If you are looking for a delicious and unique taco recipe, try making tacos with beef sweetbreads! These tacos de mollejas are packed full of juicy sweetbreads in a homemade corn tortilla. Top it with some chopped onions and cilantro and you have the perfect taco.
Over the last few years, I have shared many of my favorite taco recipes. Everything from shredded beef to Tacos al Pastor ( seasoned pork bites) - and even crispy fish tacos.
For today's taco recipe, I will be using a different kind of protein... offal - (organ meat! More specifically, sweetbreads!
🌎 History Behind Sweetbreads
In many cuisines around the world, sweetbreads are considered somewhat of a delicacy or gourmet food. We call them “mollejas” in Spanish, and in Mexico, we like to cook them grilled, fried, in tacos, or in stews.
It’s not very easy to find a taqueria that sells tacos de mojellas in Mexico. You’ll have to go to a restaurant that specializes in grilled meats, sort of like a steakhouse.
Sweetbread tacos are not as popular in the United States as in other countries like Argentina, but hopefully, this recipe will help change that!
Sweetbreads can also be made at home; the most popular way of cooking them is on a charcoal grill or pan-fried.
Before I share my recipe, here are a few questions I've been asked about homemade tacos with sweetbreads.
What are sweetbreads?
Sweetbreads are a type of offal (organ meats), just like liver, tripe, or heart. Offal includes a wide variety of organs, but some consider sweetbreads the “caviar” of them all.
The name can throw some people off since there is no actual part of a cow’s body that is called “the sweetbread”.
“Sweetbreads” is actually just a culinary term used to refer to some of the glands in the cow’s body, mostly the thymus gland and the pancreas.
These are specifically known as “throat sweetbread” and “heart sweetbread”, respectively, and are what you will most likely get if you go to your grocery store and buy a package labeled “sweetbreads”.
Beef sweetbreads and veal sweetbreads are the easiest to find, but lamb and pork sweetbreads are also sold in some places!
What do sweetbreads taste like?
A lot of offal meats (liver, kidneys, etc.) share a distinctive taste, one that’s strong and gamey. Of these, beef sweetbreads are regarded as one of the mellowest in flavor.
The taste is smoother and creamier than that of liver. This makes it a great type of meat for beginners that haven’t tasted other organ meats!
If you’ve tried intestines before (we call them “tripitas” in Mexico, and like to make them in tacos), then sweetbreads will taste very familiar to you.
How do you cook sweetbreads?
The cooking time for mollejas will depend on the method you are using to prepare them.
For stews, some cooks like to boil them in water or milk for about 1 hour, before chopping them into pieces and adding them to the stew.
If you want to grill or pan-fry the sweetbreads, you will need to cook them for about 15 minutes per side on medium-low heat.
If the mojellas are too thick, remove them from the heat once they are partially cooked, have a solid consistency (and have shrunk a little), and cut them lengthwise. Put them back on the frying pan or grill and turn the heat to high (or add more charcoal); brown the sweetbreads on both sides.
Prior to grilling, cooks will sometimes soak the sweetbreads in water, saltwater, milk, or even vinegar. They do this to soften the texture of the sweetbreads.
Where can you buy sweetbreads?
You can buy sweetbreads at your local supermarket; look for the RUMBA® Meats packages in the meat section. Their cuts of meats are sold in a convenient vacuum-sealed package, making it super easy to store in the fridge.
You can also visit a local butcher shop and see if they have sweetbreads in stock as well!
Which salsa tastes the best with these tacos?
When I make these mollejas tacos, I like to top them with some sort of spicy salsa. My go-to's are salsa verde and avocado green salsa!
These street-style sweetbread tacos are juicy and so delicious!
Here is the list of what you will need:
- Sweetbreads (I love to use Rumba Meats)
- Garlic cloves
- Bay leaf
- Vegetable oil
- Corn Tortillas
Please note: For exact measurements of the ingredients listed above, scroll down to the recipe card located at the bottom of this post!
- Use 8 medium-size corn tortillas or 16 small taco-style tortillas.
To make things easier for you, I am going to break down the directions to make sweetbread tacos into sections.
Start by placing the mojellas in a bowl and covering them with fresh water. Make sure to let them rest for 5 minutes and then drain.
Precook The Sweetbreads
- Add the mojellas in a saucepan or pot (I used my large skillet) with water, ¼ of onion, garlic cloves, and bay leaf over medium heat (use enough water to cover the sweetbreads).
- Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer for about 15 minutes, until the skin of the sweetbreads looks firm and it has changed color from pink to a pale beige.
- Remove from the saucepan and reserve some of the cooking liquid.
- Allow the sweetbread to cool enough for you to handle it and remove the outer membrane.
Tip: If some of the pieces of the mojellas are too thick, cut them in half by slicing them lengthwise. Then, proceed to chop them into small bite-size pieces.
Brown The Sweetbreads
- Heat the oil in a large skillet or comal.
- Once the oil is hot, add the chopped sweetbreads and stir-fry them until the outer skin is golden (you have to stir them frequently). Add more salt if needed.
Warm Up Tortillas
- In the same skillet, warm up the homemade tortillas, adding a couple of tablespoons of the cooking broth to them. This will soften the tortillas and also infuse some flavor into them (just like it’s done in many taquerias).
Tip: Do not leave the tortillas on the skillet for longer than is needed to warm them, because if you leave them there for too long, they can start to break.
Make Tacos and Enjoy!
- To serve, divide the sweetbreads among the tortillas, then top them with the chopped onion and cilantro and your favorite salsa. Don't forget to squeeze some fresh lime juice over the top!
Tip: If using the small taqueria-style tortillas, use 2 tortillas per taco.
🍽 Side Dishes
These beef sweetbread tacos taste amazing on their own but if you want to make a whole meal, try making some white rice with a side of charro beans.
I also like to make some Mexican potatoes since the crunchiness of the potatoes pairs really nicely with the tacos.
📚 More Authentic Mexican Recipes
If you enjoyed this recipe for mojella tacos, take a look at some of these other authentic Mexican recipes:
- Tacos De Tripitas
- Beef Cheeks Tacos
- Tacos De Suadero
- Beef Tongue Barbacoa Tacos
- Chipotle Adobo Tacos With Oxtail
I hope you make these beef sweetbread tacos! If this recipe was of any help to you, come back to let me know your experience. Please leave us a comment done below and tell us all about it!
Beef Sweetbreads Tacos (Tacos De Mojellas)
To cook the sweetbreads:
- 2 pounds of sweetbreads
- Salt to tasteRUMBA® MEATS
- ¼ onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 tablespoons of oil
- 8 corn tortillas*
- ½ cup white onion chopped
- ½ cup cilantro chopped
- Your salsa of choice
- 4 lime wedges
- Place the sweetbreads in a bowl and cover them with fresh water. Let them rest for 5 minutes and then drain.
- Precook the sweetbreads in a saucepan or pot (I used my large skillet) with water, the ¼ onion, garlic cloves, and bay leaf over medium heat (use enough water to cover the sweetbreads). Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer for about 15 minutes, until the skin of the sweetbreads looks firm and it has changed color from pink to a pale beige.
- Remove from the saucepan and reserve some of the cooking liquid. Allow the sweetbread to cool enough for you to handle it and remove the outer membrane.
- If some of the pieces of the sweetbreads are too thick, cut them in half by slicing them lengthwise**, then proceed to chop them into small bite-size pieces.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet or comal; we are going to slightly brown the sweetbreads and also warm the tortillas in the same skillet. Once the oil is hot, add the chopped sweetbreads and stir-fry them until the outer skin is golden (you have to stir them frequently). Add more salt if needed.
- In the same skillet, warm the tortillas, adding a couple of tablespoons of the cooking broth on them. This will soften the tortillas and also infuse some flavor into them (just like it’s done in many taquerias). Do not leave the tortillas on the skillet for longer than is needed to warm them, because if you leave them there for too long, they can start to break (your experience will vary depending on the type and brand of tortilla you use).
- To serve, divide the meat among the tortillas, then top them with the chopped onion and cilantro and your favorite salsa. Serve with some lime wedges, for those that like to add a few drops of lime to their tacos. If using the small taqueria-style tortillas, use 2 tortillas per taco.
- * Use 8 medium-size corn tortillas or 16 small taco-style tortillas
- ** When pan searing the sweetbreads (or cooking them on a charcoal grill), some cooks like to cut them lengthwise like a steak, so that they have an even thickness for cooking.
Sweetbreads are either thymus or pancreas. Some sources say they are both.
I make this recipe with pancreas, and it is unbelievably delicious! I haven't made it thymus. Pancreas has the flavor of something along the lines of the best hamburger you ever had.
Thank you for such a great idea. Offal is tasty!
I love sweetbreads but usually cook them more in a French style. Making tacos is a brilliant idea that I must try!
I love Sweetbreads too, how do you cook them French Style, you got me wondering about it.
I too love sweetbreads. Frist time I ate them they were prepared southern style. Breaded and fried, very much like Chicken-fried-Steak, and smothered with cream gravy.
On one occasion I ordered them in a small French restaurant and they were out-of-this-world-delicious! The sauce was incredible! However I have tried and tried to find that recipe with no results. Can you supply me with it, or a web-site where I can find it.
Sorry, I'm not very familiar with French cuisine. It sounds delicious made in a sauce.
Sweetbreada are Brains
No, sweetbreads are not brains. Sweetbread is its culinary name, but it is actually the thymus (also called throat, gullet, or neck sweetbread) especially of calf and lamb, and, less commonly, of beef and pork. (Source: Wikipedia)