Birria tacos have exploded in popularity in recent years. These Mexican meat tacos feature succulent, slow-cooked beef or goat stewed in a chile-infused broth, known as consomme. The meat is then shredded and crisped on the grill or in oil before getting stuffed into a tortilla along with cheese and other toppings.
The crowning touch of any birria taco is the melted cheese inside, which adds a decadent, creamy element. Choosing the right cheese can take these tacos from great to extraordinary. The cheese should complement the deep, spicy flavors of the meat and consomme without overpowering them.
After extensive research and testing, we’ve identified 12 cheeses that pair perfectly with birria tacos. Keep reading to learn more about each cheese and why it’s ideal for these trendy tacos.
Here’s a quick answer: The best cheeses for birria tacos include Oaxaca, Cotija, Cheddar, Swiss, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Feta, Manchego, Queso Fresco, and Queso Panela. These cheeses melt beautifully into the meat and soaks up the flavorful consomme broth. Options like aged Cheddar, Parmesan, and Manchego add sharp, nutty flavors that balance the spices. Cotija, Feta, and Queso Fresco lend delightful crunch when sprinkled on top.
The familiar sharpness of good cheddar cheese is a fantastic match for intensely flavored birria. Opt for white cheddar if you like a milder flavor, or go bold with an aged orange cheddar. The slight crumbliness of the cheese contrasts nicely with the tenderness of the meat.
Cheddar melts beautifully, creating a satisfying gooey layer in the taco. It also holds its shape well before melting, making it easier to stuff into the tacos. The aged flavors of a sharp cheddar balance out the spices in the consomme for a more rounded, complex taco experience.
At first glance, parmesan may seem like an unusual choice for birria tacos. But this hard Italian cheese has qualities that make it work surprisingly well. Grated parmesan has a dry, grainy texture that provides an interesting contrast to the moist meat and soft tortilla.
Parmesan also packs a serious umami punch, which enhances the savoriness of the consomme. Its salty sharpness helps cut through the chiles and spices, toning down the heat a bit. Don’t use pre-grated parmesan – opt for a good wedge and grate it fresh. The flavor is far superior.
Crumble creamy, salty feta cheese over birria tacos for a tangy Mediterranean twist. Feta strikes a nice balance – it has enough flavor to hold its own but doesn’t overshadow the other components. It has a distinctive saltiness that keeps each bite of the taco complex and moreish.
The briny bite of feta combines brilliantly with the Mexican spices and chiles. Its firm texture also contrasts with the tenderness of the meat. Try using a mix of feta and mozzarella for added creaminess and stretchiness when melted.
With its mild flavor and smooth melting properties, Swiss cheese is a natural choice for birria tacos. It provides a creamy base that highlights the deep flavors of the stewed meat and consomme without drowning them out.
The mild nuttiness and hint of sweetness from Swiss cheese work wonderfully with the complex spices in the broth. As it melts, it forms stretchy strings that mingle with the shredded meat. Be sure to choose real Swiss cheese, not the processed “Swiss” sold pre-sliced.
A blanket of melted mozzarella over birria is pure taco perfection. When melted, mozzarella provides the ideal velvety texture and subtle milky flavor. It melts into the meat and soaks up the delicious consomme to create a cohesive bite.
Fresh mozzarella works great since the high moisture content makes it melt faster. But low-moisture or aged mozzarella varieties can also be tasty. The key is to tear or shred the mozzarella so it’s distributed evenly. Whole mozzarella slices may not melt sufficiently.
Cotija is a firm Mexican cheese with a crumbly feta-like texture. Its salty, aged flavors are similar to parmesan, providing a nice contrast to the rich stewed meat. Grating fresh cotija over birria tacos adds a delightful crunch.
Unlike parmesan, cotija doesn’t fully melt, so it retains its texture when cooking. It has great moisture-absorbing properties, which prevents the birria tacos from getting soggy. Cotija crumbles also help soak up some of the incredible consomme for concentrated flavor in each bite.
Also called quesillo, Oaxaca cheese has a mild flavor with hints of nuttiness and grassiness. In its un-melted state, it has a stringy, mozzarella-like texture. But when melted, Oaxaca becomes silky smooth.
This stringy melting ability makes it ideal for birria tacos, as it perfectly coats the meat and other fillings. Oaxaca has an almost elastic texture when melted that provides substance without overwhelming the other components. It also readily absorbs flavors, allowing the cheeses to soak in the rich consomme.
For an adventurous cheese choice, try anejo enchilado. This Mexican cheese is rubbed with spicy ancho and guajillo chile peppers, giving it a reddish-orange hue. The flavor is bold, with lingering heat and robust spice.
The aged, crumbly texture of anejo enchilado makes for an exciting contrast with the tenderness of the meat. The chiles provide another layer of spice that melds beautifully with the consomme. Use it sparingly so the cheese doesn’t overpower – a little goes a long way.
Mild and deliciously gooey when melted, fontina is a smart choice for birria tacos. It has a subtle earthiness that pairs well with the deep Mexican flavors in the dish. The stretchy, creamy melted texture coats the other fillings evenly.
Aged fontina provides some nutty, caramel flavors that bring added depth. The pliable, semi-soft consistency of fontina makes it easy to stuff into tacos before melting into silky goodness. For best results, shred or dice the cheese instead of using thick slices.
Made from sheep’s milk, Spanish manchego has a delightfully complex flavor that holds up well to birria’s boldness. It has a firm, crumbly texture when raw. But when melted, manchego becomes rich and creamy.
The lingering sweetness and tangy sheep’s milk funk of manchego balance beautifully with the chiles and spices in the consomme. It has enough flavor to not get lost among the other ingredients. The buttery melted manchego coats each component, tying everything together.
Queso fresco is a prime example of a simple cheese that shines in birria tacos. The mild, fresh dairy flavors complement without competing. It melts into a soft, creamy curd that highlights the consomme and stewed meat.
This Mexican cheese has excellent moisture-absorbing properties. As it melts onto the meat, queso fresco soaks up the tantalizing consomme in each bite rather than letting it drip out of the taco. Fresh crumbled queso fresco also serves as a nice crunchy topping.
Similar to queso fresco but with a character all its own, queso panela is another fresh Mexican cheese that makes birria tacos shine. In raw form, it has a crumbly, feta-like texture and mild flavor.
When melted, queso panela softens into a creamy, silky consistency. The subtle tang and fresh dairy notes balance wonderfully with the earthy spices in the consomme. Try stuffing the tacos with both queso panela and queso fresco for layers of creamy texture.
Mix and Match For Ultimate Birria Tacos
The possibilities are endless when using these cheeses to elevate your birria tacos. Mixing and matching different varieties can lead to exciting new flavor combinations. After tasting your perfectly cooked birria, try layering in a blend of melted oaxaca, manchego, and cotija. Or go simple with queso fresco or fontina.
Get creative with toppings as well. Queso fresco, feta, or cotija crumbles make a delicious crunchy topping sprinkle. Add diced onions, cilantro, salsa, and lime wedges to cut through the richness. For gooey birria bliss, crown your tacos with melty mozzarella or an egg cooked sunny-side up.
With the right cheese choices, it’s easy to take birria tacos from great to outstanding. Use this guide to pick cheeses with complementary textures and flavors that enhance rather than mask the consomme and meat. Now get cooking and usher in a new birria taco cheese obsession!
1. What is the most traditional cheese for birria tacos?
The most traditional cheese for birria tacos is Oaxaca cheese, also known as quesillo. This stringy, semi-soft white cheese melts beautifully and soaks up flavors.
2. What cheese has the best melt for birria tacos?
Mozzarella and Oaxaca cheese melt the best for birria tacos. Their soft, elastic textures help them evenly coat the other ingredients when melted.
3. Which cheeses add crunchy texture to birria tacos?
Cotija, feta, Parmesan, and fresh queso fresco add crunchy texture when sprinkled on top of birria tacos before serving. Their crumbly textures contrast nicely with the soft fillings.
4. What are the most flavorful cheeses for birria tacos?
Some of the most flavorful cheeses are aged cheddar, Parmesan, manchego, Swiss, and anejo enchilado. Their sharp, nutty, and spicy flavors balance well with the deep birria flavors.
5. Which cheese helps tone down the spice in birria tacos?
Swiss and Parmesan cheese can help offset some of the spiciness from the chiles in the broth. Their milder flavors balance the heat.
6. Can you use pre-shredded cheese for birria tacos?
It’s best to shred or dice cheese yourself rather than using pre-shredded cheese, which has anti-caking agents that can prevent proper melting.
7. What cheese pairs well with a fried egg on birria tacos?
Ooey, gooey mozzarella pairs exceptionally well with a fried egg atop birria tacos. The egg yolk mixes with the melted cheese for delicious richness.
Birria tacos have rightfully earned their place as one of the most crave-worthy Mexican food trends. The consomme-soaked meat wrapped in a tortilla is incredible on its own, but the right melted cheese takes them to the next level.
Using cheeses like Oaxaca, Cotija, Swiss, Cheddar, and Manchego adds delightful texture and complementary flavors that enhance the deep, spicy taste of the tacos. With this guide to the best birria taco cheeses, you can experiment freely and take your tacos from great to extraordinary. The cheesy, meaty possibilities are endless.
Best Cheeses for Birria Tacos
- Oaxaca also known as quesillo
- Anejo Enchilado
- Queso Fresco
- Queso Panela
- Make the birria meat filling by braising beef or lamb in a chile-based sauce. Cool and shred the meat.
- Grill corn tortillas lightly on each side.
- Place shredded birria meat in the grilled tortillas.
- Top with shredded Oaxacan cheese or mozzarella cheese.
- Add any additional toppings like onion, cilantro.
- Dip the tacos in the leftover birria sauce for extra flavor.
- Place tacos on a tray and broil for 1-2 minutes until cheese is fully melted.