Beef Liver With Parsley-Onions & Lemon

There was a lot of talk at PaleoFX about the nutritional benefits of liver (Liver: nature’s most potent superfood), but that’s not the only reason I cooked it recently.

For months, a package had taunted me from the freezer in the studio where we keep our Meat Stash™. Wrapped in white paper, the package was about 4×16 inches, maybe half an inch thick. A piece of masking tape said “Beef Liver” in black Sharpie. Whenever I went in the freezer for wild boar ribs or Lava Lake ground lamb or grassfed ground beef, that little package practically gave me the finger and said, I know you’re scared of me.

So I did what any reasonable person would do: I picked it up and literally buried it under the other packages of frozen meat.

Because that white-wrapped package was right! I was a little scared of it.

I’d never cooked beef liver in my life, and I really didn’t know what to do with it. I’m a big fan of chicken livers (especially crispy, spicy ones), and I remember eating beef liver at my dad’s restaurant when I was a kid. But somewhere along the way to almost-44, I got squeamish about beef liver. I was concerned that inside that package, I would find a giant organ. I was worried about the texture once it was cooked. And honestly, handling raw liver from any animal is not on my list of favorite things to do.

But everyone was so adamant at PaleoFX that liver is a big deal — and my ego couldn’t really deal with that thin, white-wrapped package getting the best of me. I turned to Cook’s Illustrated for guidance and, as always, Chris Kimball‘s gang did not let me down. I basically followed their recipe for sautéed liver with just three minor changes: I cut the amount of total fat in half because their measurements seemed excessive to me; I swapped ghee and coconut oil in for their recommended butter and olive oil; and I doubled the amount of parsley.

The results were very, very good. My grassfed, local beef liver was mild, sweet, and tender — and the parsley-onions, with just the right touch of lemon, are a bright, welcome contrast to the dark, richness of the liver. If you’re at all curious about trying beef liver, I think this is a good entry-level recipe, and bonus! it takes very little time and no major cooking skills to prepare.

And see? It just looks like lovely meat. Sorry to be so judgmental, beef liver!

Beef Liver with Parsley-Onions and Lemon |

Beef Liver With Parsley-Onions & Lemon

Serves 2-4 | Prep 5 minutes| Cook 15 minutes| Whole30 compliant

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Italian Classics “Sautéed Calf’s Liver and Onions”

  • 2 large onions, sliced thin

  • 1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon clarified, grassfed, organic butter (I use this ghee.)

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

  • 1 pound of calf, beef, or lamb liver, cut into slices about 1/2 inch thick

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1/2 cup parsley, minced

  • salt & ground black pepper

NOTE: If you don’t have ghee, use all coconut oil or your preferred fat.


Place 1 tablespoon clarified butter eat a large nonstick skillet over high heat. When it shimmers, add the onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Mix with a wooden spoon so the onions are evenly coated in the fat; sauté about 5 minutes until they release their juice. Reduce heat to medium and cook until browned and soft, about 10-15 minutes. Remove the onions to a bowl and save for later.


Return the pan to medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon coconut oil; heat until shimmering. Sprinkle the liver generously with salt and pepper, then lay the pieces flat in the pan in a single layer. Try to leave a little breathing room around them and cook in two batches, if necessary. Cook undisturbed for 60-90 seconds, until the first side is browned around the edges. Flip each piece with tongs and cook the second side, 60-90 seconds, until browned on the edges. Remove the liver to a plate while you finish the onions.


Place 1 tablespoon ghee in the hot pan, along with the cooked onions, parsley, and lemon juice. Stir with a wooden spoon and sauté until hot.


To serve, place the liver on a plate and mound the caramelized parsley-onions on top.

A Few Words About the Potential Ooginess of Raw Liver

I’m not going to bullsh*t you: It’s pretty gross. The texture is… blobby… and the counter, any utensils that touch it, and your hands might look like you committed a murder in your kitchen. I believe this is a good thing. We are too far removed from our food, and it’s important to remember that meat comes from animals fulfilling their purpose with grace so we can eat. My liver was from a cow that lived a happy life eating grass before it was my turn to eat it. But all that understanding of the food chain and respect for nature does not minimize the fact that it is somewhat gnarly to handle raw liver.

Here’s my strategy: I look at the raw liver and touch the raw liver as little as possible. Today, I unwrapped it, placed it in a shallow bowl, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, then covered the bowl with a paper towel. I washed my hands and worked on the onions. When it was time to cook the liver, I lifted the paper towel and used tongs to place the liver in the pan. I didn’t watch it cook — I stood at the counter next to the stove with a timer running for 90 seconds while I flipped through a magazine.

My liver was already cut into strips, so if you can talk the butcher or the farmer where you’re buying your liver, maybe you can have them cut it into slices so you don’t have to. Unless you’re really into the whole butcher thing, then by all means: go for it!

A Few Words About Cooked Liver

It’s very rich, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t eat it multiple meals in a row. In my house, I’m the only one who eats liver, so I try to cook only 1/2 pound at a time — two meals worth. Any more than that, it goes to waste because as much as I enjoy liver when I’m eating it, I can’t build up an appetite for it more than once or twice a week. The good news is that raw liver holds up well in the freezer, so if you want to, you can easily cut the recipe above in half.


Dave is funny.


My husband Dave is my official food photographer. When the photos look good (like the one above), it means he took it. If the color is off and it only sorta looks like food,  I took it. Anyway… he’s not a fan of liver in any form: paté, coated and fried, sautéed with onions… they’re all out. This is a screen cap of my email today after our liver photo shoot:


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  • Elizabeth says:

    I’ve always been a fan of liver, but lately I’ve been amazed at how different, and how much better liver from a happily grassfed animal tastes compared to ordinary liver. If you think you don’t like liver, you owe yourself at least a try of the grassfed version.

    • Mel says:

      Agree one billion percent! I was amazed at how tender and sweet the grassfed liver was… much more like chicken liver than the beef liver I remember from my dad’s diner days.

      • Dan says:

        One of my favorite left over liver meals is real simple.
        1 piece of cold cooked liver
        Mashed potatoes
        two slices of favorite bread, buttered
        put on the liver, spread butter and mashed potatoes. enjoy the sandwich. Can heat in micro if prefer warm

    • Carmel Garcia says:

      will try. thanks.

  • nalani says:

    Thanx for this! I used to love eating liver. I just hafta find some grass-fed liver b/c I’m sure it makes a huge difference.

    • Chuck says: has very good grass-fed Beef and Lamb liver. I order from them all the time, and they ship nationwide!

  • jj says:

    Just a warning, the conventionally grown liver slices in the tub you get at a normal grocery store are GROSS! I can handle good grassfed beef liver, but the only conventional liver I could find was like slabs of leeches and was super duper YUCKY!!!

  • Fontaine says:

    I followed your blog for quite a while and then, I don’t know, power lifting weight lifting etc…I didn’t. Then I realized that in all the blah blah blah of the other fitness bloggers I missed your voice. Searching for a roller girl in Austin made it easy to find you again and as I peruse your blog, I’m glad I did. Like re-connecting with an old friend. Oh, I do listen to Social Distortion but beef liver?…..maybe someday 😉

  • Cat says:

    A day late (and a dollar short?)… Where was this post YESTERDAY when I came here searching your blog for hints about how to cook my newly defrosted grass-fed beef liver?! I wish I’d thought to check Cooks Illustrated – that would have been smart. Instead, I called my mom. 😉

    My beef liver and onions were sauteed in a cast iron skillet sitting on our grill (our stove is broken) with bacon fat as my ‘grease’. It was good…but your’s looks better! The next package will go towards trying your version (and maybe talking my husband into tasting it).

  • When I was a kid, my dad used to LOVE liver and onions.. my mother hated cooking it but we had it at least once a month. I was told it was “roast beef”. and I loved it.
    Fastforward a few years and they finally told me it was liver.. I was all oookay but I still like it.
    Until I saw it raw and swimming in a bowl of blood.. that was it for me.
    Last time I cooked it, it was for my dogs.
    Next time the spousal unit is out of town, I might give this a try (the smell makes her gag)

    • Mel says:

      Yes, it is a bit of a bloody mess. Best to avert one’s eyes. Dave can’t tolerate the smell either. Paloe can be rough on the spouses 🙂 – but then you just make a batch of paleo pad thai, and everything is OK.

  • Rachael says:

    Where do you source your beef liver in Austin?

  • Cheri says:

    This post made me laugh so many times! Thanks for the tips. I was actually thinking about giving liver a try. Now I feel a little more confident about it. (and know to only buy a little bit!) Hope you have a blast in Costa Rica!

  • Renee says:

    Ooginess – Ha! I thought I made the word up. So perfectly used here. I need to see if I can find some grass-fed beef liver locally and give this a try. It actually looks delicious, though would be better if I could get someone else to cook it. Looking forward to a post about your trip – especially the zip lining which I hope you’ll do.

  • Martha says:

    My grandma used to cook liver all the time. She used to soak the liver for a couple of hours in lemon water to make it less bloody and make it taste better. I have not had any liver since I moved to this country but your post makes me want to cook some liver soon.

    • Mel says:

      I’ve heard of soaking the liver in milk, too. I might try a pre-soak next time, although I was pretty happy with my end result… as long as I averted my eyes while raw 😉

  • Daniel says:

    I learned to cook liver as kid. Not the best way to learn, but I still love it.

    I’m Bohemian and Polish; highly recommend liver dumping soup. Basically liver meat ball in beef broth. I need to make some without bread crumbs, but add variety of root veggies to make it a nice stew.

  • Carmel Garcia says:

    Oh my! Exotic cuts! I grew up on beef calf liver as we were raised on the farm. I loved the smell of it, cooking up with fried onions served up with mashed potatoes and fresh home made tortillas. oh so darn good. My children were never fond of it as I didn’t cook it enough, as a working mom, other more proteins were readily available. Totally regret it now. This was so on my mind the other day, I must try your recipe and have a great time in Costa Rica. What a coincidence! I just met a gentleman who came back from living in Costa Rica at a community event selling Smart Pots. Organic pots you grow your vegetables in, indoor or outdoor. So neat. Thanks.

  • marcia says:

    The first time in my life I ever had liver was in Costa Rica. I spoke no Spanish at that time, they kept telling me it was higado, but so what. It was the most delicious fried meat I had ever eaten. It was a long time before I found out what I had.

    It was fully cooked, but I’d have to call it kind of rare, but not bleeding. The cook was an artist. I never cook straight liver because it comes out like crap. I’m sad.

  • Bebe says:

    Pinning this onto my “eating the whole beast” board where I am stockpiling recipes to try using “exotic” cuts. I am not a natural liver lover but am training my palate with what look like the very best recipes. For the past couple weeks I have been drinking Monica Ford’s “liver shooters” ( and last night made her nutrient-dense meatloaf (made with liver) served with your “Velvety Butternut Squash” and a cucumber salad… yum. Looking forward to trying your crispy chicken livers too.
    Just today I learned that in Japan they relish “liver sashimi”. Yes. Raw liver, sliced into thin bite size slices, with typical accents of green onions, sesame seeds, etc. I have a ways to go on that one.

  • I tried this recipe tonight using thyme instead of parsley because I had plenty on hand. The onions were fantastic! I’ve been very gradually learning to cook and eat liver as I did not grow up eating it. Smothering each bite in a bunch of the onions made it much more palatable for me. I’ll definitely use this recipe when I make it again next week.

    • Mel says:

      Yum — thyme sounds like such a great mod. I wish I’d thought of that! I’m curious about something exotic like Ras el Hanout, too. Clearly I need to play around with it some more.

  • Angi says:

    Wow! I honestly thought I did not like liver (based on the so-dry-it-made-my-throat-close liver my step mother forced us to choke down as a kid) but I got grass fed liver and tried this recipe today. So delicious and THE ONIONS!! I loved it and am looking forward to finally fitting this piece of Paleo in with the rest. Thanks Mel!

    • Renee says:

      I made free-range chicken livers (now THAT’s an image for you) sauteed in bacon fat with bacon, onions, and apples. My husband was in heaven. This, served with some greens, was an incredibly economical and quick meal. Still waiting to get my hands of the beef liver and try this. I’m sure it was be equally well received.

  • Annette says:

    Thanks for the great write up, Mel! You inspired me to take another crack at liver. My first attempt a couple of months ago had me actually gagging and I threw it out … and seriously, I am a good eater! This was grass fed from my favorite farmer and totally eatable. I can’t say I love it, yet, but I know how good it is for me and I’m going to keep at it. My mother grew up on liver and onions and honestly loves them, so there is hope.

    I served the carmelized onions (which I already knew I LOVE! LOVE! LOVE!) on the side and just squeezed the lemon over the finished beef after I plated it. It seemed to balance (?), reduce (?) the “liveriness” of it?? I don’t know why that works, but it does!

    Thanks again, LOVE your blog! I rarely comment but I’m a regular reader 😉

    • Mel says:

      Right on! Glad to hear that this recipe might make you a convert. I’ve been really into chicken livers lately… maybe try those, too?

      Thanks for the compliment on my blog — and thanks for commenting!

      • Angi says:

        I actually threw a few pastured chicken livers in with the small piece of beef liver I cooked yesterday, and they were so delicious with those amazing onions!

  • Red Kate says:

    Oh, I’m so glad you posted this! I’ve been anxious about cooking liver for a long time – I always seem to get it wrong and it ends up overcooked and tasting like erasers. I was at the co-op yesterday and happened upon a bunch of local grass-fed lamb livers (whoohoooo!) for the whopping price of $3 each. (I should have bought more than one.) The one I got is in the fridge defrosting right now – can’t wait to try your recipe!!

    • Mel says:

      YAY! Hope you like it! The onions+parsley+lemon really make it sing.

      • Red Kate says:

        OMG. I’m sitting here in front of a plate of freshly cooked lamb liver heaped with onions. This is so amazing, I can hardly stand it! 60-90 seconds were *spot on* – this has got to be the best liver I’ve ever eaten.

        THANK YOU!

  • Meagan says:

    I just wanted to say that the picture of the liver looked so good (!) that it made me want to try this recipe. Tried it tonight with pork liver, and it was delicious! So much better than trying to hide it in a meatloaf. Now I’ll be making liver regularly I think. Thanks for this!!

  • Carmel Garcia says:

    you know, I keep hearing about all these other different types of livers being cooked up, I’ve only had chicken and calf liver, I don’t know that I could try pork or lamb liver? Interesting.

  • Robbie says:

    Thanks for this great recipe. Finally took the leap and went for it. Turned out awesome and grass fed beef liver will now be a regular item.

  • sarah says:

    We too got liver as part of our grass-fed cowpool & I was at a loos. Made this tonight and it was good – kids were funny though my son ate all the onions but only a few bites of liver & my daughter ate all the liver and left the onions! Overall a very good way to fix this. thanks!!

  • carolyn says:

    Tried this last night after googling “paleo liver and onions” and it was delicious! Posted a picture on Facebook and shared the link to the recipe. I used about 1/4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons) instead. Good stuff!

  • Tara says:

    Uh, what? I already loved liver and onions, but this right HERE? I could eat this every day! Even recruited my 11 year old son into the liver-loving camp. Thank YOU!

  • elan says:

    I don’t often comment, but I wanted to say thanks for adapting a Chris Kimball recipe…i love him but they are sometimes hard to adapt…so I really appreciate the effort.
    Excited to give it a try.

  • Carin says:

    Yep. Made this last night. Expected to have enough leftovers for another meal for my husband and I. That did not happen. So delicious!! Best beef liver I’ve made. The 60-90 seconds, plus the parsley and lemon with the onions– that’s it!! Best. Beef. Liver. Ever. And, really– so easy and quick! Thanks, Mel!

  • Alicia says:

    Just made the beef liver onions with lemon and parsley. It was wonderful. Haven’t had beef liver in ages. Since I had a portabella mushroom I needed to use, I added it to the dish.
    Can’t wait to try the chicken liver recipee. Thank you.

  • Lisa says:

    My frozen package of grassfed beef liver has just moved to the refrigerator. Your recipe is on my To Do list for tomorrow. Here’s hoping it doesn’t turn out at all like my Mother’s attempts when I was a kid! I’m banking on the fact that everything I’ve ever made from your blog or Well Fed has turned out well. Wish me luck!

  • Gabrielle says:

    So, I just discovered this blog and recipe today while searching for a Paleo way to prepare liver. It was fantastic! I took some of the advice of the comments and fried the liver in a smoked bacon fat. It was OUT OF THIS WORLD. Thank you for giving this “Foodie” the hope that there is food love with Paleo. This is our second week and I was starting to dispair. I am now looking forward to trying more and creating some of my own. Tomorrow — Paleo “Lasagne”! Sign me up, I am a new fan!

  • Vicki white says:

    I bought my first grass fed cow and I have liver and a heart that I don’t know how to cook. I’ve never had either one. I will give this recipe a shot. Any ideas on what to do with the heart?

  • Vicki white says:


  • Catherine says:

    I just made this for dinner and my husband was in LOVE with the dish! Didn’t even know he was eating “Liver and Onions” until I told him it was liver. I too had this buried deep in my freezer 😉

  • josie klyne says:

    I used to make liver all the time and it was icky to touch but I would have a craving for it every 5 or 6 months and you’re right, once you fulfill your craving, you’re good for another few months. I always soaked mine in milk for 10 to 15 minutes. It removed some of the blood and made it a little milder tasting. My recipe is similar but I used to could bacon and add it to the onions at the end and serve on top of the liver.

  • Smoscow says:

    Thanks for posting this recipe! I have let 2 beef livers go bad in my freezer because of fear, but I am determined to make my third an amazing dinner!
    I just have one (possibly dumb) question;

    1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon clarified, grassfed, organic butter (I use this ghee.)

    Does that line mean: 1 tbsp ghee + 1 tbsp butter, or is it meant a 2 tbsp Butter OR Ghee?

    Thanks for your help!!!

    • Mel says:

      Whenever I list butter, I ALWAYS mean grassfed, pastured, organic, clarified butter (aka, ghee).

      And this notation:
      1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon clarified, grassfed, organic butter (I use this ghee.)

      means you need TWO tablespoons, but they’re used separately in the recipe… i.e., 1 tablespoon here and 1 tablespoon there.

  • Smoscow says:

    It was a dumb question! 🙂
    Thank so much for answering me!!

    • Mel says:

      Not at all! It’s always good to clarify — and questions like this help me edit my recipes to be easier to follow. thanks for asking!

  • Allison says:

    So I just got back from PaleoFX, and was also super excited to try some offal after learning more about the heath benefits. Yours was the first site I went to for a recipe and I was not disappointed! MAde this tonight with some grassfed beef livers I got at Whole Foods and it was fantastic! Thanks for making a very scary project seem much more manageable, and actually enjoyable!

    • Mel says:

      Good on you for challenging yourself to eat more offal… glad you liked this recipe. I’m having a little love affair with chicken livers these days.

  • Susan says:

    Great recipe, thanks! Made it tonight with lamb liver; it was so tasty! And it’s a less expensive way to eat liver than with bacon.

    I really love your site, looking forward to getting one of your cookbooks.

    • Mel says:

      Sweet! Glad you like it! I’ve been curious about trying lamb liver, too. Definitely help yourself to Well Fed — there’s good stuff in there!

  • Just made this and served it alongside your delicious Cumin Roasted Carrots. Damn was it a delicious meal! Even got the Hubz to eat it (and he raved about it).

    Hadn’t had beef liver in ages. My mom used to make it and I did like it as a kid, but this version was freakin gourmet.

    Thanks Mel!!

    • Mel says:

      YAY! I love stories about liver being a success. Cook’s Illustrated is really a great source for learning techniques that make it easy to seem like you know what you’re doing in the kitchen 🙂

  • Regina Mize says:

    I just came across this recipe. I love beef liver and can’t wait to try this!

  • Drea says:

    Hi there. I loved eating liver pudding with my Gram as a small child. I fried up chicken livers from the organic chicken I roasted instead of tossing ’em. I was hooked! Now, I am scouring the Polish heritage cookbooks, traditional diets and internet for creative recipes. Maybe I’ll even dream up my own, like a liver stir fry. Love how you included beef or calf liver for the recipe. Now, I got to give the local meat guy who has a farm a call (no hormones, antibiotics and grass grazing).

  • Emily says:

    Hi, Melissa! Found this recipe after a search my husband sent me on after a request for liver and onions. We are relatively new to paleo (a year in March) and have been trying to be brave experimenting with organ meats. I like eating it but hate cooking it! Loved your notes on that at the end. Made me laugh but very straightforward. Will ask the butcher to slice it from now on! This recipe will be next on our organ meat adventure. Thanks! 🙂

  • Andrea says:

    3 years later, still referencing this recipe (thank goodness for pinterest bookmarks) . . using lamb liver tonight!

  • Kari says:

    Found lamb liver at the organic farmer’s market yesterday. It was only $5 for an enormous piece! I didn’t have onions but I pan-fried strips in ghee with salt, pepper and fresh oregano. It took more like 10 minutes to cook all the way through (lots of big pieces) but it was delicious! Thanks for the recipe and coaxing to try it!

  • Amy says:

    I’m posting a lot lately, but I’ve been a nit obsessed with your site during our Whole 30. Anyway, this was the first time I’ve ever cooked liver. Pretty sure it’s the first time I’ve eaten it too, though I grew up with a freezer in the garage full of beef my grandfather grew and had butchered for us. The liver was good, taste like chicken (liver). I could eat a bowl of those onions though! Who knew onions went so well with lemon juice?