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Easy Quesabirria Tacos

These Quesabirria Tacos have the perfect balance of crunchy tortilla, tender meat and melty cheese! Save the extra stew broth for a simple dipping sauce.

Growing up near the Mexican border I often visited Tijuana with my Nana to see family, go shopping and enjoy a good meal. It was the 1980’s and life was different back then. We’d get up early in the morning, cross the border before the line got too long, then spend the day browsing the marketplace with my tias (aunts) and munching on antojitos (street food) along the way. I loved snacking on quesadillas made with fresh corn tortillas, elotes (grilled corn) and churros. Probably my favorite treat was tacos de lengua (tacos made with cow tongue). I know that might sound strange if you’re not used to eating tongue let me tell you, that meat just falls apart in your mouth when it’s cooked right. So. Good.

It has been years since I tasted Mexican street food, so a couple of weeks ago I decided to try my hand at recreating some of those flavors. I may try mole next…. I haven’t had that since I was a teen in my Nana’s kitchen. Sometimes recreating the flavors of your past can be a way of visiting loved ones long gone ya know?

But for now, let’s start with quesabirra tacos. After tacos de lengua these were probably my favorite street food tacos!

Dipping a taco in sauce

What Are Quesabirria Tacos?

A quesabirria is a cheesy version of a birria taco.

Traditionally, birria tacos are made with stewed goat meat but you can also make them with beef or mutton. The meat is marinated in a flavorful adobo sauce, then cooked in a broth until it’s fall-apart tender. Then you stuff it in a corn tortilla and top it with a squeeze of lime and some fresh cilantro.

Once you add cheese (queso) to the mix, the taco becomes a quesabirria. Sometimes this is also called a quesotaco. The quesabirria originated in Tijuana and is basically what you get when a taco and a quesadilla come together and create something amazing.

Quesabirria is often made with beef, which is what I used for this recipe. You stuff the cooked meat into a corn tortilla with cheese, fry it until the cheese is melty, then serve it with leftover stew broth as a dipping sauce.

What You’ll Need

Here’s what you’ll need to make quesabirria tacos. Be sure to scroll down to the recipe card for specific amounts.

For the meat:

  • Short ribs – Deboned and cubed
  • Beef chuck roast
  • Sea salt – Kosher salt works too.
  • Black pepper

For the meat marinade:

  • Dried guajillo peppers
  • Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Tomato paste
  • Garlic
  • Dry spices: oregano, smoked paprika, ground cumin, cayenne pepper.

For the stew:

  • Olive Oil – I prefer to use extra virgin olive oil
  • White onion – You could also use yellow onion
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Bay leaves
  • Beef broth

Once your stew has finished cooking, we’ll use the meat for the tacos and use the leftover broth for a dipping sauce.

For assembling the tacos:

  • Yellow corn tortillas
  • Oaxaca cheese – This is a stringy, melty cheese that’s usually found in Latin American grocery stores. If you can’t find it you can use another melty, mildy flavored cheese like mozzarella. Use “low moisture” mozzarella in this case.
  • Fresh cilantro

How to Make Quesabirria Tacos

Making quesabirria tacos at home is easy, but also a bit of a process! It’s not complicated, it just takes time. I recommend marinating the meat overnight, then cooking the stew and assembling your tacos the next day.

Ready to dive in? Here’s how to do it:

Prepare the Birria

  • Prepare the meat: Trim and cube the chuck roast and short ribs. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside in a large container with a lid.
  • Soften the dried chilis: Bring a medium-sized pot of water to boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and soak the guajillo chilis for 10 minutes. Remove the peppers from the water and remove both the stems and seeds.
  • Make the meat marinade: In a blender, place the guajillo peppers, one chipotle pepper, all of the adobo sauce, apple cider vinegar, tomato paste, garlic, oregano, cumin, paprika and cayenne. Blend until smooth.
  • Marinate: Pour the sauce over the meat in the container. Cover with the lid and marinate for at least 1 hour. Do not rush the marinade time! More than an hour is better as it gives the meat more time to absorb all the flavors. I prefer to let it marinate overnight.

Cook the Stew

  • Preheat the oven to 325F.
  • Cook the onion and sear the meat: Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a french or dutch oven. Heat oil over medium heat and add the chopped onion. Cook for 3 minutes or until softened. Add the marinated meat and all the sauce. Mix in the cinnamon, bay leaves and beef broth.
  • Cover and braise the beef in the oven for 3 hours. Again, don’t rush the process. Birria meat is so tender because it cooks low and slow.
  • Remove the stew from the oven and skim some of the fat off the top. Place the fat in a separate dish and set aside. We are going to use this fat to cook the tacos!
  • Remove meat and shred with a fork. Return to the dutch oven once finished. Stir to toss the shredded meat with the sauce.

Make the Tacos

Warm the fat: Add 1-2 tablespoons of the reserved fat into a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Assemble and cook the tacos:

  • One at a time, dip one side of the corn tortillas into the stew and place coated side down onto the heated skillet with the warmed fat.
  • Top the tortilla with the shredded Oaxaca cheese. When the cheese is starting to melt, top it off with shredded beef and fold over one side onto the other.
  • Fry on both sides until crispy. Remove and set onto a serving platter. Repeat with the remaining tacos.
  • Serve with more cheese sprinkled on top, some cilantro, and extra stew broth for dipping.

How to Serve Quesabirria

You can eat quesabirria tacos just as they are, right off the griddle. Usually, they are eaten with a little cup of extra stew broth. You dip your taco into the broth before taking each bite.

But maybe you want your quesabirrias to be a bit extra? I feel that! Here are some of my favorite topping ideas:

Quesabirria tacos with dipping sauce

Tips for Success

My biggest tip for making the best quesabirra tacos? Don’t rush the process.

Making tender, flavorful birria meat takes time so I recommend giving the raw beef plenty of time to marinate (overnight is best), then letting it cook low and slow for the full 3 hours. I do not recommend trying to rush the process by cooking on the stovetop or even using an Instant Pot, tempting though it might be.

Another tip? Fry the tacos in the skimmed fat. Cooking them in fat from the stew adds incredible flavor! You can supplement with olive oil if you really must, but don’t try to go all healthy and skip frying in the fat. Quesabirra tacos are not health food. Embrace it! 🙂

Quesabirria tacos, one with a bite taken out

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

Tacos: It is difficult to save the cooked tacos for later, so loosen your belt and gobble them up! But if you must save leftovers, you can store cooled quesabirrias in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 days. Reheat them by frying them again on the stovetop until warmed through, or placing them in an oven preheated to 350F until the insides are warm (about 8-10 minutes).

Birria Meat: This recipe makes a generous amount of stew, so you will have leftover meat. You can store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. You may also freeze it for up to 3 months. See below for some tasty ways to use it!

Ways to Use Leftover Birria Meat

Leftover birria meat is incredible in burritos, made into more tacos, or just spooned on top of Instant Pot Mexican Rice. You can also serve it on top of Vegetarian Dirty Rice as long as you don’t mind your meal not being vegetarian anymore. 🙂

I also have some recipes showing you how to use extra birria meat:

  • Birria Pizza – Homemade pizza dough topped with extra birria sauce and meat, then topped with melty cheese.
  • Birria Quesadillas – A classic way to use up extras in Mexican households.
  • Birria Mulitas – Essentially these are birria quesadillas with the WORKS. So good.
  • Birria Enchiladas – A cozy Mexican dinner idea made with homemade enchilada sauce.
  • Birria Ramen – This is a super quick way to use up leftover birria meat.
  • Birria Flautas – Crisp tortillas stuffed with birria meat and cheese, then served with guacamole and sour cream.

You can also use birria meat in place of pork carnitas to make tortas ahogadas.

Enjoy!

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Quesabirria Tacos with Dipping Sauce

Quesadbirria tacos on a plate
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These Quesabirria Tacos have the perfect balance of crunchy tortilla, tender meat and melty cheese! Save the extra stew broth for an easy dipping sauce.

  • Author: Rustic Family Recipes
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 4 hours
  • Total Time: 6 hours
  • Yield: 12 tacos
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Ingredients

  • 45 short ribs, deboned and cubed
  • 2 lbs beef chuck roast
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Marinade Sauce:

  • 67 dried guajillo peppers
  • 1 7oz can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1⁄2 tsp cayenne pepper

Stew:

  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 cup white onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 32 ounce beef broth

Tacos:

  • 16 yellow corn tortillas
  • 1 1⁄2 cups Oaxaca cheese, shredded
  • Fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish

Instructions

Prepare the Birria:

  • Prep the meat. Trim and cube the chuck roast and short ribs. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside in a large container with a lid.
  • Soften the dried chilis. Bring a medium sized pot of water to boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and soak the guajillo chilis for 10 minutes. Remove the peppers from the water and remove both the stems and seeds.
  • Make the marinade. In a blender, place the guajillo peppers, one chipotle pepper, all of the adobo sauce, apple cider vinegar, tomato paste, garlic, oregano, cumin, paprika and cayenne. Blend until smooth.
  • Marinate the meat. Pour the sauce over the meat in the container. Cover with the lid and marinate for at least 1 hour.

Cook the Stew

  • Preheat the oven to 325F.
  • Cook the onion and sear the meat. Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a french or dutch oven. Heat oil over medium heat and add the chopped onion. Cook for 3 minutes or until softened. Add the marinated meat and all the sauce. Mix in the cinnamon, bay leaves and beef broth.
  • Cover and braise the beef in the oven for 3 hours.
  • Remove the stew from the oven and skim some of the fat off the top. Place the fat in a separate dish and set aside.
  • Remove meat and shred with a fork. Return to the dutch oven once finished. Stir to toss the shredded meat with the sauce.

Assemble the tacos:

  • Melt the reserved fat. Add 1-2 tablespoons of the reserved fat into a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Fry the tacos. One at a time, dip one side of the corn tortillas into the stew and place coated side down onto the heated skillet. Top the tortilla with the shredded Oaxaca cheese. When the cheese is starting to melt, top it off with shredded beef and fold over one side onto the other. Fry on both sides until crispy. Remove and set onto a serving platter. Repeat with the remaining tacos.

Serve! Top the tacos with more Oaxaca cheese and cilantro. Pour some of the birria stew broth into a cup for an easy dipping sauce.

Notes

You will have some Birria meat leftover. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. You may freeze for up to 3 months.

Keywords: quesabirria tacos, birria tacos with consomme, quesabirrias, quesa birria

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. The best tacos ever! One you go quesabirria you never go back. Well done. Love this recipe.

  2. Can you cook on stove top when you donโ€™t have an oven and what would the amount of beef stock would you use when cooked on stove top?

    1. Rustic Family Recipes

      I have not cooked this on the stovetop, but you probably could cook it covered over medium-low heat. It’s hard to say how much broth you would need but you would certainly need to keep an eye on the meat and add more liquid if things start to dry out.

  3. Kelly Baumgartel

    Outstanding, on my second time making! This time for July 4th celebration ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธโค๏ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Credit to my husband for frying up on the outdoor griddle! Made mine days in advance, made it easy to get the fat after it hardened. Also, marinated 24hrs. Superb!

    1. Rustic Family Recipes

      Amazing! Thank you for letting me know you are enjoying these quesabirria tacos. Sounds like you had a tasty July 4th celebration! Love the idea of frying on the outdoor griddle.

      1. Kelly Baumgartel

        Coming up this Independence Day 2022! Going to search your recipes for sides too ! Thank you.

        1. Rustic Family Recipes

          Wow thank you for the vote of confidence! My little blog is pretty new so I don’t have a ton of sides yet (working on it), but I do have lots of cocktail recipes! Haha! Let’s not delve into what that says about me. ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. If you told me I could make these at home I wouldnโ€™t have believed you but this recipe is easy and so tasty! These quesabirrias taste like something from a taco truck! Well done.

  5. Mercedes Carr

    Wow! It was the best tasting tacos I have ever made. I made the mistake of deep frying the tortillas, not sure why I assumed it was deep fry. Lol. However they turned out delicious!!!! Reminds me of the tacos sold on the streets of Mexico City in the Fonditas around the neighborhoods. ๐Ÿฅฐ

    1. Rustic Family Recipes

      Thank you for leaving such an awesome comment Mercedes! So happy you enjoyed these quesabirria tacos! Deep frying them does sound delicious, I may try that next time. ๐Ÿ™‚