When I began this article, I had never heard of birria. I started reading up on this rich Mexican stew and my mouth started watering. In fact, as soon as I finished all the research, I wrote a grocery list.
Now, as I type this, a cast-iron dutch oven full of birria is simmering away on my stove. I can’t wait for dinner. I made a huge pot full of this rich stew, and I am hoping for leftovers so I can enjoy it again later in the week.
Of course, you can enjoy eating birria as a stew just the way you served it the first time. But if you like to mix things up a bit, try adding the shredded meat to migas, tacos, or Chiles Rellenos. Make fried rice with the meat, use it in place of ham on Eggs Benedict, or layer it with cheese on top of fries.
You can even make a birria-bao fusion sandwich. Keep the leftover broth also. Use it to start the broth for your chile con carne or cook a pot of pinto beans in the broth. Try another fusion recipe by making ramen with the broth.
Keep reading for details on how to make birria, how to store the leftovers, and ideas for using up the leftovers in a variety of creative dishes.
What is Birria?
Birria is a rich Mexican stew that comes from Jalisco, Mexico. The broth is made from slowly cooking meat on the bone with dried chiles and other vegetables.
Originally, this stew would be made with goat, but you can use beef, lamb, or pork as well. Be sure to use at least one cut that has a bone to add richness to the broth.
How to Use Leftover Birria Meat
The typical way to eat birria is a hearty stew. Serve up a big helping topped with chopped onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. Sprinkle on some queso fresco or cotija cheese.
Of course, the next day you will have leftovers. If you, like me, get bored with eating the exact same thing over and over, you need some creative ways to use up the leftover birria meat and broth.
1. Add it to Migas for Breakfast
Migas are basically scrambled eggs with fried corn tortilla strips and veggies. It’s an easy, warm, hearty breakfast that uses up leftovers in your fridge.
Since it is so easy and delicious, you should add your leftover birria meat to the migas for an extra boost of protein.
If you saved the fat from the top of the birria, you can cut corn tortillas into strips and fry them up in the fat. Otherwise, you can use olive oil or canola oil. Tortilla chips also work well in migas.
- In a large skillet, heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil (or fat from birria). Cut corn tortillas into strips and fry in the oil until crispy. Remove and drain on a paper towel.
- In the same skillet, saute chopped onion, minced garlic, and sliced jalapeno. Cook until the onions are clear and the peppers are soft.
- Add leftover shredded birria meat.
- While the onions and peppers are cooking, whisk together your eggs, heavy cream, salt, pepper, and cumin.
- Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and cook the eggs. Just before they are done, add the crispy corn tortilla strips (or tortilla chips).
- Finish cooking the eggs.
- Serve with cheese and salsa.
2. Birria Tacos
Birria tacos are a hot commodity online these days. Take your corn tortillas and heat them in the fat skimmed from the top of the stew.
Lay them on a hot griddle and add shredded birria beef and queso fresco or Oaxaca cheese. Fold the tortilla over and toast on both sides. Serve with a bowl of broth for dipping the taco in.
3. Chile Rellenos (Stuffed Peppers)
A traditional Chile Relleno is a large poblano pepper filled with cheese, battered and deep-fried. It is an amazing plateful of gooey deliciousness. They are also an excellent way to use up your leftover birria meat.
Instead of only using cheese in your pepper, add some shredded birria meat as well. Try this recipe for Chiles Rellenos, and add in your birria meat.
Then, take some of the birria broth and thicken it to make a sauce for the Chile Relleno. Put 1 cup of the broth in a saucepan. In a separate bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of masa harina with 4 tablespoons of cool water to make a paste.
Then add the paste to the sauce and whisk until it thickens. You can add more broth as needed. If you need more masa, always mix it with cool water first, otherwise, it will clump up in the hot water and make lumps.
4. Birria Fried Rice
How about Mexican-Asian-American fusion? Fried rice is an easy way to use up your leftovers. Cook up some rice or use leftover rice. Chop up fresh vegetables, carrots, snow peas, and green onion.
Throw the veggies in a skillet and saute. Add the shredded leftover birria meat. Season with garlic powder, ginger, salt, and pepper.
Add your cooked rice to the skillet and stir. Shake some soy sauce (1-2 tablespoons) over all the ingredients and stir.
This cooks quickly. You don’t want to overcook it because the veggies will be soggy. Serve it with a squeeze of lime and crunchy wonton strips.
5. Eggs Benedict
Eggs Benedict is an open-faced sandwich made with an English muffin, a slice of ham, a poached egg, all topped with Hollandaise sauce. Try spicing it up with leftover birria meat.
Then, add a bit of tabasco to your Hollandaise sauce and serve with salsa and cilantro for some Mexican flair.
6. Birria Fries
There is a restaurant in my hometown that serves carne asada fries. These things are to die for.
They are meant to be an appetizer, but the serving is big enough for 2 full meals. You can mimic their recipe with leftover birria meat.
Cook a big serving of fries. Try seasoned curly fries and make them very crispy. Top them with shredded birria meat, queso (melted cheese sauce), sour cream, pico de gallo, sliced avocado, queso fresco, and salsa.
Treat yourself to a margarita with these delicious fries.
7. Birria Bao
Bao are milk buns steamed in a bamboo steamer. These buns are easy to make and are soft and delicious.
Once you have made the bao, you can make a sandwich with them by filling them with shredded birria meat, sliced onions, avocado, cilantro, queso fresco, and lime wedges.
Ingredients for Bao
- 2 ½ cups All-purpose flour
- 1 packet dry active yeast
- ¼ c sugar
- ½ Baking powder
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- ½ cup warm milk
- ⅓ cup warm water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Make the dough in the stand mixer with a dough hook. Combine flour, yeast, sugar, baking powder, and oil. Set the mixer on low speed and slowly and in the milk.
- Next, add in the water and salt until it is just mixed.
- Increase the mixer speed and mix for 4-5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic but not sticky.
- Grease a bowl and set it aside
- Form the dough into a smooth ball and put it in the bowl. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes in a warm place.
- Line a bamboo steamer with parchment paper. Have another piece of parchment paper nearby cut to fit the steamer.
- Roll out the dough and cut into 3 ½ inch circles. Fold the circles in half, but don’t press edges together.
- Place 5 buns in the steamer and steam for about 12 minutes. Let them cool then fill with goodies and eat.
How to Use Birria Broth (Consommé)
8. Make Chili With Leftover Birria Broth
Use the birria broth as the base for your chili. Brown 3 pounds of ground beef in a large stockpot. Season the meat with salt, pepper, garlic, onion, cumin, and chili powder.
Stir in a few tablespoons of tomato paste or canned crushed tomatoes. Then add 2-3 cups of your leftover birria broth. Let the chili simmer for at least 30 minutes.
Serve with crunchy corn chips, shredded cheese, and a dollop of sour cream.
9. Make Birria Ramen
Ready for another fusion recipe? How about a nice bowl of ramen with the birria consummé as the base?
Add some vegetables like corn, carrots, peas, broccoli, onion, or sliced radish. Finally, top the soup with a boiled egg.
Noodles are a necessity for ramen. You can buy a 20 cent package of ramen noodles and discard the seasoning packet.
Another easy grocery store option is to pick up some rice noodles. They are gluten-free and cook in only 3 minutes.
10. Cook Flavorful Birria Beans
Pinto beans and rice is a super simple inexpensive meal that we ate more than I would have liked to as a child. I never liked it much because it didn’t taste like anything to me.
However, If after soaking and draining the beans you cooked them in leftover birria consomme, you would have a beautiful, richly flavored sauce to serve over rice.
How to Make Beans and Rice
- Sort through dried pinto beans to make sure you remove any dirt or small stones. Rinse the beans thoroughly. Soak them overnight (6-8 hours) in cool water.
- Drain the water off.
- Pour in your leftover birria broth. Use enough to cover the beans. Add additional beef broth or water if needed.
- Cover and simmer 40-50 minutes.
- While the beans cook, make a pot of rice to go with the beans.
You may want to add additional seasonings to your beans, like garlic, salt, pepper, chili powder, red pepper flakes, cumin, and so on.
Taste as you go so you can adjust the flavor. You can also stretch the meal a bit by adding a can of crushed tomatoes. On occasion, we would cut up a link sausage in the beans as well.
If you don’t have rice or don’t like it, try having beans and cornbread. It’s a hearty meal also.
How to Make Birria
- 7-8 cups beef broth
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 lbs chuck roast, cut into 4 large chunks
- 2 lbs short ribs (bone-in)
- 1 large white onion, dry skins removed, quartered
- 8-10 garlic cloves (adjust to your preference of flavor)
- 3-5 bay leaves, dried
- 8 guajillo chiles, stems cut off and seeds removed (or a combination of 3-4 Ancho chiles and 2-3 Chiles de Arbol)
- 1-2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp salt, (adjust to taste)
- In your stockpot or dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sear the short ribs and chuck roast.
- While they sear, quarter the onion and add it to the pot. Also, add the garlic and bay leaves.
- Cut the stems off the dried chiles and add them to the pot.
- Add beef broth, oregano, cumin, and salt, stir to combine. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Skim the foamy bits off the top of the broth. This is the fat from the bones and the meat. You can save it in a jar to fry corn tortillas in later.
- When the chiles are soft, remove them from the pot. Blend them in a high-powered blender or food processor until smooth. Strain the peppers to remove any bits of skin that didn’t blend.
- Add the blended mixture back into the stew. Stir and continue cooking.
- Add in 1-2 teaspoons of chile powder (to your level of flavor)
- Continue simmering for 3 – 4 hours. Skim the fat off the top every 30 minutes or so and save it for later.
- When you are ready to serve, remove the bay leaves, onions, garlic cloves, and bones. Shred the meat and leave it in the broth. Slice the onion for taco toppings.
- Use the fat that you have skimmed off the stew to fry corn tortillas for tacos or quesadillas.
Can I Make Birria in an Instant Pot?
I love my Instant Pot. You can easily cook this recipe in the Instant Pot to shorten the cooking time with a few changes.
- Start by heating a pot of water on the stove and soaking the chiles in it to soften them up.
- While the chiles soak, sear the meat in the olive oil in the Instant Pot. Then add the vegetables, seasoning, and 4-5 cups of beef broth.
- Run the chiles through your blender or food processor and strain out any remaining pieces of skin. Add the blended chiles to the Instant Pot.
- Put on the lid and set the pressure cooker on high for 45 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally.
- Prepare to serve by removing the bones, bay leaves, and garlic cloves. Shred the meat and return it to the pot.
Can I Make Birria in a Slow Cooker?
The slow cooker is a great method for preparing birria. You will need to do a little prep work to get everything ready for the slow cooker, but then you’ll be able to set it up and go about your day.
- Sear the meat in a skillet on the stove before adding it to the crockpot.
- Soak the chiles in hot water then blend and strain before adding to the stew.
- Add all of the other ingredients.
- Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.
- Prepare to serve by removing the bones, bay leaves, and garlic cloves. Shred the meat and return it to the pot.
Refrigerating Leftover Birria
This stew keeps well for leftovers in the fridge. In fact, we are going to share ideas for how to use up the leftovers you will have.
- Keep the birria broth, also called birria consomme, in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days.
- You can also store the meat in an airtight container for 4-5 days.
Freezing Birria Meat and Broth
- To freeze the birria broth, pour a serving size into a zip-top bag and seal it tightly. Lay the zip-top bags flat on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer. When they are frozen solid, you can stack them in the freezer. (Be sure to label the bags before you fill them) The broth will be good in the freezer for 3 months.
- Place leftover birria meat in serving-size portions in ziptop bags and squeeze out extra air. Place all the individual bags into a larger heavy-duty ziptop bag to prevent freezer burn. Keep the meat in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Reheating Birria Meat and Broth
- Reheat the broth in a saucepan on the stove or in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl. When you use a microwave, heat it for 30 seconds at a time, keep it covered, and stir often.
- If the broth is frozen, place it in the refrigerator to thaw slowly. If you need to thaw it more quickly, place your container of broth in a bowl of cool water. Then reheat as above.
- Reheat the Birria meat in the microwave or in a skillet by adding a little water, beef broth, or leftover consomme to ensure that it doesn’t dry out as it heats. keep it on low heat and stir it frequently.
What to Make with Thickened Birria Sauce
When your Birria has finished cooking, you can remove the meat from the broth, then cook the broth down to make a rich gravy-like sauce.
Mix up a couple of tablespoons of masa harina with twice as much water to make a paste. Then, with the broth over low heat, whisk the masa mixture into the broth. It will thicken rapidly.
Alternatively, you can thicken the broth with cornstarch using the same method, but only 1 teaspoon of cornstarch. Now that you have a rich gravy, you can use it in multiple dishes.
11. Birria Enchilada Sauce
Enchiladas are covered in a lovely orange-red sauce that gets its color from tomato puree and chili powders.
But, if you have leftover Birria broth, you can thicken it up and use it to top your enchiladas for a deep red roasted chili flavor.
If you need to stretch the sauce a bit, puree it with some roasted tomatoes for additional volume.
Pour it over your rolled enchiladas and top them with your favorite cheese before baking them.
12. Birria Dipping Sauce
Somehow when my family eats out at our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, we end up with a stack of tortillas, a basket of chips, and as many kinds of sauce to dip them in as we can get ahold of. Then we tend to pour those sauces over whatever we order.
I personally love chicken flautas (shredded chicken rolled in a flour tortilla and deep-fried) because you can dip those in anything.
When you make Birria, and by some miracle have the sauce left, set a bowl of it out next to your salsa or jalapeno ranch and try it on chips, tortillas, flautas, or quesadillas.
13. Make a Marinade for Steaks
Birria sauce is rich and flavorful and will enhance any dish you use it in. If you only have a little bit left, thin it out with some beef broth or water, and use it to marinate steaks for your next cookout.
Place the sauce, extra liquid if needed and the steaks in a zip-top bag and seal it tightly. Let it rest in the refrigerator for 1-4 hours. Discard any remaining marinade.
After you make a rich, warming pot of birria, if you have any leftovers, you can use the remaining meat and broth for a variety of dishes.
Use the birria meat in migas, tacos, Chile Rellenos, Eggs Benedict, on top of fries, and in a light bao bun.
Save the leftover birria consomme and use to a base for stews, to add flavor to your chile con carne, in some ramen, or to make richly flavored beans and rice for an inexpensive but rich-tasting meal.
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