Is beef tongue fattening?

Beef tongue is a nutritious and flavorful cut of meat that comes from the tongue of a cow. It’s a unique cut that not everyone is familiar with, but it can make a delicious addition to various dishes. Some people wonder if beef tongue has a high fat content and is therefore fattening. This article will explore whether or not beef tongue is high in fat and calories compared to other cuts of beef. We’ll also look at its nutritional profile and how to cook beef tongue to enjoy its benefits without going overboard on fat and calories.

Calories and Fat in Beef Tongue

Beef tongue is considered a lean cut of meat, meaning it has less visible fat marbled throughout than cuts like ribeye or tenderloin. According to the USDA, a 3 ounce serving of boiled beef tongue contains:

Calories Protein Fat Saturated Fat
122 18g 4g 1.5g

Compared to the same serving size of ribeye, which packs 165 calories and 10g of fat, beef tongue is significantly leaner. It has fewer total calories and less than half the fat content.

When evaluating the fat and calorie content, beef tongue is one of the leanest cuts of beef available. It contains less intramuscular fat than fattier cuts like ribeye or tenderloin. The fat content is comparable to cuts like eye of round, top sirloin, and flank steak.

So in terms of calories and fat, beef tongue could be considered a diet-friendly cut of beef. The fat and calorie content is relatively low, especially when served without additional high-fat ingredients.

Nutritional Benefits of Beef Tongue

In addition to being lean, beef tongue contains an impressive nutrition profile. Some of the health benefits associated with beef tongue include:

  • High in protein – A 3 ounce serving contains 18g of protein, supporting muscle growth and maintenance.
  • Rich in iron – Provides about 15% of the RDI for iron, an important mineral that prevents anemia.
  • Source of zinc – Supplies 18% of the RDI for zinc, which bolsters immunity and wound healing.
  • Contains B-vitamins – Provides small amounts of B-vitamins including niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin B12.
  • Low in sodium – Contains just 75mg of sodium per serving, supporting healthy blood pressure.

Beef tongue is nutrient-dense, packing a good amount of protein, iron, zinc and B-vitamins into just a 3 ounce serving. These nutrients support overall health, making tongue a wise addition to a healthy diet.

How Is Beef Tongue Cooked?

Beef tongue has a unique, tender texture when it’s cooked properly. Here are some of the most popular methods for preparing beef tongue:


Boiling is a simple method for cooking beef tongue. The tongue is simmered in water for 2-3 hours until fork tender. This helps break down the tough muscle fibers. Boiled tongue can be served hot or used for sliced cold tongue sandwiches.


Grilling imparts delicious smoky flavor to beef tongue. It can be cooked directly over the heat source or using indirect heat for more even cooking. Grilled tongue also makes excellent sandwiches and tacos.


Braising involves cooking the tongue in a flavorful liquid like broth, wine or tomato sauce. Tongue takes well to moist braising methods and becomes fall-apart tender.


Popular in Jewish and Mexican cuisine, curing beef tongue in a salty brine tenderizes it while adding robust flavor. Cured tongue can be sliced for appetizers or served warm.

Proper cooking is key to enjoying the smooth, tender texture of beef tongue. While the cooking method can vary based on the recipe, moist cooking techniques like boiling, braising and stewing are ideal. Grilling over indirect heat also allows the tough muscle fibers to break down.

Fatty Acid Composition

The main types of fat found in beef tongue are:

  • Saturated fat – Beef tongue contains moderate amounts of saturated fat, providing 25% of the daily value in a 3 ounce serving.
  • Monounsaturated fat – It has small amounts of monounsaturated fats like oleic acid.
  • Polyunsaturated fat – Linoleic acid is the main polyunsaturated fat.

Like most cuts of beef, tongue gets a moderate amount of fat from saturated sources. But two-thirds of the fat comes from healthier unsaturated fats. When consumed in moderation, the fat profile of beef tongue is unlikely to significantly impact heart health or body composition.

Ways to Reduce Fat When Cooking Beef Tongue

While beef tongue is fairly lean, there are still ways to reduce the fat content using certain cooking methods:

  • Trim excess fat before cooking – This removes some of the visible fat before adding any cooking fat.
  • Boil, braise or stew – Moist cooking methods don’t require added fats.
  • Use spices and acid – Boost flavor without added fat by using spices, herbs, vinegar, citrus, etc.
  • Cook without oil – Skip added fats and oils when grilling, broiling or air frying.
  • Blot with paper towel – After cooking, blot with a paper towel to absorb excess fat.
  • Avoid deep frying – Deep frying significantly increases the fat and calorie content.

Following some of these tips when preparing beef tongue can reduce the amount of fat and calories per serving. This makes it even more diet-friendly.

Healthier Ways to Serve Beef Tongue

In addition to cooking methods that reduce fat, beef tongue can be incorporated into healthy recipes:

  • Warm beef tongue salad – Served over greens with a vinaigrette.
  • Beef tongue tacos – Wrapped in corn tortillas with salsa and veggies.
  • Beef tongue sandwich – Served on whole grain bread with mustard and pickles.
  • Smoked tongue slice appetizers – Topped with a smear of horseradish.
  • Beef tongue hash – Sautéed with potatoes, peppers and onions.

Pairing lean beef tongue with fiber-rich whole grains, produce, healthy fats and spices results in a balanced, nutritious meal. Avoid deep frying or serving with high-fat creamy sauces to prevent excess calories.

Is Beef Tongue Healthy?

Overall, beef tongue can be considered a healthy and lean cut of meat when incorporated as part of a balanced diet. Here are some reasons why beef tongue is healthy:

  • It’s low in fat and calories compared to fattier cuts of beef.
  • Beef tongue is an excellent source of protein, providing 18g per 3 ounce serving.
  • It’s rich in nutrients like iron, zinc and B-vitamins.
  • The majority of fat is unsaturated rather than saturated.
  • It’s a nutritious part of dishes like tacos, salads, sandwiches and hash.

People looking to reduce fat and calories may prefer beef tongue over higher fat cuts of meat. Its stellar nutrition profile also makes it a smart choice. Like with any meat, portion control is important. But enjoyed in moderation, beef tongue can be an excellent addition to a healthy diet.

Health Concerns

While beef tongue offers some benefits, there are a few health concerns to consider:

  • High in cholesterol – All beef contains cholesterol, which should be limited for heart health.
  • May contain slaughter byproducts – Tongue can come into contact with specified risk materials during slaughter.
  • Risk of foodborne illness – Thorough cooking is necessary to destroy bacteria that may be present.
  • Not suitable for certain diets – Beef is off-limits for vegans/vegetarians and some religious diets.

People with high cholesterol or heart disease may want to limit beef tongue due to its saturated fat and cholesterol content. Some also want to avoid beef tongue and other organ meats due to the potential contamination risk during slaughter and processing. Following safe handling and cooking practices can help minimize foodborne illness risks.


Beef tongue stands out for its unique, tender texture and stellar nutritional profile including protein, iron, zinc and B-vitamins. It’s considered a lean cut of beef with less fat and calories compared to popular cuts like ribeye. With proper cooking, beef tongue can be incorporated into healthy recipes for tacos, sandwiches, hash and more. Just be mindful of limiting intake of cholesterol for heart health, and follow safe meat handling practices. Overall, consumed in moderation, beef tongue can be a diet-friendly lean meat option.

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