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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Birria served with condiments
Place of originMéxico
Region or stateJalisco
Main ingredientsMeat (typically goat or beef), dried chili peppers

Birria (Spanish: [ˈbirja] ) is a meat stew or soup, mainly made with goat or beef. The meat is marinated in an adobo made of vinegar, dried chiles, garlic, and herbs and spices (including cumin, bay leaves, and thyme) before being cooked in a broth (Spanish: consomé). Historically, birria was the regional name given in the state of Jalisco and surrounding areas to what is known as barbacoa, meats cooked or roasted in a pit or earth oven, in other regions of Mexico.[1][2][3][4][5][6] For many people today, mostly in the United States, birria is now a distinct dish.

It is often served at celebratory occasions such as weddings, baptisms and during holidays such as Christmas and Easter, and even at funerals. Preparation techniques vary, but the dish is often served with corn tortillas, onions, cilantro, and lime.[7][8]

Restaurants or street carts that serve birria are known as birrierias[9] and exist throughout Mexico, especially in Michoacán and Jalisco. However, neighboring Mexican states have their own variations of the dish, including Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, and Colima.[7][10]


The term birria was originally the regional name given in Jalisco to what is known as barbacoa, meats cooked in a pit or earth oven, in other parts of México. Mexican chef and professor Josefina Velázquez de León stated that barbacoa has many variations or styles depending on the region of Mexico, and that birria was one style.[11] Mexican linguist and philologist Darío Rubio wrote:

Entre nosotros, BIRRIA es nombre que da también la gente del pueblo a la barbacoa.

Amongst us [the Mexicans], BIRRIA is what the lower classes call barbacoa.

— La anarquía del lenguaje en la América española (1925)[12]

Mexican historian Leovigildo Islas Escárcega stated that birria was a term specifically from Jalisco and some areas of the interior for barbacoa:

Nombre con que designan a la barbacoa, en Jalisco y en algunos puntos del interior.

Name used to designate barbacoa, in Jalisco and in some parts of the interior.

— Vocabulario Campesino Nacional (1945)[13]

Cuban-Mexican writer Félix Ramos y Duarte defined the term as a regionalism from Mexico City for goat barbacoa:

Birria (D. F.), sf. Barbacoa de chivo, ó chivo asado.

Birria (México City), Goat Barbacoa, or roasted goat.

— Diccionario de Mejicanismos (1898)[14]

Mexican linguist and philologist Francisco J. Santamaría also defined the term as being another name for barbacoa:

Birria, f. En cierta región del país, principalmente en Guadalajara (Jalisco), carne de borrego o de chivo, preparada a semejanza de la barbacoa, y que es típica del lugar; barbacoa en general.

Birria, f. In a certain region of the country, mainly in Guadalajara (Jalisco), lamb or goat meat, prepared in the style of barbacoa, and which is typical of that place; barbacoa in general.

— Diccionario de Mejicanismos (1959)[15]

Mexican writer and essayist Jorge Mejia Prieto defined it as a "soupy barbacoa made with lamb or goat meat from Guadalajara, Jalisco".[16]

Mexican scholar José Ignacio Dávila Garibi argued that the term was of Coca origin and not from the Spanish term birria meaning worthless.[17]

Folk history[edit]

As is usual, there exist many folk stories and myths about the origin of birria.

One such story argues that in 1519, Hernán Cortés and the Conquistadors first landed in Mexico,[18] bringing various old-world domestic animals, including goats. During the conquest of the Aztec Empire, the Conquistadors were faced with an overpopulation of goats, so they decided to give the animals to the natives. While goat meat was supposedly looked down upon by the Conquistadors, as it was tough and had a strong smell, the natives accepted the animals, as marinating the meat in indigenous styles made it palatable and appetizing. The dishes they produced were called "birria", a derogatory term meaning "worthless", by the Spanish, in reference to their having given the natives meat with apparently noxious characteristics.[19]

According to another legend, the dish was invented accidentally during the eruption of a volcano, when a shepherd was forced to abandon his goats in a cave where they were cooked perfectly by the steam.[9]


Traditionally birria was served on bread, tortillas or even directly in hand. Many variations of the dish have derived since.[20]

In 1950, a taquero named Guadalupe Zarata set up a taco stand in Tijuana,[20] after moving there from Coatzingo, Puebla. Zarata's stand initially sold asado and pastor tacos. Zárate soon decided to make beef birria because goat meat was more expensive and less fatty. One day, someone told Zárate to add more liquid to the meat. The resulting dish is now known as Tijuana-style beef birria, making a household name among birrierias for being the first person in Tijuana to make birria with consomé.

During the 2010s, the quesabirria (a taco stuffed with birria and cheese, often served with consommé) became popular in North America after first being developed in Tijuana.[21] Another variation using instant ramen originated in Mexico City and later gained popularity in the Los Angeles area.[22][23]

Other versions of the dish include birria tatemada (charred birria). After marinating and simmering the meat, it is placed in a hot oven until crispy.[9]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brambila Pelayo, Alberto M. (1957). Lenguaje Popular en La Union. Guadalajara: Editorial Brambila. p. 28. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  2. ^ Sánchez García, Julio (1956). Calendario folklórico de fiestas en la República Mexicana. Mexico: Editorial Porrúa. p. 264. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  3. ^ Rodríguez Rivera, Virginia (1943). "Cartas de Achimarre". Revista Hispánica Moderna. 9 (4): 368. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  4. ^ Gómez Gutiérrez, Mariano (1954). La vida que yo viví. Mexico: Editorial Luz y Vida. p. 3. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  5. ^ Bayless, Rick (1990). "On Cooking in Mexican Earth". The Digest. 10: 6. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  6. ^ Zuno Hernández, José Guadalupe (1958). Historia de la ironía plástica en Jalisco. Guadalajara: J. Trinidad Chávez. p. 59. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  7. ^ a b Rafael Hernández, "Birria," in Celebrating Latino Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Cultural Traditions, Vol. 1 (2012, ed. María Herrera-Sobek).
  8. ^ Tamez, Abraham; Barreras, Roxana (2021-02-26). "Birria: its successful ancestral secret recipe". interesante.com. Archived from the original on 2021-08-02. Retrieved 2023-06-18.
  9. ^ a b c Herrera-Sobek, María (2012). Celebrating Latino Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Cultural Traditions. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-313-34339-1.
  10. ^ Rao, Tejal (2021-02-08). "The Birria Boom is Complicated but Simply Delicious". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2021-02-08. Retrieved 2021-07-26.
  11. ^ Velazquez de Leon, Josefina (1946). Platillos Regionales de la República Mexicana. Mexico: Ediciones J. Velázquez de León. p. 200. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  12. ^ Rubio, Darío (1925). La Anarquía del Lenguaje en la América Española. Mexico: Confederacion regional obrera mexicana. p. 71. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  13. ^ Islas Escárcega, Leovigildo (1945). Vocabulario Campesino Nacional. Mexico: B. de Silva. p. 143. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  14. ^ Ramos y Duarte, Felix (1898). Dicción de Mejicanismos (Second ed.). Mexico: Herrero hermanos. p. 551. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  15. ^ Santamaría, Francisco J. (1959). Diccionario de Mejicanismos. Mexico: Porrúa. p. 135. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  16. ^ Mejía Prieto, Jorge (1985). Así Habla el Mexicano. Mexico: Panorama Editorial. p. 24. ISBN 9789683801227. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  17. ^ Santamaría, Francisco J. (1959). Diccionario de Mejicanismos. Mexico: Porrúa. p. 135. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  18. ^ "Hernan Cortes". history.com.
  19. ^ Cardenas, Juan Ramon (2021). La Senda del Cabrito. Ediciones Larousse. ISBN 978-6072123663.
  20. ^ a b Olaechea, Carlos C. (2022-04-12). "What Is Birria?". Food Network. Retrieved 2023-02-23.
  21. ^ How Birria Finally Took Off in One of America’s Best Taco Cities
  22. ^ Yu, Lynn Q. (31 July 2019). "Birria and ramen. It just makes sense". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 January 2024.
  23. ^ Levinson, Jonathan (1 January 2018). "Send Noodz: This Birria-Ramen Mashup Is Here for Your Hangover". Vice.com. Retrieved 22 January 2024.