Chicken Birria + Tacos (birria de pollo)

Chicken birria (or birria de pollo) is a delicious Mexican dish loaded with bold flavors and aromas. A comforting broth made with chicken cooked in an adobo sauce and served in a bowl or in tacos to enjoy any day of the week.

Chicken birria (birria de pollo).

What Is Chicken Birria?

Chicken birria is an easy and budget-friendly version of the traditional beef birria. It is known in Spanish as birria de pollo.

Contrary to the traditional birria that is sold at large food stalls dedicated to selling only that dish, the humble recipe version with chicken is mostly found in home restaurants called fonditas or in food markets along with other Mexican dishes.

The recipe takes less time to cook and since is made with chicken, is also budget-friendly and perfect to feed a crew.

Nonetheless, it is still a savory stew, made of traditional Mexican chilies and spices. Is absolutely delicious and perfect to serve along with homemade tortillas, or to make tacos.

Close-up of chicken birria tacos.

The Ingredients Needed

  • Chicken: Use bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks for more flavor.
  • Dried chiles: You will need guajillo peppers, those can be found in Mexican online and local stores or on Amazon.
  • Spicy chilies: If you want to add more spicy, you can use 2-3 chile de arbol peppers, but this is optional.
  • Fresh produce: Tomatoes and onions.
  • Seasonings: Garlic cloves, oregano, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cinnamon, bay leaves, and salt.
  • Vinegar: Use apple cider vinegar, which is more aromatic and flavorful than white vinegar.
  • Lard: Use pork lard or your favorite vegetable oil.
Chicken birria sauce ingredients labeled and displayed in a grey concrete surface.

For serving:

  • Salsa: You can make chili oil salsa or salsa taquera for this recipe, or use your favorite store-bought Mexican salsa.
  • Cilantro: Freshly chopped.
  • Onion: For garnish, chopped.
  • Limes: Lime juice adds a lovely fresh and citrus kick to the stew.
  • Tortillas: You can use corn or flour tortillas.
  • Cheese: If you want to make cheesy tacos, use a type of cheese that melts nicely, Oaxaca, Asadero, Mexican blend, or even Mozzarella works fine.

How To Make Chicken Birria de Pollo

Make the birria sauce

Clean the guajillo chilies, remove the stems, cut them in half, and discard the seeds, then cut them into pieces.

Guajillo chilies cleaned and cut into pieces to make chicken birria sauce.

In a frying pan heat the lard or oil over medium-low heat, add first the peppercorns, garlic, cumin seeds, and cinnamon stick.

Stir for half a minute and then add the chilies. Cook for 3 minutes while stirring constantly.

Sautéing chilies and spices in a pan to make the sauce for chicken birria de pollo.

Stir in the onions and tomatoes, then cook until onions soften and tomatoes release their juices (about 4 minutes).

Chilies, spices, tomatoes and onions cooking in a pan to make the sauce for chicken birria de pollo.

Pour in the vinegar and 1 cup of hot water, then add the oregano, salt, and chiles de árbol. Mix well well.

Turn off the heat, cover, and allow to soak all ingredients until everything has almost cooled down (about 10 minutes).

The ingredients for chicken birria de pollo sauce soaking in the pan.

Transfer everything to a blender and blend until you’ll have a silky smooth sauce. Allow the sauce to cool down completely.

The sauce for chicken birria de pollo blended in a blender.

Place chicken in a baking dish, then add the birria sauce through a medium sieve over the chicken. Use a spoon to help the sauce go through.

Related: How to handle raw chicken.

Straining the birria sauce over the chicken.

Turn the chicken well so it coats perfectly with the adobo sauce. Cover with cling film and store in the fridge for at least 8 hours and up to 24.

Chicken coated in birria sauce inside a baking dish.

Cook

  • Place chicken and all the remaining marinade in your Instant Pot (for other methods of cooking please refer to the recipe notes below).
  • Pour 2 cups of water and add the bay leaves.
  • Cook at high for 25 minutes then natural release pressure (about 30 minutes).
Showing a piece of chicken after being cooked in an instant pot.

Serve as a main dish

  • Remove the chicken from the pot, you can either shred it or use it with the bones in, and you can also remove the skin or leave it. I prefer using the whole pieces unless I am making tacos too.
  • Divide the meat into serving bowls and ladle the birria chicken broth.
  • Top with chopped cilantro and onion, a squeeze of lime, salsa, and warm corn tortillas. Check out below for more ideas to serve.
Chicken birria, aka birria de pollo, served in a bowl and garnished with chopped cilantro and red onion.

Make the tacos with consommé

Remove the chicken from the pot and shred it after slightly cooled down. Set aside.

Heat a comal, griddle, or a non-sticking pan until smoky. Take one tortilla and quickly dip it into the grease of your chicken birria.

Dipping a tortilla into the chicken birria oil.

Place 2-3 tortillas (previously dipped in the oil) on the griddle and heat for about 30s flipping two times to heat them up.

Put some cheese and shredded chicken in the middle of each tortilla.

Topped tortilla with cheese and shredded chicken on a griddle.

Fold the tortillas into half-moons and keep cooking until the cheese has melted nicely and the tortillas are slightly crispy.

Melty chicken birria taco on a griddle.

Place your chicken birria tacos on a platter, carefully open them a little and add some onions and cilantro in the middle.

Serve with lime wedges, salsa, and a small bowl of the birria consommé to dip the tacos in.

Chicken birria and tacos served in a wooden table.

Want to take your chicken birria tacos to the next level? Make them with blue corn tortillas!

Useful Recipe Notes

  • Using a slow cooker: Place the marinated chicken in your slow pot, add water to cover about 1-inch (2.5cm), and cook for 3 hours on high or 5-6 hours on low.
  • On the stovetop: Place the meat in a large pot and cover it with 1.5-inches of water. Simmer for about 1 hour or until chicken is nicely cooked through.
  • Cook in the oven: For cooking in the oven, place chicken and cover with 1-inch of water, cover with foil, and cook at 375°F (190°C) for about 1 and a half hours or until the chicken meat is falling from the bones.
  • Substitute the chilies: If you can’t find guajillo chilies where you live, use other types of mild-spicy dried red chilies such as Anaheim, Hatch, or California.
  • Make it thicker: Want a thicker birria sauce instead of brothy? Add 2 more tomatoes and reduce the amount of water to barely cover the meat.
  • Don’t remove the skin: I prefer using chicken with the skin on, it adds flavor and fat which is perfect if you want to make tacos as you need that to dip the tortillas!

More Ideas To Serve

In many households and small restaurants, birria de pollo is served with a side of arroz rojo or Mexican white rice along with tortillas.

I love serving the broth with a few spoonfuls of steamed rice, as the flavorful stew will soak and add tons of flavor!

For a fulfilling meal, a side of refried beans and classic guacamole makes also a nice complement.

Last, don’t forget to pair it with a tangy drink to cut off some of the fat. We recommend this tamarind drink or pineapple fresca.

How To Store

Birria de pollo can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days in an airtight container. It is the perfect prep meal for busy days.

Or you can also store it in the freezer for up to 3 months.

For reheating, allow the stew to thaw overnight, this will preserve better its flavor. Then place it in a pot and reheat over medium-high on your stove top stirring from time to time.

Watch The Video

Chicken birria tacos recipe. Aka birria de pollo.

Chicken Birria + Tacos (birria de pollo)

author Maricruz
6
Chicken Birria de Pollo is a flavorful and aromatic Mexican stew perfect to make tacos or serve as a main dish with warm tortillas and rice.
prep 20 minutes
cook 25 minutes
total 45 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 3 lbs bone-in chicken (thighs and drumsticks, skin on)
  • 10 guajillo peppers (cleaned and cut into pieces)
  • 2 chile de árbol (optional)
  • 1 large tomato (cut into chunks)
  • ½ small red onion (cut into chunks)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • ¼ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 1-inch stick cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp pork lard (or vegetable oil)
  • salt (to taste)

For tacos

  • 20 corn tortillas
  • 3 cups melty cheese, such as Oaxaca, Asadero, Monterey Jack, Colby, Mozzarella. (shredded)

For serving

  • 1 cup onions (chopped)
  • ½ cup cilantro (chopped)
  • lime wedges
  • Mexican chili oil

Instructions
 

Make the birria sauce

  • Heat lard in a pan over medium-low heat, add first the peppercorns, garlic, cumin seeds, and cinnamon stick. Stir for half a minute.
  • Add guajillo chilies, and cook for 3 minutes while stirring constantly.
  • Stir in tomatoes and onions. Cook for 4 minutes or until onions softens and tomatoes release their juices.
  • Add vinegar and 1 cup of hot water, then add the oregano, salt, and chiles de árbol.
  • Mix well, turn off the heat, cover, and allow to soak for 10 minutes.
  • Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until you’ll have a silky smooth sauce.

Marinate

  • Place chicken in a baking dish, and add the birria sauce through a medium sieve over the chicken.
  • Turn the chicken well to coat all sides.
  • Cover with cling film and store in the fridge for at least 8 hours and up to 24.

Cook

  • Place chicken and all the remaining marinade in your Instant Pot (read notes) and pour 3 cups of water.
  • Add bay leaves and salt.
  • Cook at high for 25 minutes then naturally release pressure for 30 minutes.

Serve as a main dish

  • Remove the chicken from the pot and divide it into serving bowls.
  • Ladle the birria consommé and top with chopped cilantro and onion.
  • Serve with chili oil, lime wedges, and warm corn tortillas.

Make the tacos with consommé

  • Remove the chicken from the pot and shred it with two forks. Set aside.
  • Heat a griddle or a non-sticking pan until smoky.
  • Take one tortilla and quickly dip it into the grease of your chicken birria.
  • Place 2-3 tortillas (previously dipped in the oil) on the skillet and heat for about 30s flipping two times to heat them up.
  • Put some cheese and chicken in the middle of each tortilla.
  • Fold the tortillas into half-moons and keep cooking until the cheese has melted nicely and the tortillas are slightly crispy.
  • Place tacos on a platter, carefully open them a little, and add some onions and cilantro in the middle.
  • Serve with lime wedges, chili oil, and a small bowl of the birria consommé to dip the tacos in.

Notes

  • Using a slow cooker: Place the marinated chicken in your slow pot, add water to cover about 1-inch (2.5cm), and cook for 3 hours on high or 5-6 hours on low.
  • On the stovetop: Place the meat in a large pot and cover it with 1.5-inches of water. Simmer for about 1 hour or until chicken is nicely cooked through.
  • Cook in the oven: For cooking in the oven, place chicken and cover with 1-inch of water, cover with foil, and cook at 375°F (190°C) for about 1 and a half hours or until the chicken meat is falling from the bones.
  • Substitute the chilies: If you can’t find guajillo chilies where you live, use other types of mild-spicy dried red chilies such as Anaheim, Hatch, or California.
  • Make it thicker: Want a thicker birria sauce instead of brothy? Add 2 more tomatoes and reduce the amount of water to barely cover the meat.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 292kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 82mg | Sodium: 85mg | Potassium: 429mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 2016IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 45mg | Iron: 2mg
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Recipe Rating




4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Hubby orders Mexican food like crazy so I wanted to try it and find a dish I won’t mess up. This sounds very doable and insanely yummy but unfortunately all I have are the common chili peppers. Will they do?

    1. Hi Alicia, just make sure those are mild spicy. Other option is to use Anaheim or Hatch chili powder which is more easier to find online.

  2. Hi Maricruz, my friend made the recipe once and he thinks marinating the chicken for 8-24 hours is not necessary. Have you tried this without any marination?

    Thanks

    1. Hi Taryn, yes, I’ve tried without marinating the chicken and in all honesty, I didn’t like it same.
      But hey, you can try it without marinating and see if you like it :) let me know if you do it!