Hate Liver? Eat It Anyway With These Tips

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I wish I could say I love liver. It’s an incredibly nutrient dense food that all of us should be eating on a weekly basis. And it’s definitely something that must be eaten on a balanced Paleo diet.

Unfortunately, like many of my clients and readers, I don’t really care for it, and I usually have to force myself to eat it. However, I’ve had it a few times prepared in a way that I liked it, usually as a pate or cooked by a restaurant.

There are definitely some techniques to use that can make your liver consumption easier and more palatable if you’re looking to add this nutritional powerhouse to your Paleo diet. You should be aiming to eat about a quarter pound a week, and there are a bunch of different options for getting those 4 ounces into your weekly diet.

Here are my top liver recommendations that I’ve shared with my clients:

Use Lamb or Calves’ Liver Instead of Beef Liver

Whenever I’ve cooked liver in the past, I’ve always found lambs’ and calves’ liver to be more mild and easy to eat than beef liver. I’m not sure if it has to do with the age of the animal or the fact that the animals drink milk as opposed to eating grass, but I’ve always preferred to buy lambs’ or calves’ liver if given the opportunity.

I usually get my liver at one of the local farmers markets by me, such as the State Farmers Market, Durham Farmers Market, or Carrboro Farmers Market. If you think beef liver tastes too gamey or strong, try lambs’ or calves’ liver!

Soak Liver in Lemon Juice Or Milk

Chris Masterjohn has some great tips for how to cook liver, and one of his key tips is to soak the liver in something acidic such as lemon juice.  Pat the liver dry with clean paper towels before cooking it.

I’ve also found that soaking liver in milk or even kefir can help cut down on some of the metallic or “iron” taste of beef and lamb liver. Chris thinks it’s because the acid of the lemon juice helps protect the liver from oxidative damage, which can cause an off taste. (I’m not sure why milk has a similar benefit!)

This is also the cooking strategy recommended by the well known cookbook Nourishing Traditions, which has a lot of great recipes for traditionally prepared, nutrient dense foods.

Don’t Overcook It

Whatever you do, PLEASE don’t cook your liver into a piece of rubber. That’s probably the biggest mistake most people make when trying to pan fry liver. The USDA recommends cooking liver to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, as there’s more likely to be bacteria in the interior of liver compared to muscle meat.

My opinion is that if you freeze the liver for a few days before cooking it, there will be a far lower risk of bacterial contamination, and it will be okay to cook the liver to a medium-rare doneness. (Some folks even recommend cooking liver rare, but I’d caution avoiding this for children, pregnant women, the elderly, or anyone with a compromised immune system.)

Cook it for a few minutes each side and don’t let it get overcooked and tough. Otherwise you’ll be chewing for 30 minutes come dinnertime.

Use A Recipe

There are a bunch of great liver recipes online that can help you find ways to make your liver more palatable. There’s no reason to eat liver plain if you don’t enjoy it. I often simply fry up some bacon and onions to pile on top of my liver, but here are a few other recipes that can help you get creative:

With this many options, there’s no excuse not to find a recipe you enjoy!

Mix With Ground Beef

You may have noticed a couple of the recipes listed are “hidden liver” recipes – that is, they’re primarily other types of liver mixed with ground meat such as beef. This is something my mom does at home a fair bit: she makes meatloaves that are mostly ground beef with enough liver mixed in to boost the nutritional content without overpowering the flavor of the meatloaf. Shockingly, even my dad likes it and he’s pretty picky when it comes to things like liver.

My mom doesn’t have a solid recipe, but she does have this tip to share: Mix the liver with ground meat in a 1:3 ratio.

This means for every pound of liver you use, add it to 3 pounds of ground beef/pork/chicken/lamb so that the liver flavor does not completely overwhelm the entire recipe. I’ve had clients complain that their “hidden” liver meatballs were not hidden whatsoever, and they had to gag it down. Make sure you’re not using so much liver in comparison to the ground meat that the liver is the only thing you taste. Also, it helps to soak the liver in lemon juice or milk ahead of time – like you would do if you were pan frying it.

Make Frozen Liver Cubes

This is a technique I’ve used before to help sneak liver into my food on a regular basis. The initial prep is a little icky, but once you’ve got a nice tray full of froze liver cubes, it’s super easy to pop them out into any dish you’re cooking for an extra nutrient boost.


Robin at Thank Your Body breaks the process down into 5 easy steps:

1. Thaw liver slightly. While still mostly frozen, cut liver into chunks.
2. Place chunks in a food processor.
3. Process until it’s all gross and gooey.
4. Scoop liquefied liver into an ice tray.
5. Cover and freeze.

You can then use these ice cubes in stir fries, ground meat dishes, and more. Each cube will provide about an ounce of liver, so use four cubes a week to get your recommended quarter pound.

Try Liz’s Raw Liver Smoothie Shot

Liz Wolfe, author of Realfoodliz.com and Eat The Yolks, has come up with a creative way to get your liver in without having to taste it. She calls them her Raw Liver Smoothie Shots, and while I haven’t (yet) tried them myself, I’ve heard from others that it’s a decently tolerable way to get liver into your diet.

Here’s how she makes them, using frozen liver “squares” she’s made, similar to the frozen cubes discussed above:

I mix 1/4 cup melted frozen strawberries OR tart cherry juice with a few squares of liver. I add enough water to cover the blender blades, if necessary, then pureé. Sip it down. Done.

I’m intrigued about this method and as of today (January 14th, 2015) I’m considering trying it at some point. If I do try them, I’ll report back to you all afterwards to share my experience!

Make Frozen Liver Pills

You might be sensing a theme here… frozen liver is easier to handle (for some people) than cooked liver.

Many of my friends and clients are fond of the DIY frozen liver pill method, described by Empowered Sustenance as “the easiest way to eat liver.” Here’s her recipe:

Rinse the liver and pat dry. With a sharp knife, carefully cut the liver into pill-sized chunks. Place the pieces, separated, on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Freeze until solid.
Transfer the frozen “liver pills” into an airtight container and store in the freezer. Freeze for 14 days before eating to kill any pathogens in the liver. Swallow a couple of frozen “liver pills” with every meal.

Personally, I can’t stand this method because I have a weirdly tight swallowing reflex and I always feel like these little frozen cubes get stuck in my throat. Maybe I wasn’t cutting them small enough, but to cut them any smaller would have required borrowing a knife from a sushi chef. So I don’t personally like or use this technique.

Your experience may be totally different, though, so don’t be afraid to experiment! If you hate this method, you can always blend up the frozen chunks to use with Liz’s liver shot.

If All Else Fails – Get A Supplement

Even though I usually recommend getting as much nutrition from your food as possible, and to minimize the use of supplements, I understand that not everyone will be able to stomach any of the above liver consumption methods.

Please do your best to try at least a few of the options before you give up. If you’ve already been through this whole list and you just can’t stand the thought of doing any of these techniques for the long haul, I think a desiccated liver supplement is a good “last resort” to get your liver consumption in.

My favorite supplement is a grass fed desiccated liver powder in capsule form. It’s not hugely expensive, although it’s a lot more expensive than simply eating liver.

Well those are your options, at least as far as I know! Is there a liver eating technique that you use that I didn’t mention here? Share your recommendations in the comments below!

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  1. Great tips, Laura. Straight-up liver isn’t my fave either, but I think it’s yummy when made into liver pate (which is a great dip for veggies). I also mix it into other recipes, like you, to boost the nutrient content (like meatloaf or shepherd’s pie). I can barely taste it in those recipes.

    It’s such a nutritional powerhouse, especially for pregnant women, that I encourage people to eat it any way they can!

  2. I am physically well, and eat a very healthy, well-balanced diet consisting of 100% fresh, natural, whole foods prepared at home. But I keep reading on sites like this one that liver is sooo good for us that we really all ought to eat at least a little, whether it appeals to us or not. So I finally broke down and bought a pound of organically raised calves’ liver at the health food store; but I left it in the freezer for a couple of weeks before I could bring myself to try it. Finally, I added just 2 ounces to one of my tried-and-true regular meals as an experiment, and I had an absolutely terrible night’s sleep that night, which is practically unheard of for me. Just to rule out the possibility of a random coincidence, I waited a week and tried the same experiment again. Same result. (Incidentally, possibly not related to this, I tried the experiment of taking a half dose of 5-HTP once, and it threw me into what’s called serotonin syndrome resulting in a similarly horrible night’s sleep.) So my experiments with eating liver are now over.

    I know there are lots of important nutrients that it’s also possible to get too much of; and for me there is apparently a lot of something in liver, possibly a nutrient that many people are deficient in, that pushes me with my physiology and my regular, nutrient-rich diet over the edge into an unhealthy excess. So I must warn others, especially very well nourished others, “Be careful — your mileage may vary.” Adding liver to our diet is definitely not for EVERYONE.

    (By the way, Laura, you probably meant to say “the FACT that the animals drink milk,” not “the FAT that the animals drink milk.)

    1. I can’t speak for Laura, but it sounds like you are methyl trapping or something very similar. Insomnia is a common sign. Beef Liver is extremely high in B12 and Folate If you methylation cycles are off this can happen. If you have never had genetic testing and methylation cycles looked at it might be a good idea. Hope that helps. Dr. Lynch is a great resource on this topic http://mthfr.net/ Have a great day.

      1. Thanks for the tip, Paul. But I’m 65 years old and have suffered from insomnia exactly three times in my entire life, once after taking 5-HTP and twice after eating liver. Since I don’t have any other medically diagnosable or even annoying symptoms of any kind, physical or psychological, I really don’t think I have any kind of “problem.” So I’ll just keep on not taking any 5-HTP, not eating any liver, and get on with living a happy, healthy life.

    2. I have just discovered that liver is extremely high in copper, on the order of 10 times the recommended daily value in a single serving, and also that one possible side effect of excessive copper in the diet is a “racing mind.” That is a problem that ordinarily I never have, but it was exactly what ruined my sleep both times that I tried eating liver. It seems likely that I get plenty of copper in my very healthy diet anyway, so the mega-dose in the liver I ate pushed me over the edge into having too much. So as I said in my original comment, “Be careful — your mileage may vary.”

  3. Thanks for the supplement recommendation Laura. I have been looking for a quality one because although I don’t despise liver, I just don’t buy it enough and it usually sits in my freezer way to long.

  4. Good post Laura… I actually do like liver. When I make it, I saute onions and garlic in some olive oil, add chopped liver (chicken or lamb), season with salt, pepper, allspice, cinnamon (maybe I’ll throw in some cumin too). I try to pan sear it and I once tossed the liver in flour (rice flour if people want gluten-free) and that made it the outer layer crispy. When cooked, I finish off with lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar… I’ll share your post when I have client or patient who doesn’t liver as much as I do 🙂

    1. That sound delicious… especially adding the cinnamon and finishing off with lemon juice.

      In the spirit of sharing, I make wife and my little alpha boys a liver slurry (twice a week) and it’s down right delicious… 4oz of grass fed liver, organic frozen cherries, raw honey, a little spring water, blend, gulp and wipe face.

    2. This sounds good, for liver! I have never liked it, but I want to try as my husband really does… We have caribou liver that my husband harvested recently and has been frozen since. Thanks for the recipe!

  5. Awesome post, Laura! (I especially love your title). I’m not a huge fan of liver either – preferring lamb liver over beef liver for sure. I grind partially-frozen lamb liver in my food processor then add to ground lamb to make breakfast sausages. Adding herbs like oregano and parsley and tons of garlic helps hide some of the liver-y taste so my kids goggle it up (of course, I don’t tell them there’s liver in there.) I’ve also got Liz’s Liver Shots on my list to try….but you go first.

  6. Love your site. I too am not a fan of liver. It took me 4 years on a nutrient dense diet til I figure out how to incorporate it. This wouldn’t work for everyone, but it works for me. We buy a cow every year and i ask for any unused organ meats so we have a lot of liver. I dehydrate the liver at raw temperature (110°) and then grind it into a powder. I can then add the powder to ground beef dishes or take it straight with a glass of raw milk. I prefer dehydrating and grinding it to freezing because I prefer the consistency. This saved me from anemia in my last pregnancy. And my 2 and 5 year old daughters will eat it too!. Hope this helps someone else.

  7. Hands down, the easiest way to get liver is to get some grassfed liver, cut it in pieces and dehydrate it at a low temp…no higher than 115 F. Grind it up into a powder with a good blender like vitamix, or even small batches in a coffee grinder and make your own pills! I use size 00 in my capsule maker and you can take 2 pills 2-3 times a day. You should be able to make your 4 oz a week doing that! I tried the frozen liver pills…since their shape is square, they’d always get stuck in my throat and I would insta-gag. Super attractive…. O.o

  8. Hi Laura

    I actually love liver.

    I cut them up and stir fry it with vegetables. Then dip them into hot sauce.

    I don’t have it often as they are really rich in Vitamin A, and I don’t want to over do it.

  9. I’m not a big liver lover. My mom tried to introduce it into our evening meals once in a while as well as cow tongue (big yuch) and other interesting animal “parts”. Now that I’m older, I wonder if I could acquire a liking for it if I followed your lead with the bacon and onions. It’s worth a try! Thanks for the ideas.

  10. To be certain, nothing tops buying organ meats from your local farmer or butcher. You get the opportunity to shake a hand, look them in the eye, get to know the person…

    Most of us know that we should be doing this… we know that we should be eating more organ meats (not just liver) but we’re not. Supplement companies (mine included) make grass fed organ products like liver, heart, kidney, pancreas and spleen.

    I still recommend to do things the old fashioned way… get to know your local farmers and butchers… if this doesn’t work out, try a supplement version. There are many great supplements available that are pasture-raised, grass fed and grass finished and with no fillers (nor) flow agents… just pure organs!

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  12. I have been working with Laura for a few months now and just have to say it’s been a great experience. February is my self declared “eat more liver” month (I hate liver). I ordered beef liver, liver wurst and braunschweiger from Wellness Meats and have started my journey. We prepared the liver by cooking “a lot” of onions, once they were fairly cooked and carmelized added the liver we had cut in strips. Separately we cooked collard greens and garlic, collard greens are pretty big leaved greens, hold their form and remain pretty chewy. I basically then created collard green wraps with the liver and onions inside. This worked great!! I never tasted the liver and because the collards are chewy I never really sensed the texture of the liver. This will be my regular go to preparation for liver!! Regarding the liverwurst and braunschweiger, I served it with crackers, mustard and gruyere cheese as a side to soup. It was definitely tolerable. Although I preferred the milder braunschweiger, I think in time I can develop a taste for liverwurst.

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