Ancho Short Rib Tacos

Three ancho short rib tacos on flour tortillas, topped with pickled red onion and cilantro.

We’ve been seeing an awful lot of ancho short rib tacos on menus lately. And we suspect you’ve experienced this, too. At first glance, the concept may seem an unlikely melding of short ribs and ancho chiles and aromatics and (a waste of) good red wine. But wait’ll you taste the results when shredded and harnessed as taco filling. And if we may make a suggestion, have lots of napkins at the standby.–Renee Schettler Rossi

LC Authenticity Is Overrated Note

Are these ancho short rib tacos authentic Mexican? Nah. Are they worth making? Heck yeah. [Editor’s Note: This is one of those rare instances when we’ll concede that authenticity is, at times, somewhat overrated.]

Ancho Short Rib Tacos

  • Quick Glance
  • (2)
  • 1 H
  • 4 H
  • Serves 8
5/5 - 2 reviews
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  • For the pickled red onions
  • For the tacos


Make the pickled red onions

In a bowl, combine the vinegar, orange juice concentrate, sugar, oregano, bay leaf, and salt. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the red onion and stir to coat evenly. Cover and let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 hours. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use and for up to 1 month.

Make the tacos

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

In a saucepan over high heat, bring the broth to a boil, then remove from the heat and add the ancho chiles. Set aside to steep.

Warm the olive oil in an ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Pat the short ribs dry and season all over with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add the ribs to the pot and sear until browned on all sides, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the yellow onion to the pot and cook, stirring often, until golden, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook just until the garlic is soft, about 1 minute. Add the broth, chiles, and wine, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Nestle the ribs in the liquid, cover the pot, and transfer to the oven until the meat falls off the bones, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Check the pot every 45 minutes or so to make sure there is enough liquid, adding more broth as needed; it should reach about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the ribs.

Using tongs, transfer the ribs and the chiles to a plate to cool. Set the pot with the cooking liquid aside to cool.

When the ribs are cool enough to handle, use your hands or 2 forks to shred the meat. Discard the bones. Using a large spoon, skim the fat off the top of the cooled liquid in the pot. Transfer the contents of the pot and 1 of the reserved chiles to a blender and process to a smooth purée. Taste and, if desired, add more chile and purée again. Otherwise discard the remaining chiles. Return the puréed sauce to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat to warm it through. If a thicker sauce is desired, cook until the sauce reduces by half, about 5 minutes. Add the shredded meat and cook just until warmed through, about 4 minutes.

To assemble the tacos, fill the tortillas with the meat (using about 3 to 4 tablespoons shredded meat per taco) and top with some drained pickled onions, a dollop of crema, and some cilantro. Serve right away.

Print RecipeBuy the Williams-Sonoma Taco Night cookbook

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    T-Shirt Variation

    • Quick Pickled Red Onions
    • T-shirt variation

      When you’re short on ingredients but desperately need to satisfy a craving for these ancho short rib tacos, just squeeze some lime over thinly sliced red onions and wait a few minutes or hours as in this quick pickled red onions recipe. Tada!

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    I have to admit, I really needed this recipe to be worth it. After dropping $40 on 5 pounds of bone-in short ribs, I was seriously questioning my sanity and whether I really needed 5 pounds of meat for my household of two. The ribs cooked down slowly in the deeply flavored sauce and resulted in a luxurious taco filling. It was worth it, and I did need (yes, NEED) all 5 pounds. Dinner #4 rolled around before we sadly ran out of the filling and were left yearning for more. I seared the meat in 2 batches, taking about 30 minutes total to get all the sides darkly seared. Once I combined all the ingredients (Cabernet was my choice for wine, as I was trying to get as much flavor and body as possible in the sauce) in the pot and nestled the ribs in nice and snug, I topped off with another 1 cup stock and put everything in the oven. I wrapped my Dutch oven with a layer of foil before placing the lid on it in order to keep some moisture in the braise. The meat was falling off the bone after 3 1/2 hours. The pickled onions are a little unorthodox; however, I was pleasantly surprised. There is a lot of flavor due to the OJ concentrate and the relatively large amount of oregano. I too was originally skeptical, but the sweet tang of the OJ stood up nicely to the rich, dark flavor of the ribs. This dish requires a day of devotion. I'm happy to say that the time and effort is worth it with this dish and ultimately results in a very special taco dinner.

    This recipe makes a nice, hearty taco filling. It's a great choice for a party, as most of the cooking is unattended in the oven, leaving you free to do other things. The pickled onions are delicious and could be made the day before or even several days in advance. This recipe works very nicely as written. The only suggestion I have is to remove the stems from the chiles before putting them in the broth as the stems will come off during cooking and can be hard to find and fish out later. The other thing is that, depending upon your beef broth and whether it has salt in it, you need to be careful with the amount of salt you add to the cooking liquid. My broth had no salt at all, so it wasn't a problem, but because you're going to reduce the cooking liquid later, if there's salt in your broth, your final sauce could end up being very salty. So know your broth and go easy on the salt early on, adjusting to taste after the sauce is reduced. I haven't tried it, but I think this recipe would be a cinch to adapt to a slow cooker. I'd just reduce the quantity of beef broth, maybe by half. I used Chianti—an inexpensive one. The time in the oven was 3 hours, and I didn't have to add more liquid.


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    1. Cooked this as written except that I transferred everything to the slow cooker for 5 to 6 hours and it came out beautifully. Next time, I’ll add in at least two maybe 3 of the ancho chilies to amp up the spiciness. Lucious, rich and delicious. I’ll freeze some of the leftovers.

      1. Magnificent, Margo! We greatly appreciate you taking the time to let us know the slow cooker option. May I inquire, was it on high or, I suspect, low? Once we have that info, we’ll add a variation to the recipe so others can use your incredibly helpful advice.

        1. Right, the slow cooker setting was on low (I only have the options of high/low on my unit). I did want to stop the cooking before the ribs dissolved too, too much.

    2. This recipe is delicious. I have made it every time with pot roast or chuck roast instead of short ribs (2.5-4lb piece of meat) – cut the meat into large 3×3″ chunks. Way cheaper, more meat, similar cook time. Maybe you don’t get the additional flavor of the bones but with the ancho chile etc., I don’t know that anyone would notice. You can still remove the large chunks of meat and blend the sauce as you would with the ribs.

      I have also used the meat to make nachos. Distribute the shredded meat and sauce over warmed tortilla chips and decorate with crema, pickled onion and cilantro – add crumbled queso fresco and pico de gallo if you like for some additional punch.

    3. So which recipe for pickled red onions is best, if one might only make this once? The one above with orange juice, or the one accompanying this set of recipes in today’s email made with lots of lime juice?

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