What Cheese to Use for Birria Tacos? A Guide to Mexican Cheeses

birria tacos

Birria tacos are a delicious and popular Mexican dish that are made with juicy, tender meat and topped with cheese, onions, and cilantro. But with so many different types of cheese available, it can be difficult to choose the right one for your birria tacos. 

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the best Mexican cheeses to use for birria tacos and what makes them the perfect choice. From crumbly queso fresco to melted queso asadero, we’ll help you find the perfect cheese for your next birria taco feast. 

So, whether you’re a fan of Mexican cuisine or just looking for a new twist on an old classic, read on to discover the best cheese for your birria tacos!

What Are Authentic Birria Tacos Made Of?

Birria tacos are a traditional Mexican dish that has become increasingly popular in recent years. They are made with either lamb or beef, and the most common cuts used are ribs for lamb and shanks for beef. 

However, other cuts of meat can be used as well. The meat is marinated in a combination of guajillo, ancho, and chipotle peppers to give it a rich and flavorful taste. This marinade not only adds flavor to the meat but also helps to tenderize it and gives it a beautiful deep red color.

The marinated meat is then cooked in a broth made from the marinade and spices, which helps to further infuse the meat with flavor and keep it juicy and tender. After cooking, the meat is usually shredded and placed in a warm tortilla, which is then topped with cheese, onions, and cilantro. The combination of juicy, tender meat, melted cheese, and fresh herbs and spices creates a taste that is both rich and comforting.

Birria tacos are typically served with a side of consommé, which is a spicy broth made from the cooking liquid used to make the birria. This broth is poured over the tacos, adding an extra layer of flavor and moisture to the dish. The consommé can also be used as a dipping sauce for the tacos, giving you an extra burst of flavor with every bite.

What Cheese to Use for Birria Tacos?

1. Queso Fresco

queso fresco cheese

Queso Fresco is a fresh, crumbly cheese that is widely used in Mexican cuisine. It has a mild, salty flavor and a soft texture, which make it a popular choice for tacos. Queso Fresco is made from a combination of cow’s milk and goat’s milk, and it is often sold in soft rounds.

2. Queso Blanco

queso blanco

Queso Blanco is another popular Mexican cheese that is similar to Queso Fresco but with a firmer texture. It has a slightly nutty flavor that makes it a versatile cheese for use in tacos. Queso Blanco is made from cow’s milk, and it is often sold in blocks that can be grated or sliced.

3. Panela

queso panela cheese

Panela is a soft cheese that is known for its smooth, creamy texture. It has a mild, slightly tangy flavor that works well with the spiciness of birria tacos. Panela is made from 100% cow’s milk and is often sold in blocks that can be grated or sliced.

4. Asadero

queso asadero quesadilla

Asadero is a semi-soft cheese that is known for its stretchy texture when melted. It has a mild, slightly salty flavor that makes it a popular choice for tacos. Asadero is made from cow’s milk and is often sold in blocks that can be grated or sliced.

5. Oaxaca

oaxaca cheese

Oaxaca is a stringy cheese that is known for its ability to melt easily. It has a mild, slightly salty flavor that compliments the flavors in birria tacos. Oaxaca is made from a combination of cow’s milk and goat’s milk, and it is often sold in braids.

6. Queso Manchego

spanish cheese manchego

Mexican manchego cheese is similar to the original Spanish variety, but unlike the Spanish variety, which is made with sheep milk, Mexican manchego cheese is made with a mixture of cow and goat milk. This pale yellow cheese is delicious as a snack or an appetizer and has a flavor that is similar to cheddar. Additionally, it melts easily and is suitable for quesadillas.

7. Requesón

requeson cheese

Requesón is a soft cheese that resembles cottage cheese or ricotta. This mild, non-salty cheese can be spread or used as a filling for gorditos, empanadas, and enchiladas

How to Use the Cheese in Birria Tacos

When it comes to using the cheese in birria tacos, there are two main approaches: either melting it directly into the stew or adding slices on top of your taco before serving. 

For those looking for maximum flavor, melting the cheese into the stew helps create a richer sauce that’s great for dipping your tacos in. If you’re looking for something more option, look below for the techniques.

Grating and Melting Techniques

  • Grating cheese is the most common method for preparing cheese for tacos. It provides a more even distribution of cheese throughout the taco and helps the cheese melt more evenly.
  • Melting cheese in a pan or on a griddle can make a layer of melted cheese on top of the taco that sticks together better.
  • It’s also possible to melt cheese in the oven or under a broiler, which can give a melted and crispy cheese topping to the tacos.

Balancing Cheese with Other Ingredients

  • When using cheese in birria tacos, it’s important to balance the cheese with other ingredients so that the cheese doesn’t overpower the other flavors.
  • A good rule of thumb is to use enough cheese to provide a melted layer on top of the taco, but not so much that it overshadows the flavor of the birria filling or toppings.
  • Experimenting with different cheese-to-filling ratios can help find the right balance.

Topping Options

  • In addition to the cheese, there are a variety of other toppings that can be used to add flavor and texture to birria tacos.
  • Some popular options include diced onions, cilantro, sliced jalapenos, salsa, and sour cream.
  • It’s also possible to add other ingredients, such as avocado or guacamole, for added flavor and texture.

Serving Suggestions

  • Birria tacos with melted cheese are typically served with a side of consomme or broth for dipping.
  • A light squeeze of lime juice on top of the tacos can add a bright, acidic contrast to the richness of the cheese.
  • Other accompaniments, such as refried beans, rice, or tortilla chips, can also be served on the side.

What Can I Use Instead of Mexican Cheese?

Mexican cheese is a staple ingredient in many traditional Mexican dishes, including birria tacos. But not everyone has access to real Mexican cheese or would rather use something else. Fortunately, there are several substitutes that can be used in place of Mexican cheese, each with its own unique flavor and texture.

Paneer is a popular substitute for Mexican cheese. This type of cheese is commonly used in Indian cuisine and is similar in texture to Mexican cheese. Paneer is a firm cheese that does not melt when heated, making it an ideal substitute for dishes that require the cheese to hold its shape, such as tacos. It has a mild, slightly tangy flavor that complements the spices and flavors used in Mexican cuisine.

Another great substitute for Mexican cheese is halloumi. This kind of cheese is often used in Mediterranean food because it has a high melting point and tastes a little bit salty. Halloumi can be sliced and grilled cheese or fried, making it an ideal substitute for Mexican cheese in tacos or quesadillas. The cheese will hold its shape when heated, giving the dish a similar texture to traditional Mexican cheese.

A very firm ricotta can also be used as a substitute for Mexican cheese. Unlike regular ricotta, which is soft and creamy, very firm ricotta has a more crumbly texture and is often used in place of feta cheese. This type of ricotta is ideal for dishes like tacos, as it will hold its shape when heated and has a slightly tangy flavor that compliments the spices and flavors used in Mexican cuisine.

Is Barbacoa Sauce Same as Birria?

Barbacoa and birria are two popular Mexican dishes that are often confused, but they are not the same thing. While birria is a type of barbacoa, barbacoa is not birria. 

The term “barbacoa” is derived from the Taíno word “barbakoa,” which refers to a cooking technique that involves slow-cooking meat over an open fire. This method is similar to grilling and is most often used to cook beef, but it can also be used to cook lamb or mutton.

Barbacoa is made by cooking the meat in a pit or an oven, which is lined with maguey leaves, and steaming it in its own juices along with a marinade. The marinade typically includes spices such as cumin, chili powder, and garlic, which help to enhance the flavor of the meat and keep it moist. The cooking process is slow, and it takes several hours to get the texture and flavor you want.

Birria, on the other hand, is a specific type of barbacoa that is traditionally made from goat meat, although beef is also commonly used. Birria is braised or steamed and typically seasoned with spices such as guajillo, ancho, and chipotle peppers. The meat is then cooked in a broth that is made from the spices and the marinade, which helps to infuse the meat with flavor and tenderness.


The type of cheese used in birria tacos can greatly impact the flavor and texture of the dish. When choosing cheese for a taco, it’s important to think about how it tastes, how it melts, how it feels, and how it looks, as well as what else is in the taco. Experimenting with different cheeses can be a fun way to find the perfect cheese for birria tacos.

While some cheeses are more commonly used in birria tacos, the type of cheese used is ultimately a matter of personal preference. Encouraging experimentation with different cheeses can lead to new and delicious flavor combinations. So don’t be afraid to try different cheeses and find the one that works best for you!

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