Chicken Birria Tacos

Chicken Birria Tacos with step-by-step photos and how to video!  AKA crispy, pan-fried tacos piled with shredded chicken and oozing cheese dunked in a rich, flavorful consomé.

These Chicken Birria Tacos are an explosion of earthy, smoky, juicy, cheesy, crispy addictiveness in each and every saucy bite PLUS they’re quicker to make than their beefy cousin! The tacos are made with juicy shredded chicken braised in a bold, aromatic adobo chili sauce, stuffed into broth-battered corn tortillas along with ooey gooey Oaxaca cheese, pan-fried until crispy then dunked in the deeply crimson Birria consume for a saucy, rich finish.  With one bite you’ll understand exactly why Birria Tacos are the hottest food trend that is here to stay. Serve the chicken tacos with pico de gallo or simply onion, cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

This is a lengthy guide full of history, tips of tricks. You can use the “jump to recipe” button at the top to skip directly to the recipe card if you wish.

HOW TO MAKE chicken birria tacos VIDEo

up close of dipping chicken birria tacos in the birria consume sauce
top view of chicken birria tacos showing how to serve them with onions and cilantro
up closer of a chicken birria taco showing how cheesy it is

chicken birria tacos ingredients

The ingredients list for this Birria Chicken Tacos recipe is broken down into four parts: 1) the chicken, 2) the spices for the adobo sauce, 3) the remaining ingredients for the adobo sauce and 4) the tacos. The ingredients list may look long at first glance, but that’s just because it’s packed with flavorful spices! 

The Chicken 

The chicken is first seared to lock in its juices and add flavor then mixed into the adobo sauce and finished in the oven, . 

  • Bone-in chicken thighs: This is your juiciest, richest tasting option so I highly suggest them over chicken breasts. However, boneless chicken thighs are a close second. You may substitute with chicken breasts, but take extra care not to overcook.
  • Salt and pepper: You always want to flavor each layer of a dish. 
  • Olive oil: You’ll need just a little oil to sear the chicken in.

The Whole Spices 

The whole spices are toasted to unlock their flavor, then stewed with the chilies and blended into the smoky adobo sauce. I have included dried and granulated substitutions in the recipe, but go whole if you can because their toasted aroma adds a complex depth to the adobo sauce. Many of these seasonings can be picked up at the grocery store, but you may need to order some online. I’ve linked the seasonings below to Amazon for easy purchasing if need be:

showing how to make chicken birria tacos recipe by blending chili sauce in a blender

The Sauce

In addition to the whole spices, the adobo sauce is made with whole ground chilies, onions, garlic, tomatoes and apple cider vinegar for its signature tanginess.  I’ve provided more information on the dried chiles further down this post, but here’s an overview of these ingredients:

  • Dried chiles:  Three varieties of dried chiles are used in the adobo sauce to round out the rich, smoky flavor. More details in the following section. 
  • Onion:  Use one small yellow onion or half a large onion. You may substitute with 1 teaspoon onion powder.
  • Garlic:  Eight whole garlic cloves may sound like a lot but they will not overpower the sauce. You may substitute with 2 teaspoons garlic powder.
  • Tomatoes: Vine-ripened tomatoes are the most flavorful or you may use Roma tomatoes or one can of fire roasted tomatoes
  • Apple cider vinegar: Just two tablespoons add the needed acidity to cut through the earthy chili sauce. You may substitute with rice vinegar but do not substitute with white vinegar because it is much more sour.
  • Water or broth:  You may use water or I like to use chicken broth if I’m using the sauce with chicken or beef broth if using the sauce with beef. Use reduced sodium broth so the adobo sauce isn’t too salty or use regular broth and omit the salt and salt to taste.
  • Ground herbs and spices:  The spicy adobo sauce is further enhanced with smoked paprika, dried thyme, dried oregano and salt to taste.  Of course, you may substitute with fresh herbs if you like, the general rule is three times fresh to dried.
showing how to make chicken birria tacos by lining up guajillo and ancho chili peppers showing what they look like

FOR THE Chicken QUESA BIRRIA TACOS

  • Corn tortillas:  a must for Chicken Birria Tacos for that extra robust, nutty, sweet corn flavor and thicker, pliable texture that won’t break when dunked in sauce/consomé.  Freshly made or homemade corn tortillas are best or packages that say, “organic” or “made in small batches.”  I love La Tortilla Factory Corn Tortillas. I used to only be able to find them at Sprouts but I just picked them up at Alberton’s last week, so be on the lookout!  You can also pick them up on Amazon here.  They are more expensive than the flimsy, dry, cheap packages BUT so worth it!  
  • Cheese:  for Chicken Quesabirria, because ooey gooey melty cheese makes everything better! Oaxaca cheese is the ideal cheese for quesatacos.  It’s a Mexican cheese made from cow’s milk that has a mild, buttery flavor and melts extremely well.  You should be able to pick up Oaxaca cheese at your grocery store or at least Sprouts or Whole Foods.  If you are unfamiliar with Oaxaca cheese, it comes in a round package that is actually a log of cheese spiraled into a circle.  You will want to peel the cheese into strips, much like string cheese, so it melts quickly. If you are unable to find Oaxaca, use freshly grated mozzarella, it tastes surprisingly similar.
  • Toppings: essential to balance out the rich, cheesy tacos with freshness.  You can top your Tacos de Birria with whatever you’d like, but traditional toppings include finely chopped white onion, fresh cilantro and lime juice, or I just go with pico de gallo.  You could also add pickled red onions, avocados or sliced jalapenos or even more nontraditional corn salsa or avocado corn salsa would be fabulous.   

HOW TO MAKE chicken birria tacos

Making Chicken Birria Tacos takes about a third less time than making Beef Birria Tacos because the chicken only takes about 30 minutes to cook.  So, while there are a few steps, you will LOVE the end result!  Here’s a breakdown of this recipe with step by step photos (full recipe measurements in the recipe card at the end of the post): 

Step 1: Remove the Seeds from the Chiles

  • The seeds need to be removed from the chilies before using because the seeds contain most of the heat – if you leave them in, your mouth will be on fire and the adobo sauce will be inedible. 
  • The easiest way to remove the seeds is to cut the tops off of the chilies with kitchen shears. Next, cut the chilies along one edge and open them like a book to expose the seeds inside.
  • Scrape out all of the seeds.
  • Next, toast the chilies in a dry skillet for just a few minutes. Set aside until ready to use.  
showing how to make chicken birria tacos by removing the seeds from the chili peppers

Step 2: Toast the Whole Spices

  • Dry toast the whole spices over medium heat until super fragrant. You can do this any time before making the recipe.  Set aside until ready to use.
showing how to make chicken birria tacos recipe by toasting cumin, coriander, cloves, cinnamon in a skillet

Step 3: sear the chicken

  • Season both sides of the chicken with salt and black pepper.
  • Sear the chicken in batches in sizzling hot oil over medium-high heat. I recommend using the same pot you’re going to make the adobo sauce in to capitalize on all those browned flavor bits that will be stuck to the bottom of the pan!
  • Remove the chicken from the pan but leave the drippings.
showing how to make birria tacos by searing chicken until golden

Step 4: Sauté the Aromatics

  • Now it’s time to scrape up those brown bits! Heat some oil in the chicken drippings. Add the onions and sauté until softened. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. 
showing how to make chicken birria tacos recipe by sautéing onions and garlic in a Dutch oven

Step 4: Stew the Chilies

  • Add the toasted spices, deseeded chilies, tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, dried oregano, smoked paprika, dried thyme and bay leaves. Add 3 cups of chicken broth. Bring to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the peppers are very soft, stirring occasionally.
showing how to make chicken birria tacos by adding dried chilies, tomatoes, vinegar and sugar to a pot and simmering to soften the chilies

Step 5: Blend the sauce

  • Transfer the mixture to a high-powered blender and puree until smooth.

Step 6:  braise the chicken

  • Add the chicken back to the Dutch oven (I use my braiser) followed by the adobo sauce.
  • Cover, bring to a simmer, then transfer to the oven to bake for about 30 minutes.
  • Remove the chicken from the bones and shred.
showing how to make chicken birria tacos by braising the chicken in adobo sauce until tender
showing how to make chicken birria tacos recipe by shredding the chicken adobado

Step 7:  make the tacos

  • Cook the tortilla.  Heat some vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working with one tortilla at a time, dip it into the top of the broth and add it to the skillet.   Press the tortilla down with a spatula because it will start to bubble and pull away as it cooks.  Cook for 1-2 minutes until the bottom is golden.
showing how to make chicken birria tacos recipe by dipping the tortilla in the consume
  • Make it cheesy.  Flip the tortilla over and immediately add cheese.  Cover, and cook until the cheese is mostly melted.  If you aren’t using cheese, then don’t cover the taco.
  • Add meat. Uncover and top half of the cheese with shredded chicken.
  • Fold.  Cook until the bottom of the tortilla is lightly charred then fold the tortilla over in half to form a taco.
showing how to make chicken birria tacos recipe by cooking chicken and cheese in the taco in a skillet

Step 8:  SERVING chicken BIRRIA TACOS:

  • Serve the tacos on a plate with a side of the consume (remaining sauce) and top the tacos with desired onions/cilantro or pico de gallo and dunk into the dipping sauce.  And drool. 
dipping chicken birria tacos into the sauce/consume
top view of chicken birria tacos served with cilantro and onion
  • Add or omit cheese.   Chicken Quesa Birria Tacos are of course decadently fabulous but you may omit the cheese if you’d like.
  • Use a different cheese.  Oaxaca is the traditional cheese of choice but you can use other melting cheeses as well such mozzarella, Chihuahua, asadero, or Monterrey Jack cheese.
  • Make softer tacos.  Make the tacos as crispy or as soft as you’d like depending on how long you pan fry the tortillas.
  • Baked crispy tacos.   Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Add a layer of cheese to the the tortilla and top it with shredded chicken.  Fold the tortillas over in half and lightly press so they stay folded.  Bake at 425 degrees for 8 minutes, flip the tacos over and bake an additional 5-8 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the tacos are crispy.
  • Make soft tacos.  Make street-style chicken tacos by adding the chicken adobado to a charred or toasted corn tortilla and pile it with your favorite toppings.
  • Spice them up.  Serve the tacos with sliced or chopped jalapenos or hot sauce.  
  • Add Sour cream or Mexican Crema. Its refreshing, bright, silky creaminess compliments and cuts through the crunchy, cheesy richness.
  • Top with pico de gallo. Add tomatoes to your chopped onions and cilantro to make pico de gallo for vibrant, punchy freshness.  You can use my homemade pico de gallo recipe or store bought. You can make the salsa ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge.  Bring to room temperature before serving.
  • Top with salsa.  Top the chicken tacos with traditional restaurant style salsa, or chunky salsas with  varying textures and flavors like my black bean corn salsaavocado corn salsacharred corn salsapineapple salsa, or mango salsa– all SO good!
  • Add extra toppings.  Go as simple or as extravagant as you’d like. More topping ideas include: guacamole, sliced avocados, avocado crema, shredded lettuce, Cotija, pickled red onions, pickled jalapenos etc.
serving chicken birria tacos on a platter showing how crispy they are
Chicken birria tacos with dipping consume
showing how to serve chicken birria tacos by dipping into consume

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showing how to serve chicken birria tacos by dipping into consume

Chicken Birria Tacos

These Chicken Birria Tacos are an explosion of earthy, smoky, juicy, cheesy, crispy addictiveness in each and every saucy bite PLUS they're quicker to make than their beefy cousin! The tacos are made with juicy shredded chicken braised in a bold, aromatic adobo chili sauce, stuffed into broth-battered corn tortillas along with ooey gooey Oaxaca cheese, pan-fried until crispy then dunked in the deeply crimson Birria consume for a saucy, rich finish.  With one bite you’ll understand exactly why Birria Tacos are the hottest food trend that is here to stay. Serve the chicken tacos with pico de gallo or simply onion, cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
Servings: 12 tacos
Prep Time: 25 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr

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Ingredients

CHICKEN

SPICES FOR ADOBO SAUCE

ADOBO SAUCE/CONSOMÉ

TACOS

  • 12-14 corn tortillas (like La Tortilla Factory)
  • 12 ounces Oaxacan cheese or mozzarella separated into strings
  • 1 recipe pico de gallo OR the following:
  • ½ white onion chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons lime juice
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

Toast Whole Spices and Chilies

  • Dry toast the whole spices for the adobo sauce (if using) in a large Dutch oven or braiser over medium heat until evenly toasted, stirring occassionally. They're done once they smell super fragrant. Transfer to a bowl or plate.
  • Add the peppers and dry roast for a couple minutes per side; remove to a plate.

SEAR THE CHICKEN

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Season both sides of the chicken with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the now empty pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken in an even layer and sear both sides until deeply browned (work in batches if needed); remove to a plate but leaving the drippings.

MAKE THE SAUCE

  • Add a drizzle of oil to the drippings if needed/seems dry; heat over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
  • Add the toasted spices to the pot followed by the deseeded chilies, and all the remaining Adobo Sauce ingredients (through broth). Bring to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the peppers are very soft, stirring occasionally.
  • Transfer the mixture to a high powered blender and purée until smooth, leaving a corner of the lid open and covered with a paper towel so steam can escape and it doesn’t explode. (NOTE: If you don’t have a high-powered blender, then strain the chili sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, using rubber spatula to push the mixture through. The solids left behind are the spices so don’t toss them! You can wrap them in a cheese cloth or mash them and add them back to the sauce.)

BRAISE AND SHRED THE CHICKEN

  • Add the chicken back to the pot followed by the chili sauce, turn to coat the chicken. Cover, bring to a simmer, then transfer to the preheated oven. Cook for 20-30 minutes or until chicken shreds easily and registers 175 degrees F on an instant read thermometer (165 degrees F if using chicken breasts). You can prep the toppings (below) while the chicken cooks).
  • Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a bowl; keep the sauce coating the chicken but leave most if it behind in the pot for dipping. Once cool enough to thandle, remove the bones and shred the chicken.

ASSEMBLE THE TACOS

  • In a medium bowl, make the pico de gallo if using, or mix together onion, cilantro, lime and salt to taste; set aside.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working with one tortilla at a time, lightly dip it in the top of the sauce and add it to the skillet. Press the tortilla down with a spatula because it will start to bubble and pull away as it cooks. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the bottom is golden.
  • Flip the tortilla over and immediately cover the entire surface with shredded cheese. Cover, and cook until the cheese is mostly melted. Uncover and top half of the cheese with shredded chicken. Cook until the bottom is lightly charred then fold the tortilla over in half to form a taco.
  • Transfer to a plate and serve with the pico de gallo or cilantro/onion mixture and a bowl of the consomé liquid (remaining sauce) as a dipping sauce. Dig in!

Video

Notes

  • Dried Chilies:Dried chilies can be found at any Mexican market as well as many grocery stores (and many super Walmart’s depending on your location) in either the Mexican aisle or produce section. Many produce stores such as Sprouts and Whole Foods also carry packages of dried chilies. If you can’t find them or simply want a one-click option, then you can purchase them on Amazon here: ancho chiles, guajillo chili, arbol chiles.
  • Chicken: I highly recommend bone-in chicken thighs for the juiciest, richest tasting option, however, boneless chicken thighs are a close second. You may substitute with chicken breasts, but adjust the cooking time as needed and don’t overcook as they dry out easily.
  • Tortillas: Homemade corn tortillas, or packages that say, “freshly made,” “organic” or “made in small batches” are best so the tortillas don’t crack or tear.   I love La Tortilla Factory Corn Tortillas which you can find on Amazon here.  If using less quality corn tortillas, wrap them in damp paper towels and microwave for 30 seconds to warm before using.
  • Oaxaca cheese: should be easy to find at your grocery store or at least Sprouts or Whole Foods.  If you are unfamiliar with Oaxaca cheese, it comes in a round package that is actually a log of cheese spiraled into a circle.  You will want to peel the cheese into strips, much like string cheese, so it melts quickly. If you are unable to find Oaxaca, use freshly grated mozzarella, it tastes surprisingly similar.
  • To keep prepared tacos warm in the oven until serving: place tacos on a baking sheet in a single layer at 250 degrees F in the oven until all of the tacos are completed.  Don’t stack the tacos at any time or they will steak and become soggy.

Shredded Chicken Cooking Options

  • Instant Pot Chicken Adobado: Add the seared chicken and adobo sauce back to the Instant Pot, and give the mixture a quick stir. Cook on high pressure for 13-15 minutes then let release naturally for 5 minutes.
  • Crockpot Chicken Adobado: Lightly spray the slow cooker insert with cooking spray. Add the seared chicken and adobo sauce to the crockpot, and give it a stir to evenly coat the chicken. Cook on high for 2-4 hours or on low for 6-7 hours or until chicken is tender enough to shred.
  • Stovetop Chicken Adobado: Cover and gently simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the chicken is fall-apart tender. Keep an eye on the adobo sauce and add additional broth if needed because more liquid will evaporate on the stove.

Prep Ahead

  • Spices:  can be toasted and stored in an airtight container for up to 1 year!
  • Sauce:  can be made and stored in the refrigerator up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Chicken: can be seasoned, seared and stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.  You can proceed to bake the chicken and shred or simply add it to the chili sauce and bake the next day.
  • Cheese:  string/shred the cheese and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  • Toppings: chop the onions and cilantro and store in the refrigerator for up to two days.  Add the lime juice before serving.

Storage

Chicken Birria Tacos are best when served fresh.  They won’t be as crispy when reheated unless you use an air fryer, but they will still be tasty.   
  • Storage: store tacos in a single layer (with parchment paper in between layers if stacked) in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 
  • To freeze:  wrap each taco individually in foil then add to a freezer bag or flash freeze the tacos by placing on a baking sheet without touching and freezing until solid.  Transfer the solid tacos to a freezer bag

To Reheat

  • Air fryer: This is my #1 preferred method for reheating anything crispy – or formerly crispy.  It restores the Chicken Birria Tacos to their former crispy glory as if they were freshly made – seriously amazing!  Place your tacos in the air fryer basket and air fry at 400 degrees F for 4-6 minutes, flipping halfway through.
  • Stove: Heat a large nonstick skillet to low then add the taco(s). Cook until heated through, rotating as needed.  Once the inside is warm, you can crank the heat to medium-high to quickly toast the outside.
  • Oven: Place tacos on a wire rack placed over a baking pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until warmed through. 
  • Microwave: This is my least favorite method because the exterior doesn’t crisp up, but it’s convenient for hands off reheating. Transfer tacos to a microwave safe plate and microwave on high or 45 seconds then at 15-second intervals as needed.

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4 Comments

  1. Ekta says

    OMGGGG I have been waiting for this recipe from you, even requested this some time ago. Thanks so much, will be making this soon. I am sure it will be delicious.
    Just got done with a dinner party, made Cajun chicken, Cajun shrimp & rice, grape salad among other things, all your recipes, got rave reviews as always 🙂

    • Jen says

      I hope you love it as much as us! I love hearing you made all of my recipes for a dinner party – I’m so flattered! What a delicious night!

  2. Sherri says

    My tacos didn’t get crispy. I’m not sure why. The recipe was delicious regardless but I’d like to figure out how to make the taco shells crispy on the pan fry. Any thoughts as to why this would happen?

    • Jen says

      Hi Sherri, most likely the pan was not hot enough. I would maybe add additional oil and crank up the heat, that way you are virtually frying the tacos and there is no way they can’t crisp up! Also, take care not to saturate the tortilla in the sauce.

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