Liver and Onions

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Once a month, my entire childhood, mom would serve us liver and onions for dinner. I think it was the only dish in which whining was even remotely tolerated. “Liver and onions, OH NOOOOO,” was the hue and cry from the assembled kids. Mom and dad never really forced us to eat anything. But, if you didn’t like what was on the table, there was no alternative. And complaining really wasn’t an option; one look from dad was enough to keep any of us quiet. My parents worked hard enough to put food on the table, and we knew it. It was for these quiet moments of culinary desperation that God invented ketchup. Ketchup was the only thing that could save us from the taste of overwhelming taste of liver, and we poured it on. The onions helped too.

Recently mom and dad admitted to me that they don’t like liver that much; they made it as often as they did because (back then, before hormone-fed beef) it was good for us kids. I have been begging them for two years to make it again and they finally did tonight. “I’m sure this will be a popular one for the website,” laughed my dad. And you know what? It was good. Really good. Much better than I remember it being as a kid, and without all that ketchup. Two important points to remember when making liver, first, use the most organic, free-range, antibiotic, hormone-free calves liver you can. As full of vitamins and nutrients that liver is, it also collects the bad stuff, so get beef that is as free of chemicals as you can. Second, use calves liver, veal liver, or baby beef liver, not regular beef liver which is just too strong.

Liver and Onions Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 4.


  • 1¼ lb calves liver (be sure to use calves or veal liver, not mature beef liver), thinly sliced
  • ½ to 1 cup of flour, seasoned with
  • Salt, pepper, paprika, dry mustard to taste
  • 3 teaspoons bacon fat
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced thin


1 Dredge the calves liver in seasoned flour. Set aside.

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2 Heat a large cast iron skillet on medium high heat. Add a teaspoon of bacon fat. Sauté the onions until translucent, a couple of minutes. Remove onions from pan with a slotted spoon. Set aside onto a serving dish.

3 Add a couple more teaspoons of bacon fat to the skillet. Add the calves liver slices, working in batches. Fry until browned on both sides.

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Serve with sautéed onions (and ketchup!).

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Showing 4 of 54 Comments

  • Dawn

    This recipe lacks lemon juice to presoak the washed and trimmed liver; it takes away a lot of that “metallic” flavour folks. Also, here in much of Latinamerica we cook our meats with fresh chopped garlic; it enhances the flavours beautifully. I would never dream of cooking anything savoury sans garlic(and Worcestershire sauce for beef!), and sometimes ginger too. Northern recipes are quite bland imho, which is why people refuse to eat organ meats–the ” metallic/gaminess” of the meats are too strong without proper seasonings(herbs too!) Don’t be afraid to add a lil vino too as we do here(a Spanish holdover from the Conquistadores)….I guarantee you, liver will be transformed.

  • Dana Dale

    We have pastured beef liver from a local ranch. I used your recipe. I can’t thank you enough, Elise. My 17yo son said, “This is really good, Mom.”

  • Fork Lift Operator

    I don’t do the flour bit…or bread crumbs. I fry my onions, green beans and liver in bacon fat. You can also throw a few bacon bits in with the green beans. Sometimes I soak the liver in milk before frying. People say it takes away the bitterness. I don’t get the bitterness part. To me it’s the same whether soaked in milk or not.

    For all you people that won’t eat liver, I have no problem with that. It means all the more for me. Liver is one of the cheapest meats you can buy. You just have to be careful. Since you’ll be the only one buying it, you have to make sure it’s fresh and not brown or dried out. Pile on the salty sweet onions and the green beans and I am good to go.

  • Kathyjo

    My mother made this for us at times..should say, for supper, it wasn’t my ideal to make it! I just plain didn’t like it..took me to adulthood before i craved the taste of liver and onions..i make it with a gravy too, a roux made from frying the liver..turns out great, but my grown kids still won’t give it try…so alas, i the only one to truly appreciate this special dish..LOL

  • Luca

    Liver and onions(red, yellow or white) is very very good!!!and don’t forget to cook it with olive oil and bay leaves.well thats how we cook it in italy. I also think veal liver is better than beef because it is less hard but also beef liver is very good. I had it yesterday and i would have it once a week, the problem is that my wife doesnt like it so much so i cook it rarely and also beef liver is pretty cheap….

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