Food You Should Be Eating: Beef Tendon

Beef tendon is awesome. What is it? Tendons are what connects muscle to bone. As connective tissue, it is normally very tough and fibrous. When you cook it for a long time at a relatively low temperature, though, it becomes soft and rich and gelatinous - and has been called the new pork belly. It has a mouth-feel that is similar to many fats without the greasiness, but beef tendon is over 99% fat free. Image by SauceSupremeI love the stuff. To me, it is reminiscent of beef fat (which I also love, but should eat less of). Angela, who doesn't like beef fat, really likes it, too - largely because it isn't greasy. I've liked tendon for years, but until recently I've only eaten it in pho. Recently, we had an awesome dish of tendon and brisket in brown gravy at a Chinese place (Lai Lai Wok, for locals). Last week, I went to one of my favorite Chinese restaurants with my father. I saw a cold, spicy/tangy beef tendon appetizer on their menu, but my father was being a wimp, and we didn't order it. So, how do you prepare it? I wasn't sure, so I asked the guy at our local pho place. He said he stews it for about seven hours. OK. Easy enough - especially with a slow cooker. A bit of web-searching showed that you should put it in boiling water first for a bit to clean off any blood (or whatever) that might be clinging to it. Makes sense. I wandered over to Am-Ko, one of my local Asian groceries, where I found beef tendon in the freezer section for $2.99 a pound. Not bad. Yes. It is just as easy as putting this stuff into the slow cooker. It turns out amazingly well. On a whim the next day, I took some of the leftovers and chopped it up with some lean ground meat to turn into a burger. What did I get? A burger that was very low in fat, but didn't taste like it was. Pretty cool. I didn't think of it at the time, but I wonder how the liquid that you cook beef tendon in compare to beef stock. I'd think it would be fairly similar, insofar as you are essentially dissolving connective tissues. I think there are probably a ton of uses for tendon that I haven't even begun to consider. If you have some ideas, I'd love to hear them.


Image by SauceSupreme


I've only had tendon in pho so far, but I think you're onto something with the broth you create when cooking it. It has a certain beefy base flavor to it that I think would make for a nice light broth.

For years I had made up my mind (without ever trying it) that beef tendon was just chewy, tasteless and with no real nutritional value. Boy was I wrong and too bad I only came across yummy tendon just a few days ago! It is so deliciously tasty and the texture is not at all hard and rubbery as I had imagines it. I'm gonna have to find myself some tendon recipes as so far, I have only had it in Pho.

You are absolutely right on your guess about the value of the broth from cooking the tendons. See, most of the body from a good stock or broth comes from the breakdown of the collegen in those tendons. Now, if you had some meat in there for flavor, you would have a great stock on your hands.
Hope that answers that for you j)

Stuart Broz's picture

Jason - Thanks for confirming my suspicions/instincts. This is something I intend to put to good use...

I made ox tails in jerk over the weekend. Same basic idea. You have to cook those suckers FOR EVER but wow are they good, and hardly any fat either.

Ox Tails Braised in Jerk

2-3 lbs ox tails, trimmed of fat
2 medium onions, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stick of celery, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 cup jerk marinade (get the good stuff, don't buy supermarket crap)
3 cuban peppers, seeded and chopped
5 cloves of garlic
2 cups white wine (beer would also work)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tbsp all purpose flour

Rub the ox tails in jerk and let stand overnight.

Remove excess marinade and pat dry. Then brown ox tails in a little vegetable oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven, adding the remaining ingredients, but withholding 3 cloves of garlic and the flour. Simmer on low for hours and hours, minimum of four. About a half hour before serving, add the three remaining cloves of garlic (freshly smashed) and stir in the flour to thicken the sauce, if necessary. Serve with rice and peas.

Hello, I happened upon your page after eating a ton of delicious tendon. I made it in another Vietnamese broth/noodle dish called Bun Bo Hue. Order it next time instead of Pho =)

So what did you do to the tendon before you ground it up exactly? I want to incorporate this into my rotation!!

I'm an illustrator, and my hands are my livelihood.
I've been having some wrist troubles, and have noticed that my wrist recovers from over-use more quickly when I have Pho with tendon.

just kinda anecdotal, but i thought I'd share. :)

I'm gonna try cookin' the tendon we just got, the way you described, here; i'll keep you posted!

Tendon soup is really popular in Guatemala, central America, for one... and instead of the slow cooking, we actually throw it into the pressure cooker...and as for the liquid/broth of the cook, you then use that and along with some chopped carrot, potato and mint, you do a lil more cooking, throw in your chopped up, cooked tendon, and serve it over rice, with the optional lime slices for personal's delish! =) You should def. try it.

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