Liver and Onions with Gravy

Whether you love it, hate it, or won’t even try it, liver and onions is a very “Dutchie” and Coal Region dish. You will find it offered in many diners and restaurants. 

I love it, but I prefer calves liver which I think is more tender than beef liver. I like it thinly sliced, I soak it in milk before cooking to take away that “metallic” bitter taste it can have, and I take care  not to overcook it.

I love mine smothered with caramelized onions (I sometimes add bacon) and I make a gravy to serve with it. Nestled next to a pile of fluffy mashed potatoes, liver and onions says “home” to me.

In Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine, use was made of a butchered animal from nose to tail. A small amount of liver provides well over 100% of the recommended daily allowance for many essential nutrients. It is also rich in high-quality protein, low in calories and is a great source of iron. Liver is cheap and readily available from grocery stores and butchers.

An often heard concern about eating liver is that it contains toxins, however, the liver does not store toxins. Rather, its job is to process toxins and make them safe or turn them into something that can be safely removed from the body.

If you have not tried liver and onions before, or if you were forced to eat it as a kid and it brings back traumatic memories, give this version a try. Remember, rinse it, soak it in milk, brown it nicely on both sides, but do not overcook it. 

It is safe to eat liver that retains just a tint of pink on the inside. Test by slicing into a piece and checking for done-ness when cooking.

Liver and Onions with Gravy

Recipe by Lori Fogg, A Coalcracker In The KitchenCourse: Main Dishes, Pa Dutch/Amish, RecipesCuisine: Coal Region, Pa DutchDifficulty: Intermediate


  • 2 pounds sliced calves or beef liver (I prefer it thinly sliced)

  • 1-1/2 cups milk, or as needed

  • 1/4 cup butter, divided

  • 2 cups sweet onions, thinly sliced

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, or as needed

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • Gravy
  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour.

  • 1 cup beef broth

  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Gently rinse liver slices under cold water and place in a medium bowl (cut into smaller pieces if desired). Pour in enough milk to cover. Let stand (about an hour) while preparing onions.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Separate onion slices, sprinkle lightly with salt, and saute them in butter until soft and caramelized.
  • Remove onions from the pan and melt remaining butter in the skillet.
  • Season the flour with salt and pepper and put it in a shallow dish or on a plate.
  • Drain milk from liver and coat the slices in the flour mixture. Gently tap off excess flour.
  • On medium-high heat, cook the floured slices until nice and brown on the bottom. Turn, and cook on the other side until browned. Add onions on top of liver slices, reduce heat and finish cooking to your taste. Cut a slice of lives with a knife to check level of done-ness. BE CAREFUL NOT TO OVERCOOK!
  • Remove the liver and onions to a plate, cover with foil to keep warm.
  • On medium-low, scrape up the bits and pieces from the bottom of the pan. Add 2 tablespoons butter to the pan, melt, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons all purpose flour. Whisk the flour and cook for a minute or two.
  • Slowly add 1 cup beef broth or stock, whisking constantly. Cook until thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.


  • Many people also enjoy bacon with their liver, either in place of the onions or in addition to them.