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Sweetbreads are glands from animals, specifically, two thymus glands:

(1) the long thymus gland in the throat (aka the thymus, sometimes referred to as "neck sweetbreads");
(2) the roundish pancreatic gland near the stomach (aka the pancreas, sometimes referred to as "stomach sweetbreads".)

Both glands are connected by a tube (which is removed before sale.) The stomach one is considered the better one, having a smoother texture and a milder flavour.

The glands come from lamb, pigs, calves or cows. Ones from full-grown cows are tough; ones from full-grown pigs are strong-flavoured, though very young pig ones have a milder taste. Ones from calves (veal) are considered the best. The whiter the glands, the younger the animal was.

Use or freeze on the day you buy them.

Cooking Tips

Soak first in water with some lemon juice in it; change the water several times. Some people like to soak them in milk instead;
    • Then, with a sharp knife, peel off the outer membrane and trim any tubing off.
    • Then, then is generally a "firming up" step. Some recipes will have you parblanch them to firm them. Some people prefer instead to put them in the fridge with a weight on them;
    • Then sauté in medallions, or use as directed in your recipe.

      Language Notes

      In French, the throat gland is called "orgorge"; the stomach gland is called "noix."

Calve's sweetbreads in French are "ris de veau"; lambs' are "ris d'agneau."


Amourette; Beef Marrow; Calves' Fry; Heart; Kidney; Lamb's Fry; Liver; Marrowbone; Mesentery; Muggety Pie; Offal; Ox Palate; Oxtails; Pluck; Pork Maw; Sweetbreads; Tongue; Tripe

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Also called:

Ris (French); Lechecillas, Mollejas (Spanish); Pâncreas (Portuguese)


Oulton, Randal. "Sweetbreads." CooksInfo.com. Published 01 July 2004; revised 07 November 2007. Web. Accessed 03/23/2018. <http://www.cooksinfo.com/sweetbreads>.

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