Chicken Liver with Onion and Pepper (爆炒鸡肝)

5 from 3 votes
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Introducing a recipe for Chinese chicken liver with onion and pepper that yields extra tender liver, crunchy peppers, and a super flavorful sauce. It is a cheap way to cook up an inexpensive, delicious, and nutritious dinner that is loaded with healthy protein and plenty of veggies. {Gluten-Free adaptable}

Stir fried chicken liver with onion and pepper

Since I started this blog, one topic that I haven’t talked about enough is the use of different parts of the animal to create delicious, comforting meals. For example, I shared a recipe for braised pig feet, one of my favorite dishes that my mom often makes. Animal parts such as liver, heart, gizzard, and lungs are very commonly used in restaurant and home cooking in China. Sometimes, the purpose is to make a filling meal at an economic price. At other times, the goal is to create a delicacy such as the wonderful poached duck liver we enjoy at Peking duck restaurants.

Stir fried liver has always been a favorite of mine, but I didn’t eat it for quite some time after moving to the US. One time we ate at a typical North American diner, I was delighted to find liver and onions on the menu, and my husband Thomas explained that it’s a classic diner dish. 

Eating the diner version of chicken liver and onions brought back sweet childhood memories, though the liver was a bit chewy and the sauce was not super rich.

These days, with grocery prices getting higher and higher, I think it’s a great time to share the Chinese-version of liver and onions. When done right, the chicken liver will be super tender and not taste gamey at all. With a super rich brown sauce to bring everything together, it’s just as comforting and delicious as your regular chicken dinner.

Stir fried chicken liver, onion and pepper over rice

Ingredients & equipment

How to prep chicken liver

Slicing – The key to making a great chicken liver and onion stir fry is to slice the chicken liver thin, but not too thin. If you use liver without slicing it, it takes too long to cook through and the texture will firm up. If you slice it too thin, it cooks too quickly and becomes tough. The 1/4” (1/2 cm) thickness is quite important.

Marinating – Like with many other Chinese stir fries, you should use Shaoxing wine and cornstarch to marinate the liver. The wine eliminates the gamey flavor and the cornstarch protects the liver from overcooking and keeps it tender.

But if you do not wish to use alcohol in your cooking, what you can do is soak the chicken liver in cold water for 30 minutes to 1 hour before cooking. Change out the water a few times in between. It helps release the blood from the liver to eliminate the gamey taste.

Mise en place

Once you’ve done prep, your table should have: the marinated liver, ginger and garlic, onion, pepper, mixed sauce, and sesame oil.

Stir fried chicken liver with onion and pepper stir fry
Ingredients for making chicken liver with onion and pepper

A non-stick pan works better for chicken liver

You can use a nonstick, cast iron, or carbon steel skillet. However, I recommend using a nonstick skillet to make the chicken liver with onion stir fry. Since chicken liver is very delicate and the starch is sticky, a nonstick pan can easily cook the liver without breaking it apart. 

If you use a carbon steel or cast iron skillet, you should use quite a bit more oil to prevent sticking.

If you’re using a round bottom wok, you can even briefly fry the liver (过油), to yield the best texture.

Cooking process

  1. Pan fry the chicken liver by spreading it out and not touching while cooking
  2. Cook both sides until just cooked through, then transfer to a plate
  3. Saute the ginger and onion to release the fragrance
  4. Briefly fry the onion
  5. Add the chicken liver, pepper, and sauce
  6. Stir to mix well
How to cook chicken liver with onion and pepper step-by-step

Cooking chicken liver with onion and pepper is quite similar to cooking other cuts of chicken meat. The only thing you want to really make sure is not to undercook the liver, but also not overcook it. After you add the liver to the pan, spread it out and do not touch it until the bottom is browned. When you flip it over and cook the other side, observe the color. You may see blood seeping out from some pieces. When most of the pieces do not show any pink and no blood is seeping out, it’s done cooking. 

I love to serve chicken liver with onion over steamed rice, to make it a one-bowl chicken dinner.

Chinese chicken liver, onion and pepper over rice

Afterthought

I feel like chicken liver is a great cut that is often overlooked in spite of its high nutritional value. Chicken liver is a lean protein that’s packed with iron, folate, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. It contains vitamin B12 and is great for blood health. It is good for your vision and strengthens your immune system. Plus, it is extremely delicious when you prepare it right! 

If you make this dish, leave a comment below and let me know what you think. For me, sometimes I prefer the liver over the meat 🙂

Other delicious chicken dinner recipes

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Introducing a recipe for Chinese chicken liver with onion and pepper that yields extra tender liver, crunchy peppers, and a super flavorful sauce. It is a cheap way to cook up an inexpensive, delicious, and nutritious dinner that is loaded with healthy protein and plenty of veggies. {Gluten-Free adaptable}

Chicken Liver with Onion and Pepper (爆炒鸡肝)

5 from 3 votes
Introducing a recipe for Chinese chicken liver with onion and pepper that yields extra tender liver, crunchy peppers, and a super flavorful sauce. It is a cheap way to cook up an inexpensive, delicious, and nutritious dinner that is loaded with healthy protein and plenty of veggies. {Gluten-Free adaptable}
To make the dish gluten-free, use dry sherry to replace the Shaoxing wine. And use tamari to replace the soy sauce.
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: homestyle
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

Marinating

  • 12 oz (340 g) chicken liver , sliced to 1/4” (1/2 cm) pieces (*Footnote 1)
  • 2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch (*Footnote 2)

Sauce

Stir fry

  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 3 cloves garlic , minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 1/2 onion , sliced to bite-size pieces
  • 1 bell pepper (or sweet pepper, or both) , sliced to bite-size pieces
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Instructions

Marinate the liver

  • Add the chicken liver to a medium-sized bowl. Drain off any excess liquid. Add the Shaoxing wine and salt. Gently mix well with your hand (*Footnote 3). Sprinkle with the cornstarch. Mix again to coat the liver evenly.

Mix the sauce

  • Combine all the sauce ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Stir to mix well.

To make the stir fry

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Spread the sliced chicken liver without overlapping. Cook for 1 minute without touching, until the bottom turns golden brown. Flip to cook the other side, 1 minute or so, until just cooked through. Let it cook a bit longer if you still see blood seeping out. Transfer the cooked liver to a plate and set aside.
  • Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the garlic and ginger. Stir a few times to release the fragrance.
  • Add the onion. Stir and cook for 1 minute.
  • Return the cooked liver to the pan and add the pepper. Stir the sauce again until the cornstarch is dissolved completely. Pour it into the pan. Stir and cook until the sauce thickens and coats the ingredients evenly.
  • Turn off the heat and swirl in the sesame oil. Give it a final stir and immediately transfer everything to a serving plate.
  • Serve hot over steamed rice as a main dish.

Notes

  1. When you slice the livers, you might see clotted blood vessels. You can remove them for a cleaner flavor.
  2. Once you mix in the cornstarch, it should form a sticky slurry that coats the liver, but it shouldn’t have a pile of liquid on the bottom of the bowl. The chicken liver might release liquid while marinating. So check it again right before you start cooking. Mix in a bit more cornstarch or drain off the extra liquid to prevent splatter.
  3. Chicken liver is fragile when it’s uncooked. The best way to mix in the cornstarch is by using your fingers, so you do not break apart the liver and so you can make sure the cornstarch coats evenly.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 259kcal, Carbohydrates: 11.6g, Protein: 22g, Fat: 13.7g, Saturated Fat: 3.1g, Cholesterol: 479mg, Sodium: 679mg, Potassium: 344mg, Fiber: 0.9g, Sugar: 5.7g, Calcium: 22mg, Iron: 10mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Don’t forget the last step! Leave a comment below, and tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Veronica says:

    5 stars
    I love chicken livers, but I’ve never done a Chinese version before. This I’ve got to try.

  2. Dee says:

    5 stars
    Hi Maggie! I love this recipe… I find offal a real delicacy. I can never find interesting recipes for it. Your braised feet one gets cooked in batches. Thank you for a really authentic dite.

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      So happy to hear you made this recipe 🙂 I like the braised feet one a lot too! Thanks for leaving a positive review!

  3. Jlb says:

    I’m so glad to see this! I love poultry livers, but even the few restaurants that offer them overcook them. Am eager to try this. Love your recipes!

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      Yes! I order them in the restaurants too and the liver is often too tough to my taste. Happy cooking and let me know how yours turn out 🙂

  4. Jennifer says:

    5 stars
    I adore chicken liver and I adore Chinese recipes.
    I was thrilled to find this one that combines my two loves!

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      So happy to hear you like this recipe 🙂

  5. Kai says:

    Hi Maggie, I love this recipe and I cook it weekly. I have an autistic son who used to only eat deli meat. The day I cooked this for the first time I gave him a bite and he loved it. Now it’s become one of the favorites of ours. Thank you.

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      I’m so happy to hear that you and your son both like the dish! This just made my day 🙂 And thanks for leaving a positive review.

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