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How to Cook Liver (with Onions)

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Learn how to cook liver. A simple, quick, and popular way of cooking pork, beef, or veal liver smothered with caramelized onions.

Cooking liver is easy! And so delicious! Learn how to cook liver with onions, a quick, simple, hearty dish that will convert anyone; this is one of our favorite liver recipes.

serving liver and onions with mashed potatoes and apples.

I like liver. I grew up eating it (mostly chicken), and I never knew that there were so many people that don’t like it until I was grown-up. It might be an acquired taste, but once you’ve learned to like it, there is no way back. You’ll find yourself not only cooking it at home but ordering it in restaurants as well.

Two of the best restaurant meals I’ve ever had (yes, I remember this kind of thing, I just love food) involved offal. First, a spectacular Venetian liver served on polenta (in Italy), and then beef liver with onions and apple rings with mashed potatoes (in Bavaria).

And what’s the second-best thing about offal eaten in restaurants (after the taste)? It will probably be the cheapest dish on the menu, despite tasting better than probably most of the other dishes.

The last dish mentioned is the recipe I recreated recently: tender liver strips served with onions and savory-sweet apple rings – an absolute delight!

collage of two pictures of cooked offal in a bowl and then served with onions.

What kind of liver do you need?

You can cook this dish with pork, beef, veal, venison, lamb, turkey, chicken. Except for the lamb, I’ve cooked this recipe with all the other types. See this post for more specific instructions on How to Cook Turkey Liver, a delicious recipe including onions and apples as well. Or see this spicy recipe for Peri-Peri Chicken Livers or the Romanian Deviled Eggs filled with homemade pate.

Pork, beef, and lamb have a more pungent taste and need to be sliced and soaked in milk before cooking. I soak veal as well, although it has a milder flavor.

Why eat liver and where to buy it?

  • It’s rich in proteins, low in calories, and has a lot of iron and zinc, essential for the immune system. It also contains Vitamin A, B6, and B12.
  • It tastes great; it’s cheap and readily available. 
  • You can buy it in most supermarkets or at the butchers. I can usually purchase beef or pork fresh, but for some reason, chicken parts are rarely sold fresh; I tend to buy them frozen. Turkey, lamb, or venison are not that easy to find; you might have to order them in advance or buy them in specialty stores.
close up of a white plate with strips of pork liver.

What does it taste like?

When properly cooked, it is hearty, soft, and almost sweet. It has a slightly earthy flavor; the larger the animal you got it from, the earthier. Poultry and veal are more tender and sweeter, beef, pork, and venison more intense.

Why soak raw liver in milk?

The soaking helps reduce the gamey, livery, slightly metallic taste. It will still taste of liver (don’t worry about it), but it will not be so intense anymore. I never soak turkey or chicken; they are milder to start with and don’t need any extra preparation.

What else do you need?

  • Milk: about 1 cup, enough milk to cover the strips completely.
  • All-purpose flour
  • Three tablespoons butter, vegetable, or olive oilOnions: about 10 oz (300 g), about two medium to large ones in the US, or about four-five medium ones in Germany. A little more or less is acceptable
  • One large apple, preferably a crisp sort. 
  • A large cast-iron skillet or nonstick pan.

Cooking steps for pork, beef, veal, or venison liver

  • Soak: Rinse the pieces and pat them dry. Cut into strips, about 1.2 cm/ ½ inch. Place in a small bowl and cover with the cold milk. Soak for 30 minutes to one hour.
collage of three pictures of sliced liver on a board, bowl and soaking in milk.
  • During soaking time:
    • Start making the mashed potatoes if you decide to serve the dish with potatoes.
    • Slice and cook the onions. Melt butter in a large skillet on medium heat and cook onions during the last 10-15 minutes or so of the soaking time. They should be golden brown and slightly caramelized. Keep them warm while you cook the meat in the same frying pan.
    • Cut and cook apples: While the onions are cooking, peel, core (this apple corer helps), and slice the apples.
wooden board with sliced raw onions and apple rings.
caramelizing sliced onions in a cast-iron skillet.

  • Cook liver: Remove the pieces from the milk and pat dry with kitchen paper. Place the flour on a large plate and turn the pieces into the flour. Set aside.
  • Cook apples: Start frying the apples in a separate pan for 3-4 minutes per side until golden.
cored apple rings cooking in a cast-iron skillet.
  • Fry offal: While the apples are cooking, fry the pieces on medium-high heat as well. Return the cooked sliced onion to the pan, mix gently with the meat, and reheat shortly. Season well with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle with fresh herbs like parsley or thyme if desired.
collage of two pictures of liver strips in a pan before and after cooking.
  • Following these steps will ensure that all the three different parts of the meal are cooked simultaneously and served hot.

Can I cook the recipe with chicken or turkey livers?

Definitely. Skip the soaking part. Remove any connective tissues from the chicken and halve the pieces. Cut the turkey slices into strips or thin slices and coat them with flour. Cook as instructed above and check by cutting one piece in the middle, depending on the thickness of the pieces, the cooking time might be slightly shorter or longer.

Tips for cooking liver

  • It is preferable to use organic products. The liver is nutritious and healthy, but it also collects the chemicals fed to the animal. By using organic, free-range offal, you reduce the chances of eating all the hormones and antibiotics found in these animals.
  • For a milder flavor, choose calf’s liver, chicken, or turkey. If you love the livery flavor as much as I do, beef and pork are perfect.
  • Don’t overcook! This is probably the best piece of advice I can give you. The overcooked pieces are dry, rubbery, and chalky; you will not enjoy eating them.
  • The strips will only need about 2-3 minutes of cooking time, turning a couple of times in between. They should be dark and crisp on the outside and very slightly pink on the inside.
  • To check, cut one piece in the middle; it should not be bloody anymore, just a bit pink. If you want them to be thoroughly cooked, add another minute to the cooking time and check again.
  • According to the USDA, internal beef organs should be cooked to 72 degrees Celsius/ 160 degrees Fahrenheit, which is well-done. However, in this case, the organs will be chalky and hard to swallow instead of tender and sweet. The compromise is only very slightly pink, not bloody, yet not completely brown.
  • If you cook whole liver slices (not strips), cook them for about 3-4 minutes per side, depending on the thickness.
close up of sliced liver showing the pink inside, some apple rings on the side.

How to serve?

  • Mashed potatoes or polenta are perfect. Actually, I’ve never served them with anything else.
  • You can also serve them with crusty bread on the side and add a fresh salad to the meal.

What to do with leftovers?

  • They keep well in the fridge for up to 2 days. You can reheat them, but the meat will become dryer. That’s the reason why I prefer to serve the leftover liver without reheating in a sandwich or with salad.
  • The dish is not suitable for freezing. 
plate with beef liver, apples, onions and mashed potatoes.

More hearty pork or beef recipes:

how to cook liver and onions, apple rings and mashed potatoes.

How to Cook Liver (with Onions)

Learn how to cook liver. A simple and delicious recipe with either beef, pork, veal, chicken or turkey liver.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, German
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 358kcal
Author: Adina

Equipment

  • Large cast-iron skillet or nonstick pan

Ingredients 

  • 1 lb liver pork, or beef (Note 1)
  • 1 cup milk Note 2
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 10 oz onions Note 3
  • 1 large apple Note 4
  • 3 tablespoons butter divided (Note 5)
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley or thyme optional

Instructions

  • Soak liver: Rinse the liver and pat it dry. Cut it into strips, about 1.2 cm/ ½ inch. Place the pieces in a small bowl and cover with the cold milk. Soak for at least 30 minutes to one hour.
  • Potatoes (optional): While the strips are soaking, start making the mashed potatoes if you decide to serve the dish with potatoes. When the potatoes are done, make the mash while the other ingredients are still in the pan.
  • Onions: Slice the onions. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet. Cook onions with a pinch of salt, frequently stirring, on medium heat during the last 10-15 minutes or so of the liver's soaking time. They should be golden brown and slightly caramelized, this will take 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust the taste with salt and pepper. Transfer them to a bowl and keep them warm while you cook the liver in the same skillet.
  • Prepare other ingredients: While the onions are cooking, peel, core (Note 5), and slice the apple into rings. Remove the liver from the milk and pat dry with kitchen paper. Place the flour on a large plate and turn the pieces into the flour. Pat gently to remove the excess flour. Set aside.
  • Cook apple rings: Melt another tablespoon of butter in a separate pan. Cook the apples for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden.
  • Fry liver: While the apples are cooking, melt the remaining butter in the pan you used for cooking the onions. Cook the liver on medium-high heat. It should be dark brown on the outside and with only a hint of pink on the inside. Check by cutting one piece in the middle. Don't overcook the liver, or it will be dry.
  • Finish dish: Return the onions to the pan, mix gently with the liver, and reheat shortly. Adjust the taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with fresh parsley or thyme if desired. (Note 6)

Notes

  1. Veal, venison, lamb, chicken, or turkey are all great. See blog post for more details.
  2. Enough milk to cover the liver strips in the small bowl completely.
  3. About 2 medium to large onions in the US, about 4-5 medium ones in Germany. The exact amount is not super important; if you love onions, you can make more.
  4. A crisp apple sort.
  5. Or vegetable oil.
  6. An apple corer is excellent for this job (Amazon affiliate link).
  7. Following these steps will ensure that all the three different parts of the meal are cooked simultaneously and will all be served hot.

Nutrition

Calories: 358kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 341mg | Sodium: 480mg | Potassium: 610mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 19641IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 101mg | Iron: 6mg
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