Are you like the many people who have the “Yuck Factor” when it comes to eating organ meats? Is your reaction, “Oh no—don’t even show me that stuff! I will not eat it or even look at it! Yuck!”
Yes, organ meats, also called offal, are foreign to many of us, but learning to love them isn’t really that hard. Let me explain. The nutrition that comes from organ meats such as the liver and heart—two of the most commonly served organs—is simply too good to be ignored. When I first found the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), I’d been following a vegan diet. I was virtually dying on the vine. But growing up I ate meat of all kinds, and I loved most of what my mom cooked. Organ meats, however, were simply not on the menu very often unless my father cooked them.
Occasionally, Mom would make the traditional fried liver and onions, and I remember mind-numbingly chewing each piece of liver as though it might bite me back. Oh yuck! is the only thing that appropriately described my state of mind. But then my father would give me that look only a parent can, so eventually the meal would be over—and a very grateful Maria would hope she’d never have to eat liver again.
Then, as I struggled through my vegan phase, along came Nourishing Traditions. With this book, I learned all about nutrient-dense foods, and guess which one of them tops the list? Yes, organ meats. Liver in particular is highly recommended.
Well, what’s a girl to do? Like tip-toeing into a hot tub of water, I started slow. I got a package of chicken livers and soaked them in lemon water for about an hour. Then I tamped them with paper towels, poured some slightly liquefied lard over them (coconut oil works too), sprinkled them with salt and pepper, and baked them for 20–25 minutes at 375°F. Not too bad for starters, but there was only one problem: I kept making this until it got plain boring.
There are so many more options now. Just look at nutritious, awesome cookbooks like Odd Bits and all the websites that focus on healthy food. At the very least, smart cooks can hide organ meats in a meatloaf or a pot pie. The benefits are just too great to ignore, especially when offal can truly be delicious.
So let’s get started. First we’ll explore the nutritional content of this ancestral food. Later we can try some easy organ meat recipes, and you’ll see that offal is far from awful.
Why Organ Meats?
Compared with muscle meats, organ meats are richer in just about every nutrient, including minerals like phosphorus, iron, copper, magnesium, and iodine, and in B vitamins, including B1, B2, B6, folic acid, and especially B12. Organ meats provide high levels of the all-important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, especially if the animals lived outside in the sunlight and ate green grass. Organ meats are also rich in beneficial fatty acids such as arachidonic acid, EPA and DHA. Organ meats even contain vitamin C. In fact, liver is richer in vitamin C than apples or carrots! Adding only small amounts of organ meats to your ground meat dishes will provide your family with super nutrition…in a way that everyone likes and that are easy to consume.
Using Mystery Meats
Mystery meats are those parts of the animal that are not considered a prime cut such as steak. Mystery meats are frequently sold at butcher shops or by organic farmers who produce grass-fed or pastured animals. It will sometimes be labeled as a “pet food blend.” If you have a meat grinder, you can make your own blend by adding liver, kidney, heart, spleen, and even pancreas to muscle meats. It used to be that spleen and pancreas were added to ground beef to produce a fresh-looking dark red “bloody” hue.
The following recipes are from various sources, including the Weston A. Price Foundation as well as other Nourishing Traditions and Traditional Cook collections. Cook-tested and family-tried, they will nourish your body and fuel your mind.
For profound nutrition, try one of these dishes with a glass of your favorite wonder ferment from my Cook Your Way to Wellness DVD. And for all of the recipes, use only organic, open-range, grass-fed, or pastured animal products. For resources, check out the Weston A. Price Foundation Shopping Guide or download the WAPF Find Real Food app.
A final word: please don’t let the words “pet food blend” scare you off. Many people in the know prize this blend as a valuable source of high-quality, grass-fed, super-nutritious organ meats—for humans.
Mystery Meat Pan Casserole
Thanks to Mary Jewett of Alexandria, Virginia, for this ingenious, spur-of-the-moment recipe. Ingredient amounts are approximate. Serves 2.
2 potatoes, washed, dried, and sliced thin
2 tablespoons lard or olive oil
½ lb. red meat pet food blend in any combination, or try the mystery meats named above
½ lb. ground beef
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
½ lb. grated raw cheese
2 egg yolks
Dash cayenne pepper
- In a large cast iron skillet, sauté potatoes in lard. Flip when browned on one side, spreading evenly in the pan.
- Meanwhile, mix the organ meat blend, ground beef, onion, and seasonings, then sprinkle this mixture over the potatoes. Top with cheese.
- Blend egg and egg yolks with dash of cayenne pepper. Pour over the cheese. Place in a 350°F oven and bake about 15 minutes.
Cajun Style Pan Fried Liver with Bacon and Apples
This rich dish pairs wonderfully with mashed potatoes, creamed kohlrabi or turnips, plain rice, or baked squash. Serves 6.
For the Cajun seasoning mix:
1 tablespoon sea salt
1½ teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
For the liver:
6 thin slices fresh veal, beef, or pork liver (about 6 oz.), gristle removed
2 cups raw milk, for soaking
1 cup sourdough bread crumbs
12 slices hickory-smoked bacon (real smoke, not smoke flavor)
6 tart unpeeled apples, cut into thin wedges
2 large onions, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons salted butter
- Prepare Cajun seasoning: Place all spices in a jar. Cover tightly and shake until well blended.
- Meanwhile, soak liver slices in milk and refrigerate for a few hours. Pat dry before using.
- Combine Cajun seasoning and bread crumbs. Dredge liver slices in the bread crumb mixture.
- Fry bacon in a cast iron skillet. Remove to a heated platter and keep warm. Fry liver slices in hot bacon fat, approximately 1 minute per side. Remove to platter.
- Melt butter in the same skillet. Sauté sliced onions and apples in the butter and bacon fat until they caramelize.
- To serve, arrange the liver on individual heated plates, place a generous spoonful of the apple-onion mixture on the liver. Top with bacon.
Super Food Meat Muffins
—From Health, Home and Happiness. I found there was enough fat in the meat that I didn’t have to grease my muffin pans. This recipe makes one dozen super-food meat muffins.
1 lb. organic grass-fed liver, soaked overnight in lemon or orange juice
1 lb. ground beef
6 cloves garlic
¼ cup ketchup (see Nourishing Traditions, p. 104)
2 tablespoons basil, parsley, or other favorite fresh herb)
½ teaspoon ground sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- Pulse liver in your food processor, or if you don’t have one, dice by hand and place in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients.
- Pulse again in processor or thoroughly mix by hand until the mixture is the consistency of hamburger. Top with ketchup if desired.
- Bake at 375°F for 30 minutes or until thoroughly cooked. Cool a bit before serving.
Lengua (Tongue) Tacos
You may reserve the cooking broth for another use, such as beef stew or soup.
1 beef tongue, scrubbed
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon peppercorns
2 bay leaves
Touch of vinegar
Pico de gallo (chopped fresh onions, tomatoes, and peppers)
Sprouted corn tortillas
- Simmer tongue in 2 quarts water along with salt, peppercorns, bay leaves, and vinegar. Cook on low heat for about 3–4 hours on the stovetop or about 6 hours in a crock pot.
- Allow the tongue to cool in its own broth until you can handle it, then remove from broth. Peel it, discarding skin and any gristly parts. Slice thinly or chop.
- At this point you may serve as is, or you may sauté the cooked meat in a skillet with a little tallow or lard, plus any additional ingredients you desire, before serving.
- Serve with pico de gallo, cilantro, lime wedges, and warm corn tortillas.
Beef Heart Stew
—From Critical Mas. Because of the 8-hour cooking time, start this one early. I no longer believe 5 hours is long enough.
Fat for cooking, such as tallow
1 onion, chopped
2–3 carrots, chopped
2–3 small red potatoes or a substitute, quartered
3 garlic cloves, diced
Beef heart, cut into small bite-size pieces (details here)
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons thyme
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1–1½ quarts of beef stock
½ cup red wine
- Heat your favorite fat (I used tallow) in a pan. Add onion and cook until it has caramelized. Add to slow cooker.
- Add chopped carrots, potatoes, and garlic to slow cooker.
- Add beef heart and spices. Top off with beef stock and red wine. Cook on low for 8 hours. (I like to cook the first hour on high.)
- My own special recipe for Liver Pate.
- The Food Features page from the Weston A. Price Foundation, which features a long list of healthy recipes that follow WAPF principles, including organ meat dishes.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
- chemical- and hormone-free meat
- wild-caught fish
- pasture-raised, organic eggs
- whole, unrefined grains
- virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
- whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
- pure, clean, spring water
- sea salt
- raw and/or cultured milk and cream products
Photo from iStock/Seagull_l
Note from Maria: I am a Certified Natural Health Professional, CNHP, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat, or claim to prevent, mitigate, or cure any human diseases. Please see your medical doctor prior to following any recommendations I make in my blogs or on my website.