Chicken livers with onion

I am a lover of chicken liver and onions. Chicken livers with onion sautéed in sizzling butter, the only other condiment being a sprinkle of salt flakes at the end. Some dishes don’t need a lot of ingredients or condiments, they’re perfect they way they are. Sauteed chicken liver with butter and onion is as simple as it sounds, and absolutely delicious if you enjoy the flavour of liver.

Chicken livers with onion, sauteed in butter. My Polish grandma's recipe for chicken liver.

That of liver, I know, is a peculiar flavour. It belongs in that category of foods that you either have a deep hate or a deep love for. There is a percentage of people who fall in the middle, though. Those who appreciate liver paté but still would not eat the actual cooked organs. For most of the lovers out there, it’s just something they grew up with. And that is the case also with me.

I love liver. As a child, it was one of my favourite foods alongside butter, milk and cooked ham. Every time we visited my maternal grandparents in Poland I’d demand chicken livers. My grandma’s chicken livers with onion. I was such a weird little girl who loved herself some liver. I also had a peculiar way of pronouncing it in Polish so that made the whole thing even funnier. Not just the fact that I was requesting liver for lunch, but the way I used to say it.

Chicken livers with onion on a cast iron pan.

My grandparents were poor, all four of them. Despite coming from two different cultural contexts, one thing was shared: food is sacred. You could never take it for granted. Anything that would fill your stomach was food; offal was no exception. And even when life eventually turned a bit more for the better, they had a hard time letting go of old food habits. It was in my Polish grandma’s kitchen I had my taste of chicken hearts, stomachs, livers and even feet.

I did not become a fan of all of those. But livers are a favourite. I’m still grateful to my family for exposing me to so many various foods from an early age. That for chicken liver is a lifelong love for me.

Looking for a veggie-based dish to go along? Try Polish tomato soup.

Cast iron pan with cooked chicken liver inside.

How to make chicken livers with onion

To make chicken liver and onions, you take care of the onion first. Chop the onion and sautée it in a frying pan with some butter for a few minutes. When it gets soft, add a small amount of water, cover and let it swell on lower heat. In the meantime, you will be taking care of the meat. Chicken livers are fairly small. I usually try and make them all about the same size, halving the larger pieces. Sometimes the spleen remains attached to the liver, and I always trim that off. I have the feeling my grandma did not use to do that, but I generally exclude the spleen from my dish.

Lightly coat the liver pieces in flour, then add to the frying pan, adding also some more butter. Sautée on medium-high heat turning the livers from time to time to make sure they get nicely browned on both sides and cooked through. Liver “bleeds” during cooking, it releases a reddish liquid. Keep cooking your livers until you see that this does not occur anymore, that’s usually a sign that the liver is cooked through. Always check by cutting in half one of the larger pieces. Liver is not something you want to be eating raw.

Making an all-Polish dinner? Finish it off with Polish apple cake!

Chicken livers with onion on a cast iron pan.

Cooking liver is fairly simple. There are many easy chicken liver recipes out there. My grandma would not follow any. She was talented in the kitchen, and would just turn any ingredient into delicious foods. I am pretty sure her secret ingredient was butter. She’d put butter everywhere, in generous amounts. Might not have followed the healthiest of diets, but she enjoyed her food. I used to love her cakes, but loved her fried chicken livers even more.

For best results in replicating my Polish grandma’s dish I would say know your meat. Always buy fresh chicken liver, possibly from sustainable farming. A healthy life of the animals is not just important from an ethical point of view, but the quality of the meat is actually way better. We can all help to make the changes that the world needs while supporting small-scale local farmers.

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Chicken liver and onions in cast iron pan.

Salt is added at the very end, when the chicken livers with onion are plated and ready to be served. Adding salt was my treat as a kid. I’ve always loved the flavour of salt on foods and I loved being granted the freedom to decide how much salt I could have on my livers. I would usually add quite a bit of it. Salty, buttery chunks of liver with the sweetness of the sautéed onion coming alongside is definitely one of my childhood flavour memories. One I love to replicate in my kitchen from time to time.

Not the healthiest of foods, but grandma’s recipes are supposed to be tasty and not healthy, anyway.

More Polish goodness? Learn about traditional Polish food with this guide to the best Polish food in Krakow.

Cast iron pan with cooked chicken liver inside.
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4.9 from 19 votes

Chicken livers with onion

Chicken liver and onions sautéed in butter. A simple dish from my Polish grandma's recipe book.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Polish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Author Eva

Ingredients

  • 450 g fresh chicken liver
  • 5 tbsp flour
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 60 g butter
  • 20 ml water
  • salt flakes

Instructions

  • Melt one third of the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Chop the onion and add it to the pan. Sautée the onion until soft, about 3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the water and cover the pan. Let the onion swell.
  • In the meantime, prepare the chicken livers. Trim off any spleens if present. Cut the larger chunks to make all the pieces about the same size. Coat in flour all the livers.
  • Add the remaining butter to the pan, return the heat to medium-high and add the floured liver. Turn the livers often to ensure they get cooked through. Liver will release a reddish liquid while cooking, make sure to cook it all off. When it has stopped "bleeding" it should have cooked through - check one of the thickest pieces by cutting it in half.
  • When completely cooked through, remove from the heat and serve with a sprinkle of salt flakes on top.

Notes

You don't add any salt during the cooking process. Salt is added at the end, and I recommend the use of salt flakes.
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60 Comments

  1. Elaine Benoit June 11, 2019 at 13:43

    5 stars
    I am on the side of loving chicken livers and onions! I’ve always been a big fan and your dish looks fabulous and super easy. I can’t wait to try it!

    Reply
    1. Eva June 12, 2019 at 13:41

      Thank you Elaine!

      Reply
      1. Jacqueline November 30, 2022 at 17:31

        5 stars
        I grew up eating chicken livers & onions over rice at least once per week! This recipe is so Delicious and I’m going to be making this for my family at least a couple times a month😋

        Reply
        1. Eva October 20, 2023 at 09:23

          Hi Jacqueline, Thank you! I hope you and your family will enjoy this as much as I do!

          Reply
  2. Nicoletta June 11, 2019 at 17:09

    5 stars
    My grandma was a fan of chicken liver. She would cook it similar to yours, white, with onion, in the pan. I was never a fan, and then became vegetarian. But I know, some in my family would love it.

    Reply
    1. Eva June 12, 2019 at 13:42

      Sounds like regardless of the nationality, this is an international grandma recipe.

      Reply
  3. Aleta June 13, 2019 at 03:50

    5 stars
    I totally agree, some dishes are perfect all by themselves with simply a touch of salt. My mom absolutely loves chicken liver, I bet she would cry tears of joy if I made this for her! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Reply
    1. Eva June 17, 2019 at 22:07

      Thank you Aleta!

      Reply
      1. Jane Casey October 7, 2023 at 18:21

        5 stars
        Never had them like this. Cooked tonight and fabulous!

        Reply
        1. Eva October 23, 2023 at 09:53

          Thank you Jane, I’m glad you liked them!

          Reply
  4. anna June 13, 2019 at 09:51

    5 stars
    Although I’m not a fan of livers, I know that my mum would love this! She makes it very similar, with loads of onions and then eats it with just some sourdough bread. Also, your photos are great!

    Reply
    1. Eva June 17, 2019 at 22:08

      Aw thank you so much Anna!

      Reply
  5. Denise June 13, 2019 at 12:36

    5 stars
    I have never had chicken livers, but yes, my Gram would make this. I may have to give this a try.

    Reply
    1. Eva June 17, 2019 at 22:08

      This is such a grandma recipe!

      Reply
  6. Carrie | Clean Eating Kitchen June 13, 2019 at 15:03

    5 stars
    I haven’t had chicken livers since I was little! These look delicious and so easy to make too! Look forward to trying these soon!

    Reply
    1. Eva June 17, 2019 at 22:09

      Hope they will bring back lovely childhood memories as they do with me all the time 😉

      Reply
  7. Tammy June 15, 2019 at 04:31

    5 stars
    I must admit, I absolutely love chicken livers and I love this simple, classic dish. Sounds wonderful!

    Reply
    1. Eva June 17, 2019 at 22:10

      Thank you Tammy ^^

      Reply
  8. Vanessa June 15, 2019 at 12:57

    I love that you have this nostalgia for chicken livers from your grandma. That is such a special memory, and so wonderful that she passed on some of her love for food to you.

    Reply
    1. Eva June 17, 2019 at 22:10

      I am really so so grateful to her for this!

      Reply
  9. Amanda Mason June 15, 2019 at 15:32

    5 stars
    I have to say that my mom made chicken livers when I was growing up and they were awful!! But yours look so much more appetizing than hers did! That’s so funny that as a child you loved chicken livers! My favorite food as a kid was rice and brown gravy!! So funny!

    Reply
    1. Eva June 17, 2019 at 22:11

      You also had a very peculiar favourite one as a kid, then! 😀

      Reply
  10. Kathryn June 16, 2019 at 15:21

    This is something I’ve never really tried but you make it sound so interesting!

    Reply
    1. Eva June 17, 2019 at 22:11

      It has a quite peculiar taste, and if you end up making it I hope you’ll love it.

      Reply
  11. Elena June 16, 2019 at 16:31

    5 stars
    Chicken livers certainly bring up those precious childhood memories. I’ve never made them myself though. My grandma was usually in charge. She would love this recipe!

    Reply
    1. Eva June 17, 2019 at 22:12

      I love to see how many people had a chicken-liver-grandma just like I did!

      Reply
  12. Claire | The Simple, Sweet Life June 17, 2019 at 00:32

    I’ve never made a chicken liver dish, primarily because I’ve never really known how to cook them, but this looks so delicious! I’m definitely going to have to give this a try.

    Reply
    1. Eva June 17, 2019 at 22:12

      It’s really that easy. Hope you enjoy!

      Reply
      1. ricky June 29, 2021 at 03:55

        5 stars
        Im from Iowa originally, and liver and onions was always the meal I requested my mom to make for my birthday dinner. It was my favorite. We all loved it. What a surprise when I moved out east and ordered liver and onions and they brought me calf liver. (Oddly we never had it, it must be more expensive?)Yes…it is good…but entirely not the same. I didn’t know how to cook it but from The looks of your dish and the simplicity of it, I know this must be the same as my momma made. I’m about to have it for dinner tonight, thanks.

        Reply
        1. Eva July 5, 2021 at 20:07

          Hi Ricky! How lovely to hear this used to be your favourite meal reserved to your birthday! I agree with you, calf liver is a little bit different. I personally prefer chicken liver! Hope my recipe did not disappoint and brought back good memories!

          Reply
  13. Saima June 17, 2019 at 01:44

    5 stars
    Such a simple recipe with so few ingredients! I’m not a fan of chicken liver but I know many people in my family who are. They would love your recipe especially because it’s so easy as well. Bookmarking it for them!

    Reply
    1. Eva June 17, 2019 at 22:13

      Thank you Saima!

      Reply
  14. Christina R December 17, 2019 at 03:21

    5 stars
    I loved this recipe! The only thing I did differently was add a piece of chopped up shallot. It helps kill that metalic after taste liver has!

    Reply
    1. Eva December 18, 2019 at 17:11

      Thank you for the tip, Christina! Will try subbing yellow onion for shallot next time myself!

      Reply
  15. Hope December 29, 2019 at 19:02

    I am planning to make your recipe tonight. What side dishes would go well with the chicken livers with onions?

    Reply
    1. Eva January 6, 2020 at 18:17

      Hello Hope and sorry for the late reply. Unfortunately I had limited access to my blog over the Christmas holidays! So sorry! I would have suggested boiled potatoes to keep the whole dish very Polish. Cut them open and pour some of the melted butter and onions from the chicken livers on the potatoes… yummy! Otherwise some sautéed green beans or a salad to keep the whole dish a tad lighter. But I’m late and I guess I should be asking you now, what did you have as a side dish to these chicken livers? Hope you enjoyed them!

      Reply
    2. ricky June 29, 2021 at 03:58

      mashed potatoes….making a birds nest with some of the onion and butter

      Reply
      1. Eva July 5, 2021 at 20:08

        What a delightful idea!

        Reply
  16. Slaven January 19, 2020 at 18:20

    5 stars
    As a child I was a massive fan of this dish. Funny how much I wanted it every time I visited my grandma in Croatia. My mom used to make it for me too but for some reason it wasn’t the same thing.

    Many times I’ve tried to bring back this unique flavour but it was never even close to grandma’s chicken liver. 20-odd years later I’ve found secret ingredient which made her chicken liver so delicious. Surprisingly it a milk. A normal cows milk. The chicken liver after being washed need to have a bath in the milk. Normally I put livers in a bowl and I pour milk in slightly covering every piece and I pop it to a fridge for at least couple hours. I remove every piece from the bowl, sprinkle it with flour just before it ends up on the frying pan.
    Some magic happens to livers when they sit in a milk for few hours and makes them taste wonderfully good. I thought I should share this with you are really recommend trying this yourself.
    Best wishes.

    Reply
    1. Eva February 3, 2020 at 20:26

      Thank you very much Slaven! I love how we both have sweet memories of our Slavic grandmas and their chicken livers 🙂
      I’m definitely going to try the milk bath next time, thank you for the tip! I just use so much butter in my chicken livers I can really picture the milk bath being great. Thank you so much! All the best.

      Reply
  17. Warwick May 13, 2020 at 03:07

    This was really nice to have made again. My grandma used to make it as a kid but i somehow forgot about it. She also make tripe but couldn’t I stand it so I’d beg a friend to let me stay over for dinner lol…

    Reply
    1. Eva May 13, 2020 at 14:53

      Thank you so much for enjoying my recipe! My grandma made tripe too, and I share your feelings for it. Did your grandma also like chicken feet? I swear she’s the only person I’ve known who loved her some chicken feet!! But hey, her chicken liver dish was spot on! This recipe brings her back every time I make it.

      Reply
      1. Richard October 21, 2021 at 01:22

        Yes, my Bubbah made chicken feet in her chicken soup with hard boiled egg yokes.
        That was then and now my wife cringes t this idea,
        Still a great memory of the family around the table for a Shabbat dinner

        Reply
        1. Eva October 23, 2021 at 09:58

          Hi Richard! Thank you for sharing this memory!
          All the best.

          Reply
  18. Jean July 23, 2020 at 18:10

    5 stars
    I love this. Thank you for sharing. I too loved liver as a child. Our school cafeteria served it but I was the only one of my friends who would eat it. And now , I am the only one in my family that will eat it. But I treat myself 😀

    Reply
    1. Eva July 23, 2020 at 20:27

      Hi Jean! Thank you for taking the time to drop me a comment! I think it’s so cool to connect with other liver-lovers! 😀 And yes, it’s an exclusive treat I also don’t get to share 😀

      Reply
  19. Ray. August 19, 2020 at 20:19

    What a great meal, tasty, simple to cook, and very inexpensive. I’ll be having it again, and again. Many thanks.

    Reply
    1. Eva August 21, 2020 at 20:46

      Hi Ray! Thank you, I’m happy to hear you enjoyed one of my favourite recipes!

      Reply
  20. Allen December 29, 2020 at 23:19

    4 stars
    I loved chicken liver with onions when I was a kid, I even cooked it myself! I used a lot of butter and when cooked mixed in scrambled eggs.
    My Father loved when I made it cause the livers weren’t dried out…

    Add a slice of sour dough bread, toasted with minced garlic & butter, topped with a slice of melted provolone cheese and a glass of white wine, viola, quite the awesome breakfast don’t you think?

    Reply
    1. Eva December 30, 2020 at 00:17

      Hi Allen! Ooh love the idea of mixing in scrambled eggs! And that crostini you mention with provolone… yes! Definitely a great breakfast – or brunch given the white wine.

      Reply
  21. Marie Morgan-Roth April 19, 2021 at 14:40

    Wonderful recipe. My husband makes this and instead of using water we use Marsala wine (dry) and we add hard boiled eggs to the mix. I do have one question, Do you think it would be safe to freeze this after cooking? Like maybe using a food vac?

    Reply
    1. Eva April 19, 2021 at 21:10

      Hi Marie! Not sure the hard-boiled eggs would be my thing, but I like the sound of marsala wine! About freezing I would say it should be no problem. Take care!

      Reply
    2. john Fleshin July 3, 2021 at 20:16

      4 stars
      My mother made these as well— though she might have married a relative of yours?
      She always said that delicate meats must be cooked gently.

      Regards, John Fleshin

      Reply
      1. Eva July 5, 2021 at 20:11

        Hi John! Who knows, maybe we are related? Or they just learned the recipe from the same book 😀

        Reply
  22. Jean Gruener October 5, 2021 at 03:38

    5 stars
    I loved chicken livers as a child but have not eaten them in recent years. On a whim, I bought some at the farmers market this weekend and went looking online for a recipe. I found yours and it looked easy, so I fixed it this evening for dinner. Absolutely delicious! Just as I remember them.

    Reply
    1. Eva October 5, 2021 at 11:57

      Hi Jean! Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment, I’m very happy to read that you liked my recipe and it reminded you of your childhood. I think it’s quite magical, this dish has this power. Maybe because we’re quite a few who used to like livers as kids 😀
      Have a great day!

      Reply
  23. Zyna February 17, 2022 at 23:55

    Hi Eva,

    Do you have a good recipe for Polish barszcz/borscht ? My mother found a good Swedish vegetarian borscht recipe we enjoyed, but it’s not quite the same.

    Thanks,
    Zyna

    Reply
    1. Eva February 27, 2022 at 13:06

      Hi Zyna! Unfortunately not, it is not something I’ve ever made myself. I only have it when I visit Poland and I miss it a bit.

      Reply
      1. Zanele June 11, 2022 at 09:34

        Hi Eva, this is one of my favorites, im from South Africa and this is how we make our chicken livers, or we sometimes add tomatoes to give it extra gravy. Delish😋

        Reply
        1. Eva June 14, 2022 at 11:51

          Hi Zanele! I definitely have to try it with tomatoes next time! Sounds like a fantastic addition.

          Reply

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