This recipe is just a simple spin on the classic liver and onions you probably remember from your childhood, but with the addition of bacon. Because bacon makes everything better. Additionally, you can give the livers a little (or a lot) of kick with a homemade Cajun spice mix. This recipe is gluten-free, paleo/primal, and compatible with the 21-Day Sugar Detox and Whole30.
Why should you eat liver?
One, it tastes AMAZING and is deeply satisfying to eat. Two, it is hands down one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. Just one measly ounce of chicken liver has 81% of your recommended daily vitamin A, 99% of your cobalamin (B12), 39% of your folate, 38% of your riboflavin (B2), 35% of your selenium, plus niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6), thiamin, pathothenic acid (B5), iron, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and manganese (source). Read more about the nutrition in liver from Chris Kresser and the Weston A. Price Foundation. If you are new to eating liver, chicken livers are a great place to start. They are much milder than pork, lamb, or beef liver.
Now for the recipe! Printable version at the end of the post.
- 1 lb chicken livers, pasture-raised or organic
- 1 onion (I used a sweet yellow onion)
- 6 slices bacon (or more, if you like)
- Cajun seasoning (double if you prefer stronger seasoning):
- 1/2 tsp unrefined salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Note: this seasoning blend mimics my all-time favorite store-bought Cajun seasoning Slap Ya Mama. To make more of a Cajun blackening mix, add the following:
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
Note: if you are doing the Whole30, be sure that your bacon is sugar-free.
First, fry up your bacon. Let it get nice and crispy so that it will crumble easily. I set the burner to medium and lower it to medium low after the pan gets nice and hot.
While the bacon is cooking, chop your onion. A coarse chop works well.
Next, prepare the livers for cooking. Some people suggest rinsing them with water first. I never do this. I simply dry them (carefully) with paper towels. It'll take a few to get the job done. What I do: place them on top of a paper towel on a plate, then place another paper towel on top, fold the edges of the bottom layer towel toward the top and carefully flip the livers over, so the towel that was on top is now between the livers and the plate. Repeat 2-3 times. Or, if you're worried about your paper towel ripping when you flip, you can use 2 plates: put the towel on top of the livers and put a plate on top of that, hold the plates firmly together and flip. I also drain off and save as much juice as possible, to give to my raw fed menagerie. They LOVE liver "juice".
Your livers are dry when no more red stains the paper towel. At this point, take the livers off of the paper towel (carefully -- they may be sticking to it) until it's time for them to hit the frying pan.
After your livers are dry, you can either leave them alone or you can trim them. The main reason why some people prefer to trim them is to remove any tough or stringy connective tissue or ducts. I never find these to be a problem with chicken livers, so I just leave them whole. This saves time and also makes them easier to turn in the pan. But, if you or someone you are feeding is particularly picky about food texture, you may want to spend a few minutes trimming away a bit around where the lobes connect to each other. Try to keep the pieces uniform in size as best as you can.
Once the bacon is crispy, remove from the pan and let cool. Add your onions to the fat, being careful not to splash yourself with hot oil. Cook the onions until soft, or if you prefer, until they start to get a little brown.
While the onions are cooking, prepare your spice mix. Sprinkle on your livers, and gently turn them over to make sure you have some seasoning on all the livers. Or, if you prefer, lightly dredge them in the mix, but be careful not to use it all up on the first few livers. If you follow the amounts as written, it will be a very light dusting with a mild flavor. Feel free to double the recipe if you like more kick.
Remove onions from pan, trying to leave as much bacon grease as possible behind. I use a type of slotted spoon for this. Depending on how much fat you have left in the pan, you may need to add a little extra to cook the livers. I needed to add a few tsps extra bacon fat.
Lucky for me, since I am doing the 21-Day Sugar Detox right now, bacon has become almost a daily staple in my diet, so I have a big stash of saved bacon grease. If you don't have any saved bacon grease, the next best thing would be lard. If you don't have any lard, I'd suggest either clarified butter or palm shortening (affiliate link). Plain butter might also work, too. By the way, there's a new company selling rendered animal fat from pasture-raised animals called Fatworks. Check 'em out if you don't have access to fats from pastured animals, or you just don't want to render your own fats.
Liver does not take long to cook, and is ideally only cooked to about medium rare. Perfectly cooked liver will be gray on the outside and slightly pink in the middle. With chicken livers it's hard to get ALL of them cooked to exactly the same level of done-ness, because they come in various shapes and sizes. This is not a big deal. They'll all be delicious, even if the middle of some of them is gray and not pink.
I cooked them for about 2 minutes per side. Once red liquid began to pool on the top of the side I cooked first, I added the onion and crumbled bacon back to the pan and carefully mixed everything together in the skillet for about another minute or two.
That's it! Now you're ready to eat. This meal is enough to make my husband and I both feel VERY satisfied for many, many hours. But, if you are new to liver, eating 1/2 pound of it at once may be too much for you. If you aren't sure, you can always try halving or quartering the recipe and freezing the rest of the uncooked livers or saving them to cook the next day. I wouldn't recommend cooking them and then reheating for leftovers.
- This recipe will also work with beef liver. Depending on who you buy beef liver from, it can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. I recommend cutting into roughly equal-sized portions, ranging anywhere from 1/2 lb - 1/8 lb each.
- If you prefer to keep seasoning simpler, just use salt, or salt and pepper.
- If you want an Asian flavor, omit the bacon and instead cook the livers in plain lard or another mild fat like palm shortening, schmaltz, or duck fat, and add some wheat-free tamari sauce or coconut aminos plus a bit of toasted sesame oil, and a seasoning mix of garlic, ginger, and lemon juice (all fresh if possible).
- Using the suggestions above, you could also season with a Thai or Indian style curry spice mix, too. I like the Thai Kitchen curry pastes (red and green) and S & B Oriental curry powder.
Cajun-Spiced Chicken Livers with Bacon and Onion
A simple twist on the classic liver and onions that everyone is sure to love!
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: 2 - 4 servings
- 1 pound chicken livers (pasture-raised or organic)
- 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
- 6-8 slices bacon
- 1/2 tsp unrefined salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne powder
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- optional: 1/4 tsp paprika
- optional: 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- optional: 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- Pan-fry your bacon in a large skillet until crispy.
- While bacon is cooking, chop the onion and prepare the livers by patting them dry with paper towels.
- Once bacon is crispy, remove from pan and let cool. Leave rendered fat in the pan and add onions, cooking until soft and fragrant.
- While onions are cooking, prepare your spice mix. NOTE: the mix of salt, pepper, cayenne, and garlic mimics my all-time favorite store-bought Cajun seasoning called Slap Ya Mama. Add the optional paprika, oregano, and thyme for a blackened Cajun seasoning if you prefer. Add all spices to a small bowl and mix well, then sprinkle evenly on top of all the chicken livers. Feel free to double or even triple the batch for more kick -- as written it is a mild coating. I usually double the seasoning.
- When onions are finished cooking, remove with a slotted spoon so that you leave as much fat behind in the pan as possible. If necessary, add additional bacon fat (you've got a jar in your fridge, right?).
- Carefully add livers to the pan in a single layer. Cook until medium rare, about 2-3 minutes per side. Then, crumble the bacon into the pan and add the onions back in and gently stir everything to combine. Cook for about 1-2 more minutes.
- Serve and enjoy! This makes a great meal for breakfast, lunch, or supper!