Canned Cod Liver: Foie Gras For The Frugal Man
The World Health Organization states that a healthy diet includes 400 grams of fruits and vegetables per day. They also place strict restrictions on sugar intake, so most of those 400 grams are coming from vegetables rather than sugar-rich fruits.
In American terms that’s 2-3 boxes of salad greens. In volumetric terms that’s more than 6 inches by 8 inches by 5 inches of straight cruciferous vegetables every day for your entire adult life. Equivalent to 1.039 gallons of spinach, kale, chard, green leaf lettuce, and similar.
I am not a doctor but I’m going to go ahead and dubunk the WHO anyway. My stomach cannot fit that much vegetable matter. And even if it could, I cannot survive on 105 calories per day. Like most Americans I need my nutrient-dense foods to be, well, dense. A salad or expensive green-colored shake is not good enough.
Icelandic Canned Cod Liver Taste And Texture
Thus my quest for cost-effective and realistic nutrient-dense food brought me to canned cod liver. It’s packed in little flat tins just like sardines, and has an impressive portfolio of nutrients.
I struggle to come up with a description of canned cod liver that sounds as good as it tastes. It really is sort of like foie gras but not as rich and a tiny bit fishy. But not super fishy. Less fishy than tuna fish.
The texture is firm enough to eat whole but smooth and soft enough to spread.
Some people have had bad experiences with cod liver oil or other types of fish oils. I’d like to point out that Icelandic canned cod liver is nothing like old style fermented cod liver oil or Thai fish sauce. It’s mild. I’ve had olive oil that’s stronger than this stuff.
Where To Buy Canned Cod Liver
I have never seen canned cod liver for sale in any store around me. I just buy it on Amazon. You can buy just a few to try it out, or buy in bulk and save.
iCan Icelandic Canned Cod Liver Nutrition
People say that Americans often have surprisingly poor nutrition. I know that I’ve analyzed the labels on countless food products and have been repeatedly disappointed. Icelandic canned cod liver is a major exception.
Here are some micro-nutrients of interest:
- Vitamin A 450% — Real vitamin A in the form of retinol, not beta carotene!
- Vitamin D 420% — In its natural form, D3.
- Not on label: B vitamins, copper, iron, choline, omega 3 essential fatty acids
Essential Fatty Acids: Omega 3 In Canned Cod Liver
Essential fatty acids, or EFAs, come in several different forms. The most important are the omega 3 and omega 6 forms. The human body expects to get omega 3 and omega 6 in approximately equal amounts. But when you eat something like a Red Baron Deep Dish Singles Pizza, you’re getting a load of omega 6 and pretty much zero omega 3.
Cod liver and it’s oil are rich in omega 3 EFAs. A great way to help balance your diet!
Vitamin A In Canned Cod Liver (Don’t Eat It Every Day!)
Vitamin A is essential for eye health, but it doesn’t stop there. Cod liver contains a potent form of vitamin A called retinol. Retinol is especially beneficial for your endocrine system.
Be careful: Retinol is so powerful that it’s possible to overdose on it. With 450% of your recommended daily intake, icelandic canned cod liver is a strong source of vitamin A but shouldn’t be eaten every day.
Retinol is classified as an fat-soluble vitamin. This means that the body can store a lot of it, but cannot quickly git rid of any excess. Too much retinol, especially when taken over a long period of time, causes a dangerous condition called Hypervitaminosis A. For this reason, I try not to eat more than one or two cans of cod liver per week.
Icelandic canned cod liver is low in heavy metals and other pollutants
Oceanic fish are subject to all kinds of dangerous pollutants. Depending on their eating habits, different fish species may accumulate different amounts of toxic chemicals. Fortunately, a 2009 study found that cod liver and cod liver oil is safe to eat.
How to eat canned cod liver
- Smear it on crackers.
- Put it on a baguette with some store brand cheddar cheese.
- Mix some into ground beef (good for picky kids).
- Some people drink the oil straight. I am not one of those people.
- Spread some on a cheeseburger. Delicious.
- Dice it and throw some on top of your scrambled eggs.
49 thoughts on “Canned Cod Liver: Foie Gras For The Frugal Man”
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Thank you for the advice: I ate a whole can for lunch yesterday, and the day before, and the day before, and I wondered whether I could go on eating one can a day.. Now I know, and I shall eat something else today (mackerel fillets on Wasa crackers, or perhaps scrambled eggs).
Hi Francoise — glad to hear the article was helpful! Yes it’s important to avoid too much retinol per day, especially over a long period of time. Personally I try not to eat a can of cod liver more than once or twice per week. I’ll update the article to include some more details on this.
This is so helpful! Thank you
Thank you for that information. I bought some on Amazon and find it delicious but as it is so rich, I only eat it maybe once a week, just as you suggest. I tossed it in a salad today but with only a small amount of the oil. What to do with the rest?
I have the exact same problem. I don’t know what to do with the extra cod liver oil! There’s no way I could eat the entire can of liver and also consume the oil in one sitting. My grandfather told me how they used to take a bit of cod liver oil every day to stave off rickets and vitamin A deficiency. Personally I tend to discard the extra oil. I think you could keep it in the refrigerator but I’m not sure how long it would last. You’d want to keep in in a well-sealed glass jar to help keep it fresh.
Idea for what to do with the left over oil. This is something I do with the oil from tuna cans. I use it to make salad dressing – usually enough for 1 – 2 servings, which is all I make anyway. It would take a lot of the oil to make a real Caesar dressing, but try making a couple of servings of French. Lots of dressing variations online – I like the one with honey.
Interesting. Does the dressing come out tasting too fishy?
After reading this article, I ordered some Belveder Cod Liver on Amazon.
I ate some today on Tostito Lime chips and Wise Goat organic Supergreen sauerkraut.
I was amazed at how smooth and mild the liver was. Delicious!
Thank you for the heads up on the possible overdose on the vitamin A, so
I’ll limit my intake to 1 to 2 cans a week.
Since it appears to be helpful in reducing inflammation, I’m hopeful it will help with my neuropathy and arthritis.
Hello I like your article, especially the part about the baloney WHO is recommending us to eat!
I was wondering if you finish that can of cod in one sitting? I love cod but I wanna make sure I’m not endangering myself with a Vitamin A overdose so from now on I will only have one can per week but I’m wondering, can I have it in one sitting or it’s best to separate it between meals? I eat a can of 125g which is almost the same as yours, I’m not worried about the fat here, only the Vitamin A toxicity.
Wife and I split a can of cod livers after draining off the oil into a small bottle. Bottle goes into fridge and we take a tablespoon each day before breakfast until oil is finished, usually 2 – 3 days. Wife loves the livers; oil, not so much. I enjoy both.
I give the oil to my dog , she loves it !
I assume the nutrition facts on the can include the oil! It better, cause it’s pretty high!
The can lists TWO servings in a can. Come on, my granddaughter can wipe out the can!
However I agree with you about the oil: that gets to be a bit much in one sitting. I love to put it in potato salad or Kani salad or fish centered pasta. It comes out awesome. Never discard the oil!
I’ve been mixing one can of cod liver, with all the oil, with 2 cans of sardines in evoo, but completely drain the evoo. Add to the cod liver, cod liver oil, and drained sardines: 2 celery stalks cut into small chunks, a squirt of organic dijon mustard, and a small amount of chopped onion + salt and pepper to taste. Great by itself, or a sandwich, or whatever. This mix will easily make 3 sandwiches and will store in a sealed bowl for several days in the refrigerator.
I have been experimenting with these for some time. Like others, I could not finish one can all at once, so I placed the leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge – when I took it out later in the day or next day, I was concerned to note that the leftovers were already somewhat oxidized – smell and change in color were the give aways. I know how fragile this type of oil is, so I decided to find a way to finish it sooner.
Now, I place a can of the livers with all the oil in a blender, add some lemon juice and spices, a bit of whipped cream cheese and blend it well. It turns into a dip. I make an entire meal of the dip using crackers and fresh veggies. It leaves me very full of course…. I am still trying to calculate how much omega 3s we are getting per serving (not to mention the other good nutrition in it)
i usually eat a can,,,, a week,,,,, some kind of cracker you like,,, small piece of hardtack….. and a dab of horseradish,,, or sliver of onion,,,,, piece of pickled vegetable,,, or just straight out of can with saltines,,, as you prefer,,,,, i will usually just drink the oil also,,,,,, with all the synthetic type of vitamins that flood the market,,, as long as it is sustainable,,, i’m gonna enjoy all i can!………bon apetit
Thanks for your post about cod livers. I buy the same brand. Any idea of how much EPA and DHA in a can? Thanks.
I use a lemon-soy sauce dip for my cod liver and eat it with rice. With the dip, there is no fishy taste at all.
I’ve read about a cancer cure that involved eating raw beef liver and nothing else every day but I don’t remember for how many days. Beef liver is high in retinol as well. Perhaps eating this canned cod liver would be much more doable and just as effective… I guess I need to research this again.
I like to use saurkraut, cutting it in small pieces and top it with the cod liver and oil.
What a great find the cod liver was.
As was mentioned above, the synthetic vitamins are suspect.
I never thought of trying it with sauerkraut. I appreciate the recommendation.
Just started eating this and love it. I split a can with my daughter once a week and simply pair it with freshly cooked quinoa, as it helps absorb all that good oil. So tasty!
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I eat it straight from the tin and have to restrain myself from not finishing it in one seating! I love the stuff. And the oil gets into salade nicoise dressing or any dressing for fish!
For those people who do not like beef liver, there is no beef liver-like taste in cod liver. Of all the livers, cod liver has the most pleasant taste. If you like liverwurst, you will like cod liver.
Just found this article. Recently decided to try cod livers rather than getting omega 3’s by supplementation. Much better! I try to consume it 1x a week and I usually add it to a can of sustainable salmon and make fish cakes out of it, by adding dill weed, potato, and capers.
Thanks for the post.
Hi Debra – I am so glad you enjoyed the post. We love hearing feedback from our readers 🙂
Tried my first cod liver today. THe can says there’s 2 portions so I diligently measured the oil and the liver into seperate bowls. So as not to waste the oil I grated in a good wedge of cucumber which diluted the oil and added a good squeeze of lemon juice, salt & pepper. Yum! I thoroughly enjoyed it 🙂
Thank you for all the helpful information. I just had my first can of cod liver which is quite a bit for one person. I spread it on fig, raisin walnut bread with a bit of salt and pepper. It would be just as tasty on some sort of “fancy” fruit and nut cracker. I also drank the oil so that it does not go to waste. Considering searing the cod liver next time foie gras style 🙂
I ate a can a day for the past six days . I will now change that to one can per week. I heard that it is good for a healthy heart .
Cod Liver is Perfect in salads. Divide one can into 3 days in one week. Plus share some with my four-legged KidZ: service canine and three felines. All of us are Happy.
Haha amazing 🙂
I add a tin (chopped finely) to my fish pie, which is topped with cauliflower and cheddar cheese. Everyone gets some liver without even knowing it.
Smart move, Christine!
thanks for writing about amazing cod liver and it’s benefits
what about a promised update !?
Hi Eli – Thanks so much for asking. We are working on it. Stay tuned in 2023. We have some great content coming to Off Brand Guy.
I like the taste, but my gall bladder objected. Fat content too high.
Ahhh, bummer! Sorry to hear that.
I bought a can of cod liver from an Eastern European grocery store recently. I had no idea that such a thing was available in canned form, so I had to have it to give it a try. I assumed that it was the kind of thing that only people that fished for cod would be able to get their hands on. It looks like some cultures, like Ukrainians, traditionally eat cod liver. I have never had foie gras btw, but when I ate the cod liver I thought to myself “this smoothness, this richness, it sounds like the way people describe foie gras.” I just ate it plain out of the can, but smeared on a toasted baguette sounds wonderful.
One thing I struggle to understand and have my doubts about is cod liver oil is super expensive then how can they pack it in the pure thing? Being a heart patient I cannot afford to afflict my arteries to any further hydrogenated processed oils.
This is my concern as well.
Fun fact! Cod Liver Oil is quite cheap!
You’re mistaking cod liver oil gel capsules sold by dietary supplement stores with bottled cod liver oil.
The gel capsules are pricier, because the gel coating is not all that cheap to produce, the gel keeps the smell contained, which helps some people cope with having to take the supplement, and finally, the fad of dietary supplements adds a price mark-up. Cod liver oil in bottles on the other hand, is barely around US$2 per 100ml.
i grew up on liver oil my country, it has been and still a staple in our house!
question: I found this Ican cod liver but unfortunately inside liver is darker color and i am not sure if it’s okay to eat it?
also what to do with the oil?
can it be saved and eaten?
Apparently the liver is canned in it’s own oil which is expelled during the canning process.
I love these too and my lipids are the best they’ve ever been BUT my heavy metal test has come back worryingly high for arsenic and I have suspicions that this is the culprit. Any other experiences with this?
Interesting. Which specific cod liver do you buy?
There are several varieties of canned cod liver available at a local Valli’s produce store in the ethnic food aisle for about $3 a can. Its good too.