(not your average) Liver and Onions

Sometimes described as metallic or overly strong tasting, mushy or tough or simply uninteresting, beef liver has gotten a bad rap over the years.  It doesn’t have to be that way..


Liver and Onions with Bacon and Sage

click to enlarge

Pastured beef liver fried with bacon, just-dug onions, brown mushrooms and fresh sage leaves brings this inexpensive, nutritional powerhouse back to the dinner table.  Even the kids will dig it.

Select only the freshest, pastured beef liver, never the frozen feed-lot stuff from the supermarket.  Cut into 1/2 strips and lightly dredge in sprouted flour seasoned with sea salt and cracked pepper.  Set aside.

Fry uncured, pastured bacon until crisp and all the fat has rendered out.

Add sliced onions and continue to cook until well browned.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon grease and reserve for another use.

Add 2 tablespoons pastured butter to the hot pan and swirl to combine with the remaining bacon fat.

Add sliced brown mushrooms (I like the dark, earthy-flavored varieties) and sauté until they begin to crisp on the edges.

Make sure that the skillet is still good and hot, then add strips of floured liver and coarsely chopped fresh sage and flat-leaf parsley.  Cook until well browned, turn and brown on the other side.

Arrange on a plate, drizzle with pan juices and enjoy.

Pan-fried beef liver is a good source of Iron and Zinc, and a very good source of Protein (approx. 22g per 4oz), Vitamin A, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Phosphorus, Copper and Selenium.

This post is part of the Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet

73 thoughts on “(not your average) Liver and Onions

    • Cutting it into strips allows all the flavors to get to know each other on a 1st name basis (keep the pan good & hot – you want to fry it, not braise it). The sage combines really well with the bacon..

      Let me know how you like it.

      Thanks, Millie!

  1. My local pork provider said she is not allowed to sell bacon unless it has some chemical or other added and she refuses to do that. Where do you get your bacon?

    • I buy uncured, pastured pork belly from a local farmer, Richardson Farms. You’re practically in Joel Salatin’s back yard- surely you can find this in Culpepper or C’ville. Have you tried Gryffon’s Aerie or City Market?

  2. wow that looks good. i am intimidated by liver because i have, gasp, never tried it! this looks so great, basically like a nice steak all chopped up, wont have to tell my kids its anything but until after theyve swallowed, and approved. my father grew up thinking liver and onions was the best, most normal food ( his parents were immigrants) and yet he never made this dish for us.

  3. I am that Alaskan daughter, mentioned above :o)
    We do eat all the organ meats in from our Bear and Moose, but no matter how my hubby prepares it, I feel like throwing up every time.
    And he does a good job of it too!
    So, now we just grind all of organs up, and mix it into all our grind meat.
    That way, we eat it a couple times per week.
    I just ground, mixed, packaged and froze well over 200 pounds of bear sausage last week.
    I think I used that blog post for Real Food last wednesday.
    Love your site. Will try some of the recipes this fall, once we are buttoned down for the winter.

    • Hey we live in Alaska and love moose and caribou liver, but I have never had the guts to try bear liver yet. So you really can eat it? I will keep that in mind this spring when bear season opens up. I will also remember to keep the livers from the hares we get (not our favorite game animal anyhow, but we eat it occasionally).

  4. Hmmm, you could almost convert me over to liver. I must say this recipe actually does sound tasty. I have a friend who cooks liver once a week for her husband but it’s your store bought grocery store butcher liver and how her husband can eat it is beyond me…it smells awful. Not only smells bad but I can’t really say the iron she wants her hubby to get from it really is worth the time and energy in cooking it.
    I’ll be sending my daughter in Alaska link to this………she and her husband eat organ meats from moose, bear they’ve shot themselves, pig, etc..all organic of course. Both very much into Nourishing Traditions..and are Chapter Leaders for the Westin A. Price….working with towards getting Sally Fallon up their way.
    Keep the great recipes coming and your photos are amazing – do you do your own photography?

    • I don’t even want to think about how toxic that CAFO-raised, GMO-fed industrial offal is. And the taste? Like a mouthful of pennies.

      True pastured beef liver is mild, tender, clean and sweet.

      I’ve had moose liver, bison liver, chicken liver and beef liver and liked them all, but I confess that I like rabbit liver the best.

      I do all of my own cooking and photography. The camera is just a point-and-shoot Kodak with a fixed lens- I really have no idea how to use it properly. I’m always surprised if a picture turns out well enough to share 🙂

      Your daughter certainly sounds blessed!

      Thanks, Pamela!

  5. Thank you for reminding me of this dish.
    I have cooked it often (a variation of, adding a touch of Balsamic vinegar)
    It looks just like the ones I created, and was popular from high end restaurants to feeding street people.
    Thanks for a great site.
    Will sign up for newsletters or RSS feeds when I find the right spot.
    I like devilled kidneys too, but cannot abide Tripe no matter the style.

    Thank you.
    I was just looking at the mushrooms on my bush walk, we have a plethora here from oyster to pine and ordinary ones with pink or brown/black fins.

    • I like tripe OK as an ingredient in Menudo, but that isn’t something I eat often. Haven’t seen lamb’s kidneys around here, but I’d certainly try it. And your mushrooms sound great!

      Thanks, Leslie!

      • I never did like tripe, served as a child with parsley sauce ir cooked as Haggis for Ribbie Burns night, yet I am sure it could be tempting.

        We get Lambs kidneys easily around here, I enjoy them devilled or sliced in half, marinated and placed onto skewers. (3 halves per skewer is plently.)

        The Mushrooms are just coming up at the moment being Autumn, moving rapidly toward winter weather. At the moment no edibles are out, just big mean mushroom/fungi that look like old rusty car head lamps. Tiny little puff balls and the various goldtops and such. The tasty mushrooms/fungi will follow with fields of oyster mushroom, petite pink gilled common mushroom etc.

        Will make some Liver this week, just getting into tasty pea and ham soups, Corned Silverside and pot roasts for the coming season.

  6. Wow that looks tasty. I used to love eating liver as a kid. Asked my mom to make it all the time. My brother hated me for it. Unfortunatly, I haven’t touched it since a nutrition class I took in college. I know better now but I stil haven’t worked up the courage to cook it.

    • Thanks, Ann!

      It was much the same for me. After years away from it, my son-in-law cooked some amazing tasting liver & onions one night..

  7. I’ve been away at the beach so I’m just catching up…I have some frozen pastured beef liver in my freezer and can’t wait to try this delicious looking recipe! Thanks so much for sharing Ren! ;o)

    My twin brother and I will be having a feast – we are the only ones who will eat liver in my family.

  8. Yummy! Noone in my family likes liver except for me, but I am going to make it tomorrow anyway. I agree with you on the rabbit liver, it’s the mildest of all!

    Ren, when you cook this, at what point to do you add onions? With mushrooms or later?

    • First the bacon, then the onions, then the mushrooms and finally the liver. Be sure to keep the pan good and hot the entire time.

      Thanks, Elya!

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  10. I made this for Sunday dinner. I was actually expecting not to like it, because a previous attempt w/ a chicken liver recipe, while not a disaster, was not something I’d make again. I was liverphobic.

    But – success! My 3 kids ate their entire plate (even my 1 yr old son!) and my husband even ate his without complaining. It was delicious, and even better when I reheated it today for lunch.

    When I make it again (and I will make it again), I’ll most likely cook the liver in a separate pan – the skillet I used was a bit too crowded and it was hard to get a good sear on it. I also think it might be good w/ some red peppers added into the mix; almost like a philly cheesesteak with liver. And without the cheese (okay, maybe not like a philly cheesesteak at all).

    Anyway, thanks so much for the recipe; I’d been looking for ways to incorporate liver into our diets and this was just great.

  11. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. We had this today and LOVED it! I’m so excited. I’ve been trying to get us to like a liver recipe for over a year now. We ate it all and wanted more. Even my kids (4 and 6) liked it.

    I used chicken liver, as that was all I had. I’m going to get some beef liver next time I go to the Farmer’s Market and try that next time.

    It was so weird to actually be sad that there was no more left.

    Thanks so much!

    P.S. I enjoyed your twister post as well. It’s fun to see what is going on in other people’s kitchens.

      • I just had to let you know that I made this recipe again today. When my kids asked what we were having for lunch and I told them liver, they were actually excited about it! They walked around singing about eating yummy liver for lunch. It was too cute.

        And this time I used beef liver. I don’t know that we really noticed the difference. We enjoyed it as much today as we did last time.

        Yeah for picky kids and hubby eating liver AND singing about it!

        I had to share and to thank you one more time. 🙂


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  13. I love liver.
    Usually I just sautee the strips with chopped onion, then add tomatoes and put the lid on the pan and let it simmer until it’s all cooked and tender.
    Definitely going to try your version.
    Also mine again, but maybe add a herb (which I’ve never thought to do). Which would you suggest?

  14. I always feel when I cook some one’s recipe from their blog, I should always leave a comment and let them know 🙂 Ren, I cooked this last night, and it was DELICIOUS. I loved the crisp little bites of bacon, the mushrooms, it was visually appealing and so tasty! My partner also loved it. Thanks so much for sharing- I will definately be making this regularly in the future! I didn’t have any sage, I added a pinch of dry sage, and it was still great without fresh. I also had to use chicken liver as that’s all I had!

    • Excellent! I really enjoy hearing about recipes adapted to suit another’s taste or circumstance- they’re often better for it. Thanks, Kylie!

  15. I made this for dinner tonight and it was AWESOME!!! I have already called my mom and told her that it was better than her’s. I don’t think she was happy about that but she promised me she would try it. Thanks!

  16. I’m eating this right now…and it’s DELICIOUS! I was a bit hesitant at first, but I needn’t have worried. It’s not too strong, more…”manly” is all that comes to mind, if that makes any sense. Thanks for sharing it!

    I didn’t have any bacon, so I used previously-reserved grease plus the other fats I had on hand, coconut oil and garlic olive oil. I think the garlic was a good addition, too. 🙂

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  21. I made this today and I absolutely love it so… a million thanks 🙂 Was hard to stop eating! The only change I made, being primal, is using a teeny bit of coconut flour instead of regular. Thanks again!

  22. I am so glad I found this recipe. My husband loves liver but I cannot stomach it. Maybe it is because it is the store bought kind. My grandfather was a big fan of organ meat as is my husband. He loves sweetbreads, liver, tripas, menudo, tongue and the like. I am going to buy some fresh liver next time and maybe it will be better.

    • Pleased to meet you! Hope you enjoy the recipe!

      Here’s a great way to incorporate organ meat into your family’s diet – add ground beef heart to plain ground beef when making chili, tacos, etc. The flavor, appearance and texture are indistinguishable from hamburger meat. I’m nearly positive that you’ll like it.



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  25. I just tried your recipe, with a little balsamic vinegar added at the end, and it was very good! I’m not a liver fan, but the bacon and sage really made it taste nice. And the earthiness of the mushrooms was a nice compliment to the liver. Thanks!

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  27. I’m living in North Africa and can barely speak the languages, and I don’t see anything like organic or pastured options for any foods. So given the uncertain diet of the animals (probably not good), would you still recommend liver?

    • If an animal’s diet had been compromised by eating food contaminated with toxic substances, the greatest concentration of those toxins would be found in the animals organs, especially the liver. Since you have concerns without means to disprove, I would not personally eat nor would I recommend consuming the animal products that you’ve described. I would of course be grateful for being afforded the choice.

      Best wishes, and good luck on your journey!

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  30. MUST make this tonight!!…Looks scrumptious…and love the addition of earthy mushrooms….and “déglacing” with balsamic vinegar a few of your readers have mentioned…but in the recipe I noticed that you mention “the floured” liver…..did you use a pale-friendly substitute?…Thank you for any enlightenment !…Fabulous blog by the way!

    • Thanks very much, Donna!

      I used a very small amount of sprouted wheat flour, but you could substitute according to your own preferences. Or use nothing at all—as long as the liver has been patted dry and the pan is hot, the liver should brown nicely.

      • Thanks Ren!!!

        I’ll give it a shot with either a VERY hot pan…or even think a brief drag through buckwheat or chestnut flour!….Thanks for the rapid reply and the rave-inducing recipe!….Makin’ it this very evening!!

  31. This seems sooo good, I have my liver soaking in a vinegar spiked water bath to pull out the extra blood and get rid of some of that metal taste ( old family thing, that works) This recipe seems delicious so must try it lol.

    I am anemic so more iron a food has the better, or I’m stuck taking 2 iron tablets a day. The liver that’s I use is from a friend or family that raises the beef themselves so it’s nice to know what the heck is going into my stomach. Trust me when I agree with the poster on not buying that nasty store bought stuff when comparing it.

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