Beef Tacos de Lengua

Print

This recipe is not for the food-queazy. If that’s you, you might want to just skip this one, or instead check out some of our chicken breast recipes.

What? You’re still with us? Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

My first recollection of beef tongue was when I was about 8 years old and there happened to be a huge one in the refrigerator. It looked, and felt (I touched it, who could resist?) like a ginormous tongue. Just like my little 8-year old tongue, but oh my gosh, it was so big! And then my parents cooked it and made us eat it. (No idea how they prepared it.) The texture. It was so, so tongue-like. All too weird, even for me.

Fast forward a couple decades (okay, more than a couple) and I’m in Mexico when my bud Matt announces that there’s a crowd around the lengua tacos in the buffet line. I get there just in time to scoop up the last of the day’s lengua for my taco and I’m in tongue heaven. So tender, so perfect in a taco.

Here’s the deal with tongue. Prepared correctly it is melt-in-your-mouth tender (from slow braising), flavorful (because it’s a muscle that got a lot of exercise), if you chop it up enough the texture isn’t an issue, and its home of homes is truly in a taco, slathered with salsa verde. By the way, my mother instructed me to tell you that the way you know you are at an authentic taqueria is that there are “tacos de lengua” (tongue tacos) on the menu. If you find yourself at such a taqueria, try some! Or if you are the adventurous sort, and love tacos and Mexican food, the following is a traditional Mexican recipe for tacos de lengua, taught to me by my Acapulco friend Arturo. This is the way his mother made it for him growing up. Outrageously good. If I could, I would eat the entire batch all by myself.

Beef Tacos de Lengua Recipe

Print
  • Yield: One 3-pound tongue makes enough meat for about 18-24 tacos.

Beef tongue may be found at local Asian markets, Mexican markets, or ordered by your local butcher

Ingredients

  • 1 3-4 lb beef tongue
  • 2 large onions, peeled
  • The cloves from 1 head (yes an entire head) of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 6-7 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp of peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • Corn tortillas (2 to 3 per person)
  • Salsa verde*
  • Avocados
  • Cilantro
  • Chopped red onion
  • Thinly sliced radishes for garnish

* Bottled or canned salsa verde can be found in the Hispanic section of markets. To make homemade salsa verde, remove husks from 1 lb of tomatillos, place tomatillos in a pan, cover with water, simmer until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Place tomatillos, 1/3 cup chopped onion, 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, 2 teaspoons of lemon or lime juice, a jalapeño or serrano chile pepper, and about a teaspoon of salt in a blender. Blend until smooth, add more salt to taste.

Method

tacos-de-lengua-1.jpg tacos-de-lengua-2.jpg

1 Fill a large (12-quart if you have one) stock pot two-thirds full with water. Add the tongue, onions, crushed garlic cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 3 hours, until the tongue is soft to the touch and tender.

tacos-de-lengua-3.jpg tacos-de-lengua-4.jpg
tacos-de-lengua-5.jpg tacos-de-lengua-6.jpg
tacos-de-lengua-7.jpg tacos-de-lengua-8.jpg

2 Remove tongue from water and let cool for a couple of minutes. Notice the light colored skin-like covering over most of the tongue. Using your fingers, and/or a sharp small knife, remove this covering and discard. Notice the rough patch of meat where the tongue would attach to the bottom of the mouth. Arturo removes this patch (as does his mother when she prepares tongue) because it is a little rough. It's perfectly edible though, so keep it attached if you want.

tacos-de-lengua-9.jpg tacos-de-lengua-10.jpg
tacos-de-lengua-11.jpg tacos-de-lengua-12.jpg

3 Slice the tongue in 1/4-inch slices. (If you are not preparing the whole tongue for tacos, you can return whatever tongue you do not slice to the cooking water to soak.) Heat a little oil in a frying pan on medium high and sauté the slices on both sides until they are lightly browned. Remove from pan and slice first into strips, then crosswise again so that you end up with small cubes.

4 Soften tortillas either by cooking on the stove-top until pockets of air appear in them, or in the microwave (about 10 seconds per tortilla). Place a large spoonful of meat in the center of a tortilla. Add a spoonful of salsa verde and some chopped avocado, onion, and chopped fresh cilantro. Garnish with radish slices.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to Beef Tacos de Lengua on Simply Recipes. Thank you!

Print

tacos-de-lengua-c.jpg

Links:
Cuban-style beef tongue with tomatoes, peppers, and onions from Masa Assassin
Tongue sliders from Houseboat Eats
Lengua Estofada (Braised Beef Tongue) from Gourmeted
Carol Blymire cooks Thomas Keller's braised veal tongue, likes it but is somewhat grossed out by the process
Beef tongue in caper sauce from Nikas Culinaria
Boiled ox tongue from Ryan of Nose to Tail at Home
Another take on tacos de lengua from He Cooks, She Cooks
Lamb's tongue from Pille of Nami-Nami

Many thanks to Arturo Vargas of Taste for the Senses for sharing his family recipe of tacos de lengua.

Never miss a recipe!

Subscribe to Simply Recipes free via email:

Showing 4 of 103 Comments

  • Ann

    I like adding a dash of cider vinegar, cumin, and hot chiles such as serranos or Thai. Sometimes I add Worcestershire sauce. Pig tongue is quite versatile. Thanks!

  • chief thunderhorse

    I disagree about the part of the tongue that is the underside attachment (the big end). The big end is what I use for tacos de lengua. That one hunk of meat at the rear bottom is like excellent roast beef. I cut the big end completely off, leaving about 2/3rds the length and leave that smaller end unpeeled and refrigerate it to be used for sandwiches a few days later (on marble rye toast, feathered cabbage, horseradish, mayo/mustard blend and side kosher/salt brine pickle) and cold premium lager,,,for the tacos, I like vine ripened tomato, cholula green jalapeno and poblano sauce, feathered napa cabbage, cilantro, key lime squeezins’ and “mexican” long green onion (they are Bermuda onions)..and refries with gorgonzola crumbs, splash of Tapatio red sauce.. and a nice Mexican beer..mmmm..mmmm.. sometimes I do Spanish Rice with it.

  • The Omnivore

    The last time I had tongue was as a child when it was part of a deli meat platter my aunt got. My father made a huge sandwich out of it and I excitedly tasted it — only to be totally disturbed by the texture (you could feel the taste buds!). Cut up this small, though, I imagine that would no longer be the case?

  • mike wilkie

    i am the whitest white boy who grew up in a family with a mexican step father and i tell you this recipe brings me back to my childhood, Lengua is my faverite food and this recipe was awsome…

View More Comments / Leave a Comment