Chicken Liver

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Common Allergen: No
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raw chicken livers before being prepared for babies starting solids

When can babies eat chicken liver?

Chicken liver may be introduced as soon as a baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Keep in mind that chicken liver has a ton of vitamin A—an essential nutrient that can be toxic when consumed in excess.1 2 For this reason, take care to limit the serving size and frequency; 1 to 2 tablespoons of chicken liver once a week is plenty.

Warning

Chicken liver has exceedingly high levels of vitamin A—an essential nutrient that can be toxic when consumed in excess. For this reason, take care to limit the serving size and frequency; 1 to 2 tablespoons of chicken liver once a week is plenty. Also, store cooked chicken liver in the refrigerator within 2 hours or in the freezer if you don’t plan to eat it within a day or two. Chicken is often associated with food-borne illness from bacteria like Salmonella and Campylobacter and taking the appropriate precautions can minimize the risk.3

About chicken liver

Chicken may be one of the world’s most consumed proteins, but the mighty liver is sometimes overlooked—even though chicken liver is one of the most nutritious foods we can eat. Chicken liver, cow liver, fish liver, and the livers of all sentient beings are the nutrient powerhouse of the body. The vital organ purifies toxins and processes vitamins and minerals during digestion, passing some to fuel bodily functions and storing others for energy. People often either love or hate liver for its distinctive taste—an intense minerality that pairs well with sweet fruits and vegetables and flavorful fats like schmaltz, the rendered fat from chicken skin that adds richness to dishes like the traditional Jewish preparation of chopped liver.

Charles, 8 months, eats chicken liver on a thin rice cake.
Callie, 10 months, eats chicken liver for the first time.
Max, 10 months old, eats a homemade chicken liver spread on a thin rice cake.

Is chicken liver healthy for babies?

Yes, but in moderation. Chicken liver contains all amino acids—the building blocks of protein that our bodies need to thrive. It’s an incredible source of iron, vitamin A, vitamin B12, and other B vitamins like folate, choline, and biotin. It also offers selenium to power the thyroid and zinc to strengthen the immune system.

What makes liver so nutritious is its dense combination of these essential nutrients, many of which are often low in the diets of infants and toddlers.4 5 That said, it would be wise to offer small quantities. Chicken liver contains so much vitamin A that it can be toxic when consumed in excess, which is why a small serving of 1 or 2 tablespoons per week is more than enough.6 7

Because the liver processes toxins that enter the body, sometimes it is believed that liver is unsafe to eat. It is true that the liver contains toxins—just like the chicken’s breast, legs, and wings, which accumulate metals, pesticides, and other contaminants in the animal’s environment.8 However, liver is safe to eat in moderation (again, moderation refers to potential vitamin A toxicity more than to potential toxicity from these other possible contaminants). As with most foods, the benefits outweigh the risks. Note that organic chicken livers often cost much less per pound than chicken itself, so shop around to see what you can find in your area.

★Tip: Sometimes chicken livers are packed with the gallbladder, a greenish organ that stores a digestive fluid called bile. Keep it or discard it—you decide. The gallbladder and bile are edible, add bitterness to food (a notable flavor in some cuisines, particularly in South Asia and in some Native American tribes), and sometimes serve as medicine.9

Which type of liver is best for babies?

Small amounts of chicken liver, beef liver, and other livers are all suitable foods to serve babies and toddlers on occasion. Chicken liver is almost twice as rich in iron than beef liver, plus it is not as packed with vitamin A and can be more tender – all of these reasons make chicken liver an ideal choice for babies and toddlers. Just refrain from store-bought pâté which can be exceedingly high in sodium.

Is chicken liver a common choking hazard for babies?

Liver is not a common choking hazard though in theory an individual can choke on any food. To minimize the risk, thinly slice or blend into a spread. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment, stay within an arm’s reach of your baby during meals, and check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions.

For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.

Is chicken liver a common allergen?

No. Chicken is not a common food allergen, though cases of poultry allergy have been reported.10 Chicken can also be a trigger for Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome, (FPIES), which results in delayed vomiting and/or diarrhea 2-4 hours after the ingestion of chicken meat.

While rare, certain individuals with fish allergies may have an increased risk of being sensitive to chicken.11 Some individuals with known allergy to feather and egg also have positive allergy test results to chicken meat. However, this does not commonly result in symptoms after the ingestion of well-cooked meat, as the allergenic protein is heat sensitive.12 Therefore, routine testing for chicken meat allergy is not recommended in cases of egg allergy.

As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity during the first couple of servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.

How do you prepare liver for babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 9 months old: Cook the liver until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius). Once cooked, blend the liver with a healthy fat like butter, olive oil, or water to serve as a spread. Take care to limit the amount offered to 1 or 2 tablespoons per week to minimize the risk of vitamin A toxicity. Try serving chicken liver with a sweet fruit like stewed apple or pear or offer a teething rusk or a baby spoon with a small amount of chicken liver pâté. Note: Do not serve store-bought pâté to babies as it is exceedingly high in sodium though if you are at a restaurant and want to give baby a small taste, that’s completely fine.

9 to 12 months old: This is a great age to offer thin slices or bite-size pieces of cooked chicken liver as finger food as around this age babies develop a pincer grasp, enabling them to pick up smaller pieces of food. Of course, you can also continue with blending chicken liver into a homemade pâté to spread on thin rice cakes or strips of toast. Explore adding onions, rosemary, and other savory spices.

12 to 24 months old: Offer slices or bite-size pieces of liver on its own as a finger food (the exact size of the slice or piece does not matter as much at this age) or continue to offer homemade pâté liver on toast or thin rice cakes. At this age you can also offer store bought pâté, though keep tabs on overall sodium intake.

★For an easy reference to what foods have the nutrients babies need most, check out our Nutrition Cheat Sheet.

Recipe: Chicken Liver Pâté

chicken liver pâté spread on 3 thin rice crackers

Yield: 1 ½ cups (300 grams) or 12 infant servings
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • ½ pound (225 grams) chicken livers
  • ½ cup (118 milliliters) water
  • ½ cup (125 grams) onion
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 slice of bread, thin rice cake, or teething rusk

This recipe contains common allergens: dairy and wheat (optional). Only serve to a child after each of these allergens has been introduced safely.

Directions

  1. Defrost the chicken livers. Transfer the chicken livers to a pot and add the water.
  2. Peel and halve the onion, then place in the pot.
  3. Bring the pot to a boil, then turn the heat to medium low and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the livers are firm with no pink or purple meat in the center, between 15 and 20 minutes. If you have a kitchen thermometer, check that the internal temperature has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius).
  4. Drain the meat and onion, then transfer to a high-powered blender or food processor. Let the ingredients cool for 10 minutes, then blend to form a paste.
  5. Add the butter and continue to blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the container as necessary. If you like, add more butter to loosen the pâté until it reaches your desired consistency.
  6. Lightly toast the bread, then cut off the crust and reserve for another use, like breadcrumbs.
  7. Thinly spread some chicken liver pâté (up to 1.5 tablespoons total per meal, no more than 1-2 times per week) on the toast, thin rice cake, or teething rusk. Freeze the rest in small containers or an ice cube tray for future meals.
  8. Serve: Offer the chicken liver pâté on the toast, thin rice cake, or teething rusk and let the child self-feed with hands. If the child needs help, pass the food in the air for the child to grab from you.

To Store: Chicken liver pâté keeps in an air-tight container in the fridge for 2 days or in the freezer for 3 months.

★Tip: Liver is often sold in large containers, but you don’t have to eat all the meat at once. Open the package, separate the livers, distribute them in smaller containers, then freeze what you don’t plan to cook right away. This way you’ll have access to small portions at mealtime. Liver can be stored in an air-tight container in the freezer for up to 3 months, but in the fridge, the organs can easily go bad within 1 or 2 days of opening.

Flavor Pairings

Chicken liver has an intense mineral flavor that can be balanced with sweet fruits like apple, cherry, fig, mango, pear, peach, and raspberry and vegetables like carrot, onion, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potato. Tart fruits like blueberry, pomegranate, pineapple, and tomato are also great ingredients to help balance the liver’s bitter taste. Blending liver with rich fats like butter, cream cheese, goat cheese, mascarpone cheese, or olive oil helps mellow the flavor, too. As you cook chicken liver, season the meat with aromatics like rosemary and thyme for extra layers of flavor.

Reviewed by

J. Truppi, MSN, CNS

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP

K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT

S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist

  1. Mahoney CP, Margolis MT, Knauss TA, Labbe RF. (1980). Chronic vitamin A intoxication in infants fed chicken liver. Pediatrics, 65(5), 893-897. Retrieved August 9, 2021.
  2. Carpenter TO, Pettifor JM, Russell RM, et al. (1987). Severe hypervitaminosis A in siblings: evidence of variable tolerance to retinol intakeJ Pediatr, 111(4), 507-512. doi:10.1016/s0022-3476(87)80109-9. Retrieved August 9, 2021.
  3. Dewey-Mattia, D., Manikonda, K., Hall, A.J., Wise, M.E., Crowe, S.J. (2018). Surveillance for Foodborne Disease Outbreaks — United States, 2009–2015. Surveillance Summaries, 67(10), 1–11. Retrieved April 12, 2021.
  4. Hilger, J., Goerig, T., Weber, P., Hoeft, B., Eggersdorfer, M., et al. (2015). Micronutrient Intake in Healthy Toddlers: A Multinational Perspective. Nutrients, 7(8), 6938–6955. DOI: 10.3390/nu7085316. Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  5. Schwarzenberg, S.J., Georgieff, M.K., and American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. (2018). Advocacy for Improving Nutrition in the First 1000 Days to Support Childhood Development and Adult Health. Pediatrics, 141(2), e20173716. DOI:10.1542/peds.2017-3716. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  6. Mahoney CP, Margolis MT, Knauss TA, Labbe RF. (1980). Chronic vitamin A intoxication in infants fed chicken liver. Pediatrics, 65(5), 893-897. Retrieved August 9, 2021.
  7. Carpenter TO, Pettifor JM, Russell RM, et al. (1987). Severe hypervitaminosis A in siblings: evidence of variable tolerance to retinol intakeJ Pediatr, 111(4), 507-512. doi:10.1016/s0022-3476(87)80109-9. Retrieved August 9, 2021.
  8. European Food Safety Authority. (2018). The 2016 European Union report on pesticide residues in foodEFSA Journal, 16(7), e05348. DOI:10.2903/j.efsa.2018.5348. Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  9. Wang, D.Q., Carey, M.C. (2014). Therapeutic uses of animal biles in traditional Chinese medicine: an ethnopharmacological, biophysical chemical and medicinal reviewWorld journal of gastroenterology, 20(29), 9952–9975. DOI:10.3748/wjg.v20.i29.9952. Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  10. Zacharisen M.C. (2006). Severe allergy to chicken meatWisconsin Medical Journal: Official Publication of the State Medical Society of Wisconsin, 105(5), 50–52. PMID:16933414. Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  11. Kuehn, A., Codreanu-Morel, F., Lehners-Weber, C., Doyen, V., Gomez-André, S.A., et al. (2016). Cross-reactivity to fish and chicken meat—a new clinical syndromeAllergy, 71(12), 1772–1781. DOI:10.1111/all.12968 . Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  12. Hemmer W, Klug C, Swoboda I. Update on the bird-egg syndrome and genuine poultry meat allergy. Allergo J Int. 2016;25:68-75. doi:10.1007/s40629-016-0108-2. Retrieved August 9, 2021.