Most westerners weren’t raised eating all parts of the animal. Instead of heart, kidney, and liver, we opt for juicy steaks and lean chicken breast. But the last decade has seen an uptick in “nose to tail” restaurants, grass-fed and pastured meats, and nutrient-dense foods.
With the growing interest in animal-based diets like carnivore, paleo, and keto, there’s a heightened desire to maximize protein output from animals. The term “offal” refers to the organ meats, or entrails, in an animal that are often overlooked for their nutritional makeup.
Offal can include animal parts like kidneys, lungs, udders, testicles, liver, tongue, and tripe.
So what is tripe? Read on for what it is, it’s benefits, and just how to incorporate tripe into your diet.
Tripe refers to the edible lining of a ruminant animal’s stomach. Tripe usually comes from cow stomach, but you can technically eat the stomach lining from sheep, goat, or deet.
Ruminant animals, like cows and sheep, have four different compartments in their stomachs that allow for the breakdown of food. The walls of their stomachs are made up of smooth muscle and connective tissue, including collagen and elastin fibers.
Tripe is the word that’s used to describe the edible muscle along the stomach walls[*]. There are four different types of tripe for each compartment of the stomach; they include:
Blanket tripe, also known as flat tripe, comes from the rumen (the first stomach chamber) and varies in thickness. It’s often accompanied with a layer of fat that needs to be removed.
Honeycomb tripe comes from the reticulum (the second stomach). This type of tripe has a textured surface and is often preferred by cooks due to its flavor and tenderness. Of all the forms of tripe, honeycomb is by far the most popular.
Bible tripe comes from the third compartment, known as the omasum. The internal walls form deep folds, resembling the pages of a book which gives it the name “bible tripe” or “book tripe.” This type of tripe has a delicate flavor and texture, however, due to difficulty cleaning between the folds, it’s not often used.
Reed tripe comes from the fourth part of the stomach, known as the abomasum. This section of the stomach is very glandular and is rarely used in cooking.
Tripe is used around the world in cuisines from Italy, France, China, Indonesia, and more. It’s been a staple source of protein since ancient Roman times and continues to hold a place in the cuisine of many cultures.
One of the benefits of using organ meat as a source of protein is the nutrient density that comes along with it. The skeletal muscles of animals certainly have their own benefits. However, when you mix it up and choose different parts of an animal, you get a wide range of nutrients that you wouldn’t find in sirloin or chicken breast.
Here are some of the highlights of tripes nutrient profile.
#1 Rich Source Of Low-Cost Protein
Since tripe isn’t at the top of everyone’s grocery list, a side benefit of this type of protein is that it tends to be pretty cost-effective. One four-ounce piece of tripe contains 13.6 grams of protein, making it an excellent source[*].
Protein is an essential element of your diet. It plays a wide range of roles in your body, including DNA synthesis, the production of hormones, structure and function of your tissues, and supporting your immune system[*].
Including protein-rich foods like tripe into your diet not only enhances satiety, but it’s essential for building lean muscle mass[*].
#2 Rich In Selenium
Selenium is a trace mineral that’s nutritionally essential for humans — meaning you don’t make it on your own. This mineral plays critical roles in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis, and immune health[*].
It acts as an antioxidant, and due to its role in DNA synthesis and repair may have beneficial effects on cancer cells, cardiovascular disease, thyroid disease, and cognitive health.
Interestingly, your body stores most of its selenium in skeletal muscle — around 28-46% of total selenium[*].
Seafood and organ meats are the most abundant sources of selenium, with tripe containing 14.1 ug, which is 25% of the RDA (recommended daily allowance), in just four ounces[*].
#3 High In Zinc
Tripe is a fantastic source of zinc, with four ounces containing 16% of the RDA[*]
Zinc is another mineral that is essential to your body. It plays a number of roles in cellular metabolism, including the catalytic activity of over 100 enzymes, immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and cell division.
Zinc is crucial for normal growth and development, especially during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescents. In addition, zinc is partially responsible for your ability to both taste and smell[*].
While most infants and young children tend to get enough zinc in their diet, older adults can be at risk for deficiency. Some side effects of a deficiency in this crucial mineral include impaired immunity, loss of appetite, hair loss, diarrhea, impotence, hair and skin lesions, and more[*].
Perhaps one of the most notable benefits of zinc is its effects in immunity, and specifically the common cold due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity. This is why you’ll often see zinc lozenges and cold care supplements with zinc added. Research shows that the inclusion of zinc in a cold care regimen can reduce the severity and duration of the common cold up to three days[*].
#4 Great Source of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin, essential for a myriad of processes in your body. It‘s required for red blood cell synthesis, the conversion of homocysteine to methionine, methylation of DNA and RNA, fat and protein metabolism, and hemoglobin synthesis — to name a few.
It also plays a vital role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline, and supports your body’s energy and endurance[*].
Organ meats are one of the most impactful sources of vitamin B-12, with tripe containing 65% of your RDA[*].
Cooking organ meats can be a bit intimidating if you haven’t done it before. Just like other cuts of meat, you don’t want to cook it until it turns into a hockey puck, but you also don’t want to undercook.
Clean It First
Whether you’re cooking with beef tripe, sheep tripe, or any other kind, the first step is always to clean it. Most tripe that you find in stores will be a pale color due to the bleaching process. Freshly slaughtered cows, however, will have tripe that’s yellowish in color and may contain some undigested food.
But don’t worry — it’s rare that you would come across tripe that hasn’t been processed with bleach to remove impurities if you’re buying it from a grocery store.
In the case that you do buy tripe that’s not undergone the bleaching process, follow these steps:
- Cut off and discard all unwanted fat.
- Rub the tripe with rock salt.
- Rinse it with vinegar.
- Repeat #’s 2 and 3 until there are no visible impurities left.
- Then scrape the surface with a long sharp knife.
- And finally, rinse the tripe several times with water.
If you buy bleached tripe, you’ll still want to rinse it to remove as much of the chlorine as you can.
A great way to begin the cooking process with tripe is to par-boil. Simply place the tripe in a large pot of salted water and slowly bring it to a boil. Allow it to boil for 10-15 minutes and then remove it from the water and place it on a cutting board.
With a sharp knife, scrape away any remaining impurities, and then cut the tripe as you see fit. Depending on the dish, you may want to chop the tripe into small pieces or large.
There’s a myriad of ways to prepare tripe — stewing, grilling, stir-fry, and deep-frying.
One classic tripe dish is Busacca, an Italian tripe soup. For Busacca you simply add the tripe to a pot of ingredients and allow it to cook for about an hour.
Another cuisine that commonly includes tripe is pho; this Asian soup adds a variety of meats in a simple broth with veggies and rice noodles.
But you can also go with Mexican route and add tripe to tacos, or simply mix it in with some tomato sauce.
There are plenty of tripe recipes out there to choose from, so have fun with it.
In general, tripe tends to have a dense, chewy texture. As for the taste, it can vary slightly depending on the type of tripe you’re consuming. For instance, bible tripe has a delicate texture and flavor, while honeycomb tripe has a flavor that may resemble liver. In general, however, tripe will pick up the flavors of the sauces and spices that you use in your recipe.
It may be hard to find fresh tripe at most chain grocery stores. However, Asian specialty markets often carry it. If you can’t find it at your local stores, you can ask a local butcher if they carry it or if they could order it for you.
Although consuming the stomach lining of an animal may sound a bit off-putting at first, once you get beyond that, the benefits are pretty impressive.