Birria tacos have become an incredibly popular food item in recent years. However, their name can cause some confusion on the proper pronunciation. Should you say “beer-ee-uh” or “bir-ree-uh”? Let’s take a closer look at this delicious taco trend and the correct way to say its name.
What are Birria Tacos?
Birria tacos are a specialty taco originating from the state of Jalisco, Mexico. They consist of meat, traditionally goat or lamb, that has been slowly braised and stewed in a combination of dried chilies, spices, and fresh herbs. The flavorful, tender meat is then placed onto a soft corn or flour tortilla and typically topped with chopped white onions and cilantro.
The meat filling has a deep, rich flavor from the long braising time in the chilies and spices. This gives the tacos a distinct savory and slightly spicy taste. Birria tacos are often served with a side of the leftover braising liquid, known as consommé. The consommé has an intense meaty and spicy flavor that takes the tacos to the next level when used as a salsa or dip.
Traditionally, birria tacos were most frequently made with goat meat. However, beef has become a popular alternative protein. No matter what type of meat you use, the end result is a taco with succulent, fall-apart texture and big, bold flavors.
Where Did Birria Tacos Originate?
The origins of birria tacos can be traced back to the state of Jalisco, Mexico. Specifically, they come from the city of Tlaltenango and the surrounding areas.
In this region, birria was originally only eaten on special occasions and holidays. The lengthy process of slowly braising the meat made it labor-intensive and expensive. Eating birria was seen as a celebratory luxury.
The dish has roots going back to the 19th century. With time, it gradually became more accessible and moved from reserved for special events to a regular part of the diet. Birria tacos then emerged as a popular street food in Jalisco in the later 20th century.
From there, birria tacos were brought north to Tijuana and areas of California and the Southwest United States. They grew in popularity thanks to their big, unique flavors. Today they can be found on menus across North America and beyond.
The Debate: How Should You Pronounce “Birria”?
This brings us to the ongoing debate – just how do you properly pronounce “birria” in birria tacos?
There are two common pronunciations that you’ll hear:
“beer-ee-uh” – Pronouncing the “i” with a long “e” sound.
“bir-ree-uh” – Pronouncing the “i” with a short “i” sound.
So which way is right?
The answer: both pronunciations are actually correct and acceptable!
That’s because there are variations in how Spanish words are pronounced in different regions. The “bir-ree-uh” pronunciation follows the rules of pronunciation you would typically hear in central Mexico. But the “beer-ee-uh” style follows the patterns found in the Jalisco region where birria originated.
Both are considered accurate pronunciations by native Spanish speakers. It mostly comes down to regional variations in dialect. However, “beer-ee-uh” is likely more authentic to the dish’s roots.
Tips for Pronouncing “Birria”
Here are some tips to help you pronounce birria like a native no matter which regional Spanish dialect you follow:
Pronounce the “rr” with a strong trill. Let that “r” roll!
Emphasize the “ee” vowel sound, whether it’s the long “e” or short “i” version. Let it ring out.
Going with the long “e”? Make sure to pronounce it “beer” not “bear”.
Going with the short “i”? Make sure to pronounce it “bir” not “bur”.
Stress the middle syllable. Bir-REE-uh or BEER-ee-uh.
Listen to native Spanish speakers pronounce it and mimic their style. With a little practice, you’ll be pronouncing birria like a pro in no time!
Now that you know how to say their name, let’s look at a recipe to make authentic birria tacos at home:
3 lbs beef chuck roast or goat meat
1 white onion, roughly chopped
5 guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
5 ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
Corn or flour tortillas, warmed
Chopped white onion and cilantro (for serving)
Place the meat in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer for 1 hour.
Drain the meat and set aside. Return the empty pot to medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until translucent. Add the chiles, garlic, vinegar, oregano, cumin, bay leaves, cloves and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes more.
Place the chiles mixture and 1 cup of water in a blender. Puree until smooth. Pour back into the pot.
Add the cooked meat to the pot and add enough water to submerge the meat. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 2-3 hours until the meat is fall-apart tender.
Shred the meat with two forks. Add the shredded meat back to the broth. Continue simmering for 20 minutes.
Serve the meat and broth on warm tortillas topped with onions, cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Enjoy your authentic birria tacos!
The spices, herbs, vinegar and long braising time give the meat incredible richness and depth of flavor. Dip the tacos in the consommé broth for full birria deliciousness. Now that you know how to pronounce their name, enjoy birria tacos for any occasion!
The History of Birria Tacos
Birria tacos have become a sensation in the United States in recent years. But where exactly did these flavorful tacos originate? Let’s dive into the history of the birria taco.
Birria tacos hail from the state of Jalisco in central Mexico. The city of Tlaltenango and surrounding towns in the Los Altos region are specifically credited as birria’s birthplace.
The dish has roots tracing back to the 19th century. In this region, birria was traditionally made using goat meat or mutton. The meat would be slowly simmered and stewed with chiles and spices to produce the signature savory, tender meat.
Making birria was a laborious and expensive endeavor due to the long cooking process. Because of this, it was originally only served during major celebrations or holidays. Eating birria was seen as a special treat.
Birria Spreads Throughout Jalisco
Over the late 19th and early 20th century, birria grew in popularity across Jalisco state. As meat became more widely available and cooking technology advanced allowing for easier long-term simmering, birria became more accessible.
The dish made its way from rural areas into cities. By the mid-1900s, birria restaurants began popping up in Guadalajara and other major cities across Jalisco.
While goat and mutton were still favored, beef and veal birria also started gaining prominence. The meat choices expanded as it shifted from a rural dish to an urban staple.
Birria Tacos Are Born
Birria remained a popular regional dish in Jalisco through the mid-20th century. It was traditionally served in bowls and eaten with tortillas on the side—but not yet in taco form.
The leap to birria tacos is believed to have first happened in the 1960s in Jalisco. Taquerias and street vendors would take the flavorful, chile-stewed meat and place it into a warm tortilla.
Serving birria in taco form made it even more accessible as a quick, portable snack. By the 1970s and 80s, birria tacos became a staple food item in Guadalajara and across the state.
Birria Tacos Migrate North
In the latter decades of the 20th century, birria tacos were brought north to Baja California and neighboring areas in Mexico. They quickly gained popularity in border cities like Tijuana and Mexicali.
Migrants and immigrants then carried the dish further north into California, Texas, Arizona, and other southwestern states. Taco trucks and taquerias serving birria popped up in Hispanic communities across the U.S.
Interest and appreciation for Mexican food continued to grow in the following decades. Birria tacos were featured in mainstream publications by the early 2010s, introducing them to wider audiences.
They truly blew up nationwide over the late 2010s and early 2020s thanks to viral food media. Both traditional beef birria tacos and emerging recipes like birria ramen helped drive the craze.
Birria Goes Global
Today birria tacos can be found everywhere from high-end restaurants to neighborhood taco trucks across North America.
Their popularity has now spread globally. Cities from London to Seoul have dozens of restaurants serving birria tacos.
What originated as a humble, rural dish from Jalisco is now a worldwide phenomenon. The history of the birria taco shows how traditional Mexican cuisine can influence global tastes and trends.
Birria Tacos By Region
While the core elements of chile-stained meat in a tortilla remain consistent, birria tacos can vary slightly by region. Let’s look at some of the key regional styles.
Meat: Traditionally goat, lamb or mutton. Now often beef or veal.
Chiles: Guajillo, ancho, morita.
Spices: Garlic, Mexican oregano, cumin, cloves.
Accompaniments: Chopped raw onion, fresh cilantro, lime wedge.
This is the original preparation with the deepest, most complex chile flavor.
Meat: Beef or goat.
Chiles: Chile colorado and guajillo chiles.
Spices: Minimal spice additions beyond chiles.
Accompaniments: Diced potatoes, tomato, avocado.
Known for intense chile flavor with added toppings.
Chiles: Guajillo, chile negro.
Spices: Oregano, garlic, marjoram.
Accompaniments: Shredded cheese, crispy fried tortilla strips.
Signature crispy edges on the tortillas with melted cheese.
Meat: Beef, pork, chicken, even non-meat options like mushrooms.
Chiles: Guajillo, California, New Mexico or other mild chiles.
Spices: Chili powder blends instead of dried chiles.
Accompaniments: Queso fresco, guacamole, salsa.
More fusion interpretation with additional Mexican toppings.
Broth: Beef birria broth replaces classic ramen broth.
Noodles: Ramen noodles.
Toppings: Sliced beef, onion, cilantro, lime, ramen egg.
Viral TikTok mashup using birria elements in ramen soup.
Birria taco recipes continue evolving in different ways based on local tastes and ingredients. But the soul of great birria tacos always comes back to slow-cooked, chile-infused meat in a corn tortilla.
Frequently Asked Questions
What meat is traditionally used in birria?
The most traditional meats for birria are goat, lamb and mutton. Beef is also very common. Chicken, pork, veal or even non-meat proteins like mushrooms are sometimes used too.
What makes birria taste so good?
The complex depth of flavor comes from slowly braising the meat with dried chiles, garlic, vinegar and spices. This long cook time infuses intense savory and slight spicy chile taste into the meat.
How do you eat birria tacos?
Birria tacos are typically eaten with some of the braising consommé broth for dipping, along with sides like raw onion, cilantro and lime wedges. The broth takes it to the next level!
Where can you find the best birria tacos?
Jalisco, Mexico is the birthplace so you’ll find excellent traditional versions there. But you can now find great birria tacos everywhere from Mexico City to Los Angeles to New York and more.
Do you need a special recipe for the tortillas?
Most places use standard corn tortillas. But some add beef fat or melted cheese to the tortillas for extra richness and signature crisp edges.
Birria tacos are a true Mexican culinary delight. From their humble origins in Jalisco to their current global fame, they represent the best of complex-yet-rustic Mexican cuisine.
There may be some debate on how to pronounce their name, but there’s no debate on just how tasty birria tacos are. With deeply seasoned braised meat and flavorful chile broth, every bite of a birria taco is a treat.
Now that you know the proper way to say their name, the full history behind these tacos, and how to make them at home, you can fully appreciate birria tacos in all their glory. So get out there and enjoy some birria either in Mexico or at a local taqueria near you!