Don’t Be Lily-Livered! Aromatic Chicken Livers

I was a weird kid. And I distinctly remember, on occasion, ordering beef liver with onions for dinner at my dad’s diner. I was also a FREAK for chicken liver paté on toast.

Then I became a surly teenager and went to Weight Watchers summer camp where they forced us to eat liver once a week as part of the WW weight-loss plan. The culinary skills of the cooks at camp didn’t stand up to my dad’s badass line cooks, and I developed an aversion to liver that lasted for years… until Dave and I went to Katz’s Deli in New York, and I was reacquainted with the silky, rich flavor of chopped chicken livers on rye.

Oogey raw texture aside, chicken livers are ridiculously tasty. They’re also loaded with Vitamin A – and at 7 grams of protein per ounce, a meal-sized serving of chicken livers packs a protein punch. And I’ve learned that they don’t have to be served on toast points to be worth eating.

If you can get yourself past any squeamishness you might be harboring, you’re going to be pretty excited about the taste. Plus, I noticed when I eat these for lunch, I’m never hungry for an afternoon snack. They’re rich, satiating, and stupid-good – and you usually don’t have to worry about co-workers trying to steal them off your plate in the break room.

NOTE: There’s no photo of the recipe in this post because I could not find a way to make raw or cooked livers look appealing. We might just have to accept the fact that they’re not very photogenic; see for yourself. Instead, here are some of the spices that make the magic in this recipe.


Aromatic Chicken Livers

  • 1-1.5 lbs. chicken livers

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves

  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed

  • 1 tablespoon white wine or vinegar or broth

  • coconut oil or olive oil


Cut chicken livers into 2-inch pieces. This is kinda gross, so think about something else while you do it. I like to pretend I’m at a Social Distortion show and sing “You Can’t Take It With You” really loudly (which would probably make Mike Ness cringe because he’s a staunch vegetarian. Sorry, Mike!)


Heat about 1 tablespoon of fat over medium-high heat. Add chicken livers and brown well on all sides; you want them to get a nice crust. Set aside on a plate to catch juices.


Add onion to pan and sauté until it’s tender and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. When the onions are ready, add all the spices and the garlic. Stir fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds.


Put the chicken livers back in the pan, toss well, and add the 1 tablespoon of liquid. Cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed and chicken livers are cooked through, about 5 minutes.


Serve over a bed of cauliflower fouscous or alongside your favorite veggies: sauteed kale, creamy greens, cocoa-toasted cauliflower, or magic green beans are an excellent complement.

BONUS BREAKFAST: I had about half a serving left over after two lunches, so turned it into a breakfast in a scramble. I coarsely chopped the livers, sautéed some roasted turnips and yellow squash in coconut oil (like a hash), then stir fried the veggies with two eggs and the chopped chicken livers. HOLY SCHMOLEY! It was awesome.

BONUS ETYMOLOGY LESSON: The phrase “lily-livered” is from the Medievel belief that the liver was where our courage was stored. Lilies are pale in color, so being accused of having a pale liver meant you lacked courage.

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  • Joshkie says:

    Mmmmmm…. you made my tummy grumble.

  • MelG says:

    Please post your Dad's beef liver recipe. I got some with our latest beef order and have no idea how to prepare it. On the chicken livers, I agree not very pretty but tasty!

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Joshkie –> RUN to the store and get some! 😉

    MelG –> I think the cooks used to just grill it with onions. I remember it was lovely brown and somewhat crisp on the outside. I bet you could follow the same instructions as the chicken livers: brown it well, the cook it through with a little big of liquid. Instead of chopping the onions and keeping them in the sauce, I'd cut them in half-moons, fry them before the meat, then set them aside to add to the plate when the liver is cooked through so they're crisp.

  • Elena says:

    I like to eat beaf so I am waiting for your Dad's recipe.

  • Britta says:

    Yum yum, just made your Aromatic chicken Livers with your cauliflower fauxcous – absolutely FABULOUS!!! Thanks from a newbie;-)

    • Mel says:

      Hooray! I’m so glad you made them. This recipe doesn’t get as much love as some of the others, and I think these are SO tasty. Really good to know you enjoyed them, too.

  • Britta says:

    😉 and i have just scrambled my left overs in a close copy of your breakfast course with them (making it my lunch though;-) and I am eager to eat it, NOW!

  • Britta says:

    Same thing; REALLY good! Only “problem” i ate it way too fast;-)

  • Julie says:

    Melissa, I only recently discovered your site and have been trying out some recipes. Made your Aromatic Chicken Livers tonight. Holy Crap! :-) I enjoy liver, but this was the hands-down best chicken liver recipe I’ve ever had. I made a big batch, anticipating having leftovers tomorrow, and we are now having to exercise severe restraint to keep from nibbling all the leftovers away. Absolutely wonderful. I finished ours with vinegar, and it was perfect – lent just the right bright tang to the spices and liver. Thanks so much for sharing your creations.

    • Mel says:

      Sweet! I’m glad you liked this recipe! The spices really make it, I think… and I love your idea of finishing with vinegar. Thanks for the tip!

  • Una says:

    Late to the party here, but just wanted to say that I have always loved liver – even Irish boarding school cooking could not cure me of it LOL. This recipe sounds like something I will definitely have to make soon. Only complaint? Mentioning so often in your post about how unattractive liver is, having to “get past” the squeamishness, how “weird” you were for liking it – all of that is a real turn-off. I wonder if anyone reading it who did not like liver already would be even tempted to try?

  • Janice says:

    The Wikimedia picture of Liver and Onions made me drool. But, I LOVE liver and onions! I could almost smell them. However, you brought up a good point.

  • Megan says:

    Do you do anything to prep organ meat like soak overnight etc?


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