This is the BEST Southern Liver and Onions recipe- if you've ever had Luby's liver and onions, then you'll love this. Tender calf liver, nestled in sauteed onions and topped with homemade brown gravy! This dish is easy to make, doesn't have a bitter or metallic taste and is high in vitamins and nutrients, specifically iron.
Luby's Cafeteria is a Texas icon, not only known for its Southern homemade dishes such as fried fish, chicken-fried steak, eggplant casserole and sweet tea, but also for its delicious liver and onions, and of course the LuAnn platter:)
Why this recipe works
You might want to give one of America's most hated foods a second chance! I promise you, this is NOT your Grandma's dried liver recipe.
This easy recipe soaks the liver pieces in a tangy, acidic salad dressing. The acidity in the dressing tenderizes the liver and enhances its texture and flavor so the liver doesn't have such a strong flavor. The result is a piece of fork-tender liver that actually tastes good and does not have a metallic after taste.
Here's what you'll need
Liver steaks (calves liver), a jar of Catalina, French or Russian salad dressing, a few large onions (I recommend sweet yellow onions, but white onions will work as well), all-purpose flour, butter, beef broth, garlic powder, salt and ground black pepper. It is important to note that this recipe uses calf liver instead of beef liver. Why? Calf liver is more tender and less sinewy.
Most often, you'll find thinly sliced liver or liver steaks in the frozen section of the grocery store. There's usually calf liver and beef liver. Buy calf liver - it's by far more tender and is the best liver for this liver and onions recipe.
How to season and cook liver and onions
Even if you're not a liver lover, I think you'll enjoy this old fashioned liver recipe - Southern liver and onions is somewhat of an acquired taste, but this recipe soaks or marinades the liver in a salad dressing (acid) first, so there's no metallic taste. Keep in mind this is not a deep fried liver recipe- the liver is lightly coated with flour then sauteed in butter or olive oil until tender.
The prep time and cook time for this Southern Liver and Onions with Gravy recipe is about 15-20 minutes total from start to finish.
- Prep: thaw the frozen packaged liver in cold water; thinly slice onions, rinse liver under cool running water and pat dry with paper towels; set aside
- Next, place the liver slices in a shallow baking pan and pour the salad dressing into the pan, coat surface of each piece of liver. (If you don't have any of the above listed salad dressings, you can use buttermilk.) This tangy marinade is to THE SECRET to great tasting liver and onions.
- While the liver is soaking, get a separate shallow bowl and add the flour, garlic powder, salt and black pepper; combine well. This is the flour mixture we'll dredge the liver pieces in before we add them to the skillet.
- Now, get a large skillet (I recommend using a well-seasoned cast iron 10-inch skillet) and add butter; melt butter, then add sliced onions. You'll want to be generous with the onions because when you saute onions, they cook down and you'll want enough to serve with the brown onion gravy.
- Once the onions are tender, remove them from the pan and transfer them to a plate. We'll add them back to the pan later.
- Add a few more tablespoons of butter to the large skillet and bring the stove to medium heat
- Using a fork or tongs, take a piece of liver out of the dressing (lightly shake any excess dressing off), dredge the liver in the flour mixture until it's well coated, then place liver in the skillet. Cook 3-4 minutes per side. Repeat until all liver pieces are cooked; transfer cooked liver to a plate; reserve pan drippings for the brown gravy
How to make the brown gravy
One of the best things about Luby's liver and onions was the brown gravy. I suppose the gravy makes the dish more palatable for those naysayers of this dish.
- Using the same skillet, use a wooden spoon and scrape any browned bits then add a little more butter or oil to the pan; sprinkle in all-purpose flour and cook on low heat for a couple of minutes
- Gradually add in the beef broth (or beef stock) while whisking constantly
- Once the gravy is thickened to your liking, add the cooked liver and onions back to the skillet
- Coat each piece with the brown onion gravy; allow to cook until the liver warms back up (about 5 minutes or so), then serve and enjoy!
If the thought of liver and onions makes you want to run for the hills, just try this Southern recipe! It's a simple recipe that's healthy and ready minutes!
Use calf liver - it's the most tender, flavorful and has a less grainy texture than beef liver
You'll most likely find liver in the frozen section of the grocery store; look for calf liver that has been sliced, skinned and deveined
Don't overcook it - if you cook it too long, it gets rubbery and tough
It's done when the internal temperature reaches 160°F
What to serve with liver and onions?
Side dishes are a must - especially if you're trying to convince liver haters to enjoy their meal!
Typically, you'll find Luby's liver and onions with brown gravy served with a starchy vegetable, like fried squash, mashed potatoes, or served over a bed of fluffy, seasoned rice. I think it's always nice to balance the flavor and texture of liver with a green vegetable of some sort - like sweet buttery baby green sweet peas, asparagus or steamed broccoli.
If you want a little spice to your Southern Liver and onions with gravy, sprinkle a dash of smoked paprika or cayenne pepper into the flour mixture or use a little Cajun or Creole seasonings.
However, I will say that sometimes, "simple is better" and if you've ever had this at Luby's cafeteria, you know Luby's liver and onions recipe is plain and simple.
Storage and reheating
Store any leftover liver and onions in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. When ready to reheat, simply add the leftovers to a large saute pan, add a little water to the pan, cover and cook on medium heat until the liver is warmed throughout.
- Smothered Okra and Tomatoes
- Fried Okra
- Fried Squash
- Southern Cast Iron Cornbread
- How to Season and Cook Purple Hull Peas
- Cajun Braised Cabbage Wedges
- Speckled Butter Beans
Southern Liver and Onions with Brown Gravy
- 1 pound calf liver
- 1½ cups Catalina or French salad dressing
- 3 medium sliced sweet yellow onions
- 1 stick butter , for sauteing onions
- 2 tablespoons butter , for cooking the liver
- 1 cup all-purpose flour , for dredging
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour , for gravy
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2½ cups beef broth
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Thaw calf liver; pat dry with paper towel; place slices in a large shallow pan and pour Catalina salad dressing over the slices, coating both sides well; let liver marinade for 15 minutes1 pound calf liver1½ cups Catalina or French salad dressing
- Slice onions; set aside 3 medium sliced sweet yellow onions
- In a separate shallow bowl, combine flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper 1 cup all-purpose flour½ teaspoon garlic powder1 teaspoon salt½ teaspoon black pepper
Make the Liver & Onions
- In a large skillet, melt 1 stick of butter; add sliced onions and cook 10-12 minutes until onions are tender; once tender, transfer to a plate; leave any remaining melted butter in the skillet1 stick butter
- Remove the Catalina soaked liver slices from the pan, allow any excess dressing to drip off, then dredge each piece in the flour mixture one by one; shake off any excess flour
- Add 2 more tablespoons of butter to the skillet; once melted, place the lightly flour coated liver slices in a single layer; cook 3-4 minutes per side; the liver is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F; once done, transfer to a plate2 tablespoons butter
Make the Brown Gravy
- In the same skillet you cooked the onions and liver, turn the heat to medium and add ½ cup of broth and, using a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits
- Sprinkle flour into the skillet, continuously whisking; gradually add in the remaining broth and cook gravy on medium heat until it thickens a little; at this point, you can strain the gravy through a fine mesh strainer if you like, then return it back to the skillet¼ cup all-purpose flour
- Add cooked onions and cooked liver to the gravy; coat the liver slices with gravy, cover and cook on low heat for 5 minutes; taste for salt and pepper; serve and enjoy