Tender Beef Tongue with Onions and Garlic

When Kerry Carlson submitted an offal recipe for the Primal Blueprint Reader-Created Cookbook Contest, the first words of the email were “don’t be afraid.”

In the interest of full disclosure, we have to admit we were just a tiny bit afraid. It’s not every day, after all, that we bring home beef tongue from the market. But once we reminded ourselves that tongue is simply another part of the animal, no different than eating beef ribs, shank, loin or brisket, our fear started to subside. It also helped that Kerry’s preparation method is incredibly simple. In fact, the most difficult part might be finding the beef tongue in the first place. Keep in mind that butchers will usually special order it for you and it’s found readily at most Hispanic markets (where it’s called lengua).

Once you bring your tongue home, be prepared for it to be bigger than you might expect. It’s likely to weigh more than 2 pounds and it may come rolled up, like ours was, or it could be quite a bit longer if stretched out. Tongue is a fairly fatty piece of meat and it’s covered in a thin layer of skin, but you don’t have to deal with any of this while the meat is still raw. Most of the fat cooks off and the skin easily slides off with the help of a knife after the meat has cooked.

Kerry simmers the tongue for several hours with onion, shallot, garlic, jalapeno, red pepper flakes and bay leaf. You can also cook it all day in a Crock Pot with a little bit of liquid or braise it in the oven like a roast. We went for a faster method and put ours in a pressure cooker for just over an hour. As the tongue cooks, your kitchen will be filled with the same rich, savory and appetizing aroma that any other cut of beef gives off. While it’s cooking and your appetite is building, it’s a good time to think about how you’re going to serve the tongue meat. It can be eaten plain (many people recommend dipping it in mustard), pickled, or sautéed until crispy. It’s commonly used in dishes like tacos or can be mixed in with almost any kind of vegetable.

Meat from the tongue is prized for its tenderness and a rich flavor similar to pot roast or brisket. In fact, unless you told someone they were eating tongue meat, the flavor would probably lead them to assume they were eating a more common cut of beef.

So you see, there really isn’t anything to be afraid of. If you’ve ever considered eating more of a cow than just a steak, or if you’re simply looking for a bargain cut of meat, now is the perfect time to give tongue a try.


  • 1 beef tongue
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno (optional), sliced in half or minced
  • Pinch of red chili flakes
  • 1 bay leaf


Put all ingredients into a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then turn it down to a simmer for about 3 hours until tender. Let cool until you are able to handle. Peel off skin and slice.

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51 thoughts on “Tender Beef Tongue with Onions and Garlic”

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  1. When I was a kid, my dad turned me on to tongue sandwiches at the deli.
    So now this sounds good as cold leftovers in a lettuce wrap!

    1. I also had tongue when growing up. My Mum used to press it under an old iron after cooking. I buy tongue from my local butcher for $5 aus. quite frequently. I serve it hot with a parsley sauce.

      1. Hi,
        I cook the tongue in Pressure Cooker.I hr at 15Lbs pressure.Slice up half of it for Sanwiches and make Tongue and Tomato and rice Soup(Yum) with the rest.Cook the tongue with Onion ,Garlic,Salt ,Pepper.
        I have it on my Mind to try it in Chili soon.

  2. Mom served this often when we were growing up. My family liked it sliced cold in sandwiches more than served hot. I’d have it again if it wasn’t for my scaredy-cat hubby.

  3. Since its a muscle, it’s high in protein, low in sodium, no sugar or carbs, also high in vitamin B-12, which helps produce red blood cells. https://www.ehow.com/m/about_5426671_cow-tongue.html. I too ate this gowing up in soups mostly & never thought of eating it again til now. Thanks for posting. & thanks Kerry for sharing this recipe.

  4. I will have to give this a try. We bought a half cow about a month or so ago with the organs. We have a bunch of liver, the heart and a few other things. I am not sure if we got the tongue, but if so I will try this recipe.

  5. I’ve never had tongue before, I’m kind of afraid to try it. But the rest of the ingredients and the preparation make it sounds pretty good.

    I know if it was a regular type of meat, like a flank or something, it would be delicious, so this might just be delicious too!

    Ken Rogers

  6. We recently purchased a side of 100% pastured, grass-fed beef. I requested all of the offal, as well as the tallow and bones for bone broth.

    One of the kidneys has already gone into homemade dog food, as will the heart most likely, but I wanted to cook the tongue for my family (along with the liver, which I love) and was wondering how.

    Thank you! Now I have all sorts of ideas!

  7. oh, i’m so glad you posted this! i grew up eating tongue. we would have it presented full on tongue-like on a plate…usually in a spicy, tomatoey creole sauce. my dad and i used to fight over the tip.

    (wow, there’s not a way that all of that can’t be taken out of context, right?)

    it is still one of my very favorite meats.

  8. I had the same childhood experience as you, Cassandra. We ate tongue regularly, and I liked it cold in the sandwiches my mom made the next day. Tongue just seemed normal, but now it seems very obscure. Even now, my brother cooks a tongue for himself on New Years Day, but he rarely finds anyone who will eat it with him. I’m glad to read that Mark is suggesting tongue.

  9. After I totally failed w/ my beef heart recipe, I had to sneak the tongue in on my hubby. I was making pot roast, and didn’t have a big enough roast, so I threw in tongue, too! I just cut off the skin (would have been easier if I’d’ done it when it was still partially frozen), then threw it in with the roast.

    I use a pretty standard roast recipe – brown w/ onions & garlic in tallow, then braise in wine, broth, tomatoes, & bay leaf for hours, adding carrots & potatoes half hour before I want to serve it. By then, the tongue had fallen apart just like the chuck roast, and no one in the family noticed that there was any kind of different meat in there – not even I could figure out which was the tongue and which was the chuck. Delicious!

  10. Is there a big difference with grass-fed and grain in this part of the animal?

  11. Awesome stuff. The only beef I eat for a month once was beef tongue and heart. I’ll just say that it got a little strange. I became a bit too affectionate towards the severed tongues of ruminants.

  12. Well, this recipe covers half of what I do with beef tongue. I strain the water after cooking, add to it some organic garlic & herbs tomato sauce, plus sliced mushrooms, bring it to a boil, then add the peeled and sliced beef tongue and let it simmer for like 10 minutes. It’s just fantastic.

  13. I’ve tried beef tongue. It wasn’t bad, but I admit I didn’t know what I was eating. I couldn’t bring myself to try it if I knew what it was. I know it’s just another part of the cow, but I can’t do liver either – yuck! I think it’s fantastic though to feature recipes that are out of our comfort level though. Some will do it, and others won’t. This time is a won’t for me.

  14. I have been planning on having some tongue for years. I have friends who ate it when they were kids. I am buying this at my next convenience, when family members are not around ;-). The do not trust me as it is. I might just BBQ it in the crock pot.

  15. What a coincidence for this post. I was out with friends on Friday and we stopped at a taco stand and from other posts on eating more then the normal stuff I decided to try a Taco de lengua. WOW, it was delicious. Texture of a very tender pot roast with lots of flavor. I’ll be having it again next time I’m out and about and in the mood for a taco. It’s different then the carne asada but every bit as good and much more tender.

  16. You know that’s really good to know. Because when finances are a bit tight, there is no need to have to sacrifice flavor or the satisfaction that comes with eating beef,it’s what’s for dinner.

  17. Mamma Grok, That sounds like a good idea. I wonder if I can do that without laughing my butt off during mealtime.:-D

  18. I, too, grew up eating beef tongue as my grandfather raised supurb beef, (he didn’t eat pork). We always had a hind quarter hanging that my dad, who wasa butcher) would cut as needed. My mother always boiled tongue with pickling spices, maybe added a bit of salt, but whenever I have cooked it I never did add salt to the water. Delicious with a bit of mustard on a sandwich.

    As for eating beef heart and liver (with smothered onions), we always had that many times. My other grandfather did raise pigs and so we had the best of both worlds.

    Doesn’t everyone enjoy chicken livers and gizzards?

  19. We had tongue quite often when I was growing up, both beef tongue and moose tongue (I grew up in Alaska), most often on sandwiches (which I realize aren’t a thing to discuss on this website). Good stuff, hot or cold. Our local Wal-Mart sells tongue. Funny thing is, it used to be fairly cheap, but now that the hispanic population has increased, the price has just about doubled.

    1. You’re right about the tongue price. It used to be a so-called “cheap” cut; now at about $5 per lb., it’s fairly expensive – certainly more than pot roast. Also, for all the scaredy cats, you’ll eat rump roast, won’t you? Now where do you suppose THAT came from?….:). We have always had it boiled (yup, just like Mom used to do!) with garlic, onion, celery, and a little horseradish. We’d also seperate lots of the fat out and make a sort of gravy with the water and veggies, delicious over mashed potatoes.

  20. I thought that I might purchase some beef tongue and when I saw how expensive it was, I changed my mind. Is beef tongue a rich soiurce of nutrietns not found in an everyday pot roast?

  21. I read tongue is high in fat and huge caloric number, is this misleading?

  22. A platter of cold sliced ham and tongue was standard fare in summer in English and colonial countries in the ’60s. What you don’t want is something that obviously resembles a huge lolling tongue – erk. But ham and tongue thinly sliced and nicely arranged on a bed of rocket and baby spinach satisfies both eye and stomach. We would have it with horseradish or mustard pickles and it’s good as sandwiches on rye bread.

  23. Just made this minus the shallot and jalapeño – didn’t have it. Turned out awesome!
    I can see how this cut would have fallen out of vogue. Most people are used to nice tidy packaged cuts of meat that look nothing like parts of an animal. My husband won’t even eat chicken on the bone, LOL!
    If you’re looking to be able to afford grass-fed beef on a grocery store budget, this is definitely a way to do it. I sliced up the pieces that looked pretty much like London broil, and chopped up the less attractive,fattier base and charred it a little bit with onion and chili powder. It tasted bsolutely wonderful, and more tender than even the grass-fed steaks I get when I have money to splurge!

  24. How-do-you-do, just needed you to know I have added your site to my Google bookmarks because of your extraordinary blog layout. But seriously, I think your site has one of the freshest theme Ive came across. It really helps make reading your blog a lot easier.

  25. I’m trying to find out why tongue is often pressed, but Google is failing me. I’m guessing it’s just a matter of presentation, but wondered if anybody knows?

  26. This is great. We grew up on tongue, which mother would cook in water plus old pickle juice after the pickles were eaten. She threw in pickling spices including cloves and bay leaf and mustard seed (it was a pickling spice mix), and simmered the tongue for 3-4 hours. She’d peel the skin, slice and serve hot with Dijon mustard and sometimes with horseradish. Extra ended up on sandwiches the next day.

    No one ever thought anything weird about it in our house.

    Nowadays I buy it (and usually make it the way mother did, usually with apple cider vinegar instead of pickle juice, because I don’t go through enough pickles, myself) from a farmer’s market for a price that is actually welll under the supermarket price (when you can find it in a supermarket).

    I am doing something different and crockpotting mine today, without the vinegar.

  27. Made this recipe last week. Excellent! Tasted like very tender roast beef. Thanks for posting it!

  28. Made this tonight, first time ever eating tongue. I didn’t add jalapeno and instead added a whole mess of fresh thyme and rosemary. Absolutely delicious! Flavor is exactly that of stewed beef but beefier and very reminiscent of whatever else you throw into the pot. Couldn’t be easier to make either, practically fool-proof. This is by far the best first step into eating offal for both primal and non-primal alike. Well done!

  29. Tongue is much easier to peel after it’s cooked if you let it cool completely. My favorite Chinese recipe for fresh tongue involves boiling it (the day before), cooling it, peeling it and then braising it whole in a covered wok in a mixture of reduced sodium soy sauce, rice wine, water, sugar or Splenda and green onions (the usual Chinese marinade). Check it every 15 minutes or so and turn several times over 30 min to an hour. Slice before serving. Can thicken any left over braising liquid w cornstarch & water & serve with it (though there isn’t usually much & it’s very salty). Serve it lots of white or brown rice and a stir fried vegetable or salad.

  30. Cow tongue I heard is good and I was watching someone boil the cow tongue for 3 hours. I’m talking about soft and tender meat it looked so good I am willing to try it out. I read everyones commets and they all say the same thing good stuff to eat. So I will try it out tomorrow and eat it with corn tortillas the taco way. MMMMMM good. Thanks for everyone for encouraging me to try it out. Its all good and I believe everyone one of you.

  31. I love tongue!
    My mother would make it a few times a year. Later, when grown, I’ve had it frequently in Mexican cuisine, tacos and such. Wonderful! I can’t wait to try this recipe!

  32. If you don’t eat beef tongue, you are missing one of the finer things in this life….only got one life….go ahead and try it, you’ll be glad you did.

  33. I cooked this in my slow cooker on low for 7 hours. We were out for the day and came home to this amazing smell. The meat was melt in your mouth tender with a heavenly texture. Super easy and divine. A family favorite. (I put it in the section of my recipe binder called “Inexpensive AND easy” ). Oh wait, I did add one thing…a few beef bones. I usually throw those in, after reading in “Nourishing Traditions” how incredibly good for your health beef stock is (the real thing simmered a long time with real bones, to draw out the nutrients).

  34. My Mom used to cook tongue and serve in sandwiches. However she always called them “Mother-In-Law Sandwiches”. I have one in the pressure cooker right now.

  35. I am simmering a beef tongue right now and I am so looking forward to the sandwiches this week 🙂 I also grew up on this recipe and I recommend it to anyone!

  36. This is a fun new experience for me. Just made this recipe and I’m curious if this great smelling juice can now be a broth? I’m new to even eating red meat so I’m not sure. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe!

  37. This recipe is now my new go to for beef tongue. I made it for the very first time today and it was out of this world delicious. I will be making it again, soon.

  38. Just made beef tongue in the pressure cooker and it turned out great! It’s like a mild, tender beef pot roast. Peeling it was super easy. I didn’t even cool it off first, just took it out of the broth and pulled at the peel with two forks. It pretty much fell away. The dog will get the peel and the few gristly bits as part of her breakfast. The cat adored the cooked tongue and he’s really picky! (The dog will pretty much eat anything! lol)

  39. I just made chili with brisket and tongue. I wonder why, or if is necessary for any reason other than aesthetic, to skin the tongue. I cooked the skin with the rest. After all, aren’t we eating the “whole animal”?

  40. Thanks for this recipe! I have a beef tongue ready to go. We’re planning to have it cold tomorrow for lunch. My partner rembers cold tongue, my kids are keen to try it…in to the pot it goes!!!

  41. My mother made souse every year when the hogs were butchered. She always added beef tongue to the mix. It was spicy and delicious and great with crackers or on a sandwich. My husband would not touch it because of the name, “head cheese”. He worked on a tugboat early in our marriage and the captain brought store-bought souse onboard for sandwiches and he liked it and asked me what souse was? When I told him, he said, “I’ll be darn”. After that he tried my mother’s homemade souse and liked it better. He loves liver & onions.
    Personally, I can’t get past the smell of the kidneys to cook them. My husband will not knowingly eat the heart. I have cooked it, ground it up and added it to gravy and he was none the wiser.
    When I was growing up, we ate what we raised, caught or grew in the garden. My husband’s family bought theirs, mostly.

  42. I grew up eating cow’s tongue in my Portuguese/Chinese home. I love it! Looking forward to trying out this recipe. 🙂

  43. What do you do with the onion etc that simmered along with the tongue? They cant taste good anymore at that point right?? Just toss ’em out?

  44. I don’t have a pressure cooker, but I DO have a crockpot so I’d like to try slow-cooking my tongue that way. What do you mean by “a little bit of liquid”?? Does that mean I don’t have to cover the tongue completely in water? How much is “a little bit”?

    1. Amanda, no need to completely submerbe the tongue, although you certainly can without negative effect. You can add water until it is about a third to half covered, no more is needed. As it slow cooks, it will release more juices. I like to baste it occasionally as it slow cooks. The hubby and I prefer to add only sea salt.

  45. My dad use to cook it for a Lil wild about a hour take the skin off the tongue then put it in beef broth and onions and and garlic sea salt Black pepper and Lil cayenne pepper garlic powder lil water cook it 4 hours and then take out the oven and put bay leafes add corn starch Lil vinegar and water and lil Roux let it cook 3houres and serve to us with rice and gravy and a vegetable. You’re recipe sounds yummy thanks for recipe I’m try your