Liver and Onions

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 64 Comments

  • Viv

    It’s funny the things you know for certain tasted awful when you were a kid, and yet you love them when you’re an adult. Your tastebuds clearly change as you get older. I wonder if it’s time I tried liver again too. :) Thanks for the recipe, Elise.

  • ken broadhurst

    Great idea. Also, put a few drops of good vinegar on the liver as it cooks. The sour taste of the vinegar moderates and enhances the taste of the liver. I think that’s the element ketchup adds, but without sugar. Serve the liver with sauteed onions, right?

  • Donna A.

    We ate liver and onions at lest once a month. We would fry up bacon and saute it with the onions. I love liver and onions and still do. But you’re right, you do need to get range fed beef.
    Donna A.

  • Florida reader

    Here is my great liver recipe: Take thinly-sliced liver and cut into 1/4 inch julienned strips. Toss strips in seasoned flour (salt and pepper). Keep strips separate and dry until all strips are coated with the flour. Put half butter and half olive oil into a skillet and heat to sizzling (do not burn this). Take small batches of the coated liver strips and quickly cook, on both sides. Because you will do this in small batches, remove each completed batch to a flat platter until all liver strips have been cooked. After all liver has been cooked, remove excess butter/oil from skillet. Place all cooked liver strips back into the skillet, and on high heat, standing there with a spatula, turn the liver quickly as you sprinkle red wine vinegar over all. Turn onto serving platter. Sprinkle top with a little chopped parsley. Serve with hot, crusty French or Italian bread.

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