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What Is Chicken Liver Pate?

Angie Bates
Angie Bates

Chicken liver pate is a type of spread created by combining chicken liver with other flavorings and finely chopping or pureeing the mixed ingredients. Normally served with bread or crackers, chicken liver pate is often considered a high-class spread. Pate can keep for weeks refrigerated or months frozen if covered with a layer of fat before it is stored.

Pale chicken livers are often recommended for chicken liver pate because they have a milder flavor than the darker livers. In addition to the meat, garlic and onions or shallots are usually included in this spread. Other seasonings may just consist of salt and black pepper or may included thyme, allspice, sage, or bay leaves. Butter, usually unsalted, is also normally included, but occasionally olive oil is used instead. Some versions chill the butter before working with it while others warm it to room temperature.

Variations may add cream cheese, milk, or lemon juice. Pancetta, a type of high-quality Italian bacon, is sometimes included to increase the fat content and flavor, particularly if olive oil is used rather than butter. Capers can also be added.

Cognac is often used in chicken liver pate.
Cognac is often used in chicken liver pate.

Most versions of chicken liver pate also use a liquor in its preparation. Cognac or brandy is the most common choice, but Scotch, bourbon, or dry sherry may also be used. Depending on the version, all or some of the alcohol content may be removed by heating, leaving only the flavor behind, or the alcohol may not be heated at all, retaining both alcohol content and flavor in the finished dish.

Chicken liver pate is often served as an appetizer.
Chicken liver pate is often served as an appetizer.

The livers may be soaked for a few hours in milk or simply thoroughly washed before use. To prepare the pate, the onions and garlic are usually cooked in butter first, then the spices and livers are added. Once the livers are brown, the alcohol is normally included. It may be heated only briefly, or the mixture may be simmered until the majority of liquid has evaporated. Alternatively, the alcohol can be omitted from the cooking process and only added once the mixture has been transferred to a food processor to puree.

Some versions do not puree the pate. Instead, after cooking, the mixed ingredients are chopped repeatedly into a fine consistency. Whether chopped or pureed, chicken liver pate is normally served on crackers or toasted bread and can be garnished with parsley or another fresh herb. If stored, it is usually layered with melted butter and covered in plastic wrap. The pate can keep for one or two weeks in the refrigerator or two months frozen when stored in this manner.

Discussion Comments


I've eaten pate, but I didn't know what it was. It was just OK. It had a lot of seasoning in it, so it was edible. But I wouldn't eat it again. I'll actually eat chicken gizzards if they're battered, seasoned and fried very crisp. Of course, most things are much more palatable when they're fried.

Pate is something else again, though. The texture is just strange -- not quite mousse and not quite meat. It's just a little weird. I wasn't knocked out by it. I know it's considered a gourmet dish, but it wasn't at all to my personal tastes.


I've seen this in some local "ladies who lunch" places and the thoughts of eating it turn my stomach. I don't eat organ meats in general anyway, and the idea of pureed liver just grosses me out. And cold pureed liver? Instant nausea.

I suppose I just don't have a very sophisticated palate or whatever, but I have no interest whatever in eating pate of any kind, chicken liver or otherwise.

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    • Cognac is often used in chicken liver pate.
      By: romaneau
      Cognac is often used in chicken liver pate.
    • Chicken liver pate is often served as an appetizer.
      By: illustrez-vous
      Chicken liver pate is often served as an appetizer.