Beef and Chicken Liver Pâté

Well this is a fist for Free the Animal: two posts on beef liver back-to-back.

But why not? The last post still has a good amount of comment enthusiasm going for it, and I’d break it down into those who love liver and have their ways of doing it—from raw to well done—those who just can’t stand it, and those in the same boat but who’d love to love liver. It’s primarily that latter group that this post is for.

One thing that seems pretty clear is that many who grew up eating it—such as both my wife and I—tend to really like the distinctive taste of it. But here’s one thing I found out yesterday. Someone had commented on that first post, that she loves her leftover liver cold. It made sense to me. I recall when in high school my mom decided to do a beef tongue and frankly, when it was served I didn’t care for it at all, primarily on the level of texture. I think I called it “meat jello” at the time. The next day, she took some out of the fridge and sliced it up to make sandwiches and voilà, I loved it. Cold, it took on a completely different texture and as a consequence, flavor.

So yesterday around noon or so I pulled the leftovers out of the fridge and dug right in, about 6-8 ounces worth. I couldn’t stop eating it down. Frankly, it was far better than Sunday night’s dinner served warm. And, it had the consistency of a pâté. So I was inspired. Googled around and found this recipe from a New Zealand farmer, courtesy of Michael Allen Smith of Critical MAS. Headed off to market, got my stuff and got to work. Here’s the recipe:

500g beef liver (you can substitute lamb’s fry), cut into pieces
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup red wine
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons cracked black pepper

  • Saute the liver and onions in a couple of tablespoons of the butter until the livers are browned and the onions are tender.
  • Add wine, garlic, mustard, herbs and lemon juice and cook uncovered until most of the liquid has gone.
  • Cool and blend to a smooth paste in the food processor along with the rest of the butter. (This is easier if the butter is not fridge cold!)
  • Add salt to taste.
  • Check the consistency of the pate. If it seems dry and crumbly rather than smooth and creamy, add more butter.
  • Put pâté in a shallow dish and press the cracked pepper onto the top of it.

So here’s what I did differently:

  1. I used 1 pound of beef liver (close to the 500g called for) and 1/2 pound of chicken liver.
  2. Upped the amount of red wine proportionally and doubled the lemon juice (an entire lemon).
  3. Added 1/2 cup of tart fresh cranberries.
  4. Added 2 crimini mushrooms (sautéed with the liver & onions).
  5. Added a small can of chopped black olives (added about half way through the sauté)
  6. As a first step, chopped up two thick strips of bacon, fried it, removed the bits, then added 2 tablespoons of butter to the bacon fat for the sauté. Reintroduced the bacon bits at the end, for the cool-down phase.
  7. Used a bit more Kerrygold butter (2 tbsp for the cooking and about 9 for the mixing).
  8. Didn’t have fresh herbs, so I used 1/2 tsp each for the rosemary and thyme.

Click for the hi-res. This was breakfast this morning. Looks to be about 4 ounces, so it’s the rough equivalent of 5 pounds of fruit in terms of nutrition.

Beef and Chicken Liver Pate
Beef and Chicken Liver Pâté

As you can see, I prefer to use the freshly cracked black pepper at the time of serving rather than coat the top while in the serving or storage dish.

How was it? Marvelous. I really enjoy the slight tartness from the lemon and cranberries. The butter made the consistency when chilled absolutely perfect and spreadable.

I would love to see people eating more animal livers of all sorts. The nutritional density is unparalleled. And hey, there’s various ways to get it if you don’t like it fried up. …And various pâté preparations or “wurst” are the way to go. Many are available in stores, artisan markets or online if you search around (see this liverwurst from US Wellness Meats), but making your own offers you the opportunity to experiment until you get it to where you love it. For instance, how about doubling up on the fruit? Cherries or blueberries would be good options, too. Or, more herbs & spices, and of various sorts. Sky’s the limit.

And here’s why. …Now, not to go all woo on you, but Sunday I was suffering horribly from that cold and decided to get high nutrition via that liver dinner. I woke up Monday just fine and have been fine since. Maybe the high doses of vitamin D I was taking finally caught up, maybe it was both, or maybe it was only a 2 1/2-day cold—but colds usually last for about a week. Oh, well, who knows for sure? The other things I’ve noted are an intense sense of well being and total satiation after eating liver. Monday, for example, I wasn’t hungry to eat anything until the early afternoon. And after that cold liver breakfast at noon yesterday, I simply wasn’t hungry for much dinner at all and could have easily skipped.

Could it be that appetite regulation and satiation are highly influenced by the nutritional density of food? Everyone focusses on blood sugar, insulin and leptin. But doesn’t it make sense that if your body is well fed with all the nutrients you ought to be getting—in important quantities in Whole Real Foods rather than a bunch of pills—that you’re really addressing the fundamental foundation of appetite, hunger, cravings and satiation? What’s the potential that hormonal dysregulation, leading to dysregulatioin in normal appetite and hunger is more of a downstream effect of what could perhaps be described as “sub-clinical malnutrition”?

And to take it a step further, if you’re properly nourished rather than malnourished (even on an otherwise paleo diet), how might that effect body composition over time? Speculating, but if one was completely tanked up to the fill line on every nutrient the body needs and wants, might it be more willing to give up the fat stores?

What say you?

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  1. MAS on December 21, 2011 at 11:01

    I was just getting ready to make this dish again and was wondering how I could mix it up a bit. Love the cranberry idea. Great photo too!

  2. Peggy The Primal Parent on December 21, 2011 at 11:24

    I’ve had a couple of liver pates that I’ve liked but I don’t tolerate spices AT ALL so I’m kind of stuck with the flavors of foods as they are. Unfortunately, I can’t stand the taste of liver.

    But that doesn’t stop me from eating it! I dice it up into fine little bits and slurp it down raw. My 5 year old joins me in this odd behavior.

    I too wish more people would get into eating this stuff. It’s a nutritional powerhouse!

    • Stipetic on December 22, 2011 at 00:12

      To follow up on Peggy’s mention of her 5 year old eating the stuff, I’d like to add that pate is likely a great way to get kids introduced to liver (my 2 year old eats it the way I do, fried with onions, but it took work to get my 6 year old to eat it–started with 10% ground liver in the ground beef. I’ll give your recipe a go for the 6 year old (and me, of course).

  3. MaryS on December 21, 2011 at 11:42

    So true, Richard. My boyfriend grew up on liver (I like to joke that this is because he’s significantly older than me), and I did not. He has always loved it and eaten it at every opportunity, but I really had to force myself to start eating it for the health benefits. Now I enjoy it more and have found all of the glorious results you mention. I WILL be making this recipe, with your olive addition!

  4. Chris Sturdy on December 21, 2011 at 11:49

    This is an excellent way to use the extra liver when I thaw it (mine comes in about 1.5 lb bags).

  5. rob on December 21, 2011 at 11:50

    Someone with a food dehydrator should give liver jerky a try, maybe it will be good and become an enormous business. Instead of eating it raw you can have a sack of liver jerky handy.

  6. Razwell on December 21, 2011 at 11:52

    Good stuff.

    Yes, I would say if the body is satisfied it’s getting all it needs nutrient wise , then it probably would be more willing to release fat. Adipose tissue is also an” endocrine organ”.

    The whole dieting ( significant caloric restriction itself is setting people up for malnutrition) and too much exercise is literally fighting the body- in a battle it the body will ultimatety win in the long term, hence the weight regain of well over 98% of all dieters.

    Nutrient dense eating and leaving in accordance with nature exercise wise is a better strategy- and let the chips fall where they may weight wise. It’s definitely good for our health. At least people have a better shot at visceral fat reduction with this, even if aethestically it does not do tooooo much.

  7. Harvey Morrell on December 21, 2011 at 12:17

    Gonna try this with the doe liver a friend gave me.

  8. Andy Newport on December 21, 2011 at 12:30

    Good stuff as always Richard. RE: the nutritional value/hunger link, J Stanton at did a great series of posts on hunger that covered this in excruciating detail – all the available evidence points to the fact that different foods aren’t simply interchangeable units of energy, their satiety value is based on both their contents and your requirements.

  9. John on December 22, 2011 at 06:53


    Thanks for the recipes on liver, and please keep them coming. I’m trying to get more offal in general (liver in specific) in my diet in the next year.

    I think you’re right on the nutrition thing, too. We all seem to focus on cutting out the junk (which is absolutely critical), and not focus on getting optimal. Magnesium deficiency is linked with obesity, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and a host of other things. Vitamin D deficiency obesity, bone and heart health. Vitamin K2, similar deal. A person might struggle on a low carb paleo diet until he or she optimizes these and other nutrients. At that point, that same person might start losing excess fat rapidly on a Kitavan style diet.

    If we cut out wheat, sugar, seed oils, and replace them with standard ground beef and regular butter, I think we can get great results. But if we replace those same things with grass fed beef and butter, liver, bone marrow, I think we can get AMAZING results. So what do we want to be, less bad or optimal?

  10. Digger on December 23, 2011 at 08:56

    Earliest discovered human Feast….
    Not a carb in site……..

  11. Michelle on December 24, 2011 at 08:34

    If you are someone who tolerates dairy…. Julia Child’s recipe for eggs en cocotte with liver pate is AMAZING (it has a little bit of heavy cream in addition to butter of course).

  12. […] On appetizer, we have some of by beef and chicken liver pâté. […]

  13. jj on December 26, 2011 at 19:02

    I’ve been spreading my favorite liver recipe far and wide as of late. Basically, it’s jalapeno poppers stuffed with liver (instead of cream cheese), wrapped in bacon and grilled or pan seared.

    Now I’m really curious to try that liver jerky idea though… seems like it would change the texture considerably, perhaps in interesting ways. Hmmmm….

  14. Danielle on January 12, 2012 at 09:10

    Hi Richard,
    I am about to make this and have everything on hand except for black olives and mushrooms. Do you think it would still be good doing your version without? Also, I have a daughter allergic to dairy so will be using coconut oil instead.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 12, 2012 at 09:42

      Hard to say, but I guess you’ll see. :) You might try a smaller batch first.

      BTW, I just ordered 1 each of the Braunsweiger, Head Cheese and Liverwurst from US Wellness meats. I’m gonna try those as a comparison.

  15. Danielle on January 12, 2012 at 10:07

    I will let you know how it goes, but my house smells like heaven. :)

  16. Cynthia on January 14, 2012 at 15:27

    I’ve been trying numerous liver pate recipes, trying to find something palatable for my neighbor, and this recipe is by far the best one yet! I used lamb liver instead of beef, and one very large portobello mushroom. The cranberries are a really nice touch.

  17. Teresa on January 28, 2012 at 09:26

    This recipe has ushered in a love of liver that I thought impossible in my house. We brought it to a party, too, where people congregated in front of it to fawn and grab passers-by to share a taste. Little kids–mine and many others–had heaping spoonfuls. Many thanks for sharing!

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  20. […] Beef and Chicken Liver Pâté […]

  21. […] come up with besides the standard liver & onions recipe both I and my wife grew up eating, is beef liver pâté (courtesy of Critical MAS). (And actually, artisanal pâté of all sorts is a great way to get […]

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