Have you ever wondered what is tripe? If so you’re not alone. Tripe is considered a meat, typically from a cow’s stomach lining. It is very popular in Italian cuisine and also enjoyed in many other parts of the world.
In this post we will not only discuss what it is, but how to cook it and use in some recipes.
What is Tripe
If anyone ever asks what is tripe, get ready to see them squirm when you tell them it is stomach lining from a cow. Most frequently known as beef tripe, it can also come from veal and lamb.
When tripe is referenced on its own, it’s most likely referring to the lining of a cow’s stomach, although it can come from other animals who have a ruminant stomach structure. That’s why you’ll sometimes see goat tripe, or lamb tripe which is very popular for dog food, as well as sheep tripe.
In Italian cooking, beef tripe is the most common of all tripes. Cow or beef tripe can come from any of the four chambers: the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum. Technically, tripe is the connective tissue of the stomach, or muscle tissue.
Tripe is safe for human consumption when prepared properly. We don’t hear about it much in the US, but it’s very popular in cuisines all over the world, specifically throughout continental Europe.
My first experience with tripe was in Italy, and an interesting experience it was! I talk about it below.
Taste, Texture and Appearance
Tripe generally has a mild flavor making it a great addition to various soups and stews.
The texture of tripe, like most organ meats, will be slightly chewy. Because of the tough connective tissue, tripe requires being cooked for long periods of time to help break down that toughness.
Ruminant animals mostly graze on grass and have what’s called a ruminant digestive system. This means there are multiple stomach chambers with digestive enzymes that process the food. Each chamber has its own purpose and each therefore has its own unique texture and appearance.
Since there are four stomachs in a cow, there are four different types of tripe you can choose from. Depending on which stomach the tripe is from will determine the texture and appearance.
Types of Tripe
Here are the different types of tripe you can get from ruminant animals. You can see in the image below, the four different stomach chambers.
This type of tripe is from the rumen chamber, also called chamber one. The stomach lining resembles a blanket and is fairly smooth. It actually looks like my winter fleece throw blank I use in the colder months. It’s often called smooth tripe or flat tripe due to its appearance.
Pocket or Honeycomb Tripe
This is the most common type used in cooking with its recognizable honeycomb pattern. This tripe has a white spongy texture and is from the reticulum stomach chamber 2. The deep pockets in the lining helps to catch and hold sauce or other ingredients when it is served in various dishes.
The honeycomb tripe is what is most commonly used in stews and soups.
This tripe comes from the third stomach chamber called omasum. It is also called bible tripe or leaf tripe. Unlike the previous chambers, this stomach lining has light flowy-looking layers that resemble pages of a book, hence the names.
Reed tripe comes from the fourth stomach chamber, abomasum. It looks literally like reed in appearance. It is also the least commonly used form of tripe used in cooking.
Here are some images of what this mysterious meat looks like. You can see the honeycomb patterns.
What is Trippa?
Trippa is the Italian word used for what we call Tripe. It is the same.
Trippa, pronounced “tree-pah” is very popular in Italian dishes, but more so in Italy vs here in the US, unless your someone who loves truly authentic Italian cuisine! If you’re ever in Italy, see if there are any tripe dishes on the menu.
When I First ate Tripe in Italy
The first time I heard of trippa was in San Giovanni Incarico, Italy at my cousin’s house. No one spoke a word of English and all I had to go on was my English/Italian dictionary.
Sitting at a round table crowded with family, I was served some sausage which I ate. Following that I was served nice white spongy textured strips of something that I cut and started to eat.
After tasting the meat, I knew it was nothing I had eaten before and I knew instinctively that it was something that my own stomach was not ready to handle.
After using my Italian-American dictionary, I put two and two together and I learned I was eating Tripe, pronounced tree-pah, stomach tissue. To soften any potential insult, I said in America we don’t eat this, followed by a ton of “Mi dispiace”. White lie? Well, in my family we never ate it.
Fortunately, word spread and it became something we had a good laugh about!
Cooking with Tripe
Tripe is used in many types of recipes such a tripe stew, soups, or even served by itself.
Italian enjoy cooking it with onions and some form of tomato sauce. It can also be cooked with basic ingredients such as onion, butter, white wine, salt and pepper plus some Italian cheese when served.
Mexicans and other nationalities in Latin America cook what is called menudo which is a hearty Mexican tripe soup that uses tripe as a main ingredient. If you’re in Mexico, see if you can grab some Mexican tacos that use fried tripe for the filling.
Similarly, other cultures around the globe serve tripe as a common ingredient added to soups or stew with beans, tomatoes, stock, cabbage, potatoes and herbs.
Who Eats Tripe Today?
Tripe has been revitalized and is now being served in restaurants across the country.
Should we scoff at eating it? No, not at all. Consider lobster, snails, or even caviar, all food items once considered unfit for the upper class.
Many Italians especially during the WWII era, were too poor to purchase beef or other meats, but they could afford the tripe.
Today tripe is served in many cities such as New York City and is also making a comeback in the UK as described from this article back in April 2010 by telegraph.co.uk.
Dare I say, it’s even come to a super market near me.
How to Cook Tripe
Cooking beef tripe is cooked no differently than any other type, whether lamb or veal. Here are some ways it is frequently cooked.
- Boiled tripe
- Broiled tripe
- Fried tripe
- Sauted tripe
Beef tripe is not easy and quick to cook, so make sure to set aside at least half a day to dedicate to cooking. In general, it takes between two to four hours depending if it is already boiled partially (parboiled) or not.
Make sure to read the instructions on the packaging carefully to see if it is parboiled.
How Long to Cook Tripe
To know how long to cook tripe depends on the method you are using. We’ll explore these methods next.
How Long to Boil Tripe
1- If the tripe is purchased parboiled, you only need to boil it for about 2 hours at home. If it is not parboiled, then you need to boil it for at least 4 hours.
2- It should be boiled whole and sliced into short 1/2″ strips about 2″ in length only when done boiling, and should be easily pierced with a fork once it is done.
PRO TIP: When using the boiled method, expect it to maintain a chewy texture regardless of how long you boil the meat.
How Long to Saute
1- If you plan on using the saute method, then first bring the pan in the saucepan up to a boil first then reduce to low.
2- Then proceed with the recipe making sure the tripe is cooked thoroughly before serving..
Basic method for how to cook tripe in a sauce pan
Here are the steps needed for making a fairly simple recipe. This process is common across all culture.
1- Start by sauteing the tripe by adding it to a pan of hot cooking oil along with onion, celery and garlic.
2- After about 10 minutes add in 2-3 cups of stock and some tomato paste, or a can of tomatoes.
3- Let it cook on low/simmer gently for about 3 hours making sure the sauce doesn’t become too thick.
Regardless if you choose to broil, boil, saute or fry, it should be easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife or a fork before serving.
It is possible to overcook, so make sure you check towards the end until your desired doneness is reached.
Recipe for Italian Tripe
When cooking tripe it is important that it must be cleaned thoroughly before you use it. If you are purchasing it from a butcher, make sure to confirm that it is fully cleaned. Typically, it will already be boiled from your local grocery store if they are selling it.
Here is a recipe that you can prepare for people who do not know what tripe is.
Recipe for Boiling the Tripe
1- Start by boiling the tripe in water for two hours. Once cooked, cut it into strips and set aside. It can be cut length wise into approximately 1/2″ widths.
Saute with vegetables
2- Meanwhile in a large pan add chopped onions, bacon, celery and garlic and brown in some olive oil or butter.
Add tomatoes and beans
3- Once browned, add a can of tomatoes and cook until heated about 5 minutes. Then add back in the trip along with a cup of water and cook 30 minutes.
4- Add in some hearty vegetables or legumes such as beans along with some chopped potatoes which will help thicken the dish.
Add potatoes to the tripe
5- Cook for another 30 minutes over low to medium heat until potatoes are able to be pierced with a fork easily. Top with Romano or Parmesan Cheese. Serve warm.
What Goes Well with Tripe
Trippa can be served a variety of ways. But what do you serve it with?
Serve with Sausage
Serve with Pasta
You can also serve it atop a bed of pasta, this would be perfect for a roman style recipe, Trippa alla Romana, which I’ve included in this post.
There are of course more ways to eat and serve tripe, as evidenced by the many cultures that use it more frequently in their dishes than we do.
I ran across this enjoyable article here by Susan Smillie of the guardian.co.uk Word of Mouth Blog. She took it to task to try and enjoy the not so lovely cow’s anatomy, only to find there was simply no way to make it palatable. I don’t feel so alone.
If you like meat-filled recipes you may want to check out some cookbooks on Amazon that should have some pretty cool and interesting recipes you can try in addition to the one I’m offering above.
Where to Buy Tripe?
The best place will be from your local butcher for fresh tripe. I would recommend asking them if this is something they can supply you, already cleaned up for you. If they don’t, keep asking around.
Since it is used in multiple cuisines and not just Italian, this is something someone near you is bound to have.
I’ve seen on Amazon tripe supplements for digestive health, all I can do is point you there as I don’t use these for my own digestive health.
Tripe is the stomach lining of an animal that has a ruminant digestive system. The most common tripe is from the cow.
You can purchase tripe treats for dogs online. It is used in a variety of pet foods.
The most common are honeycomb tripe, book or bible tripe, and blanket tripe.
Tripe has a slightly chewy consistency and can be prepared in multiple ways such as fried, stewed, boiled or sauteed.
If you’re looking for tripe for your dog check out Amazon, it seems lamb is popular.
Health Benefits of Tripe
According to the usda.gov site, Tripe has the following nutrients per 4 ounces.
- Protein: 13.7 grams
- Fat: 4.17
- Iron: .667 mg
- Zinc: 1.6 mg
- Calcium: 78 mg
- Magnesium: 14.7 mg
- Potassium: 75.7 mg
The list is extensive so I won’t bore you, but you can check out the list here. Many people will use beef tripe supplements to help with their own intestinal digestive system and even acid reflux.
For those who want to try, here’s a recipe from an old family cookbook I’d like to share that I’ve slightly adapted.
But please keep in mind, I’m not a fan of this type of meat, but given it’s uniqueness and the tradition in Italian cooking, I am glad to share this recipe with you.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article about what is tripe. If you have your own experiences with using tripe in your cooking I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
- 1 onion chopped
- 2 slices bacon chopped
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1/2 clove garlic chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup water
- 2 lbs parboiled tripe cut into finger strips
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 2 tbsp grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp chopped mint leaves optional
- Place onion, bacon, parsley & garlic in frying pan over medium heat and brown slowly and thoroughly.
- Add tomato paste and water and cook 10 minutes.
- Add tripe, reduce heat to low and cook slowly 1 hour or until tripe is as tender as you desire
- Add salt and pepper and if sauce is too thick add a little water.
- Remove from pan, sprinkle with cheese and mint and serve.