021
    So I halved everything but the amount of meat called for, to cut down on leftover marinade and salsa. It made enough leftover for approximately one more meal.

    The Salsa Picoso was very watery as wtitten, but returning it to the stove after blending, and reducing it for 20 minutes made it truly shine. I will save this portion of the recipe forever.

    I doubled the marinade to two cups and only used half the recommended salt for the meat, and because of the review saying it came out dry, I cooked it with the lid on for about 3 hours. It came out with the perfect amount of sauce, but was still very salty. I was glad I halved the salt.

    The meat is delicious! The salsas are delicious, the recipe is lackluster as written. It requires some culinary know how and being able to tell when something isn't right and compensate for it.
     
    anniew February 7, 2021
    Confusing! This recipe was sooo confusing to follow! There was no indication of where an ingredient list for each part of the recipe started and stopped. I knew there were things off with the recipe -salt amounts, cooking times, etc, but I still followed the recipe to a tee. The salsas were VERY spicy (and I like spice), Very salty (and I like salt) The recipe said to cook the meat for 4 hours!! after 1.5 hours at 325, the beef was burnt and dry. Please DO NOT cook the beef for 4 hours. Sadly, I will not be making this recipe again.
     
    klhestead February 7, 2021
    So exciting to see Amano featured on 52! I eat here regularly and everything they make is fantastic, including the Birria Tacos. I'm going to attack this project next week.
     
    Smaug February 6, 2021
    This could use some clarification on the amounts of Mexican oregano used. In my experience at least it's always stored whole and crumbled at the time of use, which would make a Tb. a very small amount- I don't see any way to measure it precisely (or need to do so) but a general indication would be useful. Also a little unclear on step 2, the salsa picosa- the chiles are toasted and set aside; I assume they're blended with the other ingredients, but it's not really stated and apparently they're not soaked first? I've often wondered how important that is when using a blender (if you were going to grind them on a metate you'd certainly want to soak them) but I haven't actually experimented with it.
     
    Joan S. February 5, 2021
    Looks like a very authentic recipe. One to plan for and maybe make as an all day affair. It would be a good family event.