A beautiful beef brisket gets braised low and slow until it falls apart tender and becomes Mexican Shredded Beef. Finished with a handful of simple toppings, these Mexican Shredded Beef Tacos are the perfect family meal. Plus, leftovers can be reheated time and time again and can be served in a variety of new and unique ways.
Mexican Shredded Beef
The star of the show is the braised Mexican shredded beef! A large brisket gets browned then braised in a flavorful mix of onions, toasted spices, tomato paste and broth. After a few hours in the oven or slow-cooker, the result is tender, fall apart shredded beef.
Pile the shredded beef into charred taco shells and keep the toppings simple. I like avocado, cabbage, cheese and pickled jalapeños, because after all, it’s all about the beef!
Table of Contents
Ingredients in Mexican Shredded Beef
- Beef Brisket: I recommend buying a 4-pound brisket so when you trim the excess fat you end up with about 3 ½ pounds.
- Oil: use a high-heat cooking oil like canola or grapeseed.
- Onion: I recommend using yellow onion, though white will work. I do not recommend using red onion here.
- Garlic: 4 large garlic cloves is what you’ll need. Just peel and smash them! The whole cloves will melt into the sauce during the low and slow braise.
- Tomato Paste: 2 tablespoons is what you’ll need. I like to use tomato paste that comes in a tube—it’s sold next to the canned tomato paste. It costs a bit more but it makes for easier and better storage. And you’re less likely to waste the tomato paste, so it’s worth the upfront investment.
- Beef Broth: I just use Better than Bouillon Beef Base to make the ¾ cup broth needed for the recipe. You can also use canned or boxed beef broth.
- Cumin Seeds: I love cooking with cumin seeds—I use them in my Cheese Biscuits and Sopa de Fideo. For this recipe, toast them briefly on the stove top before grinding into a powder.
- Coriander seeds: toast and grind these with the cumin seeds. If you don’t want to buy coriander seeds, you can use ¾ teaspoon ground coriander instead. Just skip the toasting step.
- Dried oregano: Mexican oregano is more authentic, but you can also use marjoram or Italian oregano.
- Smoked paprika: just a bit of smoked paprika adds loads of flavor and deep color.
- Kosher salt and black pepper: I develop recipes using Morton kosher salt. If you’re using Diamond Crystal, increase the salt measurements a bit. Or check out my Kosher Salt conversions.
- Cayenne: we use ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper and it adds a nice undertone of heat. If you like things spicer, up that amount a bit. Need it to be more mild? Use ¼ teaspoon or skip it altogether.
- Bay leaves: fresh or dried work here—use whatever you have on hand.
How to Make Mexican Shredded Beef
Full recipe instructions can be found in the recipe card below.
- Toast the Spices
Toast the cumin seeds and coriander seeds in a Dutch oven just until they are fragrant and start to take on color. Once the spices have cooled down a bit, grind them into a powder using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. I like to then combine the ground spices with the remaining spices you’ll need later on.
- Brown the Brisket
Brown the seasoned brisket in a splash of oil in a Dutch oven (or skillet if you’re cooking it in the slow-cooker) until it’s deeply browned on each side. Once the brisket is nicely browned, transfer it to a plate or sheet pan.
- Cook the Onions
Add the sliced onions to the now-empty Dutch oven and cook, deglazing with a bit of broth as needed, until softened.
Add the tomato paste and garlic cloves and cook for a couple of minutes.
Stir in the remaining broth and the spice mixture and cook briefly until it’s nice and jammy.
- Braise the Brisket
Nestle the browned brisket into the Dutch oven, cover and cook until it’s tender and easily shreds, this will take about 3 hours.
- Shred the Beef
Shred the beef using two forks then return it to the oven to cook for 30 more minutes. This will reduce the liquid and concentrate the flavors.
Slow Cooker Instructions
The toasting of the spices and browning of the beef stays the same no matter how you plan to braise the brisket. Cook the onions according to the recipe instructions then add the browned brisket and cooked onions to a slow cooker and cook on high for 4–5 hours or low for 8 hours.
The juices may not get as thick as they would in a Dutch oven, but the beef will be tender and delicious.
Shredded Beef Taco Toppings
We like to keep the toppings minimal so the beef is the main focal point. Here’s how we recommend serving the tacos:
- Small tortillas or taco shells: either or both work! We like to offer both soft shell corn and flour so everyone is happy.
- Thinly sliced avocado: a bit of cool creaminess balances out the warm savoriness of the beef.
- Shredded Cheddar: I like to buy a block of sharp white or regular Cheddar cheese and grate it myself.
- Thinly sliced cabbage: slice half of a small green cabbage as thinly as possible. This adds a lovely crunch and mild sweetness.
- Pickled Jalapenos: for some pickle-y heat, pickled jalapeños are the perfect topping. You can also use pickled onions or pickled radishes.
What to Serve with Shredded Beef Tacos
Keep it simple and pair these tacos with cool and refreshing side dishes.
- A vibrant and delicious Mexican Coleslaw with sweet corn is a great side dish for these tacos! The slaw is bright and full of different textures.
- Chips, salsa and Easy Guacamole is a must! Try a fresh Tomato and Chipotle Salsa or a Roasted Tomatillo Salsa.
- Serve the beef up like a taco bowl and use Cilantro Lime Brown Rice as the base.
How to Store and Reheat
Refrigerate for a few days: Store the shredded beef in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat portions of shredded beef as you need it in a shallow skillet over medium heat. Add a splash of water or broth to loosen it up.
Freeze for a few months: for longer storage, transfer the cooled shredded beef to a zipper-lock bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating on the stove top over medium heat with a splash of water or broth.
Other Ways to Serve Mexican Shredded Beef
Use leftover beef as the filling for Shredded Beef Enchiladas. I like to make a smoky, cumin-y red enchilada sauce and stuff the tortillas with the beef and shredded cabbage. Then top the dish with shredded Cheddar cheese and bake everything is warmed through and bubbly.
Add some shredded beef to Migas Tacos for a protein-packed and satisfying breakfast.
Brisket is the cut of beef you want to use here (it’s perfect for braising). It’s beefy with a nice amount of fat that melts during braising and creates a luscious sauce.
Cook the brisket for 4–5 hours on high in the slow cooker.
I have not tested this recipe in the Instant Pot, but I would recommend cooking a 4 pound brisket (trimmed of fat so about 3 ½ pounds) for 90 minutes on high pressure. Naturally release the pressure for 15 minutes before quick releasing and removing the lid.
Mexican Shredded Beef Tacos Recipe
Mexican Shredded Beef
- 1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 (4-pound) beef brisket
- 1 large yellow or white onion, sliced ¼-inch
- ¾ cup low-sodium beef broth
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
Shredded Beef Tacos
- 18 assorted soft flour and corn tortillas and crunchy corn taco shells lightly toasted
- 2 ripe avocados thinly sliced
- 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
- 2 cups shredded cabbage
- ½ cup pickled jalapeños
- Heat oven to 300˚F (149ºC) with rack set in middle position.
- In a large, heavy-duty Dutch oven over medium heat, toast 1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds and 1 teaspoon coriander seeds until fragrant and starting to lightly toast, 3–5 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool. Once cool, transfer spices to a mortar and pestle (or spice grinder) and grind until fine in texture.
- Combine ground cumin and coriander with 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper; set aside for later.
- Trim 4-pound brisket of any excess fat or sinew (should end up with about 3½-pounds. Season generously with 2 teaspoons kosher salt and a generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large* heavy-duty Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add brisket and sear until deeply browned on both sides, about 5–7 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and add 1 sliced onion, stirring to deglaze the pan (add a splash or two of beef broth to help things along). Cook until onions are softened, about 5 minutes, then stir in 4 smashed cloves garlic and 2 tablespoons tomato paste. Cook 2 minutes, then stir in remaining beef broth. Cook until thickened and bubbling,1–2 minutes, then stir in reserved spice mixture and bay leaves. Nestle brisket (and any accumulated juices) into Dutch oven, spooning some onions and juices over top.
- Cover Dutch oven and transfer to preheated oven. Cook for 3 hours, flipping brisket over halfway through, until brisket is tender and shreds easily with a fork.
- To serve, spoon shredded beef into a soft or hard tortilla and top with sliced avocado, shredded cheese, cabbage, and pickled jalapeños.
- Prepare brisket as above. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add brisket and sear until deeply browned on both sides, about 5–7 minutes total. Transfer to insert of a 5–6-quart slow-cooker.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and add onion to now-empty skillet, stirring to deglaze skillet (add a splash of the beef broth to help things along). Cook until onions are softened, about 5 minutes, then stir in garlic and tomato paste. Cook for 2 minutes, then stir in remaining broth. Bring to a simmer, then pour over brisket in the slow-cooker. Add reserved spice mixture and bay leaves to slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 4–5 hours or low for 8 hours, until meat is tender and easily shreds with a fork.