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How to Cook Veal Liver (Calf Liver)

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Learn how to cook tender veal liver slices (or calf’s liver) with caramelized balsamic onions, a simple calf liver recipe that tastes amazing!

plate with sliced veal liver and mashed potatoes, a glass of water behind it.

This is a nutritious and delicious way of cooking veal liver, an easy recipe for calf’s liver and caramelized onions ready in less than one hour. And so tasty and good-looking, you might even consider serving it to guests. Provided they love liver as much as you do.

And if you like offal, learn How to Cook Liver with Onions (any kind of liver) or How to Cook Turkey Liver. Or see this spicy recipe for Peri-Peri Chicken Livers or the Romanian Deviled Eggs filled with homemade pate.

Why should we eat more liver?

  • 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. 

Expert tips

  • It is preferable to use organic products. The organ is nutritious and healthy, but it also collects the chemicals fed to the animal. Using organic, free-range offal reduces the chances of eating all the hormones and antibiotics found in these animals.
  • Only season the liver after cooking it; if you add the salt before cooking, the offal will become rubbery.
  • Don’t overcook it or it will be dry, rubbery, and chalky. The slices will only need about 5-7 minutes of cooking time (depending on their thickness), turning a couple of times in between. They should be dark and crisp outside and slightly pink on the inside.

Recipe ingredients

listed ingredients for cooking liver with onions and balsamic vinegar.
  • Veal liver: Two relatively long and thin slices of fresh liver, about as thick as a finger.
  • Red onions: I love using red onions for this liver recipe, but regular onions or shallots are also great.
  • Balsamic: Good-quality, mature balsamic vinegar.
  • Red wine: Medium priced, dry red wine.
  • Herbs: Fresh rosemary sprigs and either fresh or dried thyme.
  • Other ingredients: Vegetable oil, milk, all-purpose flour, fine sea salt, and ground black pepper.

Step-by-step instructions

  • Preparations: Cut the long pieces in half to have four smaller pieces (1). Soak them in milk for about 30 minutes. Slice the onions and chop the rosemary. Set them aside.
  • Cook the onions during the last 15-20 minutes of the soaking time. Heat a large frying pan or skillet and fry the onions, rosemary, thyme, and a pinch of salt, often stirring on low heat, for about 10-15 minutes, until very soft and golden brown.
  • Add the sugar, stir and let it caramelize gently, about 2 minutes, until the sugar has a nice amber color. Don’t let the sugar burn.
  • About 5 minutes before the onions are cooked, flour the slices and shake to remove the excess flour (2).
  • Fry the calves liver on medium heat for 1 minute on each side. Remove from the pan (3).
collage of two pictures of raw veal liver before and after flouring.
  • Deglaze the pan containing the onions with balsamic vinegar and red wine (4).
  • Add the slices to the hot pan and reheat them gently for about 1 minute per side. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper (5).
  • Cooking time: Very thick slices might need 1 ½ minute per side. Check the internal temperature with a digital meat thermometer.
collage of two pictures of caramelizing onions and frying liver pieces.

How to check if the calf’s liver is done?

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°C/ 160°F, 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.

Recipe FAQ

Where to buy liver?

In most supermarkets, at the butchers, or the farmer’s market. It is usually sold fresh; I’ve rarely seen it frozen. You might have to order veal liver from the butcher in advance.

What does it taste like?

It’s soft, hearty, and almost sweet with a slightly earthy flavor; the larger the animal you got it from, the earthier. Veal liver is just as delicate as chicken liver, while beef has a more intense flavor.

Why soak raw liver in milk?

The soaking helps reduce the gamey, slightly metallic taste. It will still taste like liver but will not be so intense anymore.

Do I have to soak the calf’s liver?

It’s not mandatory. I always advise soaking beef or pork liver with a very strong flavor, but soaking can be an optional step when it comes to veal. The offal of a young animal has a mild flavor, so soaking is not mandatory. If you are worried that the dish might taste too livery, go ahead with the soaking process, it only takes 30 minutes.

How to store?

Refrigerate leftover calf liver and onions for up to 2 days. If you reheat them, the meat will become dryer. That’s why I prefer to serve the leftover liver without reheating it in a sandwich or salad.
The dish is not suitable for freezing. 

What to serve with it?

I love to serve pan-fried veal liver and onions with polenta or mashed potatoes. Try a Basic Polenta recipe or make Polenta Loaf or grilled polenta.

We love the Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes, but regular mashed potatoes are also perfect.

Make some Buttered Peas, Green Beans, or a green salad with vinaigrette.

close up sliced liver of veal with caramelized onions and mashed potatoes.

More veal recipes

Do you like this recipe?

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overhead view of a plate with fried liver pieces, onions and mashed potatoes.

How to Cook Veal Liver (Calf Liver)

Learn how to cook tender veal liver slices (or calf’s liver) with caramelized balsamic onions, a simple recipe that tastes amazing!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Beef, Pork and Lamb
Cuisine: American, German
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 2
Calories: 541kcal
Author: Adina

Equipment

  • 2 Frying pans/skillets

Ingredients 

  • 300 g veal liver 2 large slices 10.5 oz
  • 250 ml milk 1 cup
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil divided
  • 250 g red onions 9 oz
  • 1-2 sprigs rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 125 ml red wine ½ cup
  • fine sea salt and ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Soak the liver: Cut the long slices into four smaller pieces. Place the slices in a shallow bowl. Cover them with milk and soak them for about 30 minutes and up to one hour.
  • Prepare onions: Halve the onions and slice the halves. Finely chop the rosemary. Cook the onions during the last 15-20 minutes of the liver’s soaking time.
  • Caramelize onions: Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large pan. Add the onions, rosemary, thyme, and a pinch of salt, and cook on low heat, often stirring, for about 10-15 minutes. They should be soft and slightly caramelized.
    Add the sugar, stir and let it caramelize gently, about 1-2 minutes until the sugar has a nice amber color. Don’t let the sugar burn.
  • Flour liver: Cook the liver during the last 5-10 minutes of the onions’ cooking time. Place the flour on a large plate. Shake the liver slices gently to remove the excess milk. Turn them into the flour to coat it lightly all over. Shake gently again to remove the extra flour.
  • Fry liver: Heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a pan. Fry the liver on medium heat for 1 minute on each side.
  • Deglaze the pan with the onions with balsamic vinegar and red wine. The mixture will thicken almost constantly. Stir well. If the liquid reduces too quickly, add another small splash of wine.
  • Add the veal liver slices and reheat them gently for about 1-1 ½ minutes per side. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper
  • Cooking time: Very thick liver slices might need 1 ½ to 2 minutes per side. Check the internal temperature with a digital meat thermometer; it should be 72°C/ 160°F.

Notes

  1. Only season the liver after cooking; if you add the salt before cooking, it will become rubbery.
  2. According to the USDA, internal beef organs should be cooked to 72°C/ 160°F, 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 2slices | Calories: 541kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 13g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 501mg | Sodium: 1308mg | Potassium: 763mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 58626IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 11mg
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