Have You Tried Actual Cod Liver?

March 8, 2012


Have you ever had cod liver? Not cod liver oil, but the actual cod liver itself. Up until now, my answer was no. Sure I’ve had cod liver oil – fermented cod liver oil even. But liquid was the only form in which I had ever tasted it. So, I was pretty excited to come across canned cod liver in a specialty market. These are the types of things that I get excited about :P In fact, there were even 2 different brands! So of course, I bought both.


The Officer brand of cod liver that I bought is smoked. Ingredients: cod liver smoked in beech and alderwood, salt. Generally, smoked cod liver is made by dipping the raw cod liver in a salt brine, cleaning and trimming it, and then smoking it with wood.  The other, by S&F, isn’t smoked. They both come from Denmark and are packed in their own oil.


How to Eat It?

I find that people who aren’t paleo seem to be more puzzled by how to eat stuff. “What do you put it on?” is a common question. Well, unsurprisingly, people tend to  spread it on bread, whether by itself or in “salad” form. If you’d like to make a cod liver salad, just combine a can of the cod liver with 1 or 2 hardboiled eggs, and a small shallot (everything chopped) and season with some salt and pepper. Then, skip the bread and put it on some lettuce. Or, do what I default to when eating something that comes in a can/jar/container – eat it by itself, by the spoon/forkful. If you do get your hands on some cod liver oil, it’s said to taste better cold, so stick it in the fridge for an hour before opening it.

What Does It Taste Like?

To be honest, although I was excited about trying cod liver, I was not expecting to enjoy it. I mean, let’s face it – cod liver oil is undoubtedly nutritious, but it sure as heck isn’t delicious. In fact, when I supplement with fermented cod liver oil, I try to get it over with as quick as possible and I hurriedly wash it down with water. I was expecting the cod liver to be like that, but worse because I’d have to chew it.

Silly me. Cod liver is incredibly tasty! It has a mild flavor – the smoked even more mild than the regular, and it tastes and smells absolutely nothing like cod liver oil (thank goodness!). Mind you, I’ve only ever had fermented cod liver oil. Cod liver reminds me of sardines without the crunchiness, and less fishy. The texture is smooth and pâté-like.

Where to Get It

Cod liver is most commonly found in specialty food stores or European deli shops. Of course, it’s also available on Amazon. Make sure that the kind you get is canned in its own oil.

Interestingly, Google tells me that smoked cod liver or foie de morue fumé is very popular in France, and can be found in every grocery store. It is considered the foie gras of the poor.

Further Googling didn’t bring up much else of interest – cod liver certainly doesn’t share the popularity of its oil capsule supplements. I’m surprised it’s not more common in North America, as it’s very nutritious – a great whole food source of Omega 3s, especially DHA. And, it’s yummy. Win-win in my books!

Have you tried cod liver? What did you think?

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenna March 8, 2012 at 7:18 AM

Hi, I just wanted to say that I came across your blog the other day and have already read all of them! Love it! I also live in Vancouver and have been on an ancestral eating journey for the last year, so I love that I can actually visit all the restaurants you review.

I must say the thought of eating cod liver doesn’t sounds to appetizing, but I am now very intrigued…..can I ask where you found it?


[email protected] March 8, 2012 at 7:46 PM

Hey Jenna – thanks for the lovely comment! :) I actually bought the cod liver out of town, so that’s not very helpful. But I plan to keep an eye out for it around Vancouver. I’d check European delis, as it’s quite common in Europe.


[email protected] April 1, 2012 at 7:14 PM

In case anyone is looking for canned cod liver in Vancouver, I just saw some at Homa Market, on Robson, across from Whole Foods (used to be Capers).


Julie March 8, 2012 at 3:58 PM

Now this is down right interesting. No, I have never tried cod liver. In fact, I never even thought about it. I guess I assumed that cod liver was used expressly for making cod liver oil. I do take my cod liver oil (flavored, of course). I will keep my eyes open to see if canned cod liver can be found in Denver, CO. I think the smoked version sounds appetizing. I mix up chicken livers like you do with the cod livers and find that that is a delicious way to get liver in. Thanks for a great post!


[email protected] March 8, 2012 at 7:48 PM

Hi Julie – isn’t it funny how we’re all so familiar with the oil but not the liver itself? That’s why I was so excited when I came across it! Good luck with finding it :)


Alex Fedotov September 13, 2012 at 10:12 AM

There are several international food markets/European delis in Aurora off of Leetsdale and Parker and leetsdale and Quebec. They always sell cod liver among other tasty things.

Hafdis March 20, 2012 at 9:35 AM

Hi, I really like your blog about food. Regarding the cod liver, please check this out: http://icelandfishonline.com/p/125-cod-liver-smoked-foie-de-morue-fume.aspx


Jitka Grossová March 25, 2012 at 11:14 PM

up till now I was simply puzzled, why there on American real food is no use of canned cod liver. Still only oil and capsules… Now you explained it ;-)) Cod liver on bread is very common food here, we enjoy it at least twice a month, my children sometimes call it fish paté


[email protected] March 27, 2012 at 2:20 PM

It’s a shame it’s not so common/widely available here – I think it’s delicious :)


Don C April 3, 2012 at 12:28 PM

My brother-in-law lives in Paris and we visit him on occasion. During a visit in March 2012, he introduced us to smoked cod liver. He served it on bread. We liked it enough that we began looking for it when we returned to the states and I placed an order for some today.

It reminds me of smoked oysters, which I have eaten for many years.



[email protected] April 11, 2012 at 8:48 PM

It’s so much fun to discover new foods :)


Trish Ward June 18, 2012 at 8:43 PM

I love smoked Cod Liver straight out of the can. I Will follow your suggestion and make it into a salad….Sounds great!
I find it hard to come by in Sydney, Australia so when I come across it I always stock up my pantry.
I came across this website by accident and now I’m hooked


[email protected] June 18, 2012 at 8:50 PM

Thanks for stopping by :) Canned cod liver isn’t easy to find in a lot of places, but you just need to find one source and then you’re set.


MAria July 18, 2012 at 7:39 AM

Well, i eat it very often and spread it other bread like and other liver type product. I buy the Danish brand because i live in Denmark. I love it. It has very mild taste, not fishy and not like animal liver. When you spread it over bread ( i prefer white) It has consistency of butter almost. So definitely worth tying maybe trying different brands to find the one you like.


[email protected] July 18, 2012 at 7:21 PM

It is very buttery, and I definitely love butter :) Good tip on trying different brands.


Sarah July 28, 2012 at 8:02 PM

I have it at least once a week on a lightly-dressed salad. LOVE it!


[email protected] August 1, 2012 at 2:33 PM



Phil D. August 2, 2012 at 3:43 PM

Hi, For those in Southern Ontario, Canada, the Fortino’s supermarket chain has started selling the S&F brand (for $2.59 per tin). I am glad to see this review since it gives me confidence to try it! Thanks.


[email protected] August 2, 2012 at 6:27 PM

Great, thanks for the tip! (And I think you’ll like it – the taste is very mild, so I don’t think most people would find it offensive).


Eugenia August 31, 2012 at 5:14 PM

I buy this kind: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Cod-liver-Pate-spread-wild-caught-10-6-oz-/120937948281 But instead of buying it at eBay, I found it at my local Mediterranean shop (224 E Hillsdale Blvd, San Mateo, CA). It’s even cheaper at my local shop.


Dan September 4, 2012 at 10:54 AM

Yeah, I get it at the local russian store, but every can is marked as coming from iceland. Either way, I agree it is very nutritious and super yummy and a lot less fishy tasting than most people might think.


yasmina January 11, 2013 at 3:18 PM

Hi ,
I came by chance on your blog while looking online where to find cod liver…
I am French and used to eat this a lot, I like it very much , simply on some bread with lemon!Delicious!
Here is the US I did not found it in stores , I bring it back from France.
I see that it is possible to buy some on Amazon that i will try :)


[email protected] January 12, 2013 at 11:04 AM

Amazon’s amazing :P Also, try little ethnic food shops, they carry all sorts of goodies – that’s where I have found them multiple times in Canada.

Yvonne July 18, 2013 at 5:49 AM

I’m a kind of addicted to fish-liver! It’s very yummy! I spread it on pieces of pumpernickel-bread. I buy these fish-livers (canned) since many years in a big amount in France. They are also nice with some berries and dill. I’m a health-freak from Switzerland and enjoy to eat (Viva la dolce vita!!!) and still to be in good shape.
I believe that cod liver also helps to maintain beautiful long hair.


[email protected] July 18, 2013 at 9:56 PM

Mmmm with berries? That sounds intriguing! Thanks for the comment :)


peril July 25, 2013 at 1:02 AM

I’ve taken to eating raw the livers of fish I catch. Rinse and check for parasites then down the hatch. Taste very much like raw oysters


[email protected] July 25, 2013 at 9:32 PM

Wow, raw livers. That’s serious! :)


Karen August 17, 2013 at 6:57 AM

Hi, I live in France and very regularly eat cod liver. It’s very delicious. I just looked up the nutritional value and apart from the omega 3s it is an excellent source of vitamins A and D. According to various sources:
Vitamin A (palmitate) ranges from 5000IU per 100 g (one tin weighs 120 g) to 60000IU.
Vitamin D: from 2000IU to up to 6000IU per 100g
I guess it all depends on what the fish eats.



[email protected] August 18, 2013 at 10:41 AM

That’s true, and unfortunately, what it eats is out of our control. But cod liver is a nutritional powerhouse, as is cod liver oil (which I take as a supplement).


epoch January 10, 2014 at 1:58 PM

In the Netherlands it is also readily available in normal supermarkets, even if most of the country hardly knows of its existence. I buy it on a regular basis. Never tasted the difference between smoked and non-smoked, so I buy the non-smoked. I do eat it on a white sandwich, with a good pinch of salt.

It indeed is like fois gras.


[email protected] January 11, 2014 at 7:43 PM

So it’s not that common for people there to eat it? If you like the regular, I’m sure you’d like the smoked! Adds a little more flavour to it.


Svetlana January 24, 2014 at 12:48 AM

I’m from Russia, and we have cod liver oil is very popular, many people love it.
You can buy in any store near the house. Of her delicious salad – with egg and onion, add rice or potatoes, you only need to drain the fat from the banks before cooking


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