Forget your early memories of pinched noses and looks of disgust as your dad pan-fries some liver — chicken liver rules.
It’s relatively cheap, tasty when prepared by the right hands, and is absolutely packed with nutrients, including iron, Vitamin B12, and folate.
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What is chicken liver?
Livers process blood from the intestines and stomach, breaking down, balancing, and turning nutrients into more easily-managed packages for the rest of our bodies. They’re sort of like a processing plant.
Livers in chickens, unsurprisingly, do the same thing. They are commonly sauteed alongside onions or fried and have a characteristically metallic and bitter taste. This is the taste of offal, and it is often an acquired love for a lot of people.
Chicken liver nutrition facts
Chicken liver is nutrient-rich, packed with fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
100 grams of cooked chicken livers have [*]:
- Calories: 172
- Carbohydrate: 1.11g
- Fiber: 0g
- Sugar: 0g
- Fat: 6.43g
- Protein: 25.8g
- Vitamin A: 288% DV
- Vitamin C: 5% DV
- Vitamin E: 4% DV
- Thiamin: 19% DV
- Riboflavin: 136% DV
- Niacin: 70% DV
- Vitamin B: 42% DV
- Folate: 140% DV
- Vitamin B12: 352% DV
- Pantothenic Acid: 83% DV
- Choline: 327mg
- Betaine: 21 mg
- Calcium: 1% DV
- Iron: 72% DV
- Magnesium: 7% DV
- Phosphorus: 44% DV
- Potassium: 9% DV
- Sodium: 4% DV
- Zinc: 27% DV
- Copper: 27% DV
- Manganese: 19% DV
- Selenium: 126% DV
Is chicken liver healthy?
Absolutely. When eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet and sourced from healthy farms, chicken liver is deeply nutritious, acting as a fantastic source of protein, various vitamins including B12, and minerals such as selenium.
They are also a rare source of Vitamin C within meat, and this fact is key to navigating a low or no-vegetable diet like the Carnivore Diet. Indigenous cultures referenced as proof of nutritional validity for carnivore diets were eating the offal as well, leading to a more balanced nutritional diet.
Chicken liver health benefits
Chicken liver is an excellent source of many vitamins, minerals, and health boosters [*].
Here are just some of the health benefits:
- Triples your daily value of Vitamin B12 which supports red blood cells and slows anemia
- Brimming with Vitamin A in the form of retinol which assists good eyesight
- Contains folate that promotes fertility and helps protect developing baby
- Full of riboflavin that supports health tissues
- Packed with selenium which supports the thyroid
- Supports an overall immune system
- Has niacin which fends off the disease pellagra
- High in protein content that promotes healthy hair, skin, and nails
- High in phosphorus that helps keep teeth and bones healthy
Let’s look at a few more those in more detail:
Good protein for your caloric buck
Chicken liver is more than 25% protein per calorie, making it a great source of protein.
Chicken breast sits closer to 30%, but when you add in all the other nutritional benefits of chicken liver, subbing chicken liver for breast every so often is a good choice — even if you are eating a high-protein diet to maintain or build muscle mass.
High in iron
100 grams of chicken liver has 72% of your daily value of iron, so even a relatively small serving will get you more than enough.
We need iron for general growth and development, and we use it in particular to create hemoglobins, which are proteins that help red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to everywhere else. They also make myoglobins, which are proteins that provide oxygen to muscles [*].
Bioavailability is also an important aspect of iron, and the Vitamin C in livers may help your body absorb iron as well [*].
Tons of B vitamins
Chicken livers are full of vitamin B, supplying ample amounts of various kinds, including 352% of your DV of Vitamin B12 in just 100g.
Vitamin B12 helps with red blood cell formation and anemia prevention, may prevent major birth defects, may support bone health and prevent osteoporosis, may reduce your risk of macular degeneration, and may improve mood and symptoms of depression [*].
And Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, helps us extract energy from food and keep our cells strong [*].
Good source of bioavailable vitamin A
100 grams of chicken liver has around 288% DV of Vitamin A, and it is particularly useful because this Vitamin A is from retinol. Retinol is highly bioavailable and referred to as ‘pre-formed Vitamin A’, meaning our body doesn’t have to do much to use it[*].
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that does quite a lot [*]:
- It helps cells reproduce normally, a process called cellular differentiation.
- It is needed for good vision. The first sign of a vitamin A deficiency is often poor sight at night.
- It is needed for the proper development of an embryo and fetus.
- It helps keep skin and mucous membranes that line the nose, sinuses, and mouth healthy.
Vitamin A also helps with [*]:
- Immune system function
- Bone formation
- Wound healing
Offers a rare source of vitamin C in meat
Vitamin C is a vitamin we get almost exclusively from plants, and if neglected can lead to a severe deficiency called scurvy that causes bruising, gum and dental problems, dry hair and skin, and anemia.
Fun fact: back in the day, scurvy would run rampant on long voyages across the ocean, and the British Navy began daily rations of limes and lemons to prevent scurvy, leading to the nickname “limey”, which became a nickname for people from the 19th century [*].
Potential downsides of eating chicken liver
It can’t all be good, right?
Well yeah, a lot of things eaten in excess can lead to health problems, but before we address specifics, the idea that you are eating a bunch of toxins when eating liver is nonsense.
It’s not like all these toxins are sitting in the liver, hanging out. The liver is working all of the time, and it is a very clean organ to eat, assuming the animal isn’t sick.
Excess vitamin A can cause issues
The main concern when adding liver into your diet is the Vitamin A content. Vitamin A is fat-soluble, meaning it is absorbed into fat, and because of this Vitamin A is released from the body at a slower rate than other vitamins.
Because of this, if you eat an excess of liver, and therefore Vitamin A, it is possible to develop a toxicity that leads to vision problems, bone pain, increased risk of fractures, nausea, and vomiting [*].
This is also why doctors recommend that pregnant women avoid eating livers during pregnancy.
Excess copper can also be a problem
Similarly, chicken liver has a substantial amount of copper. Eating too much copper can lead to copper toxicity, which leads to oxidative stress and neurodegenerative changes, and may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease [*][*].
High in cholesterol
100 grams of chicken liver has 53% of your cholesterol daily value [*]. Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in all cells, but too much cholesterol can block your blood vessels, making it more likely to have heart problems or a stroke [*].
Chicken livers, just like other parts of the chicken and meat, spoil rather quickly. Just follow your nose and recommended use by dates to avoid any food poisoning.
I know this sounds a bit doom and gloom, but chicken livers are healthy. You would have to eat a lot of chicken livers to run into trouble. So just eat fresh chicken livers in moderation and you will be fine — healthier in fact!
How to incorporate chicken liver into your diet
Chicken liver is easy to sub into other meals and make at home. Here are some ways to add chicken liver to your diet:
- Add it to burgers and casseroles. Any recipe that calls for a blend of meat can benefit from chicken liver! Just grind it up and add it to your mix — just make sure to cook it up to temperature.
- Eat it with eggs in the morning. Have a protein-rich morning by adding some to your scrambled eggs. Your family may not like the smell, but oh well!
- Spread chicken pate on bread. Pate is a delicious liver spread that is made primarily from duck and poultry liver, including chicken. It is delectable on fresh bread and easier than you think to make at home.
- Pan fry alongside onions and mushrooms. A classic chicken liver move is to just pan fry it ripping on on a cast iron along with some flash-cooked onions and mushrooms. Add some greens like kale or carbs like rice to round out the meal.
- Make chicken liver soup. I wouldn’t make a stock with liver. The offal flavor will be deeply set in the broth that way, but you can boil liver before adding it to your stock to make easy and delicious chicken liver soup.
Pro tip: In order to reduce the offal flavor of chicken liver, soak it in acid like lemon juice or milk for 3-4 hours to dull the taste. And just know that the more you eat, the more you will like it!
The bottom line
Chicken livers, just like other livers and organs, are a nutritional powerhouse worth eating as a part of any balanced diet. It is full of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, protein, iron, and other useful vitamins and minerals.
In short, it is:
- High in iron
- Has a great calorie-to-protein ratio
- Full of vitamin B
- Has a lot of bioavailable vitamin A
- Has vitamin C
- Supports healthy blood and dental health
- High in selenium
The most nutritious chicken livers start with the healthiest chickens
You probably don’t need me to tell you this, but the way a chicken is raised and fed has a direct impact on the nutritional profile of the meat.
There are downstream effects to the choices producers make. Raising and eating an animal don’t happen in vacuums. If you pump a chicken full of antibiotics and feed raised from pesticide-treated corn, well guess what, the person eating that chicken will also consume some of those chemicals.
And outside of nutritional value, healthier chickens also taste better. It is a cleaner, more robust flavor. The same goes for grass-fed, grass-finished beef.
The point is, why read all of this information on healthy chicken livers but then choose chicken livers that are raised in unhealthy conditions. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?
We think so, and that’s why we work with the best small-farm poultry producers in the country to bring the best birds in the world directly to your door.
US Wellness Meats’ free-range chickens are raised on pasture with a salad bar of grasses, legumes, and insects. The limited amount of grain US Wellness Meats’ free-range chickens consume is Non-GMO. They are also antibiotic and hormone-free.
Check out our 100% organic feed, free-range chicken liver.
Nathan Phelps owns and writes for Crafted Copy, a boutique copywriting shop that finds the perfect words for interesting products. He is also an ethical foodie, outdoors-aficionado, and hails from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.