Beef liver with caramelized onions
Beef Breakfast Dinner International Lunch

From Simple to Extraordinary: Beef Liver with Onions Done Right

Beef liver is a nutritional powerhouse that is often underestimated due to its strong flavor. However, when cooked properly, it can be a true delight for those who appreciate its unique taste. One classic dish that highlights the richness of beef liver is when it is mixed with caramelized onions.

Before this beef with onion recipe of mine, the mere mention of “beef liver” with my kiddoes was enough to turn them off.  As they are familiar and in love with my recipes for chicken liver adobo and sauteed chicken liver, I was confident that they would also love this beef liver with onions. I was right!

Let me start by sharing with you little secrets for a successful taste of beef liver with onions. Having this information handy can make cooking a lot easier.

Secrets in Perfecting Beef Liver with Onions

  • Choose the freshest beef liver: When it comes to cooking with liver, freshness is key. Look for beef liver that is firm and has a deep red color. Avoid any liver that has a strong or unpleasant smell, as this can indicate that it is not fresh.
  • Soak the liver in milk: To help remove any potential bitterness and tenderize the meat, soak the beef liver in milk or buttermilk for about half an hour; longer is better. This simple step helps to mellow out the strong flavor of the liver and gives it a more delicate taste.
  • Pat the liver dry: Before cooking the liver, pat it dry with paper towels. This helps to remove excess moisture and ensures that the liver will sear properly in the skillet. A dry surface allows the liver to achieve a crispy outer crust while keeping the inside tender and juicy.
  • Use a strong non-stick iron skillet: Cooking beef liver with onions requires a skillet that can withstand high heat and distribute it evenly. An iron skillet is an excellent choice as it retains heat well and provides a great surface. The same iron skillet is also best for caramelizing the onions. Its heavy bottom prevents the liver from burning while ensuring even cooking.
  • Cook the liver in batches: To avoid overcrowding the skillet and ensure even cooking, cook the beef liver in batches. Overcrowding can lower the skillet’s temperature and cause the liver to release juices, resulting in steaming instead of searing. Cook the liver strips or pieces over medium-high heat for approximately 2-3 minutes per side, or until they reach your desired doneness.
  • Season with care: Beef liver already has a distinct and robust flavor, so it’s important to season it thoughtfully. A sprinkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper is often enough to enhance its natural taste. However, if you prefer additional flavors, consider adding spices like paprika or thyme for a subtle enhancement.
  • Rest before serving: Once the beef liver is cooked to perfection, allow it to rest for a few minutes before serving. This allows the juices to be redistributed, resulting in a more tender and flavorful bite.


When it comes to preparing a delicious beef liver with onions dish, it’s important to gather the right ingredients. Here’s a list of what you’ll need:

  • Beef Liver
  • Olive Oil or butter
  • Yellow onion: Yellow onions bring a sweet and savory element to the dish and are commonly used for their mild flavor.  Perfect for caramelizing.
  • Oyster sauce
  • Juice of lemon or lime
  • Optional Ingredient: flour. If you want a golden brown crust on your liver and want to reduce any metallic flavor, consider coating the liver in a flour mixture before cooking. Simply use a tablespoon of flour to create a light coating.


  • Calf liver or chicken liver are good substitutes for beef liver. Calf liver has a milder taste, while chicken liver is even more delicate. Again, you may choose to soak the liver in milk before cooking to remove any bitter taste. This step is optional but can help tenderize the liver.
  • Red onions are an option if you prefer their strength. Properly dealt with in the pan, they also produce sweetness, though differently, and are also perfect for caramelizing.

How to Cook Beef Liver with Onions

  • Prep the liver: Start by rinsing the beef liver under cold water and patting it dry with paper towels. This helps to remove any residual blood and excess moisture. If the liver is thick, you can slice it into smaller, more manageable pieces.
  • Soak in milk or buttermilk: Place the liver in a shallow dish and pour enough milk or buttermilk over it to cover. Let it soak for about half an hour.
  • Caramelize the Onions: While the liver is soaking, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and add the onions. Cook them slowly, stirring occasionally, until they turn a deep golden brown color. This process can take around 15-20 minutes, so be patient. Once caramelized, transfer the onions to a plate and set aside.
  • Remove the liver from the milk or buttermilk and place it on a clean paper towel. Pat it dry to remove any excess liquid. If desired, you can also dust the liver in a mixture of flour and your choice of spices for added texture and flavor.
  • Cook the liver: Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the liver pieces in a single layer. Allow them to cook undisturbed for 2-3 minutes, or until you see a golden brown crust forming. Flip the liver pieces and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes on the other side. Cooking times may vary depending on the thickness of the liver and your desired level of doneness.
  • Return half of the caramelized onions to the pan with the beef liver and stir once. Transfer to a serving dish and top with the rest of the caramelized onions.
  • Once the liver is cooked to your liking, remove it from the skillet and let it rest on  for a few minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute and the meat to become more tender. The sweetness of the onions complements the rich flavor of the liver perfectly.

What to serve this dish with?

When it comes to serving beef liver with onions, there are several options that pair perfectly with this classic dish. Here are a few ideas:

  • White Rice: A simple and versatile side dish, white rice complements the flavor of beef liver and onions. The light and fluffy texture of the rice helps balance out the richness of the liver.
  • Roasted or Blanched Vegetables: Adding a side of roasted or blanched vegetables brings a pop of color, flavor, and nutritional value to your meal. You can roast a medley of vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Mashed Potatoes: Creamy and comforting, mashed potatoes make for a wonderful accompaniment to beef liver and onions. The smooth and buttery potatoes create a perfect contrast to the intense flavors of the dish.
  • Mixed Greens Salad: If you’re looking for something lighter and refreshing, a mixed greens salad can be a great choice. Toss together a combination of fresh lettuce, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, and your favorite dressing for a crisp and vibrant side salad.
  • Grilled Asparagus: Grilled asparagus is a delicious and nutritious option that pairs well with the richness of beef liver. Simply drizzle the asparagus spears with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill them until tender and slightly charred.

Remember, the perfect side dish is a matter of personal preference. Feel free to experiment and get creative with your choices. Whether you prefer the simplicity of white rice or the freshness of a salad, these suggested options will complement the flavors of the beef liver and onions dish beautifully.

Storing leftovers

After enjoying a delicious meal of beef liver with onions, you may find yourself with some leftovers. Properly storing leftovers is essential to maintain their flavor and freshness for future meals. Whether you intend to enjoy them the next day or save them for later in the week, here are some tips on how to store your beef liver with onion leftovers.

Allow the dish to cool.

Before transferring your leftovers to a storage container, it’s important to let them cool down. Placing hot food directly into the refrigerator can raise its internal temperature and create a breeding ground for bacteria. Allow the beef liver with onions to cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes before storing.

Choose the right containers.

When it comes to storing leftovers, choosing the right containers is crucial. Opt for airtight containers that seal properly to prevent the entry of air, which can cause food to spoil. Glass or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids are ideal options.

Divide into small portions.

If you have a large quantity of leftover beef liver with onions, it’s a good idea to divide it into smaller portions before storing it. This allows for easier reheating and minimizes the risk of cross-contamination. Individual portions can be quickly reheated as needed, reducing waste and ensuring that every serving is equally delicious.

Label and date.

To avoid confusion later on, it’s important to label each container with the contents and the date of storage. This helps you keep track of how long the leftovers have been in the refrigerator and ensures that you consume them before they become unsafe to eat.

Refrigerate or freeze promptly.

Leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking. Place the sealed containers in the refrigerator and store them at a temperature below 40°F (4°C). If you don’t plan on consuming the leftovers within three to four days, consider freezing them for later use. Freezing extends their shelf life and retains their quality for up to three months.

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Beef liver with caramelized onions

Recipe: Beef Liver with Onions Done Right

  • Author: Magida
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Category: Main dish
  • Method: cooking
  • Cuisine: International


An easy-to-make beef liver and onions recipe that your family and friends would love and ask for again.




  • 2 beef livers (around ½ kilo)
  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 1 large red or yellow onion, sliced
  • ½ teaspoon salt + 1 pinch
  • 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tbsp sugar (optional)
  • 12 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • black pepper
  • 12 tablespoons flour (optional)


  • Heat olive oil or butter in the skillet.  Add the onions and cook over medium heat to caramelize. Stir them occasionally to ensure they cook evenly. Once cooked to your desired level of doneness, transfer the onions from the skillet to a platter and set aside.
  • Using the same pan, add and cook the beef liver in batches, seasoning them with salt and black pepper. This will help enhance the natural flavors of the liver.
  • Add juice of lime or lemon and sugar (if using) and let simmer for a minute, then add oyster sauce. Stir once.
  • Return half of the caramelized onions to the pan with the beef liver and stir once. Transfer to a serving dish and top with the rest of the caramelized onions.

Keywords: beef liver with onions, beef liver with caramelized onions, beef liver recipe

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I substitute beef liver with another type of liver?

Yes, you can substitute beef liver with other types of liver, such as calf liver or chicken liver. However, keep in mind that the flavor and texture may differ slightly.

Why should I rinse the beef liver before cooking?

Rinsing the beef liver before cooking helps to remove any residual blood and excess moisture. This can help reduce any potential metallic flavor and clean the liver for cooking.

What does soaking the liver in milk or buttermilk do?

Soaking the liver in milk or buttermilk helps to mellow out its strong flavor and tenderize the meat. The high acid content in milk or buttermilk helps to break down some of those strong flavors, resulting in a milder taste.

Can I skip soaking the liver if I don't have enough time?

While soaking the liver in milk or buttermilk is recommended for the best results, you can still cook the liver without soaking if you're short on time. Just keep in mind that the liver might retain a stronger flavor.

How do I know when the liver is cooked?

The liver should have a firm yet slightly tender texture. Overcooking the liver can result in a dry and tough texture.

Can I serve beef liver with other side dishes?

Absolutely! Beef liver with onions pairs well with various side dishes. Some classic options include serving it with white rice, roasted vegetables, or alongside a fresh salad. Feel free to experiment with different accompaniments to suit your taste preferences.

Is beef liver a good source of nutrients?

Yes, beef liver is considered a nutritional powerhouse. It is particularly rich in iron, vitamin A, and vitamin B12. However, it's essential to consume liver in moderation due to its high vitamin A content.

Can I refrigerate leftovers?

Yes, you can store any leftover beef liver in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. When reheating, be cautious not to overcook the liver, as it can become tough and dry.

Are there any variations to this recipe?

Absolutely! You can customize this recipe according to your taste preferences. Some variations include adding herbs like thyme or rosemary to the onions while caramelizing them, or even adding a splash of balsamic vinegar for a tangy flavor twist.

Equipment Needed

When it comes to cooking beef liver with onions, having the right equipment is essential to ensure that the dish turns out delicious and flavorful. Here are some key pieces of equipment you’ll need to prepare this classic dish:

Iron Skillet:  Its thick and heavy bottom distributes heat evenly, allowing the liver to cook thoroughly without burning. The skillet also provides a great surface for caramelizing the onions to perfection.

Shallow Dish: Before cooking the beef liver, it is common practice to soak it in milk or buttermilk for a few hours. A shallow dish is perfect for this step, allowing the liver to be completely submerged and absorb the flavors while tenderizing it.

Knife and Cutting Board: To properly handle and prepare the beef liver and onions, a sharp knife and a stable cutting board are essential. A good-quality knife ensures precise slicing of the liver into thin strips or bite-sized pieces, while a cutting board provides a secure surface for chopping the onions.

Paper Towels: Beef liver can have a strong flavor, and some recipes suggest rinsing the liver before cooking to remove any excess blood. In this case, paper towels are handy for patting the liver dry, ensuring a crispy sear when it hits the hot skillet.

Tongs or Spatula: When cooking the liver in the skillet, using tongs or a spatula makes it easier to flip and move the liver pieces without breaking them. Opt for a sturdy and heat-resistant tool to handle the hot liver and onions safely.

Roasting Pan: If you decide to pair your beef liver with some roasted vegetables, a roasting pan is a useful item to have. It provides a spacious and even cooking surface for the vegetables, allowing them to roast to perfection alongside the liver.

With these essential pieces of equipment at your disposal, you’ll be well-equipped to cook beef liver with onions to perfection, ensuring a flavorful and satisfying meal.

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