Lamb Birria (Slow Cooked Mexican Lamb Tacos)

Lamb Birria in a wine red casserole dish.

One of our favourite dishes at the resort we stayed in in Mexico this summer was the Lamb Birria: a rich, brothy, slow cooked lamb dish seasoned with plenty of chillies and fresh rosemary it came piping hot in a stone bowl with plenty of corn tortillas on the side for dipping and taco building, and avocado salsa and plenty of finely chopped pickled red onions. And now it is slow cooking season, it is a dish from our travels I’ve been excited to reproduce!

I’ve put a fair bit of research into birria recipes, as well as consulted my own notes I scribbled down the second and third times I ordered it in the resort’s Mexican grill and steakhouse, and I’m really pleased with the result: for something that was so easy to make (you don’t even have to brown off the meat!) I can’t believe the flavour is so good. It’s also almost exactly how we remember it: the only big change I’ve made is to reduce the amount of stock added to make the sauce thick enough not to collapse flour tortillas, which are J’s preference over corn.

But, feel free to up the amount by 100ml or so if you’re looking for something a bit more traditional!

How to use dried chillies

The flavour of dried chillies are essential to this Lamb Birria recipe, and if you’ve never used them before there is a bit of know-how involved. The key is to soak them in boiling water for 15-20 minutes until they’re soft; then you’ll be able to chop them or blitz them, and deseed them if needed.

Many recipes that call of dried chillies – like this one – will ask you to measure the soaking liquid carefully as it will be added into the recipe for an extra layer of flavour!

Cast iron pot of Lamb Birria with tortillas, avocado and red onions.

Where to buy dried chillies

Sadly Whole Foods (which you can only find in London) is the only supermarket that sells dried Mexican chillies, but the good news is that they’re really easy to buy online!

I usually order Cool Chile Co. dried chillies from Sous Chef (this selection pack includes the ancho and guajillo chillies you’ll need for this recipe), and whilst you’re there you can add a can of chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce to your order which you’ll also need for this recipe. You can substitute this for regular chipotle paste if they’re out of stock, but if you’re placing an order it seems a shame not to grab a can of the proper stuff at the same time.

Another brand of dried chillies I love is Tajin (yes, the same people who make the seasoning that is delicious sprinkled over fresh melon you’ll be familiar with if you’ve ever been to Mexico) who also do a chilli bundle with the chillies you need on Amazon (affiliate link). And the Amazon link you’ll need for the chipotle peppers (same brand that I always use) can be found here (affiliate link).

What should I serve this Lamb Birria with?

As I mentioned, I’ve reduced the liquid in this Lamb Birria recipe a little so it won’t soak through flour tortillas, either the small taco sized ones or the big ones to build wraps which is usually how we eat this at home. Of course corn tortillas are also excellent here, either yellow or the purple ones this was served to us with in Mexico – again, I source these from Cool Chile Co. but this time on Ocado.

We were not a fan of the slightly runny avocado salsa out Lamb Birria came with in the resort, so I’ve kept things simple with diced avocado, though guacamole would also be a good shout here.

Pink pickled onions would be my preference here and they should be yours too (this is how I make them), but again, dinner has to please everyone and J prefers them simply sliced and served raw, but soaked in cold water for 20 minutes before. being drained and patted dry to remove that raw onion ‘bite’.

If you’ve made this the first time leaving the seeds of the chillies in and find it is a bit too hot, a dollop of sour cream will always tone things down a bit – if I like to serve it with my birria depends on my mood. Also, nowhere near traditional or even Mexican, J also informs me spoked grated cheddar is also delicious here so if you happen to have some in the fridge, do bring it to the table!

Lamb Birria close up topped with chopped coriander.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I substitute for the dried chillies in this recipe?

I’m afraid this really is a recipe that needs dried chillies, but I’ve included some tips for how to use them and links to where to buy them above!

Lamb is tricky to get hold of where I live. Does this work with any other type of meat?

Whilst I have chosen the seasonings in this recipe to work best with lamb, diced stewing steak (beef) or pork shoulder would also be delicious here.

Lamb Birria Tacos ready to be assembled.

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Cast iron pot of Lamb Birria with tortillas, avocado and red onions.

Lamb Birria

  • Author: Rachel Phipps
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 55 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 2-4 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Slow Cooking
  • Cuisine: Mexican
  • Diet: Gluten Free


This slow cooked Mexican Lamb Birria recipe is delicious served alongside avocado, pink pickled onions and either corn or soft flour tacos for the perfect make-ahead Taco Night!



For the Lamb Birria

  • 500g diced lamb
  • 200ml beef or chicken stock
  • 2 large rosemary sprigs
  • 1 dried bay leaf

For the Cooking Sauce

  • 2 dried guajillo chillies
  • 1 dried ancho chillies
  • 1/2 tbsp Chipotle in Adobo Sauce
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp flaky sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 large garlic cloves

To Serve

  • corn or soft flour tortillas
  • roughly chopped coriander
  • sliced red onions (see note), or pink pickled onions
  • diced avocado


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 150C.
  2. In a shallow dish, pour 100ml of boiling water over the dried chillies, and leave them to soak for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, measure the rest of the cooking sauce into the cup of a high speed bullet blender or a small food processor, peeling and roughly chopping the onion and garlic cloves.
  4. De-step and roughly chop the chillies before adding them to the blender cup – remove the seeds if you can’t handle heat. Pour in the soaking liquid, and blitz until you have a smooth paste.
  5. Pour the cooking paste into a small lidded casserole dish and add the lamb. Stir until the lamb is well coated in the sauce.
  6. Add the stock, rosemary sprigs and bay leaf, stirring once more until everything is submerged. 
  7. Put on the lid and slow cook for 2 hours and 3o minutes, checking occasionally to make sure there is enough liquid. If the lamb is not falling apart, feel free to cook it for up to 3 hours. 
  8. Remember to fish out the rosemary sprigs and the bay leaf before serving!


Soak the thinly sliced red onion in a bowl of cold water for 15-20 minutes before draining and patting dry on kitchen paper to remove some of their unpleasant ‘bite’.

Keywords: lamb, lamb birria, birria, mexican, mexican food, slow cooking