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...Read More
Chopped Chicken Livers
Let’s talk chicken livers! I’ll go first.
Confession: I love the taste of chicken livers, but handling them… raw? It’s pretty much a nightmare.
But if I’ve learned anything during my years in the kitchen, it’s that you cannot make a delicious meal without a few gross-outs along the way.
And in addition to being tasty little buggers, chicken livers are packed with nutrition. So many of the nutrition gurus who inspire my recipes are advocating liver, I had to take it seriously — and that means that I’ve been developing more tasty recipes to transform livers from “Ew!” to “Yum!” (I’ve also included some tips for handling raw livers below.)
Why Liver Is So Freakin’ Great
According to Chris Kresser, “[I]n some traditional cultures, only the organ meats were consumed. The lean muscle meats, which are what we mostly eat in the U.S. today, were discarded or perhaps given to the dogs.”
Why? Because liver is like a multi-vitamin in a protein costume.
Liver includes all of the following and more:
vitamin A (good eyesight!)
vitamin B-12 (fight anemia!)
folate (support fertility!)
riboflavin (grow healthy body tissues!)
iron (no anemia!)
pantothenic acid (fight stress!)
The two primary biggies of the vitamin world found in liver are Vitamin A — essential for organ function, vision, immune system, and the formation/reproduction of cells — and vitamin B-12, which is only available from animal-based foods and is required for proper brain function and for forming red blood cells and DNA.
But that doesn’t mean that more is necessarily better.
Although liver can certainly be classified as a superfood, the recommendation is that we eat about 4-6 ounces per week. We’re going for just the right amount of nutrients — the body is a careful balancing act — and too much liver can lead to too much Vitamin A. About 1/4 pound of livers, give or take a bite or two, per person, per week is a good place to be.
I’m the only one in my house that eats (enjoys! loves!) this recipe, so I make a batch of these Chopped Chicken Livers, divide it into thirds, and freeze it. Then I defrost a lump and eat about 2 ounces at a time, three times a week… usually for breakfast, along with 2-3 ounces of cold, grilled chicken to round out my dose of protein to start the day. Because it’s so rich and such a singular taste, I find I enjoy it a lot more if I eat it in small does over several days, instead of the whole 1/4-pound serving at once. But you do what you like.
And if you’re worried about things you’ve heard about the liver storing toxins, Mark Sisson’s got the science for you. In a nutshell, you shouldn’t sweat it: “If you avoid liver because of toxins, you should probably avoid the rest of the animal, too.”
Paté vs. Chopped
If you want to make eating mashed livers sound more elegant, you can certainly call it “paté.” I have not for several reasons:
1. I based the recipe below on an old school, Jewish recipe for deli-style chopped livers, and I like that it sounds unfussy.
2. Paté is French, and the recipes usually include cream and butter.
3. In traditional paté, the livers are usually puréed raw, then cooked with other ingredients. Chopped livers are first cooked, then chopped with additional ingredients like fried onions and hard-boiled eggs. In both cases, there is usually a lot more fat than I’ve included in my recipe; there are instructions below in case you want to make it more traditional with additional fat.
4. I’m working on a smoother, paté-style recipe, too… so when you fall in love with chicken livers, too, you’ll have options to choose from.
Mel’s Chopped Chicken Livers
Serves 4 | Prep 5 minutes | Cook 15 minutes | Chill 1 hour | Whole30 compliant
The hard-boiled eggs make this creamy and smooth — and help cut some of the richness of the liver. The caraway seeds add just a touch of flavoring, and the parsley and lemon juice brighten things up. If you’re not a caraway fan, you might try coriander seeds instead.
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 tablespoon fat of choice: ghee, coconut oil, duck fat, lard
1 medium onion, minced
1 pound pastured chicken livers
2 tablespoons cognac, optional (omit for Whole30)
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Place the caraway seeds in the hot pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from pan and place in food processor bowl. To the same pan, add your fat of choice. When it’s melted, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Push the onions to the side of the pan and add the livers in a single layer, leaving a little wiggle room between them. You might need to do this in batches. Brown on the first side, undisturbed, for 2 or 3 minutes, then flip to brown the other side. You want them to remain a little pink in the middle.
When the livers are ready, add the cognac to the pan and scrape up any bits of yumminess stuck to the bottom. Allow the cognac to cook off for a minute or two, stirring the livers and onions together. When the pan is nearly dry, remove the pan from the heat and allow the livers to cool to the touch.
In the bowl of a food processor, place the livers and all the juices from the pan, hard-boiled eggs, lemon juice, parsley, salt, and pepper. Now you have two choices: (a) Pulse until combined but still kind of chunky for a more traditional chopped chicken liver texture; (b) Purée until smooth. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if necessary. (If you’re feeling hedonistic, you could add 1-2 tablespoons of additional fat at this step to make it richer and creamier.)
Spread into a BPA-free storage container with a spatula and place in the refrigerator, covered, until chilled, about 1 hour. Serve with raw veggies and fruit: apple, cucumber, jicama, carrots, grapes, romaine lettuce leaves. You might also want to try spreading it on these plantain crackers from The Paleo Mom (nut free!).
I’ve been treating my chicken livers like a utility food: it’s good for me, it’s delicious, and it’s a protein-powerful way to start the day. BUT… you can get fancy, if you want…
In a non-stick saucepan, sauté berries — strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, or cherries — in a little coconut oil or ghee with a pinch of salt and powdered ginger. When it’s the consistency of thick, chunky syrup, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Spread chopped chicken livers on a baby romaine lettuce leaf or jicama slice, and top with some of the berry compote.
A Few Words About Handling Raw Chicken Livers
Working with raw chicken livers, especially the high-quality, pastured livers from somewhere like U.S. Wellness Meats or Tendergrass Farms, is a little bit like cleaning up after a murder in your kitchen. Here are a few tips to make it a little less gag-inducing:
You could wear gloves.
I keep a box of these disposable gloves in my kitchen drawer, and they come in handy for working with raw meat that gives me the heebies and rolling meatballs. They’re cheap, efficient, and you can pretend you’re starring on C.S.I. Win all around!
Blot, blot, blot.
The first step in managing livers is getting them as dry as possible as quickly as possible. I usually place a wire strainer in the sink and dump the container of livers into the strainer. Then I pile a few paper towels on a dinner plate and place the livers on the paper towels to drip dry, blotting the tops with more paper towels. At that point, they’re usually less slipper and less oogey. Be sure to clean the sink with hot water and soap if you dump the chicken livers in the sink to drain.
Divorce the eating from the prep.
One of the things that I really like about the chopped chicken livers, as opposed to the recipes below, is that there is the lovely separation of time between handling the livers and eating them. The time the chopped livers spend chilling in the fridge gives me an opportunity to forget about the preparation process. By the time I eat the chopped livers, they’re just food. (Instead of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre aftermath.)
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Mad coincidence but I literally have chicken livers defrosting right now – and it’s the first time I’ve cooked with them! I was going to fry them pretty simply, but now you’ve got me craving pate… The drop of cognac makes it extra appealing 😉
Great minds think alike! Hope you enjoy this recipe!
Thanks for this! Now that I’ve found a source of pastured chicken livers, I’m looking for lots of recipes to try (besides the Crispy Spiced)!
Yes! I needed this! My husband loves chicken livers but I’ve been too weirded out by the preparation.
Can you invite me over for chicken livers? 😀 That’s something I’d like to try but making it is way out of my comfort zone at the moment!
I used to love liver & onions when I was a (weird) kid…never had chicken livers though. But now that I’m an adult and I know what it actually is, there’s just something I can’t get past. No idea why I’m ok with eating animal muscles (& yummy fat) but not organs. Sigh…
I know what you mean, as I was similar. But I recently got over the mental block by rationalising it- ‘If I can eat the muscle, why not the organ? Look how nutritious this one organ is! Ok, the soft texture is ‘different’ but it also hold flavours well, so why not try it?'<< and so it went, until I tried chicken livers at a Lebanese restaurant and enjoyed it. Now I'm starting to cook them, even though no one else in my house is that bothered about them!
Good luck with it if you try again:)
This looks like a tastier way to eat chicken livers! I do it for my health but am still searching for a recipe I actually enjoy, this looks promising plus I have a bag in the fridge right now!
I think I am really lucky as I have no problem handing liver, in fact I quite like the way it feels! Ok, maybe that makes me sound like a bit of a freak!
Yum I love chopped liver! Definitely my favorite way to eat it.
Hey Mel! My small town grocery carries chicken heart, but not liver. Do you think they could substitute in this recipe? Have you done any experiementing with chicken heart recipes?
Sadly, I’ve only eaten chicken hearts once, and I didn’t like them. They have a very different texture than livers — kind of rubbery — so won’t work in this recipe. But… I did a quick Google search, and these looked pretty good to me, if you want to try the hearts:
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Grilled-Chicken-Hearts-101735 (Use coconut aminos instead of soy sauce)
Let me know if you try them!
Just finished making this and it is delish. Thanks for the great recipe. I think next time if I have some other fresh herbs I may add a few in addition to the parsley.
Woo-wee! Scored some chicken livers & got to try the recipe after all! Fabulous flavour – thanks Mel for creating recipes that push my comfort zone with spices. I’ve never even tried caraway seed before. I enjoyed the chopped liver on celery sticks, and thought it tasted better the next day. I was leery about freezing it with hard boiled eggs in it, but if it works for you, I have no doubt it will work for me.
p.s. I am Still waiting for my Well Fed 2, ordered from Amazon Canada before Christmas. It’s March! What’s up with that?
I just ate some frozen/defrosted chicken livers yesterday, and it was delicious. Still very smooth and creamy. Freezing is no problemo.
As for Well Fed 2, I can’t imagine why you don’t have it by now. We’re in stock in Amazon Canada… I have no explanation. Perhaps cancel your order and try again? You can also order directly from me through our store, and you’ll get it within a week:
I have some chicken livers in the fridge that I was going to make pate with. I think I will try your recipe instead though.
You’re rocking my socks off here! I’m determined to find a way to eat liver that doesn’t involve hiding it in another dish. I can’t wait to try this!
Chopped liver in celery is fantastic!
Just tried this and it’s fantastic! I had grass-fed beef liver and it worked out great. I pureed into pretty smooth because I didn’t like the graininess of the caraway seeds but I do like their flavor.
I even gave some to the non-Paleo bf and he was really impressed.
Also, I’m SO glad to know it can be frozen. Thanks for all the tips in this article with the freezing, portions, etc. It makes eating liver so much more practical.
Thank you for letting me know you liked it. Good to know it works with beef liver, too!
Yum!! I wasn’t sure I’d like the caraway seeds, but this was delicious and I didn’t even miss the butter. I’ve been having it for snacks with apple and veggies and even for breakfast.
One of the things that surprised me when I raised heritage chicken breeds and started butchering them, is the drastic difference between rooster and hen livers. Rooster livers are so much better. They aren’t nearly as slimy, are a deep, red color, and very thick. http://wp.me/p44c6k-4V
I made this tonight and it was absolutely delicious! It was my first time cooking liver. I made a few minor substitutions based on what I had on hand. Beef livers instead of chicken. White wine in place of the cognac. (And I added some powdered porcini mushrooms because I’ve recently discovered the magic of them.) Thanks for such a wonderful entree into cooking with liver!
I bet the powdered porcini mushrooms made it taste awesome. Thanks for sharing — glad you liked it!
This is actually exactly how I make pate, except I add 200g of butter when I’m pureeing at the end. Will give it a go with much less butter next time and see if I still like it as much!
Thank you so much for creating this fantastic recipe. The pâté is absolutely delicious! Your recipes are always amazing. Just today I made your sweet potato soup with bacon and Taj Mahal chicken -so yummy and satisfying.
Well I just love that I googled “Can I freeze chicken livers” and this came up! <3
That totally made my day!
I’m wondering how important it is to get organic chicken livers. I know it’s ideal, but since I’m having a bit of trouble finding them locally, I’m wondering if I should just buy the regular chicken livers I can find in my local grocery store? I’ve been holding back because I was under the impression that because of their function in the body, it is best to get organic, pastured. Can you advise? Thanks in advance!
With protein, I always recommend that you get the best quality you can afford, and if you can’t swing pastured/organic, then buy very lean. But organ meats are in a different category. I really recommend you get organic, pastured organ meats. I buy mine online since I’m not able to find them locally. US Wellness Meats, Grassfed Traditions, Slanker… these are all good places to get pastured chicken livers. Buy a bunch and freeze to save on shipping costs.
how long can chopped liver stay fresh in refrigerator making it Thursday for Saturday bought it today Wednesday. should I cook it for chopped liver on Friday to make it last longer?
It tastes freshest on the day you purée it. My recommendation is to do the cooking in advance (Thursday or Friday), then purée it about 1-2 hours before you want to eat it. Let it come to room temp before serving.