Ají de Lengua Recipe - Traditional Bolivian Dish

Ají de Lengua

Ají de Lengua Recipe - Traditional Bolivian Dish
Region / culture: Bolivia | Preparation time: 30 minutes | Cooking time: 3 hours | Servings: 6


Ají de Lengua
Ají de Lengua

Ají de Lengua is a traditional South American dish that has captured the hearts of many with its rich flavors and unique ingredients. This dish, centered around the cow's tongue, is a testament to the culinary creativity and heritage of the region. It combines the tenderness of boiled tongue with the robust flavors of spicy red pepper, tomatoes, and aromatic herbs, creating a meal that is both hearty and comforting. This guide will take you through the history, preparation tips, and nutritional information of Ají de Lengua, ensuring you can recreate this beloved recipe with confidence and authenticity.


The origins of Ají de Lengua can be traced back to the indigenous and mestizo populations of South America, where the cow's tongue was considered a delicacy and utilized fully to honor the spirit of nose-to-tail eating. Over the years, this dish has evolved, incorporating Spanish and other European influences, such as the addition of spices like cumin and oregano. Today, it stands as a celebrated dish in many South American countries, each adding its unique twist to the recipe.


How to prepare

  1. To prepare the tongue, tenderize it by pounding it with a meat mallet to make it easier to peel. Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, add the tongue and let it cook for two hours until it becomes tender.
  2. Remove the tongue from the pot, allow it to cool, and peel off the skin. Then, slice the tongue into thin pieces.
  3. In a separate pot, heat the oil over high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and sauté until it becomes translucent. Next, add the tomato, spicy red pepper, parsley, cumin, oregano, ground pepper, peas, broth, and salt. Stir well and let the mixture cook for approximately one hour until it thickens.
  4. Add the sliced tongue to the prepared sauce, mix well, and let it cook for a little while longer to allow the tongue to absorb the flavors.
  5. Serve the dish hot, accompanied by one potato per person, chuńo phuti, and steamed rice. Garnish with the remaining uncooked sauce on top.


  • While the traditional recipe is beloved by many, variations can include the addition of different vegetables, such as carrots or bell peppers, for added nutrition and color. Some versions also use beef broth instead of water for cooking the tongue to deepen the flavor.

Cooking Tips & Tricks

To ensure the tongue is tender and flavorful, it's crucial to boil it for at least two hours. Adding a bit of vinegar or lemon juice to the boiling water can help soften the meat further. When peeling the tongue, doing so while it's still warm will make the process easier. For the sauce, allow it to simmer and thicken to fully develop the flavors before adding the sliced tongue. Lastly, letting the dish rest for a few minutes before serving will enhance its taste.

Serving Suggestions

Ají de Lengua is traditionally served hot with a side of boiled potatoes, chuño phuti (a type of freeze-dried potato), and steamed rice. This combination ensures a well-rounded meal that highlights the dish's flavors.

Cooking Techniques

The key techniques in preparing Ají de Lengua involve boiling, sautéing, and simmering. Boiling the tongue until tender is crucial, as is sautéing the vegetables to bring out their flavors before combining them with the tongue and allowing the mixture to simmer and meld together.

Ingredient Substitutions

For those looking to reduce the dish's heat, milder peppers can be used in place of the spicy red pepper. Additionally, vegetable oil can be substituted with olive oil for a different flavor profile.

Make Ahead Tips

Ají de Lengua can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to three days, allowing the flavors to develop further. Reheat gently on the stove or in a microwave before serving.

Presentation Ideas

Serve Ají de Lengua in a deep dish to showcase the rich, colorful sauce. Garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro for a touch of green and a sprinkle of finely chopped red pepper for color contrast.

Pairing Recommendations

A robust red wine, such as Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon, pairs beautifully with the rich flavors of Ají de Lengua. For a non-alcoholic option, a sparkling water with lime complements the dish's spiciness.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. To reheat, place in a saucepan over medium heat, adding a little water or broth if the sauce has thickened too much.

Nutrition Information

Calories per serving

A single serving of Ají de Lengua can range from 350 to 450 calories, making it a relatively hearty meal. The exact calorie count will depend on the serving size and the amount of oil used in the recipe.


A serving of Ají de Lengua contains approximately 15-20 grams of carbohydrates, primarily coming from the onions, tomatoes, and peas. The exact count may vary depending on the size of the servings and any additional sides.


This dish is moderately high in fats due to the use of oil in sautéing and the natural fat content of the tongue. A serving can contain between 15-25 grams of fat. Opting for a leaner cut of tongue and using less oil can reduce the fat content.


Ají de Lengua is an excellent source of protein, with a serving providing about 35-40 grams. The cow's tongue is rich in high-quality protein essential for muscle repair and growth.

Vitamins and minerals

The dish is a good source of various vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and selenium, all crucial for maintaining good health. The vegetables added to the dish also contribute vitamins A and C, along with fiber.


This recipe may not be suitable for individuals with allergies to specific proteins found in beef. Additionally, it's always important to check the ingredients of the ground spicy red pepper for any added allergens.


Ají de Lengua is a nutrient-dense dish that provides a good balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, along with essential vitamins and minerals. However, it's relatively high in calories and fats, so it should be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.


Ají de Lengua is a flavorful and nutritious dish that celebrates the culinary traditions of South America. With its rich history, this recipe offers a unique taste experience that is both satisfying and comforting. By following the tips and variations provided, you can enjoy this traditional dish in your own home, bringing a taste of South American cuisine to your table.

How did I get this recipe?

I remember the joy I felt when I first stumbled upon this recipe for Ají de Lengua. It was a warm summer day, and I had been wandering through the bustling streets of Lima, Peru. The smell of sizzling meats and spices filled the air, and my stomach grumbled in anticipation of a delicious meal.

As I walked past a small, unassuming food stall, I caught a whiff of something incredibly savory and mouth-watering. Curious, I approached the stall and struck up a conversation with the elderly woman who was diligently cooking away behind the counter. She introduced herself as Doña María, and explained that she was famous in the neighborhood for her delectable Ají de Lengua.

Intrigued, I watched as she expertly prepared the dish, slicing tender beef tongue into thin strips and sautéing them with an array of aromatic herbs and spices. The rich, savory aroma wafted through the air, making my mouth water even more.

"Doña María, could you please share your recipe for this amazing dish with me?" I asked, unable to contain my excitement.

She smiled warmly and nodded, motioning for me to come closer. As she whispered the ingredients and cooking techniques into my ear, I listened intently, committing every detail to memory. I couldn't wait to rush home and recreate this incredible dish in my own kitchen.

That evening, I set to work in my humble little kitchen, gathering all the necessary ingredients and following Doña María's instructions to the letter. The scent of the simmering beef tongue, peppers, onions, and garlic filled my home, transporting me back to the bustling streets of Lima.

When the dish was finally ready, I eagerly ladled it into bowls and sat down at the table to taste my creation. The first bite was a revelation – the tender meat melted in my mouth, while the spicy ají sauce added a fiery kick that left me craving more.

From that day on, Ají de Lengua became a staple in my culinary repertoire. I shared the recipe with friends and family, who all raved about its delicious flavors and unique combination of ingredients. It quickly became a favorite at family gatherings and dinner parties, earning me a reputation as a skilled cook with a knack for creating mouth-watering dishes.

Over the years, I've continued to refine and perfect the recipe, adding my own personal touches and variations to make it truly my own. Each time I make Ají de Lengua, I'm reminded of that fateful day in Lima when I first discovered this incredible dish and the kind-hearted Doña María who shared her secrets with me.

Now, as I stand in my kitchen, preparing another batch of Ají de Lengua for my loved ones to enjoy, I can't help but feel grateful for the culinary journey that led me to this moment. Cooking has always been a source of joy and fulfillment for me, and I'm thankful for the countless recipes and culinary traditions that have shaped my love for food over the years.

As I stir the pot and let the flavors meld together, I can't help but smile, knowing that I am carrying on a tradition that spans generations and continents. Ají de Lengua may have originated in Peru, but it has found a special place in my heart and my kitchen, where it will continue to bring joy and nourishment to those I hold dear. And for that, I am truly grateful.


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