Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
10 Jul

Cajun Blackened Chicken Livers with Lemon and Garlic

In recent years, nose to tail eating has been embraced by celebrity chefs and gourmands, but it’s hardly a new idea. Eating an entire animal, not just the prime cuts of meat, is seen by many as a way to respect the animal that has been butchered, not to mention it’s darn practical. “Waste not, want not” is something many grandmothers preached long before terms like “sustainability” were being thrown around. Speaking of grandmothers….for many of us, the savory aroma of liver frying in a pan brings us right back to her kitchen. If your grandmother was like most, liver was either fried up with onions or chopped up with hard boiled eggs. It was not done up Cajun-style and served over a bed of greens, but we’re thinking if it was, we just might have eaten more of it.

Cajun Blackened Chicken Livers with Lemon and Garlic is the first offal recipe for the Primal Blueprint Reader-Created Cookbook, and for those of you a little hesitant to venture into the world of offal, this is a safe and delicious place to start. Nicola Aylin’s easy and richly flavorful recipe combines an array of spices with chicken liver and fresh greens doused in lemon, garlic and butter. As far as liver goes, chicken liver is quite mild and has a smooth texture. The spicy seasoning blend sprinkled on top dominates the dish and gives the liver a crispy coating that contrasts with the smooth, rich middle. Laying the liver on a bed of salad greens lightens up the dish and makes Cajun Blackened Chicken Livers with Lemon and Garlic the perfect summer lunch or dinner.

Liver is possibly the animal organ eaten most often in the U.S., as it’s easily found in grocery stores, takes little time to prepare and is very affordable. Most people who buy liver might not even realize they’re picking up an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Liver contains vitamin A and several B vitamins, is a source of folic acid, iron and copper and contains CoQ10 for cardiovascular function.

It doesn’t get much better than that and an offal recipe doesn’t get much easier than Nicola’s tasty Cajun chicken livers, a recipe that proves eating offal isn’t so awful after all.


  • 1 pound chicken livers
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or less, depending on how spicy you like it)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon white pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 6 cups spinach leaves, lettuce leaves or half a head iceburg lettuce, shredded


  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed


Trim chicken livers, discarding connective tissue and separating larger livers into two lobes.

To make Cajun seasoning, mix together paprika, cayenne, garlic and onion powders, black and white peppers, thyme, oregano and salt.

Add livers to the seasoning mixture and toss to coat then brush livers with either melted butter or olive oil.

Choose your cooking method:

a) Preheat broiler to highest setting. Place liver on a rimmed baking sheet and on top rack in oven, broil under high heat. Turn once, until blackened on outside and centre of thickest part is pink, about 8 minutes.


b) Place chicken livers in a cast iron pan pre-heated to medium and cook on both sides, about 2-3 mins per side.

Place hot chicken livers on lettuce or spinach. Combine dressing ingredients in a hot pan until garlic is very lightly browned, then drizzle over livers and greens as a warm dressing.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I have never had liver in my entire life. But, I will be trying some soon since we purchased 1/2 a cow along with some liver.

    Would cow liver be a decent replacement for this recipe? I don’t feel like going out and buying chicken liver when I am not sure I like any kind of liver.

    Is beef or chicken liver milder?

    Primal Toad wrote on July 10th, 2010
    • all raw liver has a strong smell that turns some people off,so strong that we in the south use chicken liver for catfish bait and you can never seem to get the smell off your hands.for your first time cooking liver use chicken liver it is the simpelist to work with ,thin sliced beef liver falls apart at room temp and quickly becomes mush .

      Eric wrote on July 10th, 2010
    • calves liver is the mildest and best tasting but harder to find

      d murray wrote on January 30th, 2011
      • any liver is great but try a balsamic and butter sauce with it yummy

        d murray wrote on January 30th, 2011
  2. From what i know, chicken liver is the mildest of the liver choices, but i don’t know if they’re is a definitive difference in taste that would affect this recipe :)

    Jstrick wrote on July 10th, 2010
  3. Beef liver has a distinctive strong flavor.. much stronger than chicken liver. If you are a first time experimenter, try chicken liver and once you begin to like it, graduate to stronger livers like lamb/Goat and then beef.. Enjoy !!

    Resurgent wrote on July 10th, 2010
    • Thanks! I will take your advice and allow my cow liver to continue to freeze. I’ll buy some chicken liver maybe this week and give it a try.

      Anyone else have a different opinion?

      Primal Toad wrote on July 10th, 2010
      • Do not overcook ,especially cow liver. Chicken liver is good even if it’s dryer.

        If you’re eating milk, letting the liver sit a bit in milk takes some of the strong taste.

        Sonia wrote on July 11th, 2010
  4. This is something that I’m going to try. It will be the first time that I have ever had any chicken livers.

    I’m one of those types that is always experimenting with new foods. I just hope it comes out right.

    Patrick Kallie wrote on July 10th, 2010
  5. I’m sitting here thinking about what I want for dinner, and while I’ll settle for a pound of ground turkey with some spinach and carrots, these suckers look DELICIOUS! Getting really pumped for the cook book!

    Alex wrote on July 10th, 2010
  6. “Mind over matter…mind over matter…”

    Mark, this is just a mental hurdle for me. I know it probably is delicious, but I just have a bit of a mind block.

    I saw on Anthony Bordaine where he ate the cooked face of a sheep. I am sure it probably was delicious…just had to look at it as the same as other meat.

    I will have an open mind and give this a shot!

    -George D

    George wrote on July 10th, 2010
  7. Yum, I will definitely pick up some chicken liver the next time I see it! I had my first liver-eating adventure a few weeks ago (I fried up some lamb’s liver coated with herbs and almond flour). About 15mins after the meal, both of us experienced a noticable and definite energy rush! I’m guessing it has to do with the concentration of nutrients. Has anyone else experienced an energy rush after eating liver?

    Dawn wrote on July 10th, 2010
    • I definitely feel an energy boost after eating liver!

      amanda wrote on July 11th, 2010
  8. What if you purchased a Foster Farms liver, whose chickens have had a hard life, used antibiotics, made em grow huge to the point of collapsing all the while living in a crowded caged facility with no sunlight?!

    Aren’t those taxing to the livers? I used to like eating Chicken and beef livers but this got me all thinking. Now where do I get free-range livers, that are CHEAP and which brands?! HELP!!! THANKS!

    Paul wrote on July 10th, 2010
    • anyone…?

      Paul wrote on July 11th, 2010
      • You are right about store bought chicken livers. Unless you know they are from pastured chickens, I wouldn’t consider eating. I find that lamb’s liver is the best. Not as strong as beef liver, and quick fried in pastured butter with garlic, chillies and onions is delicious. I try to eat at least once a week, but not too often. I also find liver to be very filling. You won’t be able to eat as much quantity as say steak or chicken.

        Bill wrote on July 11th, 2010
        • I cannot stomach the thought of store bought livers either- as much as I love livers. The ones from the store are just not the same as fresh from the grassfed farm.

          amanda wrote on July 11th, 2010
  9. Other than the higher polyunsat fat count of commercial chicken (eating corn), liver is great (maybe take some fish oil to counteract it). If you get your chickens and their livers from a grass-fed (insects for chicken) source, eat tons of it. It’s a Superfood, like sardines. Old school bodybuilder knew the value of liver. They even made liver pills as a supplement, except that liver is so cheap, why take pills?

    Kurt wrote on July 10th, 2010
  10. Man, I eat a ton of organ stuff now, well like once a week. Its like grass fed stuff is so damn pricy and then I look at the list at the market and liver or heart or whatever is like 3, 4 or 5 a pound instead of upwards on 10 (dont know if prices are higher for me living in nyc) so I sort of have to eat it unless I wanna dig into my savings. Either way I love organ meats now… the way I see it is the more a body part is used by an animal the more energy is slowly built into it, seriously the heart and liver and whatnot get used like crazy so more and more is put into building it up in a way… like a muscle. Simple concept, so basically organ meats gotta be healthier and I also think they definitely have a great taste, different but more flavor nonetheless. So basically organ meats are great for the price compared to other pasture raised meats, more nutritious and add a new dimension of tastes to the kitchen.. whats not to love.

    Jerry wrote on July 10th, 2010
  11. Also, I’m gonna say, why season liver. Other than salt and pepper, liver is creamy and rich. Needs nothing. Just eat and enjoy.

    Kurt wrote on July 10th, 2010
  12. Marinate cows or better calfs liver in lemonjuice( maybe with some herbs I like sage to calf and organoo to beef) for a few hours can take some of the strong flavour away.

    Be carefull to remove all hard bits veins etc – and fry like a steak so it is brown on the outside and medium in the inside.
    Well done liver is hard to chew and very strong in flavour.
    A creambased gravy is always nice.

    Henriette wrote on July 11th, 2010
  13. Nice Recipe,

    will have to give this one a go!

    Richard Huntley wrote on July 11th, 2010
  14. I can’t wait to see if any of you reply back after making this recipe. I’ve tried a few recipes and YUCK!, chicken liver is nasty stuff. My grandma used to make beef liver and I loved it, but I don’t know how to reproduce her recipe.

    Heidi wrote on July 11th, 2010
  15. If you have tried any other liver and you didn’t like it, you probably shouldn’t try this.

    Anon wrote on July 11th, 2010
  16. The best liver-recipe I’ve ever had was at a Lebanese restaurant in London. It was seared-chicken livers with fresh pomegranate seeds. Unbelievable, and very primal! As a southerner, I’m all about the chicken livers.

    chaddyd wrote on July 11th, 2010
  17. I gew up eating (beef)liver and onions with grits; Grandma’s was the best. Yeah, I’m from the Deep South. Now that I am trying to eat the primal way (which is a challenge for me as a Cajun), the grits might be an occasional indulgence on the 80%/20% plan, but I still love the liver and onions. Actually, beef liver is the only conscious craving I ever have. Anyway, I tried this chicken liver recipe tonight, and my husband and I really enjoyed it. Chicken livers are a fav of his, but I still prefer beef. The trick with liver of any type is not to overcook. If you are afraid of the strong taste, try smothering onions with it for a great complementary flavor.

    joni wrote on July 11th, 2010
  18. I just set some liver in the fridge today to thaw coincidentally, I think I might make this tomorrow or the next day with beef liver. I just picked up about 6 lbs. of grass fed/pastured beef liver on my beef run to a local farm yesterday. MMMMMM I love this stuff!

    Squatchy wrote on July 11th, 2010
  19. Nicola Aylin you have my thanks. I made this recipe this evening and it was fantastic! Of course I adjusted the spices to what I had in my spice rack. Loved it!

    Piscator wrote on July 11th, 2010
  20. Oh this looks delicious! Can’t wait to try!

    wug wrote on July 11th, 2010
  21. Primal Jews: If you want to make this kosher, roast the livers first on a perforated grill or get them pre-roasted.

    Zohar wrote on July 12th, 2010
  22. For those who’ve never tried liver or other foods…

    I always pick a good/high quality restaurant to try stuff I’ve never had. Easier to do if you live in a big city, but can be done in much smaller places also. That way I’m generally sure how it’s at least supposed to taste. The only downside is that you may by paying for a meal you don’t like.

    The other way to try liver is to buy some pate. I buy duck liver pate a couple times a week. If they’re out of that I will get something out. Granted it may have a little bit or wine or sometimes a small amount of sugar, but that will definitely help with the flavor till you’re used to it. Then you can buy the livers and make your own.

    I’ve been thinking of try it with the grass fed beef liver from WF. While I like liver my wife doesn’t so much. Maybe if I do some with bacon/pancetta and wine, she’d be more likely to eat it.

    Joe Matasic wrote on July 12th, 2010
  23. When I cook a whole chicken, I take the livers, gizzards, etc out of the carcass. I immediately saute the livers in a little butter with paprika for a tasty little snack.

    Maura wrote on July 12th, 2010
  24. I just made it. delicious!! don’t use as much cayenne if you’re not a spicy food fan. the dressing adds a great tart compliment to the dish.

    Quinn wrote on July 12th, 2010
  25. I am from europe, we eat all kinds of livers :-) they’re pretty good if prepared well. I even make these pan cakes from livers where you grind them up and add some spices and form little pancakes out of the mass and cook them on the skillet. they’re very yummy :-) great recipe Mark!

    ed wrote on July 13th, 2010
  26. Now that looks nice, I’m definately going to give it a try!

    Personal Training Melbourne wrote on July 13th, 2010
  27. The lemon does make it a bit tart. If you don’t like lemon just leave it out, it is pretty tasty without it because of the spices.

    Nicola wrote on July 13th, 2010
  28. Calves liver, fried gently for a few minutes in butter and sage leaves is a classic dish. Creamed spinach on the side.

    Jane wrote on July 14th, 2010
  29. These look fantastic, especially with all the different seasoning. Will have to give it a try sometime.


    Richard Huntley wrote on July 15th, 2010
  30. OH MAN! That was amazing. I did it without the sauce and I put it on steamed broccoli which I put fresh butter and squeezed lemon on. *faint*

    Oh yeah– I just did mine in a skillet with butter.

    El wrote on July 15th, 2010
  31. it blows my mind that so many persons have not ever eaten any liver.. goose liver is an exquisite hor’s deuvre (sp?) known as pate (FR) calve’s liver is excellent, even if you merely serve it with sauteed onions, in same skillet….chicken livers are great, especially as ramaki (wrapped in bacon and roasted in 375 oven 22 min.
    I love them myself merely coated in nothing but flour and salt and pepper and fried quickly in some great fat (I use olive oil)and fried briefly (5 min)
    in a hot skillet

    katharineharrison wrote on July 15th, 2010
  32. We love liver – I used to cook it with onions and make a thick gravy… mmmm with mashed potato and greens. But since we have gone paleo, I found another recipe where you stir-fry it with red peppers, leeks, chilli, oregano and finely sliced greens – wicked!
    I prefer pigs liver but will eat any kind. Not so keen on ‘foie gras’ because of the geese being force fed.

    Jo Ford wrote on July 31st, 2010
  33. just made this recipe. I didn’t have oregano so used basil and dill. Still turned out great! :) like liver nuggets.

    Xue wrote on August 31st, 2010
  34. How many servings does this recipe make?

    John Gallant wrote on September 21st, 2010
  35. Tried this today- first time eating liver. I used chicken liver from my farmer’s market.

    Turned out great. The cajun seasoning was delicious. This turned out to be a good transition recipe into consuming chicken liver.

    Matt K wrote on January 8th, 2011
  36. I LOVE this! My mom used to make spicy chicken livers all the time – I grew up on this stuff (although I had a regular Greek diet, not primal by any means). I’m going to make some and experiment on my toddler…I’ll keep my fingers crossed that he’ll like it. I have to remember to dial down the spice for him a bit. **Variation: since it’s fact that bacon makes everything yummier, try wrapping the livers in bacon and cooking in a hot pan or broiling. Amazing!!

    Maryanne wrote on April 15th, 2011
  37. Thanks for the recipe! I’d purchased some chicken livers and was looking for something Cajun style to do with them. This was excellent. Broiled them, seasoned per recipe but with less cayenne, served them over greens with dressing as given, and with sliced, ripe tomatoes on the side. Great dinner.

    Paula wrote on September 24th, 2011

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