Savory, lightly spicy, and super flavorful, these Vegan Birria Tacos are loaded with jackfruit birria, vegan Mexican cheese, and fried up with the flavorful stew used to cook the birria. This is an incredible meal or appetizer to serve guests, family, friends, or even just a fun and indulgent meal to make for yourself!
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Hey Internet, I recently discovered the wonders of birria, and had some dairy-free and vegetarian birria tacos at a local restaurant. And man, they were good.
And while I do love to eat out sometimes, because it’s a great break from cooking, I really do prefer homemade food. I can customize the flavors and ingredients, control the salt and oil, and add my own favorite toppings like lots of cilantro and raw white onion. And leave the cilantro off my husband’s portion!
This meal is jackfruit birria that I’ve made into tacos--so I guess technically they should be called vegan quesabirria tacos. But I hear birria tacos often colloquially, so that’s why I titled this recipe the way I did.
I love love love tacos. They’re so fun to eat!
I honestly don’t have enough of them on this blog. And I also really love Mexican-inspired food, which I also don’t have enough of. What I do have is vegan carne asada + tacos (internal link), nut-free vegan queso (internal link), vegan fish tacos (internal link), vegan sheet pan quesadilla, vegan chorizo (internal link), and vegan potato nachos, though I’m aware some of these are more tex-mex inspired, not like traditional Mexican cuisine.
If you’re looking for really good vegan Mexican food I highly recommend ¡Salud! Vegan Mexican Cookbook by Eddie Garza.
But if you’ve ever wondered how to make birria tacos vegan, just keep reading and I’ll show you my method!
Why This Recipe Works
This recipe is easy to make and really flavorful. The vegan birria is made by cooking a sort of jackfruit stew (not to be confused with my other jackfruit stew), with dried chili peppers (mild ones!), vegetables for extra flavor, broth, spices, and dried bay leaves.
The method is pretty similar to the traditional Mexican method of making a beef or lamb stew, except without animal meat.
Since we are using canned young jackfruit, the “meat” does not need to be cooked for very long to be tender, melt-in-your-mouth and easily absorbs the flavor since we press out all the water from the jackfruit in the prep for this recipe.
If you’ve tried jackfruit before and didn’t really like it, I urge you to try this recipe. It only takes a few minutes of your time and you might find your new favorite meat replacement!
We do simmer the sauce for a bit, and that’s because it not only imparts a LOT of flavor into the birria consomme (broth), it also softens the veggies and the peppers so we can blend them.
Technically you’re not supposed to blend the veggies into the sauce, but I feel like they add some more texture and weight to the jackfruit, since it’s not actual meat. Plus extra fiber and nutrients are always good!
But BEFORE we blend the cooked veggies in the broth, we are going to take out a few cups of that delicious broth to save it for coating tortillas and dipping each vegan birria taco in and swirling it around because that adds even more flavor. And it’s just fun.
Finally, after we make the vegan birria stew, we take all that delicious “meat,” stuff it inside some broth-soaked tortillas, top it with some vegan Mexican cheese (don’t worry, there are substitutions if you can’t find this near you), and fry it up.
The entire taco gets crispy, but it’s cheesy, gooey, and saucy on the inside. And SO MUCH FLAVOR.
Can you tell I’m thrilled about this recipe? I really am. Let’s go make this popular dish--but vegan!
Ingredients and Substitutions
For vegan birria:
- Olive oil, optional: This is a fully optional ingredient. Because traditionally fat-laden animal meat is used in birria, it’s nice to add a little richness to the broth with some olive oil (or another oil like avocado oil). It’s completely optional. If you do not want to use it, add an extra ½ cup of broth.
- White onion: This is for flavor, and I think white onion is the best for this recipe, but yellow or sweet onions will also work.
- Garlic: We used a half head of garlic, but you can use less or more if you prefer. The cloves should be peeled but there’s no need to mince them.
- Carrots: I used a medium size carrot in this recipe, again for flavor and some nutrients. If you don’t have one, don’t worry about it.
- Guajillo Chiles: These are DRIED peppers, found in the international or spice section of most supermarkets, health food stores, or especially easy to find in a Mexican or Latin grocery (pardon my ignorance if I worded that wrong; unfortunately my research was inconclusive about the best way to refer to this). You can also find guajillo chiles online. A good substitute is dried ancho chiles if you can find them easier. They are slightly more spicy, but generally a fairly mild pepper. I give information below on deseeding these peppers--it’s surprisingly easy! Substitutions: chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (canned) OR spices like ground ancho chili powder, regular chili powder, and even a little pinch of chipotle or cayenne pepper. I would use all three if possible to get some depth of flavor. The guajillos provide so much depth, so if you can find them, definitely use them.
- Bay leaves: They add so much flavor too, but remember to pick them out before blending your broth. They stay fairly green so they are easy to spot. I keep a long pair of tweezers in my kitchen drawer for exactly this type of task, but tongs will also work.
- Vegan chicken broth: Since a savory and meaty broth is normally used, I wrote this recipe to use vegan chicken broth, but vegetable broth will also work. If you want to go for the vegan chicken broth, I like to get Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base and mix it with hot water. It’s the best tasting, most cost effective, and the jar lasts up to 2 years in the fridge! You can also use store-bought vegan chicken broth, or an artificially flavored bouillon powder like Orrington Farms Vegan Chicken Bouillon or in cube form. Substitution: vegetable broth.
- Spices: Some ground spices are also useful in this recipe. I used: smoked paprika, cumin, salt and pepper (these I added at the end), Mexican oregano (this is a little zestier than regular oregano, though regular will work just fine), and chili powder (use this to taste, I used quite a bit).
- Jackfruit: The main ingredient in our vegan birria tacos is young jackfruit in a can (or vacuum sealed). This UNRIPE jackfruit is perfectly edible, and perfect for savory dishes since it isn’t sweet like the more mature jackfruit you’d find fresh. Canned jackfruit is available at Trader Joe’s (this is where I primarily get mine), many health food stores, and online. You can also sometimes find it in Asian markets--I can usually also find it at H-Mart, a Korean supermarket with many locations. ometimes you may see vacuum-sealed jackfruit online that looks brown. It’s just oxidation, but keep in mind it may make your “meat” appear darker. It’s perfectly safe to eat. To get the briny taste off you’ll really need to rinse the jackfruit well and I recommend discarding the smooth seeds. They’re edible, but not the best texture. I give detailed instructions for how to prep the jackfruit in the recipe instructions below. Substitutions for jackfruit: soy curls, seitan (though you’ll want “shredded” seitan for this), or crumbled “super firm” tofu. Or you can use a store bought vegan shredded chicken product! You’ll want 3-4 packed cups of “meat” for this vegan birria recipe.
For the tacos:
- Corn or flour tortillas: You’ll want taco-sized tortillas (around 5-8 inches in size), but you can use either kind. If using corn, you’ll want to warm them slightly before using to make them pliable so they won’t tear when folded.
- Vegan Mexican cheese or other shredded vegan cheese: Shredded vegan cheese is the easiest to use in this recipe since it doesn’t take up much room in the taco and gets into all the little nooks and crannies. It also melts really quickly, which helps the vegan birria taco fuse together. I LOVE Violife vegan Mexican cheese--it melts great, tastes great, and I can find it at my local supermarket right in the dairy section, surprisingly. Substitutions: If you can’t find a Mexican blend of vegan shredded cheese, you can make your own, just get vegan cheddar, vegan mozzarella, and vegan monterey jack and blend them with your fingers in a bowl. If you can only find cheddar or mozzarella you can definitely just use those. If you can’t find any vegan cheese or you’re oil-free, you can make your own. My 5 minute vegan mozzarella stretchy sauce or vegan cheddar stretchy sauce will both work and you can season them however you like to fit whatever recipe. In this instance, you’d just mix them up, cook them briefly on the stove and when you’re ready to use, use a spoon or a cookie scoop to add a little of the stretchy sauce into each taco on top of the jackfruit birria.
- Avocado oil or another oil for frying *or oil-free option*: So, the broth is delicious, but since it doesn’t have grease from meat (which is how birria tacos are traditionally fried), you need to mix a bit of the broth with some high heat oil, like avocado oil, sunflower seed oil, canola oil, etc. Then we add a little to the pan, soak our tortillas in it, then we can create the crispy fried tacos. HOWEVER, if you are oil-free, you can try dry-frying the tacos (with nothing in the nonstick skillet except your tacos. I have not tried this method. Your other option is not to soak the tortillas in the sauce--just warm them up in a pan or over a gas burner if you have one. Stuff them full of jackfruit birria, some of the oil-free vegan cheese I mentioned, and dip in the birria consomme. Still delicious!
- Diced raw white onion and roughly chopped cilantro for serving: These are traditional garnishes for quesabirria tacos. You could also serve with some lime wedges, a few avocado slices, or whatever else you want. Don’t forget a small bowl with that reserved broth for each person to dunk their tacos into!
How to Make Jackfruit Birria
- You can prepare the filling in advance by about 2-3 days. Preparing the birria filling takes about 45 minutes. Making the tacos takes 15-20, for reference.
- The first thing to start with, in my opinion, is seeding the peppers. Now, if you like things pretty spicy AND you have a high powered blender (because seed bits in your consomme aren’t super pleasant), you don’t need to seed it. Just remove the stems. I however seeded my peppers and it was very easy. First, place a dried pepper on your cutting board and with a sharp knife, cut just below the stem and discard that. Then make a cut lengthwise from end to end. You can cut the first layer, or all the way through--it doesn’t matter. Then open the pepper flaps and shake out all the seeds over a plate or something to easily keep the seeds from flying everywhere. Most will fall out quite easily. For any still hanging on, you can easily remove them with your fingers or the dull side of your knife. Repeat this process with all the peppers and discard all seeds and stems.
- Add the olive oil (if using), sliced onions, peeled garlic cloves, chilies, sliced carrot, and bay leaves to a large non-stick pot (preferably non-stick because so we can cook the jackfruit in it later). Cover with the vegan chicken broth (or vegetable broth). Give it a stir with a wooden spoon or your preferred cooking utensil. Now add the spices (except salt, you’ll want to add that at the end) and stir again. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.
- After the mixture comes to a boil, turn the heat down a notch to medium high, and boil covered for 20 minutes. I say covered because otherwise, a lot of the liquid will evaporate and leave you with less broth.
- While that’s cooking, we can prepare the jackfruit. Drain all three cans well so there’s no liquid left. Using your fingers, remove the smooth, hard seeds from each chunk. These seeds are edible, but they’re not the best texture so most people prefer to remove them. Place all seeded bits in a bowl while you process everything. Give one piece a little taste if you’re worried about the brine. If it tastes briny, rinse the jackfruit thoroughly in a fine mesh strainer. I buy my jackfruit from Trader Joe’s and it doesn’t seem to need rinsing in my opinion. Now take a clean kitchen towel and wrap up all the jackfruit in it. Twist it over the sink (or over a bowl, just in case any bits fall out) until you’ve wrung out all the excess liquid you can. Give it a bit of a rub inside the towel with your hands which will shred the large chunks. You can also shred it by hand by just pulling apart the large chunks with your fingers. The jackfruit is ready! If it’s clumped up inside the towel, simply pull the clumps apart with your fingers before adding to the pot later on.
- When the 20 minutes is up, use kitchen tweezers or tongs to remove all the bay leaves and discard them. Use a measuring cup to remove about 2 ½ cups of broth only (no veggies). Reserve this as we’ll use some of it to dip our tortillas in, and some of it to serve as a dipping sauce for the vegan birria tacos.
- Pour the contents of the soup now into a blender and blend until smooth. Be careful as the blender may get hot and steam may escape when removing the lid. You can alternatively use an immersion blender, but I find that my countertop blender gets this a bit smoother. You’re also welcome to NOT blend the veggies for a thinner liquid, but I would blend the pepper skins and keep those in there.
- Heat the empty birria broth pot (do not rinse it out--great flavor in there!) over medium high heat. Add in the drained, seeded, and shredded jackfruit. Spread it out across the pan and cook it for a few minutes with no oil or anything. Stir occasionally--when you see it start to brown, it’s ready for the next step. If you’d like it to be a bit more textured, add a few tablespoons of avocado oil (or another high heat oil) and stir for another 4-5 minutes while it gets more on the chewy/crispy side.
- Add most of the blended veggies/broth sauce, stirring well as you do it. You may need all of it, you may not, it kind of depends on how much sauce you have. Don’t add too much or your vegan birria will be very soupy. If you do add too much, you can either simmer it uncovered until some of the liquid reduces (it can splatter while it does this, so be careful) OR you can strain it through a fine mesh strainer. The latter worked very well for us in one of our tests of this recipe. After the jackfruit is mixed well with the sauce, the next step is to make our vegetarian birria tacos -- or vegan, if you’re adding dairy-free cheese like we did.
- By the way, at this step, you can refrigerate the jackfruit birria mixture and the reserved broth SEPARATELY--until you’re ready to make tacos. I wouldn’t wait more than 2 days, though, as the “meat” may get a little soggy in the fridge.
How to Make Vegan Birria Tacos
- If you refrigerated your birria and consomme, take them both out of the refrigerator before you begin.
- If frying tacos, mix about ½ cup of the consomme/broth with ¾ cup of avocado oil (or another high heat oil). Place the mixture in a wide bowl. This is what we’ll dip our tortillas in.
- Set up your taco station: Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium to medium high heat--it depends on how hot your stove gets and how browned you want your tacos. I preferred the medium heat, personally, but my stove is wonky and I had to somewhat adjust the heat throughout to keep it from smoking (when the oil gets too hot). Add a splash of oil to the pan to prepare. The rest of your taco station should consist of a bowl of shredded vegan cheese, a bowl holding the jackfruit birria, a plate of tortillas (if using corn tortillas, make sure to warm them first), the bowl with your oil/broth mixture, and finally a large plate for finished tacos (I used a few plates, since the tacos can sometimes start to stick together while they dry/cool).
- When the oil is hot, start making the tacos. Dip a tortilla completely into the oil/broth mixture and let the excess drip off. Place in the pan or griddle. Place as many as your pan or griddle can accommodate but leave a couple inches between each one so you have room to work. I fit about 3 in my 12-inch nonstick skillet. I didn’t do it this way in the photos or video (which I’m kicking myself for now), but if you place the birria and vegan cheese on one half of the tortilla, it’s easier to fold over the other half to make the tacos.Using tongs, add a bit of the jackfruit mixture, sprinkle on a good amount of shredded vegan cheese, and move onto the next taco in the pan. When all are prepped, use tongs or a nonstick spatula or a combination of both, fold the taco and place on one side. Cook each side for a couple minutes until it’s done to your liking. Place on the plate and repeat until you’ve used all your tortillas and/or supplies.
- Serve tacos immediately with remaining broth/consomme (warm it up first), finely diced white onions, roughly chopped cilantro, and lime wedges. For a fun way to serve, top the consomme with very finely chopped onions and cilantro. Enjoy!
- Refrigerate leftover tacos for 3-4 days in an airtight container. I’ve found they taste best when reheated in a skillet or an air fryer!
Frequently Asked Questions
So traditionally, yes, birria is fairly spicy. This particular recipe is not very spicy at all--more earthy and savory. If you’d like to make it spicier, feel free to add cayenne pepper, or use spicier dried chilies, add fresh chilies (especially chopped, to the jackfruit mixture), etc. Instead of dried guajillo chilies, you could try adding a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce or whatever else you like.
The short answer is yes! You don’t need to use oil in the broth, it’s just there to help the broth taste richer. And to cook the tacos, you can bake or dry fry (cook in a skillet with no oil) the filled tacos. You may want to avoid dipping the tortilla in the consomme for this though, as without oil the tortilla might not crisp up and could fall apart or taste soggy. You can still (carefully) dip the loaded tortillas into the broth/consomme, though. And for cheese, my 5 minute vegan mozzarella stretchy sauce or vegan cheddar stretchy sauce will both work and you can season them however you like to fit whatever recipe. In this instance, you’d just mix it up, cook it briefly on the stove and when you’re ready to use, use a spoon or a cookie scoop to add a little of the stretchy sauce into each taco on top of the jackfruit birria.
Yes, you can cook the broth and the jackfruit mixture in advance. Make sure to store them separately. I indicate where in the recipe you can stop. Refrigerate these components for up to 2-3 days, then make the tacos when ready to serve and reheat the consomme.
Serve your jackfruit birria tacos with the consomme/broth that’s been topped with very finely chopped onions and roughly chopped cilantro. Serve with lime wedges (squeeze a little over the tacos right before eating), and maybe some avocado if you want. Actually, these would be great with my creamy vegan avocado salad.
You can tell this happened to me, right? Well, the first time I made this recipe, there wasn’t any sauce leftover. And the second time there was too much! I cooked it down for a bit, simmering the mixture and hoping the excess liquid would evaporate. It started to, but because of how thick the mixture was, it also started splattering. My husband had the brilliant idea to put the sauced jackfruit in our fine mesh strainer. He shook it around and sure enough, we were left with thick, thoroughly sauced, jackfruit “meat” that was perfect for the tacos. So try that if you run into this issue!
Pro Tips for Success
- Don’t forget to remove those bay leaves before blending the soup!
- AND don’t forget to reserve 2 ½ cups of broth for dipping sauce/dipping the tortillas later.
- Don’t skimp on the jackfruit prep. Watery or seedy jackfruit won’t make very good birria. You could take an easier route and buy shredded vegan chicken from the store if that’s easier for you, or rehydrate some soy curls and use them in place of the jackfruit.
- If using corn tortillas, wrap them in a damp paper towel and warm them in the microwave until they are pliable. I used flour tortillas for this recipe but either will work.
- Test your vegan cheese. If using a brand you’ve never used before, make sure it melts well BEFORE you start making your tacos! We’ve had great results with Violife, Follow Your Heart (especially the Finely Shredded variety), and Field Roast Chao (they do sell a shredded Chao cheese).
- A little fresh squeezed lime juice, a bit of chopped cilantro, and a little finely diced raw white onion cut through the heaviness of this dish to help balance everything, which is why I suggest them as pairings for this meal.
- You can skip blending the veggies and just add the prepared jackfruit to the stew to make a vegan birria stew. Make sure to remove the bay leaves before serving. Also, you still probably want to remove the peppers, blend them with about ½ cup of the broth, and place them back in the soup. I would highly recommend first cooking the jackfruit in a separate pan until somewhat browned so it has some texture before throwing it into the pot with the stew.
More Recipes Like This
I don’t have a whole lot of recipes like this one (YET!) but here’s what I have with similar types of flavors!
- Vegan Carne Asada + Tacos
- Vegan Shredded Chicken (it uses jackfruit in a similar way)
- Jackfruit Stew (kind of like beef stew)
- Vegan Fish Tacos
- Vegan Sheet Pan Quesadilla
- Nut-Free Vegan Queso
- Vegan Chorizo which I put in my Plant Based Omelette
- Vegan Loaded Potato Nachos
- Vegan Taco Salad
- Gluten-Free Vegan Chili Cheese Pot Pies
- Vegan Avocado Salad
- Vegan Ceviche
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