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How to Cook Tender Beef Tongue – The Easy Way

Sliced cow tongue with horseradish
Sliced cow tongue with horseradish

Cow tongue, beef tongue, ox tongue – no matter what you call it, learning how to cook beef tongue may seem intimidating, but it's surprisingly easy to do.

The simple cooking method that I like to use creates a tender, delicious cut of meat that can be served like a roast or sliced thin and used cold for sandwiches. Since we buy our beef in bulk from a local friend who raises grass-fed beef, it's important for us to be able to use up all the organ meats.

How to Cook Beef Tongue – Step by Step with Photos

The first time I cooked beef tongue, I had some help from my big sister, Lois. After all, what are big sisters for if not to help you eat strange things? When we pulled the tongue out of the freezer, it looked like this.

raw beef tongue
Raw beef tongue on butcher paper

Cooking beef tongue couldn't be much more straightforward. The tongue doesn't have bones or connective tissue to deal with like other cuts. Mom always simmered it on the stove when we were kids, so that's what we did, too.

Just put it in a kettle or Dutch oven with about an inch of water over the top, and add plenty of aromatics – garlic scapes, onions, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and some celery.

cooking cow tongue
Cooking cow tongue on the stove top with aromatic herbs

Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours. When it finishes cooking, place the cooked tongue in an ice water bath to chill it enough to handle.

beef tongue in ice bath
Chill the tongue in an ice bath after cooking until it is cool enough to handle.

Once you can handle the tongue, peel off the skin. Don't let the meat cool too much, as the skin will stick. Trim with a small knife as needed.

peeling cow tongue after cooking
Peel the skin off the tongue when it is cool enough to handle.

Now you have an excellent piece of meat.

cooked beef tongue before slicing
The finished tongue is easy to slice, because you don't need to work around bone or gristle.

Slice thinly and serve with your choice of condiments. My brother Rich suggests horseradish. Get a recipe for homemade horseradish sauce here.

slicing beef tongue

It's very tender and delicious. It melts in your mouth. The boys couldn't tell it wasn't a “regular” roast. I find it more tender than a regular rump roast.


Beef Tongue Recipe

Slow simmered with aromatic spices, this easy beef tongue recipe can be served hot or cold.

  • Author: Laurie Neverman
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Total Time: 3 hours 5 minutes
  • Yield: 12 servings
  • Category: main dish


  • cow tongue (normally around 3 pounds or 1.3kg)
  • seasoning- 1 onion, 3 cloves garlic or garlic scapes (or more), 3-4 bay leaves, celery, salt and pepper to taste, or other spices of your choice


  1. Wash the cow tongue.
  2. Place the tongue in a large stock pot or Dutch oven with the seasonings and enough water to cover.
  3. Cover and simmer the cow tongue for 2-3 hours (cook time).
  4. Chill the tongue in an ice bath until just cool enough to handle and peel immediately.
  5. Slice and serve hot or chill and serve cold.


Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container and use within 2-3 days, or freeze for longer storage.

Keywords: beef tongue, cow tongue

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How to use Beef Tongue?

Use cow tongue like any roast beef: straight with gravy and potatoes, in Chinese and Mexican dishes, topping for salads, casserole, stew, or as an excellent roast beef sandwich. Pair it with some salsa verde in lengua tacos!

Cow Tongue FAQs

What is cow tongue called?

Beef tongue is known as “lengua” in Spanish, “langue de boeuf,” in French, and “lingua di manzo” in Italian. Whatever you call it, it's tender and flavorful qualities make it a favorite ingredient in various global culinary traditions.

Is beef tongue healthy to eat?

Beef tongue or cow tongue is a nutritious meat choice and can be a healthy addition to your diet. It is relatively lean and provides essential nutrients. Here's some nutritional information for beef tongue per 3-ounce (85-gram) cooked serving:

  • Calories: Approximately 150 calories
  • Protein: About 19 grams
  • Fat: Around 8 grams
  • Cholesterol: Approximately 70 milligrams
  • Iron: Provides a significant amount of iron, an essential mineral for red blood cell production.
  • Zinc: Contains zinc, which is vital for the immune system and overall health.
  • Vitamin B12: Rich in vitamin B12, which is important for nerve function and energy production.
  • Other B Vitamins: It also provides other B vitamins, like niacin and riboflavin.

It's important to note that the exact nutritional content varies depending on preparation and any additional ingredients used in the dish. Overall, beef tongue is a good source of high-quality protein and several essential nutrients.

What does cow tongue taste like?

Beef tongue or cow tongue has a distinctive flavor and texture. When properly cooked, it is tender and quite flavorful. The taste of beef tongue is often described as rich, beefy, and slightly sweet. You can crisp the texture up by sauteing it in a pan with oil or fat.

Whether it's stewed, grilled, or cooked in an Instant Pot, tongue adds a unique element to any meal. Proper cooking and seasoning are vital in bringing out the best in beef tongue and ensuring it is tender and delicious.

Do you peel a beef tongue before you cook it?

You definitely want to peel the tongue before serving, but I find it easiest to do right after cooking. The outer layer of the tongue is the “skin” or “membrane”. The skin can be tough and not very palatable, so peeling it is an essential step to make the meat more tender and enjoyable.

tender sliced beef tongue

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The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating
Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time-Honored Ways are the Best - Over 700 Recipes Show You Why
Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal [A Cookbook]
The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating
The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating
Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time-Honored Ways are the Best - Over 700 Recipes Show You Why
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Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal [A Cookbook]
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Laurie Neverman holding her bread book

This article is written by Laurie Neverman. Laurie grew up in the kitchen, learning baking and home cooking from her momma. At age 15, she and her mom and two sisters created Irene’s Custom Cakes & Catering, which was her summer job through most of high school and college.

Originally published in 2011, last updated in 2023.

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  1. Just bought 3 cow tongues at the locker. I put one in the crock pot for 5 hours. It is better than $25 a lb. ribeye. Stretch that food dollar. Great with noodles and can of mushroom soup.

  2. Another option is to have it ground up with the hamburger meat. This makes it less intimidating. 👍

  3. We had cow tongue a fair amount when I was growing up, but I have never been brave enough to try it myself. Thanks for explaining so thoroughly how to do it!!

  4. Hello, I’m the staff of the Korean broadcasting program [After School Korea School Trip]. In our program, a story about cow’s tongue food came out. Therefore, I want to use the cow tongue picture you posted on the site as a data screen, so I am leaving a comment. We will leave a source when we use the picture. The source will remain [Source – COMMON SENSE HOME]. Is it okay if we use the picture?

  5. My mom and myself cooked it the same as your recipe but when it was done she sprinkled Hungarian paprika on it and fried it in a pan for a few minutes on each side.
    My kids also love all kind of meats.
    Liver, brains, sweet breads, mountain oysters, tripe, etc. Too bad Americans are missing out on this delicious foods.

    1. My mom used to say, “People don’t know what’s good.” Too many people have gotten used to a narrow range of foods (often highly processed) and they have a hard time eating anything else.

  6. As a hunter, this is one part of the elk and deer I’ve never utilized. Plan on eating this in the field when I harvest my game. I do eat the heart and liver and testicles. Liver and testicles I fry. Heart I like pickled, made into jerky, fried or a Moroccan style heart stew. All so yummy! Thanks for sharing this. Definitely a harvest night treat in the back country!

  7. I had a Mexican friend tell me if the tongue is cooked long and slow, it won’t need peeled? Is this true?

    1. If you’re hungry enough you can eat just about anything. The skin (well cooked) certainly wouldn’t kill you. The skin on the tongue has been in contact with everything the animal licked, from food to backside, but it gets washed and sterilized during cooking.

      I peel because of the texture of the skin. Even after long cooking, it tends to be rubbery. It’s a bit like a pair of rubber galoshes that fit over the tongue.

  8. I’m an old lady who has raised animals all her life and we ate any we wanted including wild game. Dad was careful to be sure it was properly dressed and stored but we ate all the animal. I no longer save the brains and sweetmeats but all the rest can be very tasty. Liver and kidneys need to be soaked in milk a few hours to lessen the bitter taste. Wild game often benefits from this too. The gelatin “stuff” that holds meats and vegetables together in a loaf for slicing is made from long boiling of bones with gristle on the ends–most of the long bones and the ox tail. Not a lot of meat on the tail but cut into joints it can make a wonderful gelled sandwich meat or stew. And congratulations on using chicken feet for broth. The need to have the toe nails cut off and the skin removed after scalding them then washed and cooked for broth. Such broth is so very rich and flavorful.

    1. Waste not, want not. Broth made with bone and cartilage is full of nutrition.

      We skin the feet and peel off the nail coverings rather than cutting off the tips, so nothing that was in contact with chicken poop remains.

  9. I grew up eating cow tongue and never thought anything of it. It’s delicious without anything but some salt. I have one in the freezer and can’t wait to make it. My husband had it and liked it as well even though he never had had it before.

  10. I live in Texas.Mexicans call it lingua and it is great on tacos!My husband who swore he would never eat it (cuz he could tell the difference and it would make him sick)has been eating them and commenting on how tender the “roast” is for about 9 of our 20 years of marriage????The secret I found is slicing it and never letting him see me cook it.Delicious!

    1. There you go. My mother-in-law hasn’t wanted to eat my soup since she found out I use chicken feet to make the stock, but she says as long as she doesn’t see them, she’s okay.

  11. My favourite meal int he whole world that I can remember from a very young age is Ox Tongue in Sherry Sauce.
    This was cooked by my grandmother’s chef Harry Patterson at the Cape Turf Club and he had it down to a T simply delicious.
    Although the sauce was called Sherry sauce it was cooked in the conventional way to start in boiling water with bay leaves, onions, carrots – usual stockpot with salt and peppercorns but the it was placed in this sherry sauce which was oinionsm tomoattoes and green peppers cooked down in Demi glaze with white wine until everything was infused into each other. The tongue was then sliced and this naturally thickened sauce spooned over. Served with Mash and veg on the side. The best.
    I have tried to replicate this at home but don’t have a restaurant stock pot or deglazed pans so can’t seem to get the original flavour that I remember. If only he was still alive.

  12. How would I make the cooked Tongue into pressed Tongue with the jelly in and around it? I love Lunch Tongue that you buy in the Supermarkets and would love to try and recreate myself. I think the jelly is made using some of the stock and gelatine, do you have any suggestions that might help me? Thank you

    1. I’ve never purchased pressed tongue, but from a little digging around on the internet, it looks like the beef tongue is cooked as directed, and then while it’s still warm, it’s pressed tightly into a loaf pan. The pan is covered with a weighted plate, and then the whole thing is left to chill for around half a day. The gelatin is formed from the natural juices that are in the tongue as they chill.

  13. I had a beef tongue in my freezer, and after reading your recipe got the nerve to try it out. It’s cooking as I type! I’m not going to tell my husband what he is eating till after consumption! Sure hope it turns out as good I’ve heard it can be.

  14. Me and my daughter’s love it, especially the back part. The front makes great sandwiches. I Hook it, peel it and hen add veggies and tomato sauce and let it cool for an hour. Great meal. Lamb tongue cook in sauce till tender, peel add veggies, potatoes carrots onions let it simmer.