People are strongly opinionated on Menudo.
This intense reaction comes from the fact that Menudo’s primary ingredient is beef tripe (the lining of a cow’s stomach).
Although Menudo is originally a Mexican dish, residents of the southwestern United States have developed a taste for it. It is a popular addition to the menus of Mexican restaurants that serve it to mixed reviews.
People who have grown up eating the Menudo stew have fond memories of their mothers, aunts, or grandmothers preparing laden pots of stew and simmering them for hours till they achieved the perfect taste.
To this day, in some families, there’s no concept of a weekend without a massive bowl of steaming hot Menudo for breakfast.
Served with dried oregano, freshly chopped onions, cilantro, and lime wedges, you can customize it according to your individual taste. The dish isn’t complete without corn tortillas, so make sure you have plenty before you sit to eat.
Of course, the recipe and its ingredients differ from family to family and between regions, but the concept of Menudo being a comfort food is common everywhere.
However, considering that so many people consume this dish, and that too so often, we must ask the question – is Menudo healthy? Here, we will give you a detailed analysis of the dish’s origins, recipe, nutritional content, and overview.
History of Menudo
You might wonder how someone possibly came up with the concept of eating animal intestines.
Who experimented with cow or pig’s stomach lining and discovered it tasted best when cooked in water with hominy and red chilies thrown in?
It’s a fair question, and we have found the answer with a lot of research.
Although its origins are unknown, Tripe is believed to have its roots in areas around the Mexico-United States border, where cattle rearing was the norm.
When the Mexican hacienda celebrated an event, they had their Campesinos or peons kill an animal to feed the whole village. The meaty cuts were cooked to perfection and enjoyed by all, while the offal meats, such as intestines and other internal organs, were discarded since they were practically useless.
The less fortunate people who weren’t given a share in the meal tried their luck cooking the leftover animal and found ways to turn it into something edible and delicious.
Menudo in Detail
A classic Mexican staple, Menudo soup is made by cooking beef tripe, hominy, red chilies, garlic, onions, and lime.
Believed to be a hangover antidote with magical capabilities, Menudo is commonly devoured after a celebration involving a lot of drinks. In some families, Menudo is the first meal of the day after Christmas when people need a little help sobering up after drinking more than usual.
Different regions in Mexico have their own versions of this dish. Guadalajara—the northern area of Mexico, is home to the red Menudo, or Menudo Rojo, while people in the Sinaloa area—central Mexico, prefer white Menudo.
Ingredients of Menudo
Like foods such as olives, cow tongue tacos, and Caldo de colas de res (oxtail soup), Menudo is an acquired taste.
The primary ingredient, tripe / intestines, is common in all recipes, but the meat and spices tend to change with regions, recipes, and personal preferences.
The tripe is boiled with salt, lime juice, or vinegar to soften it. Red chili is added to the boiling water to season it while it boils.
What is Tripe?
Ruminant animals such as cows, sheep, and buffalos have multiple stomachs for digestion. Tripe is the edible stomach lining of these animals. Commonly considered an edible byproduct of slaughtered animals, tripe is used for human consumption or in animal food, like dog kibble.
Tripe might not be a familiar ingredient for American palates, but Mexicans consider it a staple in their dishes.
Beef tripe is the most preferred of all varieties. It has a chewy, rubbery, gristly texture and a mild, meaty flavor with hints of fat.
Tripe is usually consumed in dishes like stews, soups, sauces, and sausages. It is heavily spiced, and it takes the combined efforts of onions, garlic, lime, chilies, and other flavorful foods to mask the tripe’s distinctive odor and flavor.
There are four types of beef tripe, classified according to the stomach chamber it was made from:
- Blanket tripe. Also known as flat tripe, this is made from the cow’s first stomach chamber. It is the least desirable of all tripes.
- Honeycomb tripe. Made from the cow’s second stomach chamber, it looks like a honeycomb. It is softer and has a tasty flavor.
- Omasum tripe. Made using a cow’s third stomach chamber, this tripe is a mix of a honeycomb and blanket tripes.
- Abomasum tripe. This tripe is made from the fourth stomach chamber and has a strong to mild taste.
Honeycomb tripe works best for Menudo stews and soups as it is more tender than other variants and is present in the cow’s second stomach. Softer honeycomb tripe means less time spent on cooking and breaking down the chewy texture of the tripe and making it easier to chew.
How to Add Tripe to Your Diet
You can add tripe to your diet in the following ways:
- Use it as a protein-rich salad topper.
- Mix cooked tripe while making eggs and add sauteed vegetables.
- Mix with onions, fresh herbs, and butter and spread on toasted bread.
- Prepare an Italian stew with onions, tomatoes, garlic, tripe, and fresh herbs.
- Make a homemade sausage using tripe.
- Cook it in a British way by boiling tripe with milk and onions.
- Use it in a tomato sauce and serve with pasta.
- Deep fry the tripe and serve hot.
Health Benefits of Menudo
Tripe is an inexpensive source of protein and other essential nutrients. According to nutritionists, tripe can be a beneficial addition to one’s diet if taken in moderation.
Tripe provides the following nutrients and minerals:
Other Health Benefits of Tripe
As discussed above, tripe contains multiple vitamins and minerals. A healthy amount of tripe provides the following several potential health benefits:
Orthopedic and Muscular Support
Tripe is a generally inexpensive source of lean protein. A 2-cup serving of Menudo stew provides 13 grams of protein, filling 22% of our average daily nutritional requirement (1). Protein gives you a sense of fulfillment and allows the body to build muscles and repair damaged tissue.
Weight Management and Weight Loss
Protein-rich foods help you manage your diet, watch your appetite, and control your weight (2). This low-calorie and low-fat source of animal protein can help people who are conscious of their weight. Tripe removes the need for frequent snacking and eating during night hours. This reduced appetite leads to losing and maintaining weight.
Iron-rich tripe has a high content of vitamin B12, which prevents anemia (3). An anemic person requires an increased supply of red blood cells for transporting oxygen to all organs, and this condition can instigate fatigue, weakness, and other similar symptoms. Nutritionists believe that Vitamin B12 from food sources has a better absorbency rate than supplements. Hence, tripe can be an excellent way to combat the symptoms of anemia.
Nutritional Content of Menudo
Serving Size: 2 cups, 471 grams (4)
- Total Calories: 210
- Calories from Fat: 58
- Total Fat: 6.5 grams
- Saturated Fat: 1.5 grams
- Trans Fat: 0.1 grams
- Cholesterol: 107 milligrams
- Sodium: 2641 milligrams
- Potassium: 441 milligrams
- Total Carbohydrates: 30 grams
- Dietary Fiber: 9.8 grams
- Sugars: 3.8 grams
- Protein: 13 grams
- Vitamin A: 103%
- Vitamin C: 2%
- Calcium: 16%
- Iron: 28%
Nutrition Facts of Menudo With Hominy
Serving size: 1 cup
- Calories: 228.7
- Sodium: 554.4 mg
- Potassium: 191.6 mg
- Carbohydrate: 34.8 g
- Dietary Fiber: 8.8 g
Potential Risks Associated with Tripe
Menudo is rich in nutrients, but the main ingredient, tripe, has some definite risks associated with it, especially if consumed in abundance.
Consider the following downsides known to be caused by an increased intake of tripe in your diet:
High Cholesterol Level
Among all other cuts of meat, tripe has one of the highest dietary cholesterol. A three-ounce serving of tripe can have up to 108 mg of cholesterol (5). Considering this is around a third of your daily recommended cholesterol , you should be mindful of your dietary choices.
People with fast metabolic rates can quickly and safely process dietary cholesterol, but others have an adverse reaction to it. If you’re dealing with high cholesterol levels, always consider discussing your dietary intake with your dietician or doctor before incorporating tripe into your diet.
Oral Health Issues
Unless boiled for long and fully softened before eating, tripe can be hard to chew. This low-on-fat meat cut can retain its rubbery texture even after hours of cooking. If you have sensitive teeth or wear dentures, chewing tripe can be difficult and lead to swollen and bleeding gums.
Besides being rich in cholesterol and hard to chew, the pungent smell and taste of tripe can turn some people off.
Affordability and Sustainability
Tripe is in demand because, unlike steak and other cuts, its desirability level is relatively low. This has made it an affordable protein source for those with lower economic conditions.
Additionally, the tripe sale enables nose-to-tail animal consumption and significantly decreases food waste. Modern meat production allows for added food wastage with all less-in-demand parts and organs thrown away (6).
Eating organ meats and additional slaughter byproducts, including tripe, encourages less wasteful animal consumption.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can I Eat Menudo While On A Diet?
You can still have Menudo even if you’re dieting. It’ll be better to skip hominy from your recipe as it is high in carbohydrates.
Is Menudo a Safe Dish?
As long as you’re being moderate in your diet, eating Menudo is perfectly safe. The nutrient-rich dish does not harm when you keep a check on your cholesterol consumption. Careful washing and cooking will minimize any dangers of food poisoning.
Can I Lose Weight by Eating Menudo?
Tripe in Menudo has a small fat and caloric content, so enjoying it in moderation won’t disturb your weight-loss journey.
Tripe contains nutrients such as vitamin A, B12, iron, zinc, and selenium. This protein-rich source is an excellent way to improve the quality of your diet while cutting down costs and food wastage.
However, its pungent smell, strong taste, and unique texture are not everyone’s cup of tea. The added cholesterol harms hyper-responders, so its consumption should be moderate.
So, Menudo is healthy, but like all other foods, should be consumed in moderation.
If you haven’t tasted this unique meat, cook it with recipes from different regions and give it a try!