This simple beef tongue recipe results in tender, melt-in-your-mouth meat. The tasty mushroom onion sauce is optional, but it greatly enhances the dish. Leftovers are excellent, whether heated in the microwave or served cold.
Nose-to-tail eating is the responsible way for meat-eaters to consume meat. And this particular cut makes it very palatable indeed. It's wonderfully flavorful and tender, and it's also surprisingly easy to make.
I learned to cook lengua from my friend Irina, a wonderful cook who makes many traditional recipes. My entire family loves it - yes, even the kids!
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to turn a cow's tongue into a delicacy. The exact measurements are included in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
Beef tongue: Not readily available in U.S. supermarkets, I often special-order it at Whole Foods.
Spices: I use dried bay leaves, whole peppercorns, and whole allspice.
Butter: I love using creamy European butter, but any butter will be great.
Onions and mushrooms: As a lazy cook, I often use the food processor to chop onions, and I buy pre-sliced mushrooms.
Beef broth: Store-bought is fine - just check the ingredients list to make sure it looks OK.
Kosher salt and black pepper: If using fine salt, you should reduce the amount you use, or the dish could end up too salty.
Cornstarch: Just 1 teaspoon to thicken the sauce.
Cooking beef tongue is easy! Scroll down to the recipe card for detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps:
You start by simmering the tongue with spices until tender, 3-4 hours.
Allow it to slightly cool, just until it's easier to handle, then remove the skin and slice it.
If making the sauce, cook the onions and mushrooms in butter, then add beef broth, kosher salt, and black pepper.
Add the sliced meat to this tasty sauce and simmer it for 30 minutes, until it's super tender. You can thicken the sauce with a little cornstarch if you'd like.
To serve, arrange slices on plates and top them with the sauce.
You'll want to let the cooked tongue cool a little before removing the skin. It's too hot to handle when you remove it from the saucepan.
But don't let it sit and cool for too long. You want to remove the skin as soon as you can. If it cools down too much, it will be very difficult to remove.
Frequently asked questions
Yes! I can see why some people find this difficult to accept. I suppose there is a certain reluctance unless you grew up eating internal organs.
But for someone who's used to eating the entire cow, not just steaks, it's really no more problematic than a piece of steak. It's just meat. And it's wonderful!
In fact, as far as I know, our modern Western culture is the first human culture to shun organ meats. Eating just muscle meat is such a wasteful way to consume animals.
If you're in the U.S., this can be quite a challenge. You'll probably need to ask your butcher to special order it for you.
Or go to a Hispanic market, where it's always available. Lately, I've been able to find it frozen at Whole Foods, so that's progress.
This is a muscular organ that works hard, so it's very tough when uncooked. Much like beef heart, you have two options when cooking it.
Either slice it very thin and cook it quickly, as they do in Korean barbecue. Or cook it low and slow, in a saucepan or in your slow cooker.
I like the second method better because it results in meat that literally melts when you put it in your mouth. So wonderfully tender!
And despite owning a slow cooker, I prefer to cook it on the stovetop in water. This is mostly because then I get a wonderful bonus - rich, flavorful homemade beef broth!
Oh yes. When properly cooked, it's amazingly tender and very flavorful. I consider it a delicacy, especially when served with my friend Irina's delicious onion-mushroom sauce.
In fact, I often think to myself that it's just as good as ribeye roast - and so much cheaper!
Storing and using leftovers
You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in a sealed container, for 3-4 days. Reheat them gently, covered, in the microwave on 50% power.
I actually really like them cold, sliced thin, and served with quick pickles, mustard, and fresh-cut veggies.
If you're interested in trying more offal recipes, here are a few good ones:
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Melt-in-Your-Mouth Beef Tongue
- 1 beef tongue 2 or 3 lb.
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon whole allspice
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 8 oz sliced mushrooms
- 2 cups low-sodium beef or chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch, optional
Cook the tongue:
- Rinse the tongue and place it in a large stockpot. Add enough water to cover - I use 14 cups of water.
- Bring to a boil. This will likely take 20-30 minutes. Skim the foam off from the top.
- Lower the heat to a simmer. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns and allspice, and cook, partially covered, turning the tongue every hour to ensure even cooking on all sides. Cook 3 hours for a 2-lb. tongue, 4 hours for a 3-lb. tongue.
- Remove the cooked tongue to a cutting board. Allow it to cool until easier to handle, then remove the skin, as shown in the video, slice and serve, with or without sauce.
Make the sauce:
- To make the sauce, heat a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and swirl to coat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, 10 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until soft.
- Add broth, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the sliced tongue, cover it with the sauce, lower heat to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes.
- If you wish to thicken the sauce, 5 minutes before it’s done, mix 1 teaspoon cornstarch with 2 teaspoons of cold water and stir the mixture into the sauce.
- Arrange tongue slices on plates and top them with the dsauce. Serve immediately.