Organ Love: Grilled Sweetbreads with Balsamic Glaze (Paleo, AIP, GAPS)

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The cooked sweetbread skewers on a plate, drizzled with glaze

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
~ Shakespeare

Organ Love

All of the healing diets featured on this website emphasize the importance of organ meats, because they are the most nutrient-dense foods we can eat. This is the second installment in my “organ love” series, where I intend to show that these meats can be as delicious as they are nutritious. My first recipe was Beef Heart with Chimichurri Sauce. Today, we’re making sweetbreads. So, what are they? Although images of banana bread and brioche come to mind, we’re actually talking about the pancreas and thymus. Why are they called sweetbreads? No one really knows. One guess is that their taste is milder than other organ meats. Compared to liver, they’re a sweet meat, and the Old English word for meat was brǣd, hence “sweetbreads”. You can buy lamb, veal, beef or pork sweetbreads, with the caveat that the pork usually has a stronger flavor. I made beef sweetbreads. They’re all cooked the same way.

Sweetbread Nutrition

You heard me say that organ meats are the most nutrient-dense foods we can eat? Sweetbreads are an excellent example. I checked the nutritional profiles of the pancreas and thymus of all the various sweetbreads (beef, veal, lamb and pork). They share the same vitamins and minerals, with slightly different ratios of concentration. Like all dietary nutrition, the more variety you eat, the better.

  • They’re all high sources of protein, averaging 17 grams per 4-ounce serving.
  • They’re all high in B vitamins, especially B12. For example, 4 ounces of pork pancreas provides a whopping 309% of your daily need. You’ve heard of B12 shots being given for deficiency in this vital nutrient? Eating organ meats is the natural way to boost your levels.
  • They’re also high in Vitamin C, with veal thymus coming in the highest with 93% of your daily need met in a 4 ounce serving. And let’s not forget the minerals. Sweetbreads are rich in iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc and selenium.
  • Each of these nutrients help the body in many ways, but today I’d like to focus on their role in detoxification. Here’s a quote from Dr. Sarah Myhill: “If the body becomes deficient in a mineral such as zinc, it will grab hold of another mineral that “looks” a little bit like zinc. Typically, nickel or cadmium fits the bill. If one is deficient in selenium, then mercury or aluminium is “used” by the body instead. So, being deficient in an essential micronutrient will encourage the body to accumulate toxic ones.” We certainly want to avoid that! Also, these vitamins and minerals help our body’s natural detox pathways by supporting liver function. To say they’re essential is an understatement. So, let’s get cooking!

Where to Buy Organ Meat

Local Harvest is a website that connects consumers with local farmers. They are great sources for organ meat, often at the lowest prices.

Can I Take a Supplement Instead?

This is one of my favorite recipes, but if you’re looking for an easier alternative, there is one available. Chris Kresser is a leader in the ancestral health and functional medicine communities, and he considers organ meat a superfood. However, after working with thousands of patients, he learned that many didn’t want to prepare organ meats at home. So, he created a high-quality supplement that combines 100% grass-fed liver, heart, kidney, pancreas, and spleen so you can get all of these nutrients easily. Learn more here.

Shop now: Adapt Naturals bio-available organ meat supplement

adapted from Gourmet Magazine

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Grilled Sweetbreads with Balsamic Glaze | Phoenix Helix

Grilled Sweetbreads with Balsamic Glaze (Paleo, AIP, GAPS)

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  • Author: Eileen Laird
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 3 servings



  1. Blend balsamic vinegar and honey in a small saucepan. Simmer over medium-high heat until glaze is reduced by half, stirring occasionally. It should coat the back of a spoon when it's ready. (This can take a while.)
  2. Rinse sweetbreads well, then transfer to a large soup pot. Add water, vinegar and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently 10 minutes. (This seems like a lot of water for a small amount of meat, but the ratio is effective for removing the impurities from the sweetbreads, thereby enhancing both their nutrition and flavor.)
  3. Drain sweetbreads in a colander, then put them in a bowl of ice water to cool.
  4. While they’re cooling, preheat your gas grill on high.
  5. Drain sweetbreads and pat them dry. Remove any large pieces of membrane or gristle you see. Then pull the sweetbreads apart with your hands into pieces 1½ inches big. Usually, sweetbreads are formed in such away that this is easy to do. However, if you have difficulty, feel free to cut them into sections with a knife.
  6. Toss the sweetbreads in a bowl with the olive oil until well coated. Season with salt and toss again.
  7. Place one nectarine slice on the bottom of each skewer. Alternate with sweetbreads until skewers are full.
  8. Turn your grill down to medium high. Cook the skewers, covered, for 3 minutes. Then turn the skewers over and cook another 3 minutes.
  9. Remove from heat and baste with balsamic glaze. Serve!


  1. * Check your ingredient list on balsamic vinegar carefully. Some brands have added sugar, coloring and preservatives, all of which you want to avoid.
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Category: Main Courses
  • Method: Grill

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17 comments on “Organ Love: Grilled Sweetbreads with Balsamic Glaze (Paleo, AIP, GAPS)”

  1. Kristine Langone

    I know this is an old post. But the only sweetbreads in my area is sold ground for dog food. Is that edible especially without membrane removed?

    1. Hi Kristine. It would be difficult to boil ground meat to remove impurities without dramatically affecting the flavor and texture of the meat. So, if it was me, I would skip them and enjoy whatever whole organ meats you can find instead. You can also look at the sweetbread packaging and try to contact the farmer, to see if they would save some whole sweetbreads for you.

  2. Sweetbreads are wonderful! I used to work in a French restaurant and they prepared them in a prune-like stew which was out of this world — maybe not for a healing diet but just saying… I can’t find sweetbreads where I live. Do you know of a place I can order them online.

  3. Hi there, Carole’s Chatter is collecting recipes for dishes using all kinds of offal today. This is a good one. I do hope you pop over and link in. This is the link . Cheers

    1. I love the idea of an offal roundup. Thanks for the invite; I’ll definitely link up and also check out the rest of the recipes. I’ve grown to love organ meats.

  4. I don’t eat meat other than poultry, but that photo is amazing! I certainly appreciate the value of using a variety of meats and using as much of the animal as possible! Thanks for sharing this on Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, I’ve pinned it 🙂

  5. Thank you for the great information— I am thinking about adding some new meats into our diet and I might have to give organ meat a try!

  6. I usually eat calf’s liver after marinating it in lemon juice and water all day. It falls apart because it becomes so delicate. Do you think that is enough to rid the impurities from it? Calf liver is typically from milkfed calves, so maybe they don’t have so much to detoxify from them?

    1. Every organ is prepared slightly differently. Sweetbreads have this extra step, but not all organs do. Chicken livers don’t even require any marinade or pre-boiling at all, so I think a day-long marinade for calf liver sounds fine.

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