What Are Sweetbreads and How Do You Cook Them?

What are sweetbreads? You could say they are the ultimate in offal. Sweetbreads are the thymus glands from veal calves and are a classic delicacy with velvety, fine-grained texture. Offal has always had a cult following in professional kitchens, and sweetbreads are highly prized by chefs for their mild flavor and tender, creamy texture.

These days veal sweetbreads are popping up at restaurants dedicated to the nose-to-tail philosophy across the country. But this particular bit of tasty offal has been enjoyed by connoisseurs throughout history.

Ready to try sweetbreads at home? Buy sweetbreads at dartagnan.com and read on for two approachable and delicious recipes. 

Cooking Sweetbreads

Sweetbreads are quite versatile and can be prepared in many ways: sautéed, poached, grilled, fried, roasted or braised. Traditionally, French and Italian chefs serve sweetbreads in rich, creamy sauces, such as veloute sauce or brown sauce, like Madiera, or truffle sauce. Sweetbreads are often supporting stars in pâtés, terrines, sausages, cold appetizers, stews, and salads.

In the modern renaissance of offal, sweetbreads are increasingly being seen on the menus of the nose-to-tail set.

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Sweetbreads from our French veal – oh, so tender!

However they are cooked, sweetbreads must be soaked in cold water for a minimum of three hours, or even up to 24 hours, to remove any blood. Change the water a few times during the soak. Blanching sweetbreads gives them a firmer texture, and trimming any sinew or gristle off is advisable after they are cooled. Link through to our recipes for more details on cooking with sweetbreads.

Buttermilk Fried Sweetbreads Recipe

Sweetbreads take a little effort to prepare but are totally worth it and once you’ve gotten the basic prep down, you’ll see how versatile they are. Here we’ve soaked them in buttermilk before breading in a seasoned flour mixture and pan-frying. The resulting nuggets are crispy on the outside and creamy and mild on the inside.

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Nashville-Style “Hot” Sweetbreads Recipe

The “hot chicken” trend of Music City shows no sign of slowing down, and for good reason. Brushing spicy-sweet oil on fresh-out-of-the-fryer chicken brings a whole new dimension of flavor to an American classic. Our version uses creamy and tender veal sweetbreads in place of chicken for a decidedly D’Artagnan twist.

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Have you tried sweetbreads? Do you like them? Tell us about your experiences with sweetbreads in the comments below.

Learn more about our humanely-raised milk-fed French veal here.


Since 1985, D’Artagnan has been at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement, producing superior tasting products by partnering with small ranches and farms. We are committed to free-range, natural production, sustainable and humane farming practices and no use of antibiotics or hormones. That’s why D’Artagnan products have been revered by America’s most renowned chefs for over 30 years. We offer the same high-quality products to home cooks at dartagnan.com, along with recipes and guides to help you live the tasty life.

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