Beef Tongue

by Talley

in Beef,Main Course,Offal

Beef Tongue

If you haven’t gotten enough offal from the sweetbreads and the kidney posts, we have one more for you here. If you have had enough, then I promise this is the last one for a while (until we pull the goat hearts out of the freezer). While tongue (and heart) are technically not offal, a term usually reserved for entrails and internal organs, they often get grouped into the same category of “generally off-putting.” The challenge with tongue, unlike something like kidney, is not so much in its taste (it tastes like, well, beef). The hurdle is more psychological, probably stemming from the fact that our own tongues are so involved in the chewing of food, and the thought of biting into tongue evokes something of a visceral response. If you can overcome the mental barrier though, you’ll have a deliciously tender cut of beef awaiting you on the other side. It’s a bit like brisket actually.

Beef tongue has this incredible outer “skin” on it. I once had the honor of being licked by a cow (imagine being licked by a cat… now multiply that times cow) and at the time I was surprised. I’m not surprised now; look at the SPIKES on that thing!

Close-up of Spikey Beef Tongue

Almost all tongue recipes start with a long slow simmer in water or stock with some vegetables and aromatics. Once tender, the skin should nearly lift off the tongue in one satisfying pull.

Boiled and Peeled Beef Tongue

From there you can finish the tongue with whatever sauce or preparation you like. Tacos de Lengua are popular, or you could pick a fresh tomato sauce, or a wine based sauce. [UPDATE: check out the following post for a delicious tongue slider idea].

Here, we sliced the tongue and seared the slices in a hot pan to brown them before serving with a creamy horseradish mustard sauce (don’t forget to prepare your own horseradish!) . The searing step actually goes a long way towards helping overcome the psychological hurdle of eating tongue. If you still need convincing, consider that tongue is one of the cheapest cuts of beef you can buy.

Seared Beef Tongue with Creamy Horseradish Sauce

Beef Tongue with Horseradish Sauce


  • 1 (2 lb) fresh beef tongue
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 2 whole cloves
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 1½ Tbsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp peanut oil, suet, or extra virgin olive oil


  • ¼ cup chopped shallot
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cream
  • 1 cup stock or reserved cooking liquid from tongue
  • 2 Tbsp whole-grain mustard
  • ½ – 2 Tbsp prepared horseradish
  • 2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • ½ tsp fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 300˚F. To cook the tongue, rinse it well with cold water and place in a large oven-safe pot or dutch oven. Add water to cover by a couple inches and then add the remaining spices and aromatics. The spices listed here are a guide, but feel free to mix it up. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then place the pot in the oven for about 3 hours, until the tongue is very tender. This can all be done in a slow cooker as well, if you desire.

When tongue is tender, let it cool uncovered in it’s cooking liquid until cool enough to handle (now’s a fine time to make the sauce). If you’re in a hurry, you can take the tongue out of the liquid to speed the process. Reserve some of the cooking liquid for the sauce, or you can simply use stock, or even milk.

For the sauce, heat the cream together with reserved cooking liquid or stock in a small pan, keep covered at a very low simmer. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Add the shallots and cook gradually, stirring, until softened. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking briskly for about 1 to 2 minutes, until blonde. Then, gradually whisk in the pre-heated liquid, whisking constantly so as to avoid lumps (preheating the liquid also helps to prevent the sauce from seizing and creating lumps). Bring to a boil whisking. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue whisking for a couple minutes until slightly thickened. Stir in the mustard, horseradish, parsley, dill, and lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Depending on how strong your horseradish is, you may need anywhere from ½ to 2 tablespoons. Add a small amount at first and then adjust to taste once all the ingredients are in. Keep covered on the stove on very low heat.

Peel off the skin (ahhhh) and trim away any remaining nastiness. Slice the tongue into ½-inch thick slices on a slight bias. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add just enough oil to create a thin film. Add the tongue slices, being careful not to overcrowd the pan, and fry for a few minutes, until nicely browned. Turn the slices and brown the other side for a couple minutes as well.

When done, fan the tongue slices out on a plate and drizzle with sauce. Garnish with parsley and serve. Then, admit that it’s really quite tasty.

Serves 4

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

JSB October 13, 2009 at 3:55 am

Eek! I just finished reading your horseradish post and decided to look around…. I click the title on the top of your page… and I see THIS! Shivers went down my spine.

I've never really been into beef tongue, but my father loves it. I've been seeing a lot of them popping up on FoodGawker; it makes me want to give it another chance.


gourmet traveller October 13, 2009 at 9:11 am

Great to find a fellow tongue-lover! This looks great. I normally do mine in a chinese (braised in soy) style or as a stew – must have a go at yours. Only thing I hate is cleaning and peeling the tongue, a thing of beauty it is not!!


Talley October 13, 2009 at 4:05 am

Hah. Hope we haven’t scared you off! Honestly, we’re done with the offal for a little while. But do consider giving tongue another chance. We just had the leftovers tonight in a different guise… and it was fantastic. Check back in a day or so to hear about it. I think you may find yourself a convert…


Courtney October 13, 2009 at 4:35 pm

This is very timely for me, as I have a beef tongue in the freezer, am trolling for ideas, your spicing looks interesting. I've cooked a lamb and a pig head and had the tongues from those, but I haven't ever cooked beef tongue, and I'm looking forward to it. Thanks!


Brittany (He Cooks She Cooks) October 13, 2009 at 7:59 pm

"multiply that times cow" HA!

Your dinner looks great.

p.s. thanks for the link!


Talley October 14, 2009 at 6:06 am

Courtney and JSB, if you’re still looking for tongue ideas, check out the next post on tongue sliders. Good for tongue leftovers, or the main event.


Foodtease October 15, 2009 at 6:30 pm

Looks really great! Especially love the close-up photos!


Talley October 15, 2009 at 7:10 pm

thanks foodtease. glad you liked the closeups… the spikes on the tongue are definitely cool, but they’re nothing compared to the spikes you showed on those beef lips!


Gwen Bassetti October 20, 2009 at 6:34 pm

A gourmet version of Fred’s Norwegian Mother’s recipe! Fred can’t wait.
One tongue goes a long way!!!


Talley October 20, 2009 at 9:18 pm

Gwen, you just name the day and we’ll be over cooking this for you! (we might make you try a tongue slider or two as well).


Judy November 6, 2009 at 6:27 am

Despite its very high ick factor, cow tongue, I must assume, tastes just as good as ox tongue, which I’ve had.

Surprsingly ox tongue taste best only in cream sauce. If you didn’t ask, they’d taste a little like beef-gone-chewy.

Definitely hair-raising but worth the meal once or twice when done right =)


Marie Raley November 17, 2009 at 7:46 am

I wish I could say I’m intrigued. But I have a hard enough time eating anything off a bone; I don’t know if I could eat it knowing it was a tongue. I’m sure I’d like it if I didn’t know what I was eating.

It looks good once it’s cooked.


Maria January 19, 2010 at 1:40 pm

People who’ve never had cow tounge do not know what their missing. It’s so soft and tender when cooked right.


tiff January 30, 2010 at 9:37 pm

I must agree, I’m no huge red-meat lover, but tongue is tender and delightful to eat. However I must admit I’m in no rush to preach the wonders of tongue.. it’s a seldom-available treat around these parts and I’m not anxious to have more competition on the rare occasions I can find it. =P

Happy eating!


David Mudkips December 29, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Great recipe!

It’s a genuine shame that so few people have been introduced to beef tongue. It has a great flavor, and a texture like a perfect corned beef. I’ve been gently introducing my friends to tongue by serving them lengua tacos. Every last one of them has been amazed — and converted, even if their initial reaction to hearing what was being served was “ewwww.”


Cecilia Stewart September 12, 2011 at 7:50 pm

I love tongue! My grandmother used to make it with blackberry sauce and it was incredible. Growing up in Meixco, tacos de lengua, were a must… and some of the best french restaurants I’ve been to serve a delicious cold tongue with vinaigrette (salad like, but without the greens).

Thank you for helping me understand the basics for cooking it!


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