This Lamb Birria with Tacos is one of those ultimate weekend sharing meals. Slow cooked in the oven or slow cooker for hours, the meltingly delicious results spooned into soft tacos and jazzed up with crunchy slaw, lime, as much chillies as you like and a dollop or two of sour cream.

The recipe is from fabulous Thomasina Miers and was published in the Guardian Feast a few weeks ago. In it Thomasina writes, “Birria originates in northern Mexico, designed for scraggy, cheap cuts of lamb, goat or beef, which is marinated in a blend of dried chillies, herbs and classic Mexican spices, then slow-cooked. This produces a rich broth that is served on the side for sipping or for dipping tacos into. Use a pressure cooker for speed, or simply a low oven, and serve at the table with hot tortillas, slaw, lime wedges, diced onion and chilli sauce for a meal to end all meals.”

She adds “Encourage people to make their own tacos, filled with the birria, slaw, onions and fresh lime, sprinkling with hot sauce and dunking into the bowls of consommé. Heaven.” Just the introduction was enough to get me making Lamb Birria the next day.

I took the shortcut and cooked the birria in an Instant Pot (50 minutes at high pressure with natural steam release and left it at “Keep Warm” for a few hours) and have to admit that I eyeballed most of the quantities in the recipe, neither did I have all the chilies but it still turned out delicious. I had no ancho chilli, had some chipotle chilli flakes in the cupboard  and used a tablespoon or so of those, found a tub of fajita mix with guajillo chilli, tasted it and then guestimated how much to use. To add a bit more heat I added a whole dried chili from the veggie bowl on the kitchen counter. And added a tbsp of smoked paprika for good measure. So basically I veered completely off the original recipe but was very happy with the result.

I made a quick slaw with grated carrots and cabbage, thinly sliced spring onion, then simply dressed it with apple cider vinegar, honey and salt and kept tasting until I had the right balance of sweet to salty. Oh, I also replaced the sour cream with yoghurt as that is what is always in our fridge. So use Thomasina’s recipe below but feel free to tweak it to your own taste.

If you want to add more heat and flavour when serving the tacos, do serve the Lamb Birria with some salsa macha (the Mexican version of chili crisp) and roasted chilies pickled in vinegar. And some ice cold beer. So good!

I hope you enjoy this recipe for Lamb Birria with Tacos. Remember to always share your photos with me by tagging @heinstirred on Instagram with the hashtag #heinstirred. It is always a treat to see the recipes made and enjoyed.

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  • 1 kg neck of lamb
  • 600 ml stock
  • 40 g butter
  • 2 red onions peeled and sliced
  • For the birria adobo
  • 3-4 guajillo chillies
  • 1 ancho chilli optional
  • 1 tbsp chipotle en adobo
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 large white onion peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3-4 large garlic cloves peeled
  • 1 small handful fresh thyme picked
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • A large pinch of ground cloves
  • 80 g natural yoghurt
  • To serve
  • Corn tortillas
  • 1 small onion peeled and finely diced
  • 2 limes cut into wedges
  • Slaw
  • Soured cream or creme fraiche
  • Hot sauce


  • Remove and discard the stalks and seeds from the guajillo chillies, and ancho, if using. Put the chillies in a small bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to soak for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cut away and discard any excess fat from around the lamb, then cut the meat into large pieces and set aside. Heat the oven to 170C (150C fan)/325F/gas 3.
  • Drain the soaked chillies, then tip them into at blender and add the chipotle, vinegar, white onion and garlic. Blitz, scraping down the sides as you go, then add half the thyme leaves, the bay, spices and half the yoghurt. Blitz again, then add the rest of the yoghurt to make a smooth paste.
  • Put the lamb in a deep baking tray and pour over the adobo mix, rubbing it into the meat with your hands. Pour over the stock, cover the tray with foil and bake for four to five hours, until the meat is soft and falling apart. (You can also do this very successfully in a pressure cooker in a fraction of the time.)
  • While the meat is cooking, melt the butter in a frying pan and add the red onions and the rest of the thyme leaves. Season generously, then cook slowly, stirring, for about 10-12 minutes, until soft and sweet. Once the meat is tender, lift it out of the tray, leaving behind the consommé. Pull the meat apart and mix it with the onions.
  • To serve, skim off any fat from the consommé and heat it through gently. Heat the meat under a grill or in a large frying pan, until caramelised and crisp in parts. Serve at the table with small bowls of the consommé, tortillas and all the accompanying bits and pieces.


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