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Authentic Tacos de Lengua Recipe (Beef Tongue Tacos)

Authentic tongue street tacos are a dime a dozen in Mexico. Let us show you how to recreate that authentic flavor with the tastiest, melt-in-your-mouth, fork-tender cut of beef you’ve ever tasted.

Tongue might seem an odd choice for tacos, but because it’s a muscle, the slow braising of the tongue makes it melt-in-your-mouth tender and chock full of flavor.

If the look and feel of tongue grosses you out, rest assured, after it’s cooked and that outer layer is removed, it’s virtually unrecognizable as tongue.

If you’re still not convinced, it might just be time to pull up your big girl panties and try something new. Let’s eat some “offal”!

Today’s recipe is inspired from a month-long trip I took in my early 20’s to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Just down the street from our apartment there was a street taco vendor. We went there nearly every day for lunch. But on our first visit, in my ignorance, I saddled myself up to the counter and asked the street vendor to give me his best taco!

Once in front of me I added a scoop of onions, a spoonful of salsa verde, a sprinkling of cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Then I took my first bite…

SO HEAVENLY! The soft, warm tortilla hugged the meat and toppings, even the pieces that fell out the end were consumed, and I may have inhaled four within minutes. Then ordered more!

When I asked what they were, the answer “Tacos de Lengua” didn’t mean much to me (it’d been a while since high school Spanish class!). When my friend translated, I wasn’t thrown off in the slightest. I probably wouldn’t have batted an eyelash if he’d said they were opossum! Ya’ll, they were THAT good! I was just bummed I’d lived 20 years without these in my life!

Street tacos were found on many corners in this small city, and during the month I was there, I visited them all!

Once I came back home, I forgot all about them. You’ll be hard pressed to find many restaurants serving up Tacos de Lengua stateside. 

Fast forward 15 years…each year our family sources a locally raised, grass-fed cow to purchase. Once we get it back from the butcher, tacos de lengua are immediately added to our meal plan.

If you read our post on organ meats, offal refers to the parts that “off fall”, or fall off when the animal is butchered. Technically speaking, a tongue doesn’t fall off the animal but it’s lumped into the offal category along with the tail, feet, brain and “rocky mountain oysters” (google it!).

In my opinion, tongue tacos are the most tender, flavorful and mouth watering tacos known to man.

If you don’t have access to a whole cow,  you can often find tongue at Asian or Hispanic markets. Hop in the car and find some tongue…this is a dish you don’t wanna pass up.

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Tacos de lengua served on a plate

Tacos de Lengua & Tomatillo Salsa


  • Author: Full of Days
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 16-24 small tacos
  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Description

So tender and crispy, packed with flavor…these will be the best tacos you’ve ever had!


Ingredients

For the tongue:

  • 1 3-4 lb grass-fed beef tongue
  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and crushed (yes, the whole darn thing!)
  • 1 Tbs. black peppercorns
  • 2 Tbs. sea salt
  • Avocado oil (for frying)

For the Tacos

For the Tomatillo Salsa

  • 1 lb tomatillos, peeled.
  • 1/3 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 fist full of cilantro (about 1/4-1/2 cup)
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime
  • 1 small jalapeno, seeded (optional)
  • 1 tsp. sea salt

Instructions

  1. Fill a large stockpot 1/2-2/3 full with water. Add tongue, onions, crushed garlic, peppercorns and salt.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover and let cook for 3 hours until tender.
  3. Using tongs, carefully remove tongue from water and allow to cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes (until it’s cool enough to handle).
  4. Using a sharp knife, remove the outer layer of the tongue (the part with the taste buds…I know, gross!). 
  5. Cut tongue into 1/4 inch slices. Heat avocado oil in a frying pan and sear sliced tongue on each side (about 1 minute per side) until golden brown and slightly crispy.
  6. Chop up seared pieces of meat and serve up with desired toppings in lightly fried corn tortillas.

For Salsa:

  1. Peel tomatillos and add to a small pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for about five minutes, or until cooked through.
  2. Drain water and place tomatillos into a blender, add onion, cilantro, lime juice, jalepeno pepper (with or without seeds, the heat is in the seeds), and 1 tsp salt.
  3. Blend until smooth and adjust seasoning as needed according to preference.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 2 oz. (or 1/16th of recipe)
  • Calories: 322
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Sodium: 74mg
  • Fat: 25.3g
  • Saturated Fat: 9.2g
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Protein: 21.9g
  • Cholesterol: 150mg

Additional Tacos de Lengua Tips

The slow braising of the tongue makes it melt-in-your-mouth tender, and since tongue is a muscle, it’s chock full of flavor! If the look and feel of the tongue grosses you out, rest assured after it’s cooked that outer layer is removed and once it’s cut up, it’s virtually unrecognizable as tongue. One, three pound tongue is enough meat to make 18-24 small tacos.

Homemade Tomatillo Salsa (Green Salsa)

Store bought green salsa will do in a pinch, but for an easy, make-in-the-blender recipe follow these simple directions:

Peel one pound tomatillos, add to a pan and cover with water. Simmer about five minutes, or until cooked through. Place tomatillos into a blender, add 1/3 cup chopped onion, a big handful of cilantro (maybe 1/4-1/2 cup…I like lots!), juice from half a lime, one jalepeno pepper (with or without seeds, the heat is in the seeds), and 1 tsp salt. Blend until smooth and adjust seasoning as needed according to preference.

Looking for more dinner recipes? Try these:

Tacos De Lengua (Beef Tongue Tacos) Pinterest Pin

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Showing 8 comments
  • Erin
    Reply

    Could I marinate the meet in orange, lime, and vinegar with spices a day before like I would with carne asada or will it lose the flavor while it boils?

    • Kelsey Steffen
      Kelsey Steffen
      Reply

      Erin, that’s a great question! It’d be my recommendation to marinate your meat AFTER you boil it. Once you’ve sliced it, let it cool then put it in a marinade for a few hours (or overnight). Then cook it up in a pan with the extra marinade! Great idea, sounds delicious!

  • Mira
    Reply

    I’d actually like to try this! 🙂

    • Kelsey Steffen
      Kelsey Steffen
      Reply

      You should Mira! It’s only intimidating the first time! 😉

  • Andrea
    Reply

    The tacos were a huge hit! The meat was super tender! I was glad to discover that our cow was truly grass fed and grass finished by the piece of grass still on his tongue when I opened the packaging.

    • Jason Steffen
      Jason Steffen
      Reply

      Nice! Dinner and a salad! Gotta love that Traditional lifestyle!

  • Andrea
    Reply

    Thank you for this! We will be trying it tomorrow. I’ve had a tongue in my freezer for almost 2 years now and was just talking about making it last Friday. I’m glad I waited so I can try this recipe!

    • Kelsey Steffen
      Kelsey Steffen
      Reply

      That’s awesome Andrea! I hope you like it as much as we do!

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