They're neither sweet nor breads.
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Sweetbreads with Morels and Cream Sauce
Sweetbreads with Morels in Cream Sauce
| Credit: Getty Images

Sweetbreads are, unlike their name, neither sweet nor bread. They're not to be confused with sweet breads (two words) which, as the name suggests, are breads that are sweet.

They are actually from the organs of a young animal, mostly a calf or a lamb. So yeah...the name is a little misleading to say the least. Learn everything you need to know about sweetbreads, including what they're made of and how to cook with them.

What Are Sweetbreads, Exactly?

Sweetbreads are considered offal, or the internal organs of an animal. There are two different types: Neck/throat sweetbreads and heart sweetbreads.

The thymus glands are referred to as neck sweetbreads or throat sweetbreads. Because of their shape, sweetbreads from the pancreas gland are also called heart sweetbread.

The younger the animal, the more delicate the flavor and texture, and the lighter color of the sweetbreads. Connoisseurs view the sweetbreads of milk-fed veal or young calves as the best. It is a common misconception that sweetbreads are from the testicles of an animal. But rest assured, that is not the case.

How Are Sweetbreads Cooked?

Regardless of the recipe, the first crucial step when preparing sweetbreads is soaking them in acidulated cold water, milk, or buttermilk. Some recipes also call for blanching the sweetbreads before they are grilled, braised, or pan-fried.

What Are Sweetbreads in French?

In French cuisine, where sweetbreads are part of the classic repertoire, veal sweetbreads are called ris de veau and lamb sweetbreads are ris d'agneau.

How to Cook Sweet Breads 2 Ways

1. Sweetbreads

"Sweetbreads are a gland in cattle, and this is the way my husband and I prepare them," says Norma. "We like them in tiny pieces, but others make them in larger portions. This method of cooking and the taste reminds me a little of chicken hearts, only better."

Get the Recipe: Sweetbreads

2. Spicy Sweetbreads

Lamb sweetbreads are simmered in a white sauce with mushrooms and peas in this simple, spicy dish topped with thinly sliced jalapeno. "Sweetbreads are tasty and easily digested," says kiwijock. "I couldn't find a spicy recipe so invented this simple, delicious dish. The sliced jalapeno gives a lovely bite of heat."

Get the Recipe: Spicy Sweetbreads