Birria Tacos Only Get Better With The Addition Of Cheese

Out of all the world-famous Mexican dishes, tacos may be the most treasured. Who can resist zesty meats, seasoned with a panoply of Mexican spices and chiles, stuffed into fresh corn tortillas? Jalisco-born birria tacos stand out, featuring stewed goat or beef stuffed inside tortillas that have been dipped in the stew's broth, or consommé. The consommé-dipped tortillas are then crisped up on a flat top so they don't buckle under the weight of the birria or disintegrate.

The birria itself is bursting with spicy, umami-rich, melt-in-your-mouth meat, and birria tacos give you a crunchy, savory introduction to it. Just when you think a taco couldn't get more decadent, birria tacos incur yet another sumptuous upgrade with the addition of cheese. This simple yet revolutionary addition emerged in the famed California border town of Tijuana.

In the early 2010s, street taco vendors, or taqueros, around the city began sprinkling a helping of cheese over their traditional birria tacos. The result was an ultra-creamy, more cohesive dish lying somewhere between a taco, quesadilla, and enchilada. Taqueros dubbed this new sensation, quesabirria, a fusion of queso (the word for cheese), quesadilla, and birria. Not only does the cheese add flavor to the stew, but it also keeps the taco intact as you dip it in the cup of consommé. Acclaim for quesabirria hastened its spread across the border into California and throughout Mexico where it's become a mainstay on menus.

Quesabirria ingredient options and variations

With this modern twist, quesabirria recipes have made more adjustments to the traditional birria taco other than just adding cheese. Quesabirria almost exclusively uses beef brisket for the birria, in contrast to historically using goat, lamb, or mutton. Beef is more widely available than goat or lamb, with richer umami and less gaminess. Plus brisket easily achieves a fall-apart tenderness when slow cooked and stewed.

Since quesabirria is a cross between a quesadilla and a taco, it calls for the same type of mild white cheese used in quesadillas. Chihuahua or Oaxaca cheese is ideal for quesabirria, but mozzarella and jack cheese are equally meltable and tasty. Corn tortillas remain the standard vessel, but newer variations have replaced the corn tortilla with tortillas formed with crispy fried or baked cheese.

Other variations include quesabirria tortas, hoagie-type sandwich rolls stuffed with birria and cheese, and birraquiles, a twist on the classic breakfast dish, chilaquiles, consisting of corn chips topped with birria, cheese, and either green or red salsa.