Tacos de lengua, or tongue tacos, is a classic Mexican dish and a favorite among hunters who aren’t afraid to eat odd bits.
The tongue is a working muscle, just any other cut you commonly eat off a deer. Once you get past the mental barrier of having an animal’s tongue on yours, you can enjoy the unique character of this cut. Tongues are soft, bouncy, and rich with fat. This texture makes them perfect for frying until crispy, and serving in a taco.
This recipe is pretty straightforward, but does require you to simmer the tongue and peel of the rubbery, outer shell. For tips on how to peel tongue, check out my venison tongue with chimichurri video on YouTube.
Deer: 1-2, Elk: 2-4
Time to make
1-4 venison tongues
1 yellow onion, quartered
6 cloves of garlic, smashed
1-2 dried chilis (ancho, guajillo, etc.)
3 whole cloves
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. peppercorns
1 tsp. cumin seeds
3 bay leaves
Water for cooking
Ice water for cooling
Fresh chopped cilantro
Diced yellow onion
Sliced jalapeno, radishes, or avocado
Salsa Verde or Pico de Gallo
Also works with
Deer, antelope, caribou, elk, moose
large pot, sauté pan
- Scrub the tongues clean under running water with a potato scrubber. You don’t want any dirt or debris in the braising liquid.
- Place the tongue, onion, garlic, chilis, clove, salt, peppercorns, cumin seeds, and bay leaves in a large pot with enough water to cover the top. Cover with a lid and turn the heat to the lowest setting. Allow the tongue to gently simmer for several hours. A small deer tongue may take about 3 hours, but a large elk tongue could take up to 6 hours or longer. You will know they are ready when the meat is fork tender and you can easily slide a knife between the outer skin and meat.
- Plunge the tongues in cold water until cool to the touch. Use as sharp knife to prick under the thick outer shell in order to separate it from the meat. Have patience and peel this outer layer off. The top portion may peel easily with your fingers, but the bottom of the tongue may need a little more work.
- At this point, you can cook the tongue immediately or store it inside the braising liquid in the refrigerator for up to three days. If time is not a concern, I prefer the latter option. To do so, strain the solids from the liquids and return the peeled tongues back to the pot and let them soak to absorb the rich flavors and deep coloration.
- Roughly chop the tongue into small pieces.
- Heat a large cast iron or sauté pan over high-heat. Add a drizzle of cooking oil or lard into the pan and quickly sear the chopped tongue until crispy and brown.
- Serve inside of tortillas with your choice of the suggested toppings.