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Birria vs Barbacoa: 7 Differences You Need To Know Now

If you are into Mexican cuisine, you will love how they cook meat.

Birria and Barbacoa belong to the most popular dishes of Mexican food.

Despite sharing a similar cooking process, Birria and Barbacoa are different.

They differ in the type of meat, taste, and many other factors.

If you want to dive deep into their distinctions, keep reading this Birria vs. Barbacoa comparison.

We will guide you through the significant differences between Birria and Barbacoa.

Also, we will discuss the things that make these traditional dishes unique.

Birria vs Barbacoa
The main differences between Birria and Barbacoa are their origin, meat type, cooking process, serving, juices, seasoning, and taste. Both are slowly cooked meats, but Barbacoa is cooked underground, while Birria is baked.

What is Birria?

Birria is simply a type of slowly cooked goat meat.

However, you can find some varieties of Birria prepared with veal, beef, or even lamb.

The recipe for Birria originated in the state of Jalisco.

Birria, on the other hand, made its way north to the United States and Canada.

What makes Birria really delicious is that it is cooked in its braising sauce.

Generally, there are two ways to serve and eat Birria.

It is either in soup or contained in tortillas.

But the most common way to enjoy Birria is with soup.

The one with soup is called Birria consommé, while the other type is typically called Birria tacos.

Aside from the slow cooking style that makes you enjoy tender meat, Birria gains its amazing flavor from seasoning.

A mix of spices, herbs, and oil is used to season this meat.

Then, the meat is allowed to sit in its marinade for around 12 hours.

The seasoning mix consists of white onions, garlic, chili pepper, gloves, vinegar, ginger, black pepper, and cinnamon.

Ideally, it would be best to use a slow cooker to have the best Birria meat.

But you can wrap the spiced beef in maguey leaves before baking it in the oven.

Also, you can cook it on low heat over the stove.

What is Barbacoa?

Barbacoa is a trendy type of meat in Mexico and all over North America.

It is so popular that it is a fixed item on the menus of restaurants and casual street eateries.

Barbacoa is famous for its delicious shredded meat served on warm tortillas.

Barbacoa’s recipe has been around for centuries.

The word Barbacoa comes from the Spanish language and can be translated into “barbeque.”

Hundreds of years ago, Barbacoa was cooked in an underground oven.

But the meat is not left to be exposed to dirt and stones.

Before burying the beef, it was wrapped in maguey or banana leaves.

This cooking tradition is followed today.

Cooking Barbacoa is done by digging a hole in the ground.

The type of meat used in Barbacoa can differ depending on the region.

However, it is primarily made from lamb.

Barbacoa gets its distinctive flavor not only from the slow cooking but also from the seasoning.

The seasoning is primarily composed of salt, black pepper, ancho, and guajillo chiles.

These Mexican peppers are native to Mexico and are supposed to give Barbacoa its strong, bold, smoky, yet sweet flavor.

Instead of soaking it in water, the original method of cooking Barbacoa is to steam it.

There is a pot of water inserted in the cooking hole.

In the hole, meat is left for nearly eight hours.

This way, the beef can produce its juices until all the tissues are soft.

What are the Differences between Birria and Barbacoa?

Birria and Barbacoa are well-known Mexican dishes.

This explains why they have some similarities but differ on many levels.

Meat type is one of many notable differences between them.

The cooking method, unique sauces, and overall taste are different.

1. Origin

Birria and Barbacoa both come from Mexico but did not originate in the same area.

The recipe for Birria was developed in Jalisco, a state in western Central Mexico.

The exact birthplace of Barbacoa is yet to be discovered.

However, it is believed to be an authentic recipe from Northern Mexico.

2. Meat type

The type of meat is a significant difference between Birria and Barbacoa.

Generally, both of them can be cooked with any meat, but the original recipes require specific types and cuts.

Briria is mainly made with baby goat meat, but the meat of adult goats is fine as well.

On the other hand, Barbacoa consists primarily of lamb or sheep meat.

3. Cooking process

Another notable difference is the method of cooking.

Both of them are indeed simmered, which allows both types of meat to unleash their intense flavors.

However, the cooking style is different.

Generally, cooking Birria is more straightforward, as it can be baked or placed inside a slow cooker.

Barbacoa is more demanding when it comes to cooking.

The meat is only cooked by steaming.

So, it should be placed on top of a rack with water.

Both the pot and meat are then placed in an underground oven.

4. Serving

Birria or Barbacoa can be served as a filling for tacos, but there are other ways to serve them.

Birria can be served with its soup as a part of a rich and satisfying meal.

Barbacoa can also be served as meat in tortas, a popular street food in Mexico.

5. Juices

Liquids or juices in cooking Birria and Barbacoa are another notable difference between these two Mexican meals.

Birria is juicer than barbacoa.

This is a result of their cooking methods.

Birria is cooked like stews with water from the seasoning and extra water when needed.

Barbacoa is cooked without external juices.

6. Seasoning

Birria is heavily seasoned and depends on a variety of spices and herbs.

Some people use any spice they have to enrich the spicy flavor of Birria.

But generally, you can use powders of cinnamon, ginger, cumin, oregano, and chili pepper.

These are mixed with diced onions, garlic, tomatoes, and vegetable oil.

Barbacoa, on the other hand, is seasoned with fewer ingredients.

This includes dried guajillo, ancho chiles, white onions, vinegar, and cloves.

7. Taste

Birria and Barbacoa are very different in terms of taste for many reasons.

First, the type of meat used changes the taste, as goat meat differs from lamb meat.

Additionally, Barbacoa’s steamed, smoky meat is different from Birria’s flavorful shredded meat stew.

Lastly, Barbacoa is not spicy but has a sweet flavor profile.

On the contrary, Birria sauce is thought to be a little spicy.

Birria vs Barbacoa: are they the same?

Birria and Barbacoa are different types of Mexican dishes that can also be referred to as street food.

Each of them expresses the authentic cuisine of Central and Northern Mexico.

With Birria, you can have spicy and flavorful goat meat, while Barbacoa gives you a rich meat flavor without much spiciness.

Depending on your personal preferences, you can choose either of them.

Going for Birria or Barbacoa will introduce you to a different experience worth trying.

You can be lucky when trying them in Mexican cities.

Each city adds a special touch to its local Barbacoa and Birria.

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Passionate chef, in love with everything related to food and cooking it to perfection!
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