If you learn only one deer tongue recipe, tacos de lengua should be it.
Mexican tongue tacos, or “lengua tacos” as pretty much ever English speaker calls them, are a food truck staple where I live in Northern California, and everyone does it slightly differently. The constant is long-braised meat that’s been peeled (tongues have skin on them that needs to be removed), chopped, shredded or sliced, then seared in lard.
If you’re not convinced, remember that tongue is just meat. And since it works all the time (deer chew cud, after all), a deer tongue is dense and full of connective tissue. Super flavorful, rich and meltingly tender, the little browned and seared edges complete things.
Once you chop the deer tongues, they just look like any other meat, so the squeamish need not know what you’re serving.
As to what you serve with your venison tacos de lengua, anything goes.
I prefer little corn tortillas, but flour tortillas, burritos, even the hard shells will work. You can also use this recipe as a filling for green enchiladas or enchiladas rojas.
You’ll want a typical taco spread, too. My preference is:
- Chopped cilantro or epazote.
- Chopped onions soaked in lime juice with a little salt
- Minced hot fresh chiles, like serranos, habaneros, cayenne or jalapenos
- Maybe some crumbled dry Mexican cheese like cotija
- Diced radishes for crunch
- Avocado adds some more richness. Slice or dice them.
- A salsa of your choice. I mostly will use homemade salsa verde
I can guarantee you that if you make these deer tongue tacos, you will win over the tongue haters. Just don’t tell them what they’re eating until the last tortilla is gone. I also have another version of tongue tacos, where you grill the braised venison to finish it.
As a side note, if you are not sure how to extract the tongue from the deer, elk, moose, etc. that you hunt, my friend Kevin Kossowan has a tutorial here.
Deer Tongue Tacos
- An elk moose or bison tongue, or 4 to 6 deer tongues
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, cracked
- 2 tablespoons salt
- A spring of epazote (optional)
- 3 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
- Corn tortillas
- Salsa, canned or homemade
- Diced or sliced avocado (optional)
- Chopped cilantro, onion, radish and serrano chiles
- Simmer the tongue. Put the tongue or tongues in a large pot and cover it with water by 2 inches. Bring the water to a simmer and add the onion, garlic, bay, black peppercorns, epazote and salt. Simmer the tongue until the sharp point of a thin knife will pierce it easily, about 2 to 3 hours.
- Prep the tongue. When the meat is tender, set it on a cutting board to cool somewhat. When it’s just barely cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and discard. You can do all this up to a week ahead if you want. Just cool the peeled tongue and wrap in plastic wrap, it’ll keep in the refrigerator a week.
- Brown the meat. When you’re ready to make the tacos, cut the tongue meat into large pieces. Sear in the lard until they’re nicely browned, then chop roughly. Serve on warm corn tortillas with the salsa, avocado, cilantro and other garnishes.
Kjell Hedstrom says
I absolutely love this recipe. I haven’t tried to freeze it before but will try it now. I.e after simmering and peeling them, jut into chunks large enough for each taco dinner, vacuum pack and freeze.
Then each taco dinner only requires thawing and frying them up. Not sure it’ll hold up well in the freezer but worth a try
I like to pressure cook mine – I find that 35 minutes at high pressure, and then leaving it to cool on its own to depressurize leaves a large, old beef tongue just about perfect. So I’m thinking 15, maybe 17 minutes will do just fine for this elk tongue I got off a very large bull tonight. I’ll be searing it off for tacos 3 ways: lard, beef tallow & bear tallow. I’ll let you know how it turns out ?
Andrew Thurow says
If I am going to sous vide the tongue. Do you think 170 is to high a temperature and would you add some fat to the bag during the sous vide or just when browning it up after the 24-36 hours?
Hank Shaw says
Andrew: 170F is good. And yes, I’d add fat.
Hank, could the tongue be pressure cooked instead of simmered? I use my pressure cooker a lot and have never (yet) tried it with tongue. I would have never thought to use radishes. I’ll have to try that. Radishes are about the only thing I can reliably grow in my garden but even that got attacked by bugs this last year.
Hank Shaw says
Tim: Yes, but I don’t know how. I don’t pressure can things. Need to learn…
I love lengua! Hopefully someone in my family gets some deer so I can try this!
Steve Elford says
I’m lucky to get one deer a year, could I pair this down for one tongue? Or just use the same amounts of everything with just the one whitetail tongue?
Hank Shaw says
Steve: I’d add other tongue meat to go with it – lamb is a perfect match, pork next and beef last. All will work, though.
Hi Hank…I’ve taken my first two deer in the last two seasons, and by the time I had skinned and butchered down to the upper shoulder area, I was just too tired to go further and try to get the tongue (which I had intended to do). But I’d like to in the future. Do you have recommendations on the best way to, err, extract it?
Hank Shaw says
Nic: The ole’ Colombian necktie: Cut the tongue out from underneath the lower jaw.