Chicken Birria

I saw an amazing-looking recipe on TikTok and did a little research to back it up and confirm the quantities. While a lot of recipes online suggest 2 varieties of chilis, he uses 3 – I’m sure his is better. The number of chiles I list below makes a sauce that has a nice level of heat to it, but not painful.

I went to Harper Foods hoping to find dried chilis but they only had “chilis whole.” After some online research, I believe they’re kashmiri chilis, which are pretty mild. Off to Amazon I go to buy my anchos, guajillos & arbols. They come in a 3-pack so I guess they’re a pretty common combo!

Similarly, the recipes I found called for more oregano and cumin, but didn’t have the variety of spices his calls for. And this dish was AMAZING – the cinnamon and cloves give it a sweetness that’s reminiscent of a nice mole. Other recipes I looked at all call for 1/4c apple cider vinegar. I think I’ll try that when I make the lamb or beef varieties.

It makes a LOT – easily enough to simmer 3 separate batches of meat, 1-2 pounds per batch. I plan to make another batch with beef stew meat – and I’m going to brown the meat well first. It’s always the first step in American stew recipes to bring out the flavor, why not in Mexican stew? I guess bone-in lamb is another traditional meat for birria …

2 Ancho, 6-8 arbol & 3-4 guajillo chiles, stems chopped off and de-seeded (see pic below for quantities)
1 large white onion, rough chopped
a dozen or so peeled cloves of garlic
a squirt of tomato paste – a tablespoon?
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
4-6 cloves
1 whole tomato, rough chopped
1t thyme
1t black pepper
1t oregano or fresh marjoram
1/2t cumin
1/2t coriander
1T salt
1-2 pounds chicken breast, cut in large cubes (remember that the shredded meat will only be as long as your chunks are wide so don’t make them too small)

Garnish with: Avocado, lime wedges, sliced radishes, chopped onion, shredded Oaxacan cheese (or regular goat cheese crumbles), pickled red onions, and cilantro. You can also serve it with pinto beans.

The black ones in back are anchos (dried poblanos so quite mild); on the right are the guajillos (medium); on the left are the arbols (the spiciest)

Saute the onions and garlic in some oil. Add the chiles, tomato & tomato paste and the whole spices. Cover with water or stock and boil for a while.

He then dumps the whole thing into a blender. I think I might fish out the cinnamon stick, bay leaf and cloves first?? Either way, he then adds his powdered spices and blends.

Put the sauce back into your pan and add chunks of chicken breast. Simmer for 45 minutes until the chicken shreds apart.

Some recipes I found serve it at this point as a stew over rice. He builds it into a taco using shredded oaxaca cheese (Mexican goat milk), chopped onions and cilantro, with a squirt of lime and plenty of the sauce ladled in. Which is why I’d take out the hard crunchy stuff before blending it!! 😉

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