The Tip For Better Birria At Home Lies In One Spicy Element

Birria is a classic Mexican stew that is slow-cooked for hours and was originally made with goat meat. Birria is either cooked on the stovetop or made by using the barbacoa method, meaning to slowly cook in a pit, which is why barbacoa and birria are often confused with each other, though birria is juicer. However it's cooked, this dish is an explosion of authentic Mexican flavors. Birria has its origins in Jalisco, Mexico, and, like most culinary traditions, it's evolved over time — now, it's made primarily with beef rather than goat. Over the last decade or so, chefs in LA have also started serving birria tacos with the consommé as a dipping sauce.

The traditional recipe calls for ancho and guajillo chilis along with a wide variety of spices like garlic, cinnamon, marjoram, and thyme. All these ingredients, especially when cooked over a long period of time, impart an incredible depth of flavor to the stew. However, smoky, mildly spicy cascabel chilis are the one element that chef Claudette Zepeda says is mandatory to include when making birria, according to Food & Wine. Chef Zepeda has over 20 years of Mexican cooking experience and has spent extensive time traveling through the country (which she dearly loves), making her well qualified to advise on this traditional stew.

Why cascabel is perfect for birria

Cascabel chilis do so well in birria because of their deep smoky flavor, especially if toasted beforehand. They're not as hot as red chilis and they make a great substitute when you are looking for more flavor than heat. Cascabel's name means rattlesnake and it's called that because you can hear the seeds rattle around if you shake the pepper. These round cherry-looking peppers may look cute, and they're not terribly spicy either: Each chili ranges from 1,000-3,000 Scoville units, which means they can be as spicy as a jalapeno or even milder than one.

The consommé that birria cooks in slowly infuses the meat with flavor and spiciness over several hours. If you're a particular fan of how guajillo chilis taste, Cascabel chilis are the closest in flavor. They impart a distinctive earthiness that pairs well with tomatoes and can either complement the other chilis you're using or replace them altogether.