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What Is Organ Meat? Nutrition, Benefits, & Recipes

organ meats, beef heart

It seems like the culinary world is finally embracing what we’ve known all along: offal, or organ meats, offer a whole new range of delicious tastes and textures. And when you indulge in grass-fed beef tongue, heart, liver, brain, kidneys, sweetbreads, and tripe you open yourself up to powerful health benefits.

For instance, there are 20 grams of protein, 4.1 grams of calcium, 4.4 grams of iron, and 14.3 grams of magnesium in just one serving of beef liver!

Many organ meats offer a leaner choice and denser source of nutrition than the outer meat. While there are a ton of vital benefits gained with this diverse array of meat, it can be difficult knowing where to start.

Luckily, we’ve put together a quick guide to help you reap the benefits of organ meats!

What Is Organ Meat?

Organ meats are also known as offal and have the distinction of being some of the most nutrient-dense cuts of meat available. The most common varieties include: Liver, Tongue, Kidney, Brain, Thymus (neck sweetbreads), Stomach (Tripe), and Pancreas (stomach sweetbreads).

Because of the nutritional value, organ meats were highly sought after in earlier cultures. They have recently become valued again in primal diets and for those who strive to eat nose to tail. Upscale restaurants are also beginning to add organ meat dishes as menu items due in part to their uniquely rich flavors.

There are numerous mouth-watering recipes that include organ meats. Liverwurst, Braunschweiger, and Head Cheese are relatively common organ meat sausages and can contain a blend of organs depending on the recipe. These sausages are ideal for newcomers to organ meats as the flavors are generally toned down significantly due to the addition of ground beef, pork or poultry.

7 Healthy Organ Meats to Fit into Your Diet

1. Tongue

Beef Tongue

Beef tongue is not only flavorful and really shines in soups, but it packs high levels of iron, zinc, potassium, choline, and vitamin B-12[*]. Beef tongue is also one of the most versatile meats — it can be grilled, used as taco meat, layered in a sandwich, or mixed into soups.

Big Benefits:

  • High in iron, zinc, potassium, choline, vitamin B-12
  • Complete protein
  • Boosts immune system

Nutrition Facts:

per 3 oz serving size

  • Calories = 188
  • Protein = 12.6 g
  • Carbs = 3 g
  • Fat = 13.5 g

Recipe Idea: Pickled Beef Tongue

2. Heart

Beef Heart

Beef heart has the equivalent amount of protein and calories to white-meat chicken—which is roughly 95 calories and 15 grams of protein and boasts a high amount of vitamin B-12 and iron[*]. Beef heart is also cost-efficient too as its ticket price is half the cost of beef chuck roast.

You can prepare beef heart similarly to a steak, add it to stew, make it into a burger, or even grill it up as a shish kabob.

Big Benefits:

  • Low in calories
  • High in protein, vitamin B-12, and iron
  • Very cost-efficient

Nutrition Facts:

per 3 oz serving size

  • Calories = 94
  • Protein = 15 g
  • Carbs = 0 g
  • Fat = 3.3 g

Recipe Idea: Heart Roast

3. Liver

Beef Liver

As the most consumed organ meat in the U.S., liver proves to be one of the most concentrated, natural sources of vitamin A[*]. Beef liver is a great source of iron, copper, folic acid, cholesterol, and offers an “anti-fatigue” element when consumed, making it a favorite meal among athletes[*].  However, as the filtering organ of the animal, it’s important to make sure your beef liver is clean.

You can create a beef liver pate, turn it into meatballs, or stick with the traditional liver and onions!

Big Benefits:

  • Very high in vitamin A (retinol)
  • Keeps you alert

Nutrition Facts:

per 3 oz serving size

  • Calories = 113.4
  • Protein = 17.1 g
  • Carbs = 3.3 g
  • Fat = 3 g

Recipe Idea: Beef Liver with Fig Bacon and Caramelized Onion Compote

4. Brain

Beef Brain

Beef brain is “brain food” for lack of better words! It comes with a punch of protein and healthy fat (Omega-3 fatty acids to be exact), which keeps you fuller longer, meaning less time fixating on food and more on your tasks at hand. Not to mention that this protein also helps to maintain healthy muscles and a properly functioning immune system[*].  It is also rich in copper and selenium; this means more energy and more help for your immune system[*].

Beef brain can easily be fried, used in curry dishes, with scrambled eggs, or made in a traditional Persian dish called Maghz that includes beef brain, cider vinegar, oil, chili pepper, turmeric, and lime!

Big Benefits:

  • Loaded with protein and Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Keeps you full
  • Maintains healthy muscles and immune system

Nutrition Facts:

per 3 oz serving size

  • Calories = 120
  • Protein = 9 g
  • Carbs = 1 g
  • Fat = 8.7 g

Recipe Idea: Mozgy

5. Kidneys

Beef Kidney

Kidneys have a great offering of foliate iron, zinc, copper, and selenium[*].  Kidneys are also a great source of protein — perfect for a post-workout meal[*]. Like beef liver, make sure to buy your meat from a safe, trusted source.

Beef kidneys are tasty when sautéed, simmered in a hearty stew, or baked in kidney pot pies.

Big Benefits:

  • Rich in folate, zinc, copper, and selenium
  • Amazing source of protein

Nutrition Facts:

per 3 oz serving size

  • Calories = 86.4
  • Protein = 14.7 g
  • Carbs = 0.3 g
  • Fat = 2.7 g

Recipe Idea: Beef Kidney in Red Wine Sauce

6. Sweetbreads

Lamb Sweetbread

Sweetbreads are harvested from cows and consist of both the pancreas and gullet of the animal. Sweetbread provides all the amino acids you need to repair your body tissues, and it boasts a large 25 grams of protein per four ounces[*].

Grill these delicious morsels on skewers, fry them up Southern-style, or pair them with bacon.

Big Benefits:

  • Packed with amino acids and protein
  • Repairs body tissues

Nutrition Facts:

per 3 oz serving size

  • Calories = 197.4
  • Protein = 13.2 g
  • Carbs = 0 g
  • Fat = 15.6 g

Recipe Ideas: Grilled Sweetbreads with Balsamic Glaze, Lamb Sweetbreads with Spring Greens & Apple-Pear Reduction Sauce, Paleo Breaded Veal Sweetbreads

7. Tripe

Beef Tripe

Although tripe requires at least 12 hours of slow cooking time for most dishes, it’s low in calories (about 80 calories per serving), high in protein, and low in fat. Mineral-wise it offers rich amounts of selenium, B-12, and zinc[*].

Tripe adds an amazing texture to stews and soups, easily soaking up the flavors of the broth it’s cooked it.

Big Benefits:

  • Low in calories
  • High in protein
  • Minimal amounts of fat
  • Rich in selenium, B-12, and zinc

Nutrition Facts:

per 3 oz serving size

  • Calories = 71.4
  • Protein = 10.2 g
  • Carbs = 0 g
  • Fat = 3 g

Recipe Ideas: Mexican Tripe SoupMexican Tripe Soup (Pancita/Menudo)

There You Have It!

Organ meats not only make a richly flavored addition to many recipes, they also contain an amazing amount of good nutrition. Ancient cultures had this figured out and more people today are coming to the same conclusion about organ meats and organ meat sausages.

Bon Appétit!

Jennafer Ashley is a Recipe Developer and Food Photographer. She is the girl behind the healthy recipes at Fresh and Fit, her recipe development company and blog of the same name. Jennafer loves to cook recipes that suit a variety of diet lifestyles- from Vegan to Paleo. Her philosophy on food is that it should be beautiful, affordable, and of course, delicious. When Jennafer isn’t in the kitchen, you can find her hiking with her German Shepherd or perusing the aisles of home decor stores. PaleoHacks is a top source for amazing Paleo recipes, fitness tips, and wellness advice to help you live life to the fullest.