Sous Vide Tacos de Lengua Recipe

Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

The best tongue tacos I've had anywhere come from Rosticeria Cancun in East Boston's Maverick Square. Chef/owner Lionel Betancol braises the beef tongues in a rich tomato and onion-based broth before piling it into soft corn tortillas. It's an incredible dish, and one that'll make a believer out of anyone who's ever been afraid to try tongue. It's also quite involved to make.

Enter sous vide.

Not only does cooking a tongue sous vide make for complete set-it-and-forget-it ease (as it does with any braised or confit dish), it also creates a more flavorful finished product as the tongue slowly stews in its own juices.

Use those same juices combined with a bit of canned chipotle, and you've made yourself an easy salsa to go with it. I like to cook down the braised tongue in a skillet until it starts getting a bit crispy on the edges. Tongue is very moist, so you'll definitely want to go with the traditional double-wrap of corn tortillas.

Note: If you don't have a water bath, combine the seasoned tongue, cilantro, onion, tomato, and fat in a medium saucepan and add 1 cup chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to a sub-simmer, cover and cook until completely tender, about six hours, topping up with extra liquid as necessary.

Allow to cool and continue recipe as directed from step two. The best way to heat corn tortillas is to dip one in a bowl of water and transfer it to a hot non-stick or cast-iron skillet. Cook on the first side for about 30 seconds to a minute, then flip it over and cook just until the surface moisture has evaporated. It should be lightly charred in spots. Place the tortilla in a clean folded dish towel and repeat with the rest, stacking them as you go.

Recipe Facts

Active: 20 mins
Total: 72 hrs
Serves: 4 servings

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  • 1 cow or veal tongue, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 stems cilantro
  • 1 medium onion, split in half
  • 1 roma tomato, split in half
  • 2 tablespoons duck fat, pork fat, or canola oil
  • 4 chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, plus 1 tablespoon sauce
  • 1 lime
  • 16 to 24 corn tortillas
  • chopped onions, scallions, cilantro, and limes for serving


  1. Season tongue with salt and pepper and place in vacuum bag with cilantro, onion, tomato, and fat. Cook at 170°F until completely tender, at least 24 hours, and up to 48. Place bag in ice bath and cool completely, about 15 minutes.

  2. Open bag carefully and pour contents into large wire-mesh strainer set over bowl. Transfer tongue to cutting board and discard remaining solids. Carefully peel outer membrane off of tongue and discard. Chop tongue into 1/2-inch pieces.

  3. Combine chipoles, adobo sauce, and half of liquid from tongue in blender and blend until smooth. Season to taste with lime juice and salt. Set aside. Combine tongue and remaining liquid in heavy-bottomed 10 or 12-inch skillet. Bring to a simmer over high heat, reduce to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid is reduced and tongue has started to crisp, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  4. To serve, wrap a scoop of tongue in a double layer of corn tortillas. Top with chipotle sauce and diced onions, scallions, or cilantro as desired. Pass additional lime wedges.

Special equipment

Sous Vide Water Oven

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