I am a nutrient-seeker. Aka, a nutrivore. For me, eating a diet based on the most nutrient-dense foods available–offal, seafood, and vegetables–trumps all other arguments for what constitutes a healthy diet. Yes, I’m Paleo. Yes, I’m even Autoimmune Protocol. But, I also put substantial effort into eating organ meat several times per week, eating seafood daily, and eating several servings of vegetables with every meal.
If you have read my post on the Why Everyone Should Be Eating Organ Meat, heard me on The Paleo View, or read The Paleo Approach, this won’t come as a surprise to you. It was even the topic of my presentation at Paleo F(x)-2014. What might surprise you is that I didn’t always enjoy organ meat as much as I do now, that I still (most of the time) prefer it hidden in a meal, and my family still complains when I cook kidney (they finally have all come to terms with the fact that they all like the meals I make with liver as long as I don’t make liver and onions).
This post isn’t about why it’s important to eat organ meat or why we should aim to eat at least 4 to 5 meals of offal each week. If this concept is new to you, or you’ve been told that the “liver is full of toxins” or other such nonsense, then I urge you to read my book where this is discussed in detail along with referenced scientific papers.
This post is about how to eat more offal, especially if you are like most of us, and don’t really like it.
1. Eat heart. Heart is a muscle and actually has a very familiar flavor. Ground beef heart is nearly indistinguishable from ground beef (the flavor is a bit richer, so you might even like it better!) and can substitute for ground beef in any recipe. To get the best texture, grind in a countertop meat grinder or use a meat grinder attachment for a standing mixer. You can also grind in a food processor, although it’s not quite the same. Heart generally tastes like the animal it comes from, so beef heart tastes like beef, lamb hear tastes like lamb, etc.
2. Eat tongue. Tongue can be a little disconcerting to cook because it looks like a giant disembodied tongue, but once again, because it is a muscle, the flavor is very familiar. Once cooked, tongue can be shredded and used for carnitas (very traditional), sliced and added to salads, or served with gravy.
3. It’s okay to hide liver. One of the greatest discoveries I ever made was that if I grind liver in my food processor, it can be mixed with other ground meats and hidden. If you have a mild-flavored liver like bison, lamb, or chicken, you can use a 1:1 to a 1:2 ratio of liver to ground meat (meaning you add 1 or 2 pounds of ground meat for every 1 pound of liver). With stronger-flavored livers like beef and (blech) pork, I recommend diluting the liver even more, and going with a 1:3 to a 1:5 ratio. If you’re going to use strong seasonings (like making tacos or chili, meatloaf or 50/50/50 burgers, for example), err on the side of more liver. If you’re going to be using more mild flavors (using it in a spaghetti sauce, for example), err on the side of diluting with regular ground beef a little more.
4. Learn which animal has which organ that you prefer. When I first started this journey into eating more offal, I didn’t realize how differently liver tastes from one animal to the next. Or kidney for that matter. Even the texture is different. It took some experimenting for me to discover that I prefer lamb kidney (although I’ve been getting beef kidney from US Wellness Meats lately and it’s really good!), bison liver, and beef heart and tongue. Then I discovered how much I dislike kidney and liver from pork, but that’s okay, I don’t hold it against pork (pork makes up for it with pork rinds, trotters which makes the best broth, hocks, and jowl, all of which is also considered offal).
5. Broth is offal. Sometimes we get so fixated on not liking organ meat, that we forget some far more commonly-enjoyed foods that are still offal. Bone broth (preferably simmered until the bones crumble easily in your hands) is considered offal. Marrow is ridiculously delicious. Pork rinds, also offal. Some cuts of meat like cheek and jowl are considered offal even though they’re still muscles. There’s amazing nutrition in all of these and even though eating plenty of them still doesn’t let you off the hook when it comes to eating organ meat, it’s a good entry point.
6. Try making liver pills. You can actually do this with any organ meat, although people most commonly use liver. Cut liver into pill-size pieces (whatever looks like an easy size for you to swallow). Freeze on a cookie sheet, and then once frozen, move to a freezer-safe bag or container. Keep frozen for at least two weeks (this kills pathogens). Then, take a palm-full of frozen liver pills with some water every day.
7. Try adding just a wee bit. Even a tiny bit is better than none. Try adding a teaspoon of liver (cooked or raw, as long as it was frozen for at least two weeks to kill pathogens) to your smoothies, to any baking where the batter goes in the blender, or blend some up with a little water and use it to thicken a stew.
8. Offal is not awful. The average taste bud lasts for up to two weeks. This means your taste buds are constantly regenerating and they will change over time and adapt to changes in your diet. This means that just because you don’ t like it now, doesn’t mean you won’t like it in the future. Keep trying it. Sometimes force yourself to have a meal that you don’t love. All this will actually increase future enjoyment.
9. Don’t get stuck on just one kind of offal. It’s important to eat variety, and this goes for offal. Aim to eat different cuts/organs from different animals, as much variety as possible. Think snout-to-tail. Yes, this means sometimes eating tripe, sweetbreads, chitlins, or rocky mountain oysters. This means that even if kidney isn’t your favorite, you should still eat it occasionally. You also get to play with how you prepare offal, what flavors you use and what cooking techniques, whether you hide the flavor or embrace it. Experiment and be adventurous.
10. Don’t stress it. Eating a nutrient-dense diet is one of the absolute best things you can do for your health. But remember that reducing and managing stress is also super important. If eating liver is so repulsive to you that it is causing you psychological stress, then don’t. If you’ve figured out how to include heart in your diet, but cooking tongue just gives you the heebie jeebies, then don’t. But don’t use this as an excuse not to try your hardest to figure out ways to include offal in your diet. And remember that many nutrients help make you more resilient to stress!
Can’t figure out how to cook offal? There’s 21 offal recipes (with many other recipes that could be made with offal) coming in The Paleo Approach Cookbook (our of 184 recipes! woot!). Pre-order your copy today to guarantee the lowest price!
Want offal recipes right now? Check out what’s already published on the blog.