Sweetbreads on mushroom risotto.

Sweetbreads or ris are culinary names for the thymus (throat, gullet, or neck sweetbread) or the pancreas (heart, stomach, or belly sweetbread) especially of the calf (ris de veau) and lamb (ris d'agneau) (although beef and pork sweetbreads are also eaten).[1] Various other glands used as food are also called 'sweetbreads', including the parotid gland ("cheek" or "ear" sweetbread), the sublingual glands ("tongue" sweetbreads or "throat bread"), and testicles (cf. Rocky Mountain oyster).[2][3] The "heart" sweetbreads are more spherical in shape, and surrounded symmetrically by the "throat" sweetbreads, which are more cylindrical in shape.

One common preparation of sweetbreads involves soaking in salt water, then poaching in milk, after which the outer membrane is removed. Once dried and chilled, they are often breaded and fried. They are also used for stuffing or in pâtés. They are grilled in many Latin American cuisines, such as in the Argentine asado, and served in bread in Turkish cuisine.

The word "sweetbread" is first attested in the 16th century, but the logic behind the name is unclear.[4] "Sweet" is perhaps used since the thymus is sweet and rich tasting, as opposed to savory tasting muscle flesh.[5] "Bread" may come from brede 'roasted meat'.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Oxford Companion to Food, Oxford English Dictionary
  2. ^ W. A. Newman Dorland, The american illustrated medical dictionary, 1922 full text
  3. ^ The Medical Age, quoting the British Medical Journal, 11:702, 1893 full text
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989
  5. ^ "Take Our Word For It" Issue 176, page 2
  6. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989, s.v. 'brede'

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  • Sweetbread — Sweet bread (sw[=e]t br[e^]d ), n. 1. Either the thymus gland or the pancreas, the former being called {neck sweetbread} or {throat sweetbread}, the latter {belly sweetbread}. The sweetbreads of ruminants, esp. of the calf, are highly esteemed as …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • sweetbread — [swēt′bred΄] n. [Early ModE < SWEET + BREAD, in OE sense “morsel”] the thymus (heart sweetbread or throat sweetbread) or sometimes the pancreas (stomach sweetbread) of a calf, lamb, etc., when used as food usually used in pl …   English World dictionary

  • sweetbread — pancreas used as food 1560s, from SWEET (Cf. sweet)(adj.); the bread element may be from O.E. bræd flesh …   Etymology dictionary

  • sweetbread — ► NOUN ▪ the thymus gland or pancreas of an animal, used for food …   English terms dictionary

  • sweetbread — noun The pancreas or thymus gland of an animal, especially a lamb or calf, as food. Syn: belly sweetbread, heart sweetbread, stomach sweetbread, gullet sweetbread, neck sweetbread, throat sweetbread …   Wiktionary

  • sweetbread — /sweet bred /, n. 1. Also called stomach sweetbread. the pancreas of an animal, esp. a calf or a lamb, used for food. 2. Also called neck sweetbread, throat sweetbread. the thymus gland of such an animal, used for food. [1555 65; SWEET + BREAD] * …   Universalium

  • sweetbread — /ˈswitbrɛd / (say sweetbred) noun 1. the pancreas (stomach sweetbread) of an animal, especially a calf or a lamb, used for food. 2. the thymus gland (neck sweetbread or throat sweetbread), used for food …   Australian-English dictionary

  • sweetbread — UK [ˈswiːtˌbred] / US [ˈswɪtˌbred] noun [countable, usually plural] Word forms sweetbread : singular sweetbread plural sweetbreads the pancreas (= small organ in the body) of a young farm animal, cooked and eaten …   English dictionary

  • sweetbread — noun Date: 1565 the thymus or pancreas of a young animal (as a calf) used for food …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • sweetbread — Synonyms and related words: abatis, brains, breast of veal, chitterlings, cockscomb, foie de veau, fricandeau, giblets, gizzard, haslet, heart, kidneys, liver, marrow, tongue, tripe, veal, veal cutlet, veau …   Moby Thesaurus

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