Mexican short rib tacos are the BEST tacos ~ melt-in-your-mouth tender beef braised in a beer and guajillo chile sauce for Taco Tuesday, Cinco de Mayo, or just because!
short rib tacos braised in beer and guajillo chiles
These tacos are top of the line in the in the world of Mexican tacos. Short ribs are well marbled small sections of beef ribs, found near the breastbone of the cow. You can buy them on the bone, or boneless and they are one of my personal favorite cuts of beef. When cooked properly they fall apart at the touch of your fork, and have a rich meaty flavor. They definitely take taco night up a notch!
step by step instructions for Mexican short rib tacos
- boneless short ribs ~ you can use bone in ribs if you like, just remove the bones before shredding the meat. Look for well marbled meat without excess fat.
- dried guajillo chile peppers ~ these are sold in cellophane bags, usually somewhere in the produce section of your supermarket, just ask. These peppers are not particularly spicy, but they have a lovely warm chile flavor.
- Mexican beer ~ any kind you like. And if you don’t happen to have Mexican beer on hand, use what you have, it’s fine.
- vegetable oil for browning the meat and aromatics.
- yellow onion and garlic
- ground cumin and oregano
- salt and pepper
1. brown the short ribs
Work in 2 batches to get nice color on all the ribs. Remove to a plate.
2. toast the chiles
This literally takes 30 seconds but is an essential step when working with chiles. Try not to let them blacken because that can make them bitter. Cook’s Illustrated recommends toasting chiles in the oven at 350F for about 6 minutes, which avoids the worry.
3. saute onions and garlic
The moisture from the onions will help steam up all that good browning from the bottom of your pan; there’s great flavor there.
4. add beer to soften chiles
This is a key step that takes just a few minutes…the dry ‘leathery’ chiles will hydrate and soften in the beer so they’re ready for the next step!
5. blend it!
Magic happens in the blender as the chiles, aromatics, spices, and beer turn into a rich and brilliantly colored sauce.
6. braise the ribs in the sauce
Over 3-4 hours in a low oven the sauce reduces, intensifies, and darkens, and the ribs become fork tender.
7. shred the short ribs
It’s so tender you’ll just need a couple of forks to nudge it apart into soft shreds. Then reunite it with the sauce.
8. assemble the tacos
Mix the meat with the sauce and pile onto warmed corn tortillas. It’s dealer’s choice for the toppings (I use minced red onion, cilantro, and crumbled cojita cheese.) I like to serve homemade slaw and salsa on the side.
taco topping ideas
- Cabbage and Fennel Slaw with Creamy Jalapeño Dressing
- Better Than Restaurant Salsa
- Quick Pickled Vidalia Onions
- Quick and Easy Pickled Red Onions
- Creamy Buttermilk Coleslaw
- Pineapple Salsa
- Fire Roasted Salsa Negra (black salsa)
- Quick Pickled Jalapeños ~ easy recipe!
need to change things up?
Yes, proceed with the recipe exactly the same, and when it comes time to shred the meat, just discard the bones, they’ll fall right away. Remember you will need to buy more bone-in short ribs for this recipe since the bones are heavy, up to 50% more.
You can use chuck roast or brisket. I would cut the meat in large chunks first. I use brisket in my barbacoa tacos.
You can use red wine (try a Malbec) or if you don’t want any alcohol you can use beef stock.
As written this recipe is not spicy, the guajillo peppers are fairly mild. You can add in a few spicier dried peppers like chipotle, ancho, or pasilla. You can also make the sauce spicier by adding canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, but be cautious, they’re very hot. Another alternative way to crank up the heat is to use some cayenne or chipotle powder to taste.
Short ribs cook beautifully in an Instant Pot, check out my Instant Pot Barbacoa Recipe. But in this recipe the sauce is too thick for the pressure cooker. Thick sauces don’t generate enough steam for the pressure cooker to work properly. If you absolutely want to try using your IP, you’ll need to thin your sauce out with water or stock and make sure it is up to simmering temperature before starting to pressure cook or you risk getting a ‘burn’ message.
Yes, proceed through step 6 in the recipe, and then load the sauce and browned ribs into your slow cooker. Cook on low 8 hours, or until the meat shreds easily.
Beer Braised Short Rib Tacos
- Dutch oven, preferably enameled cast iron
- 2 ounces dried guajillo peppers, stems trimmed and seeds removed.
- 2 lbs boneless short ribs
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut in rough chunks
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 12 ounce bottle of beer, Mexican if possible!
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp ground oregano
- 1 tsp each, salt and pepper
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 tsp sugar
- Preheat oven to 325F
- Heat a comal or cast iron skillet over medium heat until hot, then toast the guajillo peppers in the pan, stirring contantly, until they darken. This will only take about 30-45 seconds. Try not to let them get black, which can make them bitter. Remove to a plate.
- Salt your short ribs on all sides. Heat the vegetable oil in the Dutch oven until hot but not smoking, and, working in batches, brown the ribs until they are nice and caramelized on both sides. This will take at least 10 minutes for each batch. Remmove the ribs to a plate.
- In the same pot (do not clean it out) brown the onions for about 7 minutes until they start to soften, stirring often. The moisture of the onions will help release some of the browning (and flavor!) from the bottom of the pot. Add the garlic for the last 2 minutes of cooking.
- Add the peppers back to the pan, along with the beer and stir well. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat and gently simmer for a few minutes, until the peppers are softened.
- Put the beer and peppers into a blender or food processor, along with the cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and water. I like to let it cool for a few minutes before blending until completely smooth. Note: use caution, hot liquids tend to 'explode' upwards in a blender, so make sure you have the top on. I like to cover the top with a dish towel just in case.
- Pour the pureed sauce back into your pan. Add the ribs and any accumulated juices into the sauce and give it a stir to combine.
- Cover the pot and bake in the oven for 3-4 hours, or until the meat is fork tender and shreds easily. You will need to give the pot a stir about once an hour. My ribs took 3 1/2 hours. If your sauce seems to be getting too thick you can add a bit more beer or water to thin it as it cooks. Note: I like to use a silicone spatula to scrape the sides of the pan down because the chili sauce has a tendency to burn towards the end of the cooking if it is splattered on the pan.
- Remove the ribs and shred them with two forks. Taste the sauce to adjust any of the seasonings. I found mine needed a touch of sugar bring out the flavor of the chilis. Re-combine the meat and sauce.
- Seve on warmed corn tortillas topped with your favoite toppings…I used minced red onion, cilantro, and crumbled cojita cheese. Homemade slaw and salsa are great sides.
- The filling for these tacos can be made up to 3 days in advance.
- Nutrition facts for braised short ribs only, does not include tortillas or toppings.