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
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 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:
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:
FOR THE Chicken QUESA BIRRIA TACOS
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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 salsa, avocado corn salsa, charred corn salsa, pineapple 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.
Tools Used in This Recipe
Chicken Birria Tacos
Save This Recipe To Your Recipe Box
You can now create an account on our site and save your favorite recipes all in one place!
SPICES FOR ADOBO SAUCE
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 dried guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed
- 4 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
- 1 chili de arbol, stem and seeds removed
- 4 vine-ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped (or Roma tomatoes)
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tsp EACH smoked paprika, dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 bay leaves
- 3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
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!
- 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.
- 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.
StorageChicken 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
- 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.
Did You Make This Recipe?
Tag @CarlsbadCravings and Use #CarlsbadCravngs
Leave a Review, I Always Love Hearing From You!