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What is the birria meat made of?

Birria is a spicy Mexican stew that has become increasingly popular in recent years. It features tender, flavorful meat simmered in a rich, chili-infused broth. But what exactly is the meat in birria made of? Here is a comprehensive look at the types of meat used to make authentic birria.

Goat Meat

One of the most traditional meats used in birria is goat. Goat meat has a distinct, gamey flavor that pairs well with the bold spices used in birria. Birria originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco, where goat herding and consumption is common. In fact, Jalisco is sometimes nicknamed “land of the birria” due to the prevalence of birria de chivo (goat birria) in the local cuisine.

Goat meat has a lean yet tender texture that holds up well to long braising. The meat has robust flavors that complement the chili peppers, garlic, cumin and other spices in the birria broth. Goat birria is especially common in the cities of Guadalajara and Tlaquepaque in Jalisco.

Benefits of Goat Meat

  • High in protein
  • Lower in fat than other red meats
  • Rich in essential nutrients like iron, potassium and B vitamins


While goat is the traditional choice, beef has become an extremely popular birria meat, especially in the US. Birria de res (beef birria) allows the hearty flavors of the broth to permeate into a different type of meat. Cuts like chuck roast, brisket and shank are often used since they become very tender when braised.

Beef has a more familiar flavor than goat so it may appeal to a wider audience. It has a heartier texture and the fat helps keep the meat juicy and moist during cooking. All parts of a cow can be used for beef birria, including popular cuts like short ribs, oxtail and head meat like lengua (tongue) or cachete (cheek).

Benefits of Beef

  • Good source of protein, vitamins and minerals
  • Contains more iron than other meats
  • Rich, meaty flavor


Pork is another excellent choice for birria, though not as common as beef or goat. Pork shoulder or leg cuts are usually used, such as pork butt, pork leg, or pork ribs. The fat content and marbling helps keep the meat tender and adds flavor. Pork birria may use cuts like pork belly, feet, ears or snout for adventurous eaters.

Since pork has a milder taste than beef or goat, the spices and chili flavors in the broth really shine through. Pork birria is sometimes called birria de puerco or birria de cerdo.

Benefits of Pork

  • Very versatile meat for stews and braises
  • Tender and juicy when cooked properly
  • Milder taste lets other flavors come through


Lamb isn’t as commonly used for birria compared to beef, goat or pork. But it can make a wonderful, flavorful birria. Cuts from the leg, shoulder or ribs are best since they become fall-off-the-bone tender when braised. Lamb has a distinct, rich taste that pairs deliciously with the complex birria broth.

Lamb birria may also incorporate other parts of the animal like head or feet. Some regions in Mexico are more known for lamb birria, like northern states Sonora, Chihuahua and Coahuila. Birria made with lamb meat may be called birria de borrego.

Benefits of Lamb

  • Strong, savory flavor
  • Tender, juicy meat when braised
  • Excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals


Chicken isn’t as common for birria, but it can be used to make a lighter, more broth-based version. Chicken birria uses meat from a whole chicken or just parts like breast, thighs or drumsticks. The lean chicken provides substance without adding too much heaviness.

Since chicken has a more delicate flavor than red meats, the seasoning and spices in the broth become the real star. Chicken birria may use additive ingredients like chiles, tomatoes, potatoes or chickpeas to round out the stew.

Benefits of Chicken

  • Very lean and low in fat
  • Mild flavor that absorbs other seasonings
  • Lower in calories than red meat


Like chicken, turkey makes a lighter, healthier version of birria. Turkey is very low in fat yet high in protein. Cuts like turkey breast, thighs or legs can provide substance without too much heaviness. Dark meat turkey holds up better to braising than white breast meat.

Turkey birria has a more subtle flavor, so the seasonings and broth play a major role. Additional vegetables or beans complement the turkey. This is a great option for people looking for a lower-calorie birria.

Benefits of Turkey

  • Very lean and low in calories
  • High in protein and low in fat
  • Subtle flavor lets seasonings shine through


While less common, birria can also be made using seafood as the main protein. Fish like tilapia, snapper, halibut or striped bass work well since they hold up to braising. Shrimp or clams may also be incorporated. The aroma of the spices and broth complement and enhance the briny seafood.

Seafood birria often includes lots of fresh vegetables like carrots, cabbage and potatoes. The broth tends to be lighter than meat versions while still packed with flavor. Some add tomato or veggie stock along with the chili-infused broth.

Benefits of Seafood

  • Low in fat and calories
  • Excellent source of lean protein
  • Briny, savory flavors


There are also vegetarian versions of birria made without any meat. The base is often mushrooms, jackfruit or soy protein like tofu or seitan that replicates shredded meat. Hearty vegetables like potatoes, beans, corn, peppers and squash provide heft.

The deep, complex flavors of the birria broth shine through without being overpowered by meat. Dried ancho or guajillo chiles, garlic, cumin and oregano permeate the vegetables and soy proteins. Vegetarian birria is often thicker and more stew-like.

Benefits of Vegetarian Birria

  • Healthy meat-free option
  • Packed with protein, fiber and nutrients
  • Allows bold spices and chiles to stand out


While goat meat is the most traditional choice, birria can be made from a variety of meats. Beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, seafood and vegetarian options all bring their unique flavors and textures. The unifying factor is the complex dried chili and spice broth that infuses each version with nostalgic Mexican flavor. No matter your dietary preference, there is likely a birria out there you will enjoy!