Birria Vs Barbacoa: Which Is the More Flavorful Dish?

The main difference between Birria and Barbacoa is that Birria is a type of stew made with goat meat, whereas Barbacoa is a type of dish made by slow-cooking various types of meat, usually beef. 

Both Birria and Barbacoa are rich flavored, famous, and traditional Mexican cuisines. To learn more about how Birria vs Barbacoa differ from each other follow the article.

Key Takeaways 

  • Birria and Barbacoa both originate from Mexico. However, Barbacoa is from northern Mexico and Birria is from Western Mexico. 
  • Birria is made from Barbacoa. Their main difference is the cooking method. While Barbacoa is steamed underground, Birria is baked or slow-cooked. 
  • Birria is mostly made from goat meat and served often as a stew. Barbacoa is mostly made from lamb or sheep meat and served as a taco. 

Birria Vs Barbacoa: A Brief Overview 

Birria Vs. Barbacoa

Here’s a brief overview of the differences between Birria and barbacoa: 

Factors Birria Barbacoa 
Origin Northern Mexico Western central Mexico
Meat Type Baby goat meat Lamb or sheep meat 
Cooking ProcessBaked or slow-cookedSteamed cooking 
Cooking time4 hrs8 hrs
Cooked in Cazuela Outdoor pot 
Served with Fresh tortillas Warm tortillas 
Garnish Fresh cilantro and onions Sour cream and guacamole 
Seasoning Cinnamon, ginger, cumin, oregano and chili pepperDried guajillo, white onions, vinegar, cloves, and, ancho chiles
Taste Little spicy Sweet flavor 

Elaboration Of The Differences Between Birria And Barbacoa

Differences Between Birria And Barbacoa
Source: Eat Mex Day

Here’s an explanation of how Birria and Barbacoa differ from each other:


Both Birria and Barbacoa are popular Mexican meat dishes. Birria originates from Jalisco Mexico. It is basically a type of Barbacoa but a bit juicer version of it. 

Barbacoa on the other hand originates from central Mexico and is named after its cooking process called barbacoa. 

Meat type:

Both Barbacoa and Birria are prepared from meat. However, Birria is made by using beef or goat meat. And Barbacoa is made from lamb or sheep meat. But these days, different meats are used to prepare both Barbacoa and Birria. 


Babrbcoa is a traditional Mexican dish cooked slowly in a hole in the ground with maguey leaves. This cooking process is called Barbacoa and thus the name of the dish. Barbacoa usually has a green chili pepper-based sauce.

Barbacoa is seasoned with dried guajillo, white onions, vinegar, cloves, and, ancho chiles. Barbacoa is often served as tacos but can be served as a stew. 

Birria is slowly cooked or baked in an earthen pot called Cazuela and is served with fresh tortillas. Birria is technically a product of barbacoa. It is prepared by mixing Barbacoa in a red chili sauce.

Birria is often served as a stew with refried beans. But it also can be served as a sandwich. Common spices used in Birria are chili peppers, cumin, and oregano. 

Also, Birria is often garnished with fresh cilantro and onions, while Barbacoa is usually garnished with sour cream and/or guacamole.

Here’s a visual representation of how the Barbacoa cooking method works in Mexico


Birria is juicier than Barbacoa because of the different cooking methods of the dishes. Because different meats are used, the taste of both the dish differs. 

As Barbacoa is steamed underground, it gives an earthy smoked, and sweet flavor. On the other hand, Birria is spicy in taste. 

This is all about the differences between Birria and barbacoa. You can also learn about the differences between Chicken Korma and Tikka Masala which are well-known Indian cuisine. 

How To Cook Birria?


  • 2 lbs. of boneless, skinless goat meat
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
  • 2 cups of water
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 10-12 small corn tortillas
  • 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro leaves


  • In a large pot, combine the goat meat, onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt and black pepper.
  • Add the tomato sauce and water, stir well, and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1-2 hours or until the goat meat is very tender.
  • In a large frying pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat.
  • When the oil is hot, add a few of the tortillas and cook for 1-2 minutes per side or until golden brown.
  • Remove from the pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels.
  • Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
  • To assemble the Birria tacos, place 2-3 tablespoons of the goat meat mixture in the center of each tortilla.
  • Top with shredded cabbage, diced onion, diced tomatoes, and cilantro leaves.
  • Serve with lime wedges and hot sauce, if desired. Enjoy!

How To Cook Barbacoa?


  • 3 lbs. chuck roast
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, diced
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice


  • Place the chuck roast in the bottom of a slow cooker.
  • Add the onion, garlic, chipotle peppers, cumin, oregano, salt and black pepper.
  • Pour in the beef broth and apple cider vinegar.
  • Cook on low for 8 hours, or until the beef is very tender.
  • Remove the beef from the slow cooker and shred it with a fork.
  • Stir in the lime juice and serve. Enjoy!

There you have it! A delicious and easy recipe for Barbacoa. This dish is perfect for any occasion and is sure to please everyone at the table. Be sure to give it a try the next time you’re looking for something new and exciting to make for dinner. Enjoy!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

How Do You Eat Birria?

Birria is a Mexican meat stew that is usually served in a deep dish. The meat is submerged in a flavorful sauce made with chili peppers, spices, and herbs. Chopped onion and oregano are often added to the dish. Beans may be added but this is not always required. 

Is Birria Different In Each State?

Yes, even though the cooking process is similar, Birria is different in each state because different types of meat are used. For instance, Guadalajara uses goat or sheep, while ram or pork meat is common in Colima. Also, there are states that use less popular proteins like chicken or fish like in Michoacan.

What Is The Difference Between Barbacoa And Carnitas? 

The biggest difference is that carnitas are made from pork cuts while different types of meats are used for barbacoa. Another difference is that the meats in carnitas are roasted or pan-fried to give a roasted texture after steaming underground. 

Closing Words

The major difference between Birria and Barbacoa is that Birria is typically made with goat meat and cooked in a cazuela, while barbacoa can be made with any type of meat. Birria is also typically served with fresh tortillas and has a red chilli pepper-based sauce, while barbacoa is usually served with warm tortillas and a green chilli pepper-based sauce.

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