Okay, everybody knows how delicious normal Birria Tacos are but have you ever tried Chicken Birria Tacos?!
The combination of rich, smokey, dried cascabel and guajillo peppers wrapped up with melty cheese, tender pulled chicken and dipped in the flavourful broth is absolutely next-level good.
What’s even better – these chicken tacos are much faster to prepare than the beef tacos.
My beef Birria tacos take 40 mins of pressure cooking whereas these chicken tacos only need 15 minutes plus 10 minutes of natural release.
Still, you’ll probably want to give yourself about 1 hour total to allow the broth to cool, pull the meat and fry the tacos.
The good news is you can easily make a big batch of this and store it in the sauce for a ready-to-go freezer meal for another day.
What is Chicken Birria Tacos?
Originating from the state of Jalisco, Mexico, chicken Birria tacos or Birria de Pollo is just like regular Birria tacos, but with, you guessed it – chicken instead of beef (or lamb).
Just like the beef variety, the meat is marinated and braised in a flavourful broth of dried chillies, tomatoes, herbs and spices. The tacos are then fried in the fat from the broth (the consomme) and served with onions, fresh cilantro, onions and Oaxaca cheese.
My recipe is by no means authentic, and rather an easier adaptation of the original that you can make at home. For example, I’m using shredded mozzarella instead of Oaxaca cheese as it’s more readily available and there’s absolutely no cilantro in my recipe (I can’t stand the stuff!).
The trick is in the dried peppers which add an irreplaceable layer of flavour to the broth and meat. If you can’t find the dried peppers, then at least use the canned chipotle peppers.
If you’re looking for proper authentic Mexican recipes from actual experts, check out this award-winning cookbook.
Ingredients You’ll Need to Make Chicken Birria Tacos
The key ingredients listed below are crucial to the success of this recipe:
Chicken Legs: Skin-on, bone-in chicken legs are ideal for this recipe because they provide the fat needed to dip the tacos and the bones give the broth extra flavour. If you don’t like a lot of fat, don’t worry because we’ll remove it after cooking. Also, don’t use chicken breast as it will become too dry after cooking in the broth.
Dried Cascabel Peppers: These sweet, smokey dried peppers add an amazing richness to the sauce and are absolutely worth the price. Buy a large bag in bulk and they’ll stay good for up to a year in your kitchen pantry.
Dried Guajillo Peppers: These peppers are milder than chipotle peppers and add a rich sweetness to the broth. If you can’t find these peppers, you could also try using dried ancho peppers, Chiles de árbol (a little spicer than cascabel and ancho) Yahualica peppers or California peppers.
Canned chipotle peppers: These canned chipotle peppers not only add another layer of flavour but also add a little smokiness and a lot of heat. If you like it hot, add a few more of these chipotle peppers to the sauce.
Fresh Tomatoes: You can use just about any tomatoes but preferably ripe tomatoes as they’re much sweeter.
Spices: I’m using a mix of smoked paprika, dried oregano, ground cinnamon, cumin and Aleppo chilli flakes for the spice rub. You could also use fresh oregano instead of dried or regular chilli flakes instead of Aleppo chilli flakes.
Red Wine Vinegar: Red wine vinegar works perfectly and is my personal favourite choice for a little sharpness in this recipe. If you don’t have red wine vinegar you could use white wine vinegar, lemon or lime juice instead.
Cheese: The traditional recipe calls for Oaxaca cheese but I’m using regular shredded mozzarella as it’s much easier to find.
Softshell tacos: Hardshell tacos won’t soak up the delicious broth so use soft shell tacos instead. Corn tacos are traditional but I prefer the softer flour tacos.
What to Serve with Chicken Birria Tacos
Traditionally these tacos are served without too many ingredients.
They’re normally served with some raw onions, fresh cilantro, and maybe some cheese and broth on the side. This way you get the true taste of the peppers and meat, with nothing to cover it up.
But if you don’t mind bending the rules a little, these other toppings will definitely work too:
- Crème fraîche or sour cream with black pepper, garlic and lime.
- A side of refried black beans.
- Fresh lime wedges.
- Green Tabasco.
- Guacamole. Is guacamole ever a bad idea?
- Pico de Gallo (cilantro free, ayyyy!).
- Queso fresco cheese (instead of mozzarella).
- Pickled onions.
How to Make These In the Oven
If you don’t have an Instant Pot you can still make these in a pot over the stove or better yet, in the oven.
The stovetop method is possible, but the oven is much more consistent which means you won’t have to keep an eye on them as frequently.
To make these in the oven:
Follow the same directions as the recipe at the bottom but don’t continue to step 6.
- Preheat your oven to 350F/177C.
- Place marinaded chicken legs in a casserole dish or dutch oven.
- Pour strained, hot adobo sauce over the chicken legs.
- Cover the casserole with either aluminum foil or the dutch oven lid.
- Braise for 45 mins to one hour, until the meat is soft and pulls away from the bone easily.
- Continue to steps 8-10.
How Spicy are Birria Tacos?
For me, this recipe is mild to medium spice level.
If you can handle jalapenõ-level hot, then these tacos will be no problem for you.
Cascabel and guajillo peppers are not too spicy, ranging from 1000-5000 Scoville units but pack a ton of flavour.
I don’t remove the seeds from the dried peppers which makes it a little spicer. If you’re worried it will be too spicy then remove the seed before toasting the peppers.
Tips to Nail this Recipe
- If you have the time (and planning skills, unlike me), marinate the chicken overnight in the cooled sauce for a much better flavour.
- Buy the right peppers. Dried cascabel or guajillo and chipotles really make the difference in this recipe.
- Use tacos that contain both corn and wheat for the best of both worlds.
- Use chicken legs with the skin on. Chicken legs braise much better than chicken breast and they provide more fat than is needed to fry the tacos.
- Cook the tacos low and slow in the pan to get an even, golden brown colour. Be careful as they’ll burn easily.
Oaxaca cheese is ideal, but any melty cheese will work. Monterey jack or mozzarella are good substitutes.
Absolutely. Let the meat and broth cool completely and store it together in a Tupperware container and it will freeze well for up to 3 months before losing its flavour after that.
More Recipes Like This
- These Original Easy Birria Tacos (with Beef)
- This Easy Tomato Salsa (Pico de Gallo)
- These Quick Beer-Braised Pork Carnitas Tacos
- How to Make Ancho Chili Powder
- My Ultimate Short Rib Chili
Quick and Easy Chicken Birria Tacos (Birria de Pollo)
- 3-4 pc chicken leg, skin on, bone-in
- ½ tbsp smoked paprika
- ½ tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp Aleppo chili (or regular chili flakes)
- 1 pc bay leaf
For the Adobo Sauce
- 2 pc dried cascabel peppers stems removed
- 2 pc dried guajillo peppers stems removed
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 pc canned chipotle peppers
- 1 pc small onion, peeled
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 pc medium tomatoes, cored
- 450 ml chicken stock
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 8-10 pc soft taco shells or serve with rice instead
- 1 bag shredded mozzarella cheese optional
- 1 cup creme fraiche or sour cream optional
- lime wedges optional
- guacamole optional
Marinate the Chicken
- Have all of your ingredients measured out before you start.
- Season the chicken heavily with salt in the Instant Pot dish.
- Add the spice mix to the chicken and rub it into the chicken.
Make the Adobo Sauce
- Using a medium-low heat, toast the chillies in a little oil until they puff up and are toasty on all sides (about 2-3 minutes in the pan).
- Then add the onions, tomatoes and garlic to the pan and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
- Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock, salt and the red wine vinegar. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat.
- Using a spider strainer, carefully lift the ingredients into the blender, then pour in the liquid. Close the lid of the blender firmly and cover the top with a tea towel (this is a safety measure to prevent hot splashes). Start the blender on low and gradually work your way up to high speed. Blend until smooth.
- Once you have a smooth sauce, give it a taste. It should be salty with a touch of acid from the vinegar. Add more to your taste if necessary.Strain the sauce over the chicken into the Instant Pot. (If you plan to marinate the chicken overnight, then you must let the sauce cool completely before adding it to the chicken).
- Double-check that the liquid is not over the max fill line on the Instant Pot. Close the lid and set it to high pressure for 15 minutes.
- Once the timer goes off, naturally release the pressure for 10 minutes (do nothing for 10 minutes).
- Release the rest of the pressure manually and open the lid. Carefully lift out the chicken legs from the broth and allow them to cool on a plate.
- Once the chicken is cool enough to handle (wearing gloves will help if it's too hot), remove the chicken skin and discard. Shred the meat with your hand and remove all the bones and cartilage.
- Season the chicken meat with a pinch of salt and a ladle or two of the adobo broth.
Make the Tacos
- To make the tacos, heat a large pan with a little vegetable oil over medium-low heat.
- Dip a taco shell in the fat at the top of the broth and add to the pan. Immediately after add the chicken meat and cheese to one half of the taco. Fold in half and fry until golden brown, flip and repeat.
- Serve the tacos with a bowl of the hot broth and a few lime wedges. Enjoy!