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What is Menudo?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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Hailing from Ecuador and Mexico, menudo is a spicy soup that is built around the use of tripe as a base, with the addition of any other vegetables and spices that might be readily available. A dish that makes use of cuts of meat that are routinely discarded, menudo has grown from a dish that was created out of necessity into a soup that is considered to be nutritious and a good cure for a hangover.

The meat that is used in this soup is often the parts of cattle or sheep that are left after the choice cuts are prepared for sale. Thus, menudo often includes various types of organ meats, brains, tails, and even hooves. Most common of all the organs used is the intestines. Since cattle tend to have long sections of this particular organ, the intestines and the stomach are often used.

As for the broth, menudo may have a green, red, or clear base, depending on the types of meat used and the spices that are utilized in the basic preparation. Oregano, epazote, and ground chili flakes help to add flavor to the cleaned and cooked meat. Lime juice helps to add some tart sensation to the dish, while chopped cilantro and green onions also increase the flavor and the visual appeal of the dish. In some parts of Mexico, any vegetables in season will be added to the dish as well. Such items as carrots, bell peppers, or potatoes may be included, along with chick peas, red peppers, and raisins.

Because tripe requires slow cooking over an extended period of time, it is customary to make large batches of menudo at one time. While not containing as much meat as the similar pozole, menudo is no longer considered a dish that is only for the poor. It has evolved into a simple but flavorful dish that is found in a number of restaurants as well as cooked in the home.

Often served for breakfast, this dish is thought to be a great way to energize for the coming day, since it is loaded with ingredients from several food groups. The spicy combination is also considered to be an effective hangover remedy, making it especially popular the morning after holidays and other important feast days.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including DelightedCooking, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon958898 — On Jun 30, 2014

After all these years, I finally know what menudo and tripe are. Very interesting. In Texas, tripe is often seen in grocery stores. I have a cousin who mentioned wanting to have a roadside menudo stand. I don't know why I didn't ask her what it was. Recently, on a Doctor Oz show, a doctor listed as one of food remedies for something (I think Alzheimer's Disease) chicken giblets. I know my grandmother used to put them in gravy, but I generally throw them away. Guess I won't now.

By irontoenail — On Oct 12, 2012

@Mor - It is strange that such faraway places would have the same thing for breakfast. I guess it just makes sense and it must be highly nutritious. Traditionally, people in Africa and Mexico probably need an energy boost at the beginning of the day before they go to work, since it is going to be very hard work.

It's actually kind of difficult to get tripe in the supermarkets here. I suspect it mostly goes into pet food, so in the long run it's probably not being wasted either way.

By Mor — On Oct 11, 2012

How cool. When I was living in Mali, West Africa I used to visit a woman every day for breakfast and she always served up a spicy soup that sounds just like this. It would have whatever meat she had managed to get the night before when the butchers were closing for the day and they were trying to get rid of the cheap stuff, so usually tripe, but also random things like brains and feet from goats, sheep and cows.

I know it sounds terrible doesn't it? In fact it was absolutely delicious. The only thing I didn't like was the brains, which I could never quite get used to. Everything else was really good and the heavy broth was delicious. I wish I knew the recipe now. I'll have to look up a recipe for menudos and see if I can replicate it that way.

By Bertie68 — On May 19, 2011

@PinkLady - Your comment about we Americans not eating intestines, brains, stomach, and other strange animal parts made sense. Shouldn't we eat as much of the animal as we can? It would eliminate waste and these kinds of meat are especially nutritious.

Just as menudo was once considered a poor man's dish in Mexico, many people living in the poor countries of the world eat menudos, or organ meat. They can't afford any other parts. They eat what they have to so they can survive.

By PinkLady4 — On May 17, 2011

A neighbor, who grew up in Mexico, invited me down for menudo soup last week. He didn't tell me what kind of soup it was. When I walked into his house, there was a wonderful smell of spices and vegetables. Then he told me what kind of meat was in it - animal intestines, brain, stomach and tails. I turned pale!

Even though I was skeptical, I started sipping the soup and it was really good. Afterwards, he brought out some beer. "Have a few bottles - and take some soup home for breakfast - it's great for a hangover."

It's interesting how we Americans are so used to eating the traditional parts of an animal, that we are grossed out by the usually unused animal parts. It wouldn't hurt us to try some.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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