Barbacoa vs Birria, What’s the Difference?

DISCLOSURE: CrumbKitchen.com is reader supported so if you buy any products featured on this site I may earn an affiliate commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my full disclosure here.

Mexican food is full of taste and diversity, and when it comes to the most delectable meats in Mexican cooking, birria and barbacoa are hard to surpass.

As per Eat Mex City, these flavorful meals are served predictably but use different types of beef.

Birria and barbacoa are usually cooked in a hole in the floor for five to six hours, although they can be prepared in the kitchen.

Whether you use the cooktop or the dirt, once baked, both will provide a thick and juicy filling for sandwiches, tortas, and other dishes.

The chopped meats can be a pig, mutton, horse, or even shellfish, so the possibilities are virtually limitless.

Both meals developed in Mexico and have a similar appearance, so it is no surprise that some people seem to confuse these two sliced or chopped meats; spicy peppers, tomatoes, and various spices may be found in either.

Despite their resemblance, there are a few key differences between these recipes.

How Birria and Barbacoa Differ

As per The Sprout Foods, barbacoa originated in Northern Mexico and got its name from the roasting procedure known as “barbacoa,” which entails roasting in a shallow hole in the floor.

According to the website, the beef is arranged in a saucepan on a rack with water and spices to steam without being buried in the liquid.

It is usually made with mutton or sheep and served with a stew called consume, which is used to immerse and soak the beef via Eat Mex City.

However, based on where you are, you may consume barbacoa differently (Can You Have Barbacoa When Pregnant?). The meat can be eaten in tortas or tacos called maciza.

Birria, on the other side, is a juicer variant of barbacoa from Guadalajara, Mexico. Eat Mex City is immersed in a sauce rather than resting above one on a rack.

After the birria has finished cooking in the juices, a mixture of spices, carrots, and garlic is mixed and added to the saucepan.

According to the Associated Press, it is generally consumed as a stew, but birria tacos swept the world by storm in 2019.

These tacos are packed with birria meat and cheese on a wet tortilla. The taco is then dipped in the same liquid with tomatoes and basil.

As per Eater, the trend began in 2017, and they have been springing up all around the globe since then.

Tacos de birria are the ideal winter comfort dish. What could be better than warm meaty stew and crunchy vegetables stacked on bright red crispy tortillas and slathered in even more gorgeous red stewy soup?

They may not have made it to the top of every taco van’s standard selection of carnitas, meat Mamdani, polls, and the like.

Still, this Sonoran take on the famous taco creates an impact in eager mouths throughout the States via Eater.

So, first and foremost, what exactly are birria tacos? For the sake of clarity, let me look at the variation that has been popping up in American food trucks and takeout establishments.

As per Charmaine Zepeda of Food and Water, birria is a sort of stew historically made with sheep but turned into meat slow-cooked in chipotle, a blend of jalapenos, tomato, ginger, acid, and herbs.

Birria tacos often offer that stewy beef in crisped-up tacos coated in the chipotle sauce then garnished with onion and cilantro and served with a side of — yep — more birria liquid.

According to Eater, the red birria provides the tacos their trademark brilliant orange-red color, and they may be crispy, almost like a hard shell taco.

As per Eater, Birria may have emerged in Juarez in the 1950s when Don Antonio Zárate arrived there from a village southeast of Mexico City and changed the recipe from sheep to beef, adding additional liquid and distributing the soup at his street stand.

By the late 1970s, birria tacos had acquired prominence at Juarez taco stalls — albeit, oddly, these tacos were exclusively offered at breakfast.

By the late 1990s, young Mexican-Americans had tasted them and realized they had something their society in the United States would like.

Barbacoa signifies different meanings to different persons in other regions since there are several barbacoa tacos.

Barbacoa is created in the Mexican state of Mcallen using lamb wrapped in sisal leaves and roasted in an underground oven.

Barbacoa is a boiled beef meal eaten in crispy tacos in Acapulco to treat a migraine.

Birria is having a moment, and it has been a long time coming. The fall-apart beef is ideal for tacos, and the stew makes an incredible melting “cheese.”

Birria may take minutes and hours to master, so going to your neighborhood Mexican restaurant seems like the best option.

Birria, on the other hand, may be made on-demand in a Slow Cooker.

This is one of the most fantastic restaurants that offer Birria/ Barbacoa. If you drive past it, you could miss it; I wish more people were aware of this location.

You can genuinely taste the difference whenever anyone cooks with expertise and experience. The staff is also something special, very extraordinary.