If you’re craving a delicious Mexican dinner, this chicken birria taco recipe is exactly what you need. With savory shredded chicken and a crispy cheesy shell, they’re hard to resist and so easy!
So the kids and I did a little thing. I was making our totally viral cafe rio copycat for sweet pork tacos and accidentally made too much sauce. I poured it into a ziploc and threw it in the freezer for another day. A couple of weeks later I snagged one of those handy packages of pulled rotisserie chicken from Costco and the light went on… birria chicken tacos. The rest is history.
The chicken already is moist and flavorful thanks to the slow roasting, but then throw on some seasoning and pan cook it so you’ve got a few crispy pieces, smother everything in sauce and it’s hands down some of the best chicken you’ll ever put in a taco.
But like all Birria tacos, this tortilla should be cooked in a little oil and sauce, stuffed with meat (cheese if you’re awesome) and then dipped in a little extra sauce or sprinkled with pico de gallo for the ultimate chicken taco experience.
Before You Begin…
You’ll want to have two things ready before you get too far into this recipe. First, have your chicken ready. I love to buy the packages of pre-shredded rotisserie chicken at Costco. If you want to save a bit of money, buy a whole rotisserie chicken and break it down yourself saving the breast and thigh meat. Shred it using two forks or toss it into your stand mixer and use the paddle attachment to break up the chicken.
Second, make the sweet sauce from our sweet pork recipe mentioned above. It only takes a few ingredients and is so tasty!
What is Birria?
Birria is a rich stew originating in Jalisco, Mexico that simmers on the stove all day and is so tasty. It typically made with goat or lamb and has a flavorful rich broth (or consommé). It is eaten like a soup, and no tacos are involved at all. Haha! People find that sort of shocking since birria tacos have been taking the world by storm the last few years.
What are Birria Tacos?
Some genius somewhere decided to take the tender, juicy meat from the birria and stuff it into a taco and then use the consommé as a dipping sauce for the taco. And the birria taco was born!! The corn tortillas are fried in a little oil and some of the saucy broth to create the tastiest tacos ever.
So in its most basic definition, a birria taco (also called quesabirria taco) is a braised juicy meat stuffed inside a corn tortilla (along with some cheese if you’re smart) that has been pan fried in oil and the braising sauce from the meat.
What Do I Need to Make Birria Chicken Tacos?
We are going to cut some corners for this recipe to save time and to simplify in this birria taco recipe, but we are not sacrificing anything in the flavor department! No sir-ee! Here is what you will need:
- Sweet Sauce: You will need red enchilada sauce, Coke (Dr. Pepper or Root Beer also work great), brown sugar, garlic powder, cornstarch and water
- Rotisserie Chicken: buy pre-shredded or break down a whole rotisserie chicken yourself
- Seasonings: chili powder, smoked paprika and cumin
- Shredded Mexican Cheese: You can usually find this blend at the grocery store. It is sometimes called a fiesta blend. You could also go with Monterey jack or pepper jack or a combo of the two.
- Corn Tortillas: These crisp up so well! I am completely converted to Vista Hermosa brand corn tortillas. They are hands down the best packages corn tortillas out there! You could also use flour tortillas if that’s what your family enjoys.
- Vegetable Oil: You’ll just need a little to pan fry the tortillas.
The measurements for all the ingredients can be found in the recipe card at the end of this post. Keep scrolling down for all the details!
Tips for Success
- Crisp up the meat in a cast iron skillet so you get some yummy crunchy edges on the chicken.
- In the sweet sauce, don’t use diet or zero sugar soda. You’re going to want the real deal for the best flavor and texture.
- Before you fry and stuff the tortillas, warm them up in the microwave for a few seconds. This will help them be more pliable and less likely to break when you stuff and bend them.
- Use a little oil and some of the sauce in the pan when you fry the tortillas. It adds so much flavor!
- Save some of the sweet sauce and pour it into little bowls for each person to have a little dipping sauce for the tacos.
Can I Make This in an Instant Pot or Slow Cooker?
Yes, but it would honestly take more time to make this recipe using an Instant Pot or slow cooker. If you follow this recipe as it is written, you can have dinner on the table in 20 minutes!
Can I Use a Meat Other Than Chicken?
Most definitely! Though using a rotisserie chicken is definitely the most quick and easy route to a birria taco.
If you want to go the more traditionally beef route, use a chuck roast and coat it in the seasonings listed in this recipe. You may need to double the measurements depending on the size of your roast. Brown it on all sides in a cast iron skillet on the stove top and then throw it in the slow cooker with a batch of the sweet sauce. Cook it on low for 6-8 hours and shred the meat and toss it back in the sauce. Assemble the tacos as written in the instruction.
You could also use pork in a birria taco. Follow the recipe and instructions in our Café Rio Copycat recipe and then assemble the tacos as described in this recipe.
What to Serve with Birria Tacos
Steps for Prepping Ahead
The easiest way to prep ahead for this meal would be to make the sweet sauce. It doesn’t take long at all, but you could make it 2-3 days ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator and pull it out to warm up with the chicken.
You can also make the pico de gallo in the morning and let all the flavors combine throughout the day before serving it up with the tacos for dinner. All the other parts of the recipe are best done fresh and right before serving.
Assembled and fried tacos will keep in the fridge for about a day. The tortilla will start to get soggy with time. To reheat them, just zap them in a microwave for about 30 seconds.
The chicken will store in the fridge for 3-4 days if you have leftover chicken. I like to try and make just the number of tacos that I know will be eaten and save the chicken for later and assemble and fry them up fresh.
You’ve never had a chicken taco like this! A quick and easy chicken birria taco recipe that has everything you look for in taco…tender juicy meat, melty cheese, a little crispy, and whole lot of flavor!
More Outrageous Taco Recipes to Try:
Chicken Birria Tacos
- Meat of 1 Rotisserie Chicken
- 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
- 2 teaspoons Smoked Paprika
- 2 teaspoons Cumin
- 2 Cups Shredded Mexican Cheese
- 12 Corn Tortillas
- Vegetable Oil
For the Sweet Sauce
- 1 Can Red Enchilada Sauce, 10oz can
- 1 Cup Coke, or Dr. Pepper or Root Beer, no diet or zero sugar
- 2 1/3 Cups Light Brown Sugar, *see note
- 1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 teaspoon Cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon Water
- Toss the meat in the seasonings and heat a drizzle of vegetable oil in a cast iron pan. Add the chicken to brown slightly then dump into the pot with the sauce (see recipe below).Meat of 1 Rotisserie Chicken, 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder, 2 teaspoons Smoked Paprika, 2 teaspoons Cumin, Vegetable Oil
- Leave the same cast iron pan on and turn up to medium high heat. Add a little more oil and a spoonful of sauce. Add the tortilla and cook for a few seconds, then when you flip, quickly add a scoop of chicken and cheese. Fold it over and cook on each side until browned.12 Corn Tortillas, Vegetable Oil, 2 Cups Shredded Mexican Cheese
- Serve with extra sauce and our pico de gallo.
For the Sweet Sauce
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water.1 teaspoon Cornstarch, 1 teaspoon Water
- Meanwhile, in a pot, add the enchilada sauce, brown sugar, garlic powder and Coke. Whisk to combine.1 Can Red Enchilada Sauce, 1 Cup Coke, 2 1/3 Cups Light Brown Sugar, 1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- Bring to a boil and whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Turn to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
- Pour the sauce all over the chicken and toss to coat.