Cooking the Cow: Tongue! (Tacos de Lengua)

A few years ago, I ate tongue while traveling in Argentina. It was delicious, but the mere knowledge of what it was evoked an “EWWW!” response that curtailed my dining enjoyment. Of all the cuts of cow, tongue is a firm reminder of what you are eating, and cooking does little to change its appearance.

And I don’t mean “Oh, it kind of looks like a tongue.” It. Is. A. Tongue. Behold: Raw Beef Tongue 2It even had spots like a cow! (It took every ounce of willpower I had to not take it and pretend to lick Michael with it.)

Thankfully, I now have a few years of more adventurous eating under my belt; while I haven’t fully lost my last bit of squeamishness, it’s settled to a reasonable level where I’m willing to cook and consume these slightly odder bits of meat. And, I’m glad for this; cow tongue is delicious.

Tongue is surprisingly fatty for a muscle, and long, slow braising turns it into what is essentially a very well-marbled pot roast. After putting the tongue in the slow cooker, I covered it with some stock, threw in a few bay leaves, about 15-18 whole black pepper corns, a hefty pinch of salt, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and 4 smashed up cloves of garlic. Then I cooked on low for 8 hours.Tongue in the PotAfter letting it cool, I peeled off the skin,

Beef Tongue Skin Removal

chopped it, Chopped Tonguesauteed it with some pineapple, onion, and spices to create beef tongue (lengua) al pastor,

Tacos de Lengua Mise en Placeand served it taco-style with avocado, cilantro, and some fried plantains.

Tacos de Lengua al Pastor

Tacos de Lengua al Pastor (Beef Tongue Tacos with Pineapple)

Slow-cooked beef tongue:

  • 1 beef tongue (2-3#)
  • Water or stock (sufficient to cover the beef tongue when it is in your slow cooker)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 t. salt
  • 15-18 whole black peppercorns
  • hefty pinch red pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

Place beef tongue in slow cooker. Nearly cover with water or stock and add remaining ingredients. Cook on low for 8 hours.

Cool, remove skin, and chop.

Tacos al Pastor

  • 1 slow-cooked beef tongue
  • 1/2 T. coconut oil
  • 2 medium white onions, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped (4 peppers NOT 4 cans)
  • 1 can (16 oz.) pineapple chunks in juice, drained and coarsely chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 t. cumin
  • salt to taste
  • Tortillas or lettuce wraps
  • Toppings of choice: avocado, cilantro, etc.
  1. Melt coconut oil in a large pan over medium heat and saute the onions until slightly softened.
  2. Add in garlic and chipotle peppers and cook, stirring, for 30-60 seconds.
  3. Add in the beef tongue and let cook for a few minutes.
  4. Stir in pineapple chunks, lime juice, and cumin. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid disappears and meat is beginning to caramelize a bit. Season with salt to taste.
  5. Serve on tortillas or lettuce wraps topped with the toppings of your choice. A hefty handful of cilantro makes these perfection for me!
  6. Enjoy!
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