Taco de Lengua: Beef Tongue Tacos

Contains:  Nightshades, dairy. 

NOTE:  I’m posting this recipe in two parts today:  one, the salsa verde, the second the tacos de lengua.  Some may want just the salsa and may want to steer well clear of any meat such as the tongue.  (Or, may not be able to find some.)  Although, do note that you can substitute in shredded pork shoulder (carnitas).

Mexican, recipe, tacos, lengua, tongue, salsa verde

A completed taco, ready for folding and eating.

A decade or so ago, I was on jury duty in Danbury, CT, and across the street is a largely-authentic Mexican eatery, adjoining a Mexican grocery.  Promptly at noon, we’d be let out to fend for ourselves for lunch for exactly one hour – it was rather strange to me for a task to stop precisely at noon, practically mid phrase of a spoken deposition – my own job didn’t work like that!  We worked until we had a sensible stopping point, and on a few days you just grabbed a bite at your desk, or took it to a meeting.

recipe, Mexican, Salsa Verde, Tacos de Lengua

The ingredients for both the Salsa Verde and for the Tacos de Lengua.

Anyhow, there were only two or three places to eat near enough to walk to (if you left by car, you’d never find a parking spot upon return) to be back precisely by one (some people did bring their own lunches), but this Mexican eatery, while it didn’t look like much and the juke box was way too loud for the middle of the day, was the real thing.

Mexican, recipe, tacos, lengua, tongue, salsa verde

Yummers! (If in doubt: If you didn’t know what it was, and you like beef, you’d like this…)

I ordered the tongue tacos one of those days fulfilling my civic duty.   They were quite good, as I’d expected (being as I like beef tongue).  So, I figured, with my new beef tongue, I’d attempt this Mexican dish, with an eye to some level of authenticity.

For tacos, I needed to cook the tongue  a shreddable level of time.  I had no intention of turning all the meat into tacos, and overall only certain recipes work best shredded:  taco meats, carnitas, that sort of thing.  I wanted slices out of the rest.

Mexican, recipe, tacos, lengua, tongue, salsa verde

For the tongue

So, I cooked the whole tongue 4 hours on high in my crock pot, cut off the parts I wanted to cook longer, and cooked those (after de-skinning) another two hours.  This also allowed the Mexican seasonings to permeate the meat.

Mexican, recipe, tacos, lengua, tongue, salsa verde

Shredded beef tongue, with spices added.

It felt weird not adding something acidic like vinegar or dill pickle juice to the tongue during its slow-cookery, but, well, something different, as they say.  (The family had been eating Mom’s tongue – don’t take that literally – since our early childhood, and for home cooking, it’s been the only way I’ve known.)

Mexican, recipe, tacos, lengua, tongue, salsa verde

Get bits of everything ready for assemblage of your taco. Again, note, you can use shredded pork carnitas instead of tongue.

I did take some liberties in lengua/tongue seasonings.  Recipes I checked online seemed to state adding nothing more than onion/salt during the slow cooking stage.  I couldn’t keep my hands that idle!

Mexican, recipe, tacos, lengua, tongue, salsa verde

Layered the seasoned meat, then the bell pepper… before adding lettuce and salsa atop what you see here.

Anyhow, here’s what I’ve come up with.  BTW, we found the guy guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two of the four charges.  You may not ever want to do it, but I found being a juror to be a valid learning experience on many levels, some possibly unintentional (I was only away from my own career for about four days, and to be honest, three of those days I went to work before and/or after the proceedings.)

lengua tacos done

Ready, set, go!

Cook Time:  6 hours for the slow cooker, maybe another ten minutes if you don’t eat this right away and need to re-heat the tongue.  
Prep Time:  5 minutes prior to slow cooking + 15 minutes just before the end of slow cooking.  10 minutes after.  (Salsa recipe will be separate.)
Rest Time:  Not necessary.
Serves:  For the amount of tongue I used in this recipe:  about ten tacos.
Cuisine:  Mexican
Leftovers:  Yes, just don’t assemble the next tacos until you are ready to eat them.

Taco de Lengua

Cooking the tongue:

  • 1 beef tongue, of which I used half, once slow-cooked.  Reserve the rest for other ideas.
  • 1 small onion, peeled and quartered.
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  • 1 teaspoon Annato,
  • 1 teaspoon ground ancho chili pepper

Prepping the tacos:

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ancho chili pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 colorful bell pepper, cut into slivers and de-seeded
  • Lettuce, hand-shredded
  • Salsa (see my Salsa Verde with Tomatillo, Avocado, Sour Cream recipe for an idea)
  • Other items at whim:  Cilantro, chopped tomato, hot sauce(s), heated re-fried beans and so forth.
  • Soft (or hard) corn tortillas

For the tacos, to shred this meat, simmer it for around 6 hours.  In this case, I used high, so that the tongue would shred more effectively for the purpose of tacos.  At any rate, add the ingredients under “Cooking the Tongue” into the slow cooker when you start it up.

When you pull it out, let it cool just enough that you can remove the skin.  It is really difficult to remove skin from cold tongue.

Take the warm shredded tongue, and mix in the chili powder, oregano, paprika, salt and pepper, from the Prepping the Tacos ingredient list.  (Re-heat the tongue if necessary; use either the microwave for a minute and a half, or put the tongue in a small oven safe bowl that you cover tightly, and into a pre-heated (350 F / 175 C) oven for about ten minutes.  THEN mix in the spices.)  

I heat up the soft taco shells (microwave or in the oven on a low setting, such as 225 F / 105 C) until just warmed.

Layer down the meat, then the pepper slivers, then the lettuce.  Top with a spread of salsa, then any other item that you would love to finish with (suggested in the optional ingredients list).

Fold up, serve and eat!

lengua tacos done logo

Yes, it’s Fiesta Friday once again!  I’m happy to be re-joining as a co-host this week, along with the marvelous Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau.

And we are also off to share with What’s For Dinner, Sunday Link Up!




About goatsandgreens

The foodie me: Low/no gluten, low sugars, lots of ethnic variety of foods. Seafood, offal, veggies. Farmers' markets. Cooking from scratch, and largely local. The "future" me: I've now moved to my new home in rural western Massachusetts. I am raising chickens (for meat and for eggs) and planning for guinea fowl, Shetland sheep, and probably goats and/or alpaca. Possibly feeder pigs. Raising veggies and going solar.
This entry was posted in Cooking, Meats, Offal, South of the Border and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Taco de Lengua: Beef Tongue Tacos

  1. Irene says:

    Yay, Mexican food! I must confess I have never tried tongue, but your recipe made me want to give it a try!

    • Tongue is definitely worth the try. It’s nothing like liver or sweetbreads, if that’s your concern. Oh, and yes, I need to do more Mexican recipes. There’s a great Mexican/South American grocery about 50 minutes from here.

      • Irene says:

        I should try cooking tongue for sure, then. Wow, you are so lucky! I can find corn tortillas and a few basic products in my area, but for the most part, I have to rely on going to the US or Toronto and stock up.

      • I only seem to find tongue at farmers’ markets or meat shares, if that helps. Hope you can stock up on things soon.

  2. Snuffy says:

    Tacos de lengua are my favorite! I learned how to cook it from a friend from Mexico a long time ago. I use onion, garlic, salt, bay leaf and cumin (as I am nightshade free). Like the most tender pot roast you ever had. My only mistake was letting my son see the tongue before I cooked it, otherwise I’m sure he would have loved it, too!

  3. Pingback: Whole30 Chicken Meatballs in Coconut Curry Sauce - The Not So Creative Cook

  4. Ewelinka says:

    Great job! Lengua rocks! I might make these next week. Thanks for sharing.
    Happy cooking!
    You might like some of my recipes.

  5. Do not cook it but good to know. Friday Fiesta Rocks!

  6. I am so happy you are posting recipes for meats like tongue. My French educated mother used to make it all the time, and we loved it. But I haven’t seen it in the stores here, I will have to check the Mexican grocery. It’s a shame that meats like this, and sweetbreads, aren’t as common in the U.S.

    • If you have a large enough Mexican grocery, you may find it. I’ve very rarely seen it in supermarkets, but it used to be very common when I was growing up. I get mine at farmers’ markets.

  7. This is such an amazing recipe. I remember my parents would make tongue and sweetbreads curry in India and we would not touch it as kids. Now I crave that moment. Thanks for bringing it to the forefront ❤

  8. helenfern says:

    My husband loves lengua – I’ve never tried to prepare it. These look good – Thanks for sharing at the What’s for Dinner party. Have a great week.

  9. Pingback: Sous Vide Bison Tongue: Low Temperature, Steak Style – Two Recipes | Of Goats and Greens

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