A birria taco and birria ramen bowl

Birria: Insta-Worthy Taco Turns Cross-Utilization Menu Star

The traditional Mexican favorite fills menu needs in every daypart.

Birria has exploded onto the culinary scene thanks to the red tacos that hail from Mexico. For kitchens looking to cross-utilize ingredients, birria is an exciting protein and broth combo that offers value, versatility and an opportunity to be first to market with an attention-grabbing, global-flavor menu item.

The Mexican street food is traditionally made Jalisco-style (goat/lamb) or Tijuana-style (beef). It’s created by braising the protein in a red chili-laced broth. Beef is likely the best bet for consumer approachability, says Gordon Food Service Corporate Consulting Chef Nick Gonring. When cooked, the result is fall-apart pulled meat and an abundance of brothy sauce with many applications.

Ready to make a menu splash

Our research team was introduced to birria at Teddy’s Red Tacos in Los Angeles during 2018. Food truck operator Teddy Vasquez created something special that put birria on the culinary map with tortillas dipped in chile-infused broth and fried on a flat-top. The chiles give the crispy taco shell a red color, and the fillings include the pulled meat, cotija cheese, onions, cilantro, etc. Tacos are served with a ramekin of consomme for dipping.

Teddy’s Red Tacos gets credit for making birria on the cusp of going mainstream today. And for operators, birria means more than tacos. Birria can be used across all dayparts without seeming repetitive, Gonring says. “You get two products, the protein and the broth, so you can be really creative, like using the broth as a base to make gravy for biscuits and birria gravy.”

Opportunities include birria eggs Benedict, ravioli filling, ramen, sandwiches, quesadilla rolls and so much more. 

Keeping it simple

Birria creation typically starts with dried chiles, but that’s a lot of work. The seeds are removed, the peppers are toasted to release oils, then hydrated in hot water to bloom, then pureed. “To save time in the kitchen, you can use guajillo chile paste in a jar,” Gonring says.

Chuck roll is the most commonly used beef for birria, Gonring notes, but not the only choice. Beef short rib can work, or he suggests using osso buco—a pre-cut shank with generous marbling and a bone for a flavorful marrow broth.

Once you get past the classic preparation, any pulled protein can work. Pork butt, chicken thighs or even turkey are options. “I encourage operators to look at their larder and use what they have on hand. The goal is to use the braise and the broth for results that are impressive and versatile.”

For more about this menu opportunity, ask your Sales Representative about the Gordon Food Service birra culinary module, Annual Trends Report and Kitchen-Tested Recipe ideas.