Liver holds a strange place in American culinary culture. Most people claim to hate it but haven’t had it since their mother overcooked it when they were twelve, and then the people who do enjoy liver can’t stop talking about it.
When you’re on the keto diet, you tend to eat more meat since it is high in protein and low in carbs — the ideal balance for keto. Eating chicken breasts and ground beef all day can get a bit boring, though, and you may be wondering where liver fits into the equation.
We’re going to cover whether liver is keto or not, what liver is, dive into nutrition a bit, and then give you a few of our favorite keto-friendly liver recipes.
Is liver keto-friendly?
Yes. Liver is a keto powerhouse. While the carb amounts change slightly between animals, livers are high in protein, have an incredible amount of minerals and vitamins, and have very few carbs.
This means liver is a great addition to any keto diet. It won’t take up much of your daily carbohydrate limit, and it covers a lot of nutritional bases in one fell swoop.
What is liver, anyway?
Liver is an organ in mammals that performs an amazing number of important functions (some estimate more than 500!), including [*]:
- Break down and converts nutrients and substances like fat
- Produces bile, which helps break down fats for better digestion
- Produces protein for blood plasma
- Produces cholesterol
- Filters and removes toxins
- Balances energy metabolism
And much more! Because of these functions, the liver interacts with a lot of minerals, nutrients, and other sources of nutrition in mammals. When we eat livers, we get to take advantage of that!
Livers are known to have a metallic flavor, grainy texture, and are often described as an acquired taste. Organ meats in general, including liver, heart, kidneys, and others all share that unique taste. It is somewhat kin to seafood in their shared profile.
While it can take a bit of time to get used to, the nutritional benefits are certainly worth it. Plus, the way you cook it and the type of meat blend you use can help mask a bit of that signature flavor if desired.
On a per-gram basis, liver is one of the most nutritious foods in the entire world. It is also rich in protein, zinc, copper, iron, Vitamin B, and even vitamin C, with only about 180 calories and 6 grams of fat [*].
This nutritional “bang for your buck” ratio is incredible, and it’s also packed with protein, meaning you can eat less and feel full for longer. 100 grams of chicken liver has 26 grams of protein, and 100 grams of beef liver has 29 grams of protein — considering a ½ burger patty is around 250 grams, that means a ½ pound of beef liver has around 70 grams of protein [*].
Liver has all of the B vitamins you need and is particularly rich in B12, which is an essential vitamin for every cell in your body. It has ten times the amount of vitamin B12 than other common sources [*].
Vitamin A is needed for healthy eyes, skin, bones, and the immune system. Keep in mind too much Vitamin A can be toxic, however, but as long as you aren’t eating liver every day you will be fine [*].
Livers also dish out a healthy amount of iron, selenium, chromium, phosphorus, and copper — all of which help keep a body healthy and efficient [*].
What is the best type of liver for keto?
Regardless of what kind of animal liver you eat, you will be reaping the nutritional benefits and eating a high protein, low-carb food. That being said, there are differences between liver carb counts depending on which animal you’re eating.
We’ve listed the average carb counts for each major type of liver below [*].
- 100 grams of chicken liver = 1.1.g
- 100 grams of turkey liver = 1.2g
- 100 grams of duck liver = 1.6g
- 100 grams of veal liver = 3g
- 100 grams of beef liver = 5.2g
- 100 grams of lamb liver = 12.2g
This means choosing liver from poultry will be lower carb than beef or lamb. You will have to keep an eye on your carb count more with lamb than any other meat, so we recommend opting for poultry or beef livers when possible to avoid spiking your carb count.
Best keto-friendly liver recipes
Okay — now that you know how awesome liver is for keto dieters, we’ve chosen a few of our favorite ways to cook liver. And remember, the best meals start with the best meat!
Just skip the flour when frying and this recipe will treat you well! It uses a creamy horseradish and balsamic blend as the perfect accompaniment to this meal, and you can never go wrong with liver and caramelized onions.
The key here is not to skimp on the fresh herbs. By using fresh thyme, you really improve the depth and brightness of this meal — otherwise the bacon and liver can be a bit overpowering. If you’re feeling breakfast, this would go perfectly with some eggs.
This recipe is about mastering the basics. Just because something is simple doesn’t mean it is any less tasty — in fact, many times it is exactly the opposite. Execution is key! This recipe shows you how to cook perfectly tender yet crispy livers, each and every time.
This is another exercise in simplicity, and this recipe relies on lemon and garlic for depth. You can use any type of liver, but using chicken livers will drop the carb count the most!
Liver is frequently eaten as a paste, known as pate. Pate is a great appetizer when hosting and pairs nicely with vegetables. The secret to this recipe is the addition of the whole-grain mustard seeds and apple cider vinegar — it’s a really nice touch.
The bottom line on liver and keto
Liver is one of the best keto meats out there. It is extremely nutrient-dense, high in protein, and low in carbs — especially if you choose to eat poultry livers. Organ meats can be a bit intimidating, but you won’t regret it.
Try our 100% grass-fed ground beef + organ meat combo
We started experimenting with this ground beef and organ meat blend in 2019, and our keto and carnivore dieters have fallen in love with it. It’s the best way to get the incredible nutrition of organ meats without that characteristic “offal” taste.
This unique combination makes tasty burgers, casseroles, soups, chilis, meatballs, or sliders. It’s perfect for any keto, paleo, or carnivore diet — or if you’re just in the mood for a nutritious burger.
Order our unique organ + ground beef blend today!
Nathan Phelps is a writer, ethical foodie, and outdoors-aficionado hailing 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.