The Best Birria In Mexico: Authentic Regional Styles

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Over the last few years, I have noticed an evolution in the styles of dishes being called birria. The birria in Mexico is absolutely delicious and many birrierias (birria restaurants) are historic community centers. There is nothing like traveling to a new town to eat birria in a restaurant that has been around for decades.

During the pandemic, birria became a trending topic and lots of home cooks started experimenting with the instant pot, the Dutch oven, the slow cooker, and even birria ramen. Quesabirria tacos have taken over the taco truck scene in the United States and birria de chivo (goat meat) has been overshadowed by birria de res (beef birria).

I have been living in the state of Jalisco for nearly 15 years and I think that birria is best served at a birriería. Many of the families that operate birria restaurants have dedicated generations to preparing one single dish. My favorite birrieria in Guadalajara is operated by a family with more than 80 years invested in the business. They know how small deviations to the birria recipe can affect the final product. 

One of the big differences between home-cooked birria and professionally-cooked birria is the choice of meat. It is much more common for home cooks to use beef rather than goat meat. Goat meat is hard to find and the best birrierias in Mexico covet their relationships with ranchers. Secondly, there are some unique cooking methods that purists insist affect the final product in a way that the modern slow cooker never could. A wood-burning brick oven is a clear sign of a traditional birria. 

Goat birria is one of the few dishes that it is ok to admit that your grandmother’s recipe is not the best in the world. Lots of birria lovers have memories of a favorite family restaurant, a community institution really. I recommend spending Father’s Day at Birrieria Chololo in Tlajomulco to understand how the community treasures a restaurant. Restaurants preparing this traditional Mexican dish are a sacred institution. 

The Best Birria In Mexico

I have been collecting photos of birria restaurants for over a decade now. I love rustic, slow-food experiences in a new town. We are fortunate to live in Jalisco where there is an abundance of great birria restaurants.

My family loves to road trip and I make it a point to look for birria restaurants when we travel. Downtown Guadalajara, Downtown Cocula, or Downtown Atotonilco, you are guaranteed to find a historic restaurant selling great local birria.

A lot of people get to know Mexico by getting to know the best taco shops in Mexico. Why not get to know the best birrierias.

It is really enjoyable to try the different ways that traditional cooks prepare birria with regional variations. The chile peppers that go into an adobo sauce have different flavors depending on the soil in the region. A flavorful broth depends on the meat juices and the tomato broth. The spices change from one cook to the next. 

Without further ado, let’s have a look at some of the great birria restaurants in Mexico. 

Jalisco-Style Birria

Guadalajara is known for the best birria in Mexico
Goat ribs and tripe ‘machito’

Today, birria is the most important traditional food from Jalisco but the history goes back to the Spanish era. When goats were first introduced to the Americas they were a nuisance.

Wild goats, horses, and cows at so much brush they changed the landscape of the new world. They could be considered an invasive species because they will devour an entire garden in little time and the meat has a strong smell.

During the Spanish era, what is today known as Jalisco state was a part of Nueva Galicia, an autonomous kingdom of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. This territory consisted of the present-day Mexican states of Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Colima, Jalisco, Nayarit, and Zacatecas.

I took a Spanish class where a teacher and a student got into a fight over the origins of birria so brutal it wound up in the dean’s office. The irony is that Jalisco and Aguascalientes did not exist when birria was invented. It was all a part of Nueva Galicia so, in essence, they were both wrong.

Anyhow, you can find birria all over rural Jalisco. One of the most enjoyable day trips from Guadalajara is a birria hunt. There are a lot of enjoyable pueblos mágicos in Jalisco that happen to have excellent birrierias.

While most people traveling to Jalisco are looking for goat birria, there are a good deal of street food carts selling excellent beef birria tacos. A tour of the best birrieria restaurants in Guadalajara could be considered one of the best tours in the capital.

Guadalajara is known for great birria.

Birrieria La Victoria (Guadalajara)

Goat leg birria in Guadalajara Mexico
A goat leg is called a ‘pistola’ in Spanish

Birrieria La Victoria is a Guadalajara favorite dating back to 1948. It is a small restaurant located in the traditional neighborhood of Santa Tere across the street from the municipal market. They exclusively serve goat birria and let you choose your cuts when you order. 

Most people order ‘maciza’ when they first start eating birria. It is the firm meat from the loin, back, and leg without bone or large veins of fat. The term is used to describe a cut of goat meat, pork, and beef. It does not change for each animal. The shank of a pig is called a chamorro while the goat leg is called a pistola. 

The guys cutting up your order at La Victoria will show you the different cuts and let you pick out what looks the best. The ribs are always popular because of the tender meat. The spine is cooked with the marrow and while the bone is difficult to eat around the meat is incredibly flavorful.

You can order the broth however you like but if you don’t specify, the meat comes in a bowl with consumé broth. You need to order the side dish of refried beans because each birria taco should have a base of beans, meat, veggies, hot sauce, and a splash of broth. The broth also functions as a dipping sauce.

Much of the food in Guadalajara is served with an excess of sauce. Birria, torga ahogada, and carne en su jugo come drowned in sauce. 

Check out Birrieria la Victoria on the Netflix speical Las Cronicas del Taco. There is a whole episode dedicated to birria and La Victoria is featured. 

Birrieria Aceves (Guadalajara)

Goat birria with taco and kidney

Birrieria Aceves is my favorite birria restaurant in Guadalajara. It is located on an unassuming hall of Guadalajara’s Central de Abastos wholesale market. 

Rogelio Aceves serves both goat and beef (veal) birria. The dorada is crispy seared beef while the goat is served soft. Most people garnish their birria with chopped white onion and spicy chile de arbol sauce. The warm tortillas are handmade and some of the best tortillas I have ever tasted. They are big, thick tortillas that are perfect when dipped in the rich broth. 

Something that is unique to Birrieria Aceves is the taco de gordito. It is a goat-fat taco. When the goat fat is heated it melts into the tortilla and has the consistency of bone marrow. It just melts in your mouth. 

Many of the most exotic offal cuts of meat sell out quick. The machito at Aceves is one of the best places to try it for the first time. 

Birrieria Chololo (Tlaquepaque)

Birrieria Acatlán (Acatlán)

Birrieria Daviche (Tepatitlán)

Tacos de Birria “Alex” (Puerto Vallarta)

Sinaloa-Style Birria in Mexico

The Spanish word birria has a number of translations but one of the most common is a person or thing of little use. There is an old idiom that goes, “Me vale birria” when someone wants to express that this situation or thing is worthless.

And back in Spain, goat meat was stinky and took a long time to cook. It took some Mexican ingenuity to apply the right spices and cooking methodology to make it a delicious treasure. 

There are a number of styles of birria in Sinaloa but the ‘tatemada’ is different from the tatemada birria in Guadalajara. The idea is the same but the final product is different. Tatemada birria sears the meat before serving. The meat has been braised for a long time at a low temperature and the braising liquid is retained to make the consumé broth. Before it is served, it is broiled on high heat so the ends get crispy

Birria in Sinaloa is a big deal. Sinaloa is an agricultural society and those people know how to eat well. The birria meat can be either goat or beef, but the goat meat is exceptional. 

Even though Culiacán is a city of 1 million people it still feels like the country with rustic foods and traditional restaurants.

Birriería Pérez Moreno (Culiacán)

Birriería Pérez is located on the outskirts of Culiacán on the far side of the airport. The area is full of commercial agriculture and business is booming. The parking lot at Birriería Pérez is full of new pickup trucks with off-road tires and company logos on the side. They are busy every day of the week but especially on Sundays. 

The birria broth in Sinaloa is different from the Jalisco-style broth in the use of the tomato. Sinaloa-style broth tastes more natural with less tomato.

The goat ribs were the best that I have ever had. The tender meat just falls off the bones and has just the right fat content. 

I found this place by watching videos of Lalo Villar from La Ruta de la Garnacha on YouTube. Driving back and forth to the United States, Culiacan is one of my favorite stops because of restaurants like this. The food is incredible and the culture is representative of Sinaloa. 

Birriería Palazuelos (Culiacán)

Birrieria La Sinaloense

Navajoa isn’t too far from the Sinaloa state line. It is in the state of Sonora but there are a lot of people from Sinaloa cooking good food.

I stop in Navajoa when I am driving in Mexico just to eat birria. There are lots of birria restaurants in town but Birrieria La Sinaloense has the best review and there is no question why.

Rather than serving full cuts of meat Birrieria La Sinaloense serves stewed birria in a dark red and rich broth.

Baja California-Style Birria

The style of birria in Tijuana is the style of birria that is most prevalent in Los Angeles. There are Guadalajara and Jalisco-style birria restaurants in the Californias but the beef birria reigns king.

The color of the consumé broth is a different color of red than the Guadalajara birria. It is red from chiles and oil rather than tomato.

If you are running around looking for some of the best tacos in Tijuana, you will cross paths with a number of great Tijuana-style birria tacos.

Tacos Fitos (Tijuana)

An absolute legend for birria tacos in Mexico. They serve beef birria and crispy tripe tacos that you need to try. This is a great place to try tripe for the first time because they take on the flavor of the birria from the broth.

Birriería El Cuñado (Villas de Rosarito)

This is a really old photo from when I lived in San Diego and would drive down to Baja to go surfing. I knew nothing about birria and very little about tacos in Mexico. I remember asking for one taco because I didn’t know what it was and if I was going to like it. Good times.

Little did I know that in just a few years I would be on a full-on hunt for the best birria in Mexico.

Nayarit-Style Birria

I haven’t been to enough birria restaurants in Nayarit to get a feeling for the style. Since I have only had beef birria in Nayarit I want to wait to try some goat birria before coming to any conclusions.

El Gallo (San Pancho)

El Gallo in San Pancho, Nayarit is a great restaurant. I often times criticize the traditional Mexican restaurants in tourist towns but El Gallo was really enjoyable.

They only serve birria on the weekends but it is worth planning a trip to San Pancho on the weekend so that you can taste their unique style. The stack of warm corn tortillas are some of the best I have tried. They use a unique local variety of green corn to make their tortillas that are delicious.

Guanajuato/Michoacan-Style Birria

This was a very unique style of birria that I am not sure if it is more Guanajuato-style or Michoacan-style.

La Piedad, Michoacan has a very unique geography. The Lerma River divides the two states for hundreds of miles throughout the Bajío Region. The city of La Piedad de Cabadas in Michoacan has a small annexation in Guanajuato called Santa Ana Pacueco. The way the river bends through the area Santa Ana is almost completely engulfed in La Piedad.

Crossing the Cabadas Bridge into Santa Ana the visitor is welcomed by half a dozen birria restaurants with a unique regional style.

Birriería Javi’s (Santa Ana)

The birria at Birrieria Javi’s is the most diverse blend of cuts of meat that I have ever eaten. Without asking, the plate comes loaded with more offal than I have seen anywhere. They have been serving goat birria since 1951 and have a very loyal customer base.

One thing that I found interesting about the birria in Guanajuato was the use of the mole. The meat comes out of the steam plate and is applied with a portion of mole and served.

The cooking felt like it was more steaming than braising.

Final Thoughts On The Best Birria In Mexico

I would like to think that birria is more than just a Mexican stew. In fact, my favorite birrias are not stewed at all. Whether it is braised, boiled, or steamed, birria is cooked with moisture. There are a lot of regional styles but the best part of traveling is trying new restaurants. Birria restaurants tend to have a lot of culture and history. It isn’t uncommon to find birria restaurants that have been around for 50 years or more. 

On your next trip to Mexico, make it a point to look up a celebrated, historic restaurant. 

This list is still a work in progress. I have a ton of great birria restaurants bookmarked in Google Maps. I feel bad that I don’t have anything about Aguascalientes yet but it got to the point that if I waited any longer I was going to start losing track of old photos.

Check back later to see what’s new on the list.

Thanks for reading.

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