Calf's Liver

Many of you have heard the phrase “Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize.” Michael Pollan has said this, but so have countless other health and nutrition enthusiasts. It’s simple advice and it makes sense: most processed foods, like Doritos or Hostess cupcakes or flavored yogurt, were not around when our grandparents were young. They may have cooked with more butter and used heavy cream in more of their recipes, but let’s face it: they still ate much healthier than people do now. They ate whole foods, and were more likely to eat locally grown and produced foods because that was what was available to them. More meals were cooked at home, and kids were not eating fast food.

Last night Ed and I ate a dinner that our grandparents would definitely recognize: calf’s liver. My Nutrients teacher talks a lot about liver in class. She eats it often, and a few weeks ago she sent us her liver recipe. When Ed and I were at Denver’s indoor farmer’s market, we purchased a bag of frozen calf livers from a Colorado, grass-fed beef farm. Liver from a grass-fed calf is free from toxins and the best type of liver to consume. It provides more nutrients per gram than any other food that exists!

Liver is extremely nutrient-dense. One serving contains almost 700% of your daily vitamin B12; 600% of your vitamin A; over 200% of daily folate; 130% of vitamin B2 (riboflavin); and very high amounts of copper, selenium, zinc, tryptophan, protein, vitamin C, vitamin B3 (niacin), phosphorous, iron, and vitamins B5 and B6. And all of these nutrients are packed into a mere 180 calories. Can you see what this is such a powerful food!? It is a great way to replenish if you haven’t gotten sufficient vitamins due to illness or travel. The B-vitamins are crucial for all of your body’s metabolic processes, and are associated with lower cancer risk. The folate is great for women before, during and after pregnancy. The iron in calf’s liver is a very usable source, meaning our body will recognize it and utilize it properly.

So, even though I’ve never tried calf’s liver and the thought of it was a little scary, I was completely convinced and even excited to try it after I learned all of these health benefits. The recipe is fairly easy but still full of flavor and it makes a great meal.


1 lb pastured beef or bison liver, sliced or cubed

1 large onion, chopped

1 large red pepper, seeded and sliced

1 slice pastured bacon, chopped (optional)

Handful of dried figs (about 10-15), stem removed, cut in quarters

½ juicy orange (or one whole lime – orange for a sweet taste, lime for a tart taste)

2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Handful of pine nuts (optional – We used almonds because we didn’t have pine nuts)

½ tsp Celtic sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Dash of balsamic vinegar

2-3 tbs stable cooking oil – ghee, coconut oil, butter, etc.

Heat large sauté pan over medium heat. When hot add bacon and cook until tender (not crispy). Add ½ of the cooking oil – heat just to melt. Add onions and sauté until soft and translucent. Add red pepper, figs and pine nuts. Sauté until peppers are soft (not mushy), 5-6 minutes. Push vegetables to outside of pan leaving an empty hole in center.

Add the remaining oil. Melt and add liver. Cook until just browned through, maybe 3-4 minutes (it goes pretty fast, don’t over cook or it will become tough). Incorporate cooked liver with the vegetable/fig mixture. Squeeze orange or lime juice (catching the seeds) over the mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Adjust seasoning to taste if needed. Stir another brief minute to incorporate flavors. Serve immediately.

We forgot a few ingredients but followed this recipe for the most part. Ed was already a liver-lover, so I was the wild card this time… and I loved it! I even went back for more. I definitely want to try to make this every few weeks so we can replenish our stores of all the important nutrients. Plus, it’s an easy dinner. I recommend trying it at least once. It’s so good for you, how could you not? Find a place in your city where you can buy calf’s liver from a grass-fed cow or buffalo – most likely a farmer’s market or health food store. Let me know what you think!

We’d love to try a liver mousse at some point too… not quite as healthy but would make a great appetizer if we’re entertaining!


  1. Hi Anne
    Great post-we learn about liver al the time as well! It always comes up top of the list....sitting on the fence, think I may venture into pates' first :) Funny enough, looking back at my mom's cooking, every special holiday she would have a bowl of this "dip" out with little pieces of rye, she never made a big fuss out of it, so I ate heaps of it! Not knowing it was liver!

  2. " The folate is great for women before, during and after pregnancy."
    Actually, liver stores excess levels of vitamin A and is not recommended for pregnant women; excess vitamin A can be toxic for growing babies.

  3. A liver from a healthy, grass-fed animal will contain a good balance of nutrients that is safe for pregnant women in normal quantities. I would probably recommend about 4-6 oz of liver per week as one component of a whole-foods diet. It is true that excess vitamin A can hurt a grown baby, however if the mother is not supplementing with excessive amounts of vitamin A, eating a small amount of liver will not harm the baby. This is all assuming the liver is from a grass-fed animal, not a grain-fed animal.