Please tell me where you found grass fed&finished calf liver. I absolutely loved when my mom made liver and onions for dinner when I was a kid (odd child, I know)! I have made it as an adult with regular grass liver but my mom informed me that calf is the key. I’m not sure where to source it.
Hi Kiki, I don’t know about grass fed and finished, but we can usually get high quality calves liver at our local Whole Foods.
Try cubed venison in place of liver. It’s a whole other dish, it is fine!
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.
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.”
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.
HATE liver but my husband loves it. He prepares it the way he likes it which often turns really too dry for me. I may try this liver recipe with onions. Would the onions make the liver less dry and more tender? I’m desperately looking for a good recipe that will make me tolerate or appreciate it more, all because it’s rich in iron and magnesium.
Soaking the liver in buttermilk will make the liver more tender, and take the edge off the taste. ~Elise
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
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….
Julia Child’s works well to make beautifully sauced onions but I am still getting used to eating the liver part!
MILK-FED CALIVES’ liver has a much paler color.
Julia carefully cooks down browned salted sweet onions – removes – then sears lightly dredged meat 1 min per side. Return onions, add chicken STOCK or dry white WINE to properly deglaze & reduce that a bit.
I also add some excellent dry sherry for great aroma and complex taste.
Ketchup makes all food taste LIKE ketchup… but I may need some to choke down last night’s leftover liver! (Can’t have the fatty onions every day.)
I love liver (beef, calf, chicken). My dear mother (God love ya mom) tried to make good liver, and usually made stuff you could resole your shoes with. My grandmother (her mom) however, made it fork tender and mouthwateringly delicious. She told me to fry it quick and hot, that’s what keeps it tender, and she was right. We never soaked it in anything, just dredged it in seasoned (salt and pepper) flour, fried it quick and hot in bacon grease. Served it with lots of fried onions and mashed potatoes… The trick is to not overcook it. I use this trick – fry side one till I see a little blood show, then I turn it over, wait till I see it again, give it a quick 3rd turn, then out of the pan it comes. Quick is the key, esp if it is thin sliced. Its been a while since we had liver. Making me hungry for some!!
My husband’s family raises cattle, so I have been cooking calves’ liver for years and finally settled on our favorite: Remove membrane, cut in bite-size strips and dredge in flour. Fry on high very briefly in bacon fat and/or oil. Season after frying. I saute the onions separately. I may try the suggestion of soaking in buttermilk sometime. Thanks!
I live in the Caribbean and here, liver is something we would definitely season (marinate) before cooking; some added garlic, chadon beni, french thyme, etc. Like so many of the other comments, more people seem to enjoy liver and onions with those added flavours from the bacon etc. Having it for dinner tonight actually!
Having liver an onions tonight, per my husbands request. He has a high triglyceride count and he says you have to die from something. So I guess its liver and onoins. I only make 1 time per year. He loves it, same recipe as the first one posted.
I love my mother’s liver and onions. She would fry the liver as above but combine the onions and then make a cream of mushroom sauce. Just a can of mushroom soup and a little milk. Wonderful!!!!
I just love your recipes! This will be the next way I cook the liver that is waiting in my freezer. I went with something a little less traditional for my first attempt – Thai Liver with Coconut Rice and Green Sauce. I’m getting to like Liver – who’d have thought?
We love liver. We raise our own beef, so they are free of hormones and all that bad stuff.
I usually dredge it in seasoned flour…just salt and pepper. Fry in in bacon grease until crisp on the outside. Remove from the pan. I then add a touch more bacon grease and fry up lots of onion slices. Once they are done, remove from pan. If there is enough bacon grease left in the pan (if not, add more), just add some of the flour left from dredging the liver, brown a little and then add water to make a nice gravy, scraping all the browned bits off the pan. Once you’ve achieved the thick gravy, add back in the liver and the onions. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Serve with mashed potatoes and we always like corn also. YUM YUM!
The only thing missing here are the fried apple rings – try ’em and you’ll never touch the ketchup again.
Marinade BEEF LIVER in milk, salt and black pepper for about 1 hour.
Calves liver is too mushy…the texture of regular beef liver is best.
Well… I had already purchased my liver (local, organic, grass-fed, and, I guess, adult cow) by the time I read here that calves’ liver may be the milder choice. I hate to say it, but this was a disaster. The overpowering smell of cow (it was almost as if I could smell the fur, cow patty, everything on the liver and its blood) leached onto the onions (I fried them together) and I had to put the result down the disposal out of repulsion. too, too bad. I really want to like liver — I know it’s chock full of fat-soluble vitamins, iron, etc. — but that was, unfortunately, an unpalatable experiment. I love chopped liver, and I’ve loved pate. Will calves’ liver make this a better dish? or is that simply the smell of liver?
Yikes! Neither of my parents will even touch beef liver. Too strong. It’s calves’ liver or nothing. Liver really is strong tasting, which is why I tend to douse mine with ketchup. People have recommended soaking it in buttermilk first, which sounds like a good idea. The acidity in the buttermilk will help break down the liver a bit. If you like chopped liver, I suggest just starting with cooking up some chicken livers. They are much more mild than beef or calves’ liver. ~Elise
I dont think I have ever had Liver and onions that didn’t make me remember my childhood when my mother put it on the table to those all so familiar cries of OH NO NOT LIVER! But like you I learned to appreciate it as I grew older and now even enjoy it. Next time you make yours try adding a couple of tablespoons of balsamc vinagar to onions and reducing it down before putting onions on top of the liver. This really adds a nice flavor. Thanks for the walk down memory lane.
I would make a brown gravy to accompany this rather than ketchup. Simply add flour by the tablespoon to the pan drippings– a tbsp of flour for each tbsp of drippings. Saute the flour briefly to cook out the “raw” taste, then add 1 cup of beef stock for each tbsp of flour and drippings. Heat and stir until hot and thickened and serve over liver & onions.
I am from Trinidad in the Caribbean. It is interesting to read that the same responses made by me and my brother, over 40 years ago, to liver and onions, took place in another part of the world (it may not have been so many years ago though :-). I began to enjoy liver and onions when I went to the UK and it was served with bacon, mashed potatoes and gravy – to die for. I still occasionally eat this meal but remember liver is an organ and therefore is high in cholesterol and must be eaten only as a treat. I have just found your website and am thoroughly enjoying the recipes. Thank you
Thanks for the reminder. I haven’t had it in years and hated it as a child but craved it once my folks were gone. Memories I guess.
I saw your post and made beef liver with a reduced wine sauce and the bacon & onions. Awesome. Happy. Thanks…
Ketchup with liver? Never heard of that. My liver has to be served with HP Sauce or some other “brown sauce” as the Brits call it. Mmmmm.
See Wikipedia for HP Sauce if you don’t know what it is. You’ll never go back to ketchup.
Wow, I make liver and onions the same way! The only difference is that I only put garlic powder and salt and pepper in my flour to season it.
A little hint though, if you’re looking for gluten-free, tapioca flour is a good substitute here. It coats the liver and browns nicely. Or of course you could leave off the flour entirely, but I like the texture it gives the liver.
I tried your recipe today and it was delicious! Thanks.
I grew up eating liver too although not as often as you family. I liked it as a kid. In Chinese cooking, the innards of animals are often used such as liver, kidney, intestines. I loved all of them. Liver was actually one of my favourites. Of course, not being western, my mother did not cook liver and onion. Rather, the liver was sometimes used in soup or it stir fried. I loved it. I still do although I actually haven’t tasted liver in at least over a decade because it’s high in cholesterol.
Thanks for this one Mom !
An old southern U.S. comfort food.
Makes liver taste great!
1 kilo beef, pork or chicken liver & hearts.
A couple *BIG* onions, or several small ones.
One clove of garlic – minced fine.
One beef cube.
4- 6 cups of milk (adjust for desired sauce thickness).
1/4 cup of plain wheat flour.
Black Pepper (to taste).
Sage (to taste).
Remove the membrane from beef / pork liver.
If using chicken, cut the liver into bite-size
and butterfly cut the hearts by *almost*
splitting into two pieces.
Slice beef / pork liver into slabs, 1/4 inch thick.
Dredge in flour / sage / pepper & brown in fast pan.
Remove & set aside… caramalize the onions & garlic.
Remove from pan.
Keeping the pan HOT, add the flour until it browns,
in a couple spoons of oil. Keep it moving.
Add the milk & beef cube, all at once and stir, keep stirring
until it begins to boil & thicken into a gravy.
Return the liver & onions and simmer *slowly* for ten
minutes. Serve with mashed potatoes or plain rice
and a vegetable like steamed green beans or carrots.
Once a week dish in our house, replaces iron and
calcium and keeps us all fat & happy (within the budget).
I think this story is amazing. We had “special beef” once a month, as well. It was not until I was in middle school that I found out “special beef” happened to be beef liver. I have acquired the taste. However, sadly, my sister has not. We too were not forced to eat anything. My sister and I were frequent members of the “three bites club”. However, ketchup to the rescue alliviated those early moments of conquering the “special beef”. Thank you for sharing your story. It definitely jogged my memory.
Just wanted to add to the ideas of spicing up your liver. I too as a kid had liver&onions 1x month. Mom’s secret was to take her drippings from frying the flour/salt/pepper coated calves liver in bacon grease and adding sherry. She would make a sauce with the grease, flour, browned drippings return the liver to the cast iron skillet. Yumm. Wish she was still around to share this herself.
Well I am the odd ball out of the group I have always loved liver and onions (Since Birth) especially with corn. I sopp the plate and bowl. Then again I always loved the burnt part of the mac and cheese and the burnt part of the ham. (When I ate Pork). But this really helped me because I didn’t have gravy master and this turned out well even though I skipped the bacon part. Plus this is the first time I have ever breaded my liver so this was a great help. Thanks for the recipe.
Just wanted to say…Liver ‘n Onions has always been a favorite of mine….Am eating it as I write this!!! I especially enjoy deer hunting and getting deer liver! If anyone that I hunt with, doesn’t want their’s I snag it!! I love it too! Nothin beats the way my mom fixed it, but mine is a pretty tasty 2nd to her’s. Mine is basic….plenty of onions, butter, Mr’s Dash table blend, extra pepper, flour and water….slow cooked covered pan to save as many tasty juices as possible….
I grew up on a farm, and we had liver regularly as a little child, but none of us liked it, so Mom quit making us eat it (as she didn’t care for it either – just Dad) I just fed this recipe to my 22 month old and my 3 1/2 (almost 4) year old, and they loved it! The only thing I did different was soak it in milk before I cooked it to make it less strong. Of course, I didn’t forget the ketchup! :) Delicious. Thanks.
Liver and onions is a great favourite at my house, too! Unfortunately, I have a problem getting hold of baby beef (calves) liver. My father said to try Lamb’s liver….Wow! Always tender and a milder flavour. Funnily enough, I can always get the lamb’s liver easier than calves liver!
Also, I brown the floured liver first in butter, take it out of the pan, then add the onions to the pan with a cup of wine (red or white). I then put the liver back in the pan, on top of the onions, cover, and simmer till the onions soften. Always tender this way, even with calves liver.
By the way, I love this site for all the wonderful and easy recipes posted. Reading the comments section is a must too, as I learn so many new ways of cooking from everyone. Thanks
I was raised on liver and onions once a month, too. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I was introduced to something better than calf liver…. venison or elk liver, cooked fresh for dinner on the same day it’s harvested! If you are lucky enough to get fresh wild game liver you’ll be spoiled forever. The only thing you need to be careful of is that your animal is healthy and you clean and inspect the liver very well before eating. You can be certain that wild game has no hormones or antibiotics but it also was never exposed to chemical wormers!
Note from Elise: Hi Kate, thanks for sharing your tip on venison or elk liver. Kinda gross, but still useful to know. :-)
I have eaten liver and onion since I can remember and now I feed it to my kids. I sauté the onions in butter and then I flour the liver pieces and also cook them in the butter. On the side, I cook gravy and mashed potatoes and some sort of veggie. My kids never seem to complain about it
Update: Used Balsamic vinegar to briefly marinate the liver, then used your recipe.
I did NOT use calves liver, but instead used some “organic” range-fed Scottish Highland beef liver. SUPER mild! As good as or better than calves liver (and NO issues with added chemicals or hormones).
Just looking for tips on cooking beef liver, cos my wife said “You have to be real careful cooking liver… ” when I said I’d like to make some L&O.
Good tips abound here!
Funny thing is, I always liked L&O as a kid, looked forward to it with great relish.*
Hmmm, I think I’ll take off on one of the vinegar suggestions and briefly marinate the liver I hope to pick up today (Scottish Highlands free range beef) in some balsamic vinegar before coating and frying. I’ll try to remember to come back and comment on how it turns out.
*Note: my tastes have always been a tad on the offbeat side, though. I even like the aroma of skunk… *heh*
Many years ago, a Croatian friend who cooked at a group home, gave me some liver and onions. Up until that time I would never even try it, but I decided to this time. I was amazed! I loved it! I just had to have her recipe and technique for cooking it.
She said that she takes thinly sliced beef liver and soaks it in milk. This gives it a milder taste. She then dredges it in flour with freshly ground pepper in the flour. DO NOT USE SALT! This will toughen the liver. Add after cooked. Cut bacon into 1″ pieces (lots if you like it) and slice some onions. Cook the bacon and onions in a hot skillet until bacon is cooked and onions are translucent. Drain off the grease and place in a bowl. Leaving some of the bacon drippings in the frying pan and making sure your frying pan is hot, place the strips of liver in and brown. Try not to turn the liver too many times. Sometimes it is best to lower the heat. Cook until well cooked. Add onions and bacon back to the pan and just heat with the liver for a few minutes. Serve hot….MMMMMMmmmm Delicious.
Great recipe. However, here in Croatia we also like to combine veal liver with veal kidneys. The kidneys should be sliced very thin and sauteed prior to the liver. Remember to soak the kidneys overnight in milk to neutralize a possible agressive smell. Heavy cream may be added towards the end to make a nice sauce to accompany pasta or various dumplings. This recipe may sound disgusting, but in fact it is very good. Enjoy!
Great recipe. Remember DO NOT OVERCOOK the liver. Also, I find that drizzling an ample amount of fresh lemon juice on the liver as it fries really enhances the flavor.
What you call “liver and onions” is a typical Venetian recipe, called “fegato alla veneziana”.
Hi everyone, thanks for all the great ideas! I love the concept of soaking the liver in buttermilk. And freezing before carving? Perfect. We do get our liver already cut, but I can imagine that would be useful.
Hi Aardvarknav – giving up meat for all of Lent? That’s commendable. We only give it up on Ash Wednesday itself. OMG, I can’t imagine serving Liver and Onions for Easter; your kids are going to love that. And I can only fantasize about how fresh liver must taste. Does anyone even know how to butcher any more? The last butcher we had in this neighborhood went out of business 25 years ago.
Jeez, tomorrow’s Ash Wednesday and I’m giving up meat for Lent. You’ve created a craving for liver and onions and now I have to wait till Easter to make it. My kids are really going to be surprised when they show up for our Easter meal. I grew up on a farm in the 50s and my mother made liver and onions the same way. We raised Angus cattle and butchered our own beef. When we butchered, my mom always made liver and onions on butchering day. Fresh liver has an altogether better taste than what you can get in the store.
We also had liver & oinions growing up & loved it & still do, I still buy and make it every now and then. My husband said he’d tried before & did not like it but he likes the way I make it & actually asks me to make it, when its been a while.
Maybe its because my family hails from South America, that these recipes only have similarities to the way I cook it, but basically they’re the same.
I season the strips with garlic salt, cut oinions and bell peppers in rolls. Layer the pan with onions, then the bell peppers, then the liver, onions again & finally bell peppers again. I cover it with a lid, let it cook on medium low, 10 minutes, uncover, flip the liver, cover & cook another 5-10 minutes. My liver always comes out tender and juicy. Once in a while I leave it on too long and it dries up but then the onions and peppers are infused with flavor.
I make my liver and onions by sauteing the onions with bacon first. I don’t use flour or coating of any kind. After the bacon starts to cook I add the liver and cover it. I do turn the liver, bacon and onions several times to make sure the liver is done and the onions don’t burn. By keeping the lid on (preferably a clear one) the liver stays tender. I will even use full grown organic beef liver and just add a little more bacon and onions to keep it from tasting too overbearing. I’ve actually not had too many complaints from my family when I fix it that way.
I’ve always loved liver and will just echo the *thinly sliced* sentiment as being one of the most important elements in calves liver! Think thin!!
Liver and onion is a personal fav!
Unfortunately, I think my wife had bad experiences with it as a kid (most likely of the overcooked variety, yech!). So now I only get it when we go out to eat. The best place to get it is at a good greasy spoon. This is one of those dishes that excels in any good diner.
A good memory from childhood is chicken livers with onions server (of course) with out-of-the box Kraft mac and cheese. The perfect comfy food.
Oh, I have always loved liver and onions, and always will! My mother used to make it for breakfast occasionally — I would not eat much of anything when I was a kid, so incredibly picky, and she knew this was one sure-fire way to get me to have a decent breakfast.
(Plus when I was a baby, the only baby foods I’d eat were strained liver and strained beets. I dunno; me and liver were just meant to be, I guess. *g*)
Thanks for the post — really took me back.
Just recently found your site, which I am enjoying very much!
One HUGE secret, alluded to by another commentor above, is that if you want the best flavor, it must be paper thin! Accomplish this by purchasing your liver whole in one piece and freezing it…then thaw it partially…and carve off paper thin slices. My parents learned this accidently when Mom forgot to thaw it for dinner one time…and it was done thus forever after. They floured it and fried it in butter…it only takes a few seconds at the right heat to fry liver this thin…then it tastes out of this world. I always thought the liver fixed in thick slices was rather bitter…but it is only sweet when cooked this method. My folks could not eat onions or much spice, so we ate it with salt on it alone. We LOVED it…all 4 of us kids! It was one of our favorite meals!
Buttermilk!!! Try soaking the liver for at least a half hour (and up to two hours) in buttermilk before dredging in seasoned flour and frying. The buttermilk removes any strong taste and makes the liver taste absolutely tender and delicious.
Also, my Mother always made rice to go with our dish of liver and onions. When the liver and onions was done, she made a pan gravy out of the drippings…it was PERFECT over rice and on the liver and onions too.
I used to love the way my mom liver and onions. She used to fry bacon and then brown the onions and liver in the bacon grease, only she would leave several pieces of bacon in there also. She always served it with homemade mashed potatoes. When I started making family dinners while my mom worked, I made liver and onions and never ate it again. The bloody liver just grossed me out. Sorry for the visual! I may try again sometime. Thanks for the memories!
I grew up in a nursing home (yes.. REALLY…) and we served this at least once a month. Since we had to make so much (for 45 people), Nyda would cook the onions in bacon grease, then quickly brown the liver in batches until all were lightly browned. She would then put the whole mess in the oven on a low temperature for about half an hour. Sometimes (to change it up) she’d add cream of mushroom soup over it all. It was fantastic. Even as a child I loved liver and onions.
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.
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.
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?
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