Beef Kidneys with Ceps and Onions Recipe

Squeamish eaters, avert your eyes, and let me direct you here, here, or perhaps here.

For the others, those who don’t blanch at the mere mention of the words “tripe” or “beef tongue,” those who own a dog-eared copy of the nose-to-tail bible* or have it on their wishlist, here is the dish I made last weekend with the beef kidneys I’d bought from my organic butcher — an entirely uneventful visit this time, 100% free of any impulse to punch anyone.

I am an offal enthusiast myself, sweetbreads being my favorite, but this was my first time cooking anything more involved than liver, so a bit of online research was in order.

The offal fairies must have been watching over me from their flying udders, because things turned out very well in the end — an out-and-out success according to Maxence, the sauce dark and silky, the kidney slices springy but yielding.

This revealed that the kidneys of lamb and veal were milder, easier to deal with, and thus preferable to those of beef (fat lot of good that did me), but that the latter could be effectively tamed by a good dousing of vinegared boiling water (who wouldn’t). I also read that beef kidneys fared best in plats en sauce, i.e., dishes with a sauce component, but the handful of recipes I found couldn’t seem to reach a consensus on whether the kidneys should be boiled to death, or briefly seared.

I didn’t have all day, so I decided a brief searing would do.

I was a little nervous, for I rated my fiasco potential as a solid 8 on a scale of 1 to 10: I had never seen anyone cook a kidney before in my life, I was just about to launch into a relative improv, and, without getting too graphic, the smell of the raw kidneys, pre-blanching, was frankly off-putting (just think of what kidneys do for a living).

But the offal fairies must have been watching over me from their flying udders, because things turned out very well in the end — an out-and-out success according to Maxence, the sauce dark and silky, the kidney slices springy but yielding, their boldness supported by that of the mushrooms, but mitigated by the onions and the parsley — except for that one detail: rarely has my stove seen a less photogenic preparation, so you’ll have to make do with the work-in-progress pictures above.

* A masterpiece of cookbook writing, whether or not you ambition to roll your own pig’s spleen some day. I hear Henderson’s second book ain’t bad either.

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Beef Kidneys with Ceps and Onions Recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Serves 4.

Beef Kidneys with Ceps and Onions Recipe


  • 750 grams (1 2/3 pounds) organic beef kidneys
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • one large handful dried ceps (a.k.a. porcini; substitute other dried mushrooms)
  • olive oil
  • 4 small yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • fine sea salt
  • 80 ml (1/4 cup) red wine
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 tablespoons strong Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon crème fraîche or sour cream
  • freshly ground pepper
  • the leaves from a small bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped


  1. Trim the kidneys of any white bit of fat, slice thinly, and transfer to a colander set over the sink. Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the vinegar, stir to combine, and pour over the kidneys in three successive passes, shaking the colander well between each pass. (This blanching step helps soften beef kidneys' flavor and smell.) Rinse under cold water and set aside to drain.
  2. Place the mushrooms in a small heatproof bowl and pour in a little boiling water to just cover them -- don't pour in too much or the sauce will be too thin later. Set aside to plump up.
  3. Heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add the onions, cover, and cook until soft and translucent, stirring regularly to prevent coloring. (If you find that the onions are starting to brown, or to stick to the skillet, add a touch of water.) When the onions are cooked, transfer to a bowl, and wipe the skillet with a paper towel.
  4. Return the skillet over medium heat, add a little more olive oil, and when the oil is hot, add the kidneys. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt. Add the mushrooms with their soaking liquids, the cooked onions, the red wine, and the garlic. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 10 more minutes, uncovered.
  5. Stir in the mustard and cream, and cook for a minute longer (if you're using sour cream, be very careful not to let the mixture boil again, otherwise the cream will curdle). Sprinkle liberally with pepper, taste, and adjust the seasoning. Serve over fresh pasta or mashed potatoes, and garnish with chopped parsley.
  • You are brave, aren’t you? I love offal too, but cooking kidneys at home is something I haven’t ever done. I think my husband would walk out the door if I told him that was what was for dinner.

  • gingerpale

    If the cows were raised on nice clean grass, what their kidneys “do for a living” doesn’t seem quite so bad..

  • Offal fairies! You are too cute. Derrick shares your offal passion, so perhaps he will give this recipe a try. :-)

  • Clotilde, Your post had me chuckling. I have never had kidneys, but I grew up happily eating liver, gizzards, tripe and many other foods that made my friends shudder.

  • I’ve got few offal (mostly liver) recipes on my blog, but they aren’t usually too popular with my readers :) I must admit I haven’t cooked kidneys myself, but your pictures are rather tempting, so I’m thinking of giving kidneys a chance soon.
    Thanks, Clotilde!

  • Oh dear, you have missed out. Next time you cook a sstew, add some kidney, about 1/8th – 1/4 the amount of sstewing ssteak.

    Adds flavour and tasste. The texture compares very favourably with the ssteak.

    Steak and kidney pie is the other firm favourite.

  • Thanks for posting about offal, a topic most people tend to avoid. Cooking offal is a great way to use up good ingredients that would otherwise go to waste. I have always maintained that a bowl of Vietnamese pho with beef tripe is one of the best comfort foods out there. The use of lungs, intestines, kidneys, etc. is also entrenched in Chinese cuisine…I’ve found that the people most open-minded about trying them are the ones whose native cuisines also prize offal. Thanks again for shedding light on this “squeamish” topic!

  • I love offals! That kidney dish just simply sounds marvelous! What a great combination of flavors…



  • I’m so glad you enjoyed them – kidneys make me think of my mum as they were one of her favourite dishes to cook.
    You may like to also try the devilled kidney recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book ‘The River Cottage Meat Book’.
    It’s the nearest thing I’ve found to my mum’s recipe, and it’s gorgeous!

  • Thanks for posting, I love liver!

  • I also love offal, though I haven’t seen much beef offal bits around (perhaps for good reason). A trip to the local butchers would be able to fetch me some, I’m sure. Great recipe.

  • Can’t seem to make those links work. Perhaps it’s my fault. I”m assuming you’re linking to Fergus Henderson’s matchless “Nose To Tail Eating” and its superb sequel, “Beyond Nose To Tail.” You’ll love the follow up, the desserts are right up your street.

    Glad to see you’ve ventured into offal. I shall be trying this recipe as soon as I can get some kidneys from my butcher.

  • Although I must admit that I normally stick with a pretty basic menu, i refrained from resorting to the squeamish eater out… somehow, you have made kidneys seem yummy…cheers to being more adventurous in the kitchen

  • drea

    Funny how the adds following this post are all about kidney stones & kidney disease! Must admit…I had to click on the diversion links to erase that image from memory…

  • Lord Daniel

    Nothing beats lambs fry or devilled kidneys for breakfast. I’ve only cooked it once or twice myself, if only because the only butcher from which I can acquire decent kidneys is a good half hour from where I live.

  • rainey

    I had to laugh when you referred to an impulse to punch someone. “Clotilde would NEVER do that!,” I said to myself. But when I followed the link I my memory caught up with me.

    I’m so glad kidneys and the company they keep were better for your disposition. ;>

  • Lori

    This is a great post! I tried to cook kidneys once. Unfortunately my fiasco potential reached an all time 10 and the whole lot ended up in the trash! It was so disappointing. That was more than 20 years ago. Your wonderful writing may inspire me to try again.

  • morgaine

    Here’s a nice quotation for you: “Leopold Bloom ate with relish the interior organs of beasts and fowls…” and he goes on buying and cooking kidneys for breakfast.
    In fact i have always hated offal, except for a fantastic fried brain my mother used to cook

  • I said eww looking at the title but my husband went mmmmm…guess I need to cook thid for him then :)

  • Mrs Redboots

    Ah, les rognons, j’adore çà! Kidneys are really good, but, as you suggest, need a strong sauce.

    And, of course, don’t forget the British tradition of steak and kidney – incomparable!

  • Moi aussi j’adore les rognons! I have to admit though, I have tried kidneys prepared à la française – with a strong and heavy sauce but found the sauce took away the true flavour of the kidneys. We have a great simple recipe à la vietnamienne that I’m planning to post soon and it’s absolutely delicious! My favourite dish. Loved your post – it made me laugh!

  • Kara

    Oh, I can’t imagine eating kidneys just pondering their task. I love your blog despite my initial reaction to this entry — “Eeew.” Best.

  • msmellieus

    While everyone else is commenting on the offal, I just had to ask for clarification: in the U.S., cepes are sold as porcini, aren’t they? (And I’ve never seen fresh porcini here, only dried.)

  • Ah! This reminds me of the only time I’ve had kidneys. I was at the Jacques Mélac bistrot à vins, and I saw “rognons de veau” on the menu. I didn’t know what “rognons” were; my French doesn’t extend to all organs. When I asked the waiter, he said that it was located “presque les pancréas”. I knew it wasn’t liver nor stomach nor intestines but obviously I didn’t think too much more and figured – well, veal is always good.

    Ah, when it came out. I mean, what OTHER organs are around the pancreas? I took anatomy once, for crying out loud.

    Not my cup of tea, although they were good. Sweetbreads remain my favorite.

  • So I’m definitely that squeamish type you described, but yet I still read until the end :)

  • This just sounds wonderful: it’s hard to find offal here in the US as a regular restaurant item, so we usually have to wait for visits to Europe. I think you’ve inspired me to try this at home.

  • Rognons et ris de veau, il faut que je me lance un jour ou l’autre!

  • marvelous!! I just made sheep testicles from a lamb I slaughtered here in Limousin… everyone told me not to do it… but I couldn’t resist the challenge… seems mustard is perfect for these odd animal parts!!!

  • Claudi

    Hi Clotilde,
    in Germany there’s a whole lot of recipes for offal. My boyfriend’s family, for example, always has duck for Christmas and all the innards accompany the fowl. There I first tried stomach and it’s tasty and tender. Usually they all fight over the innards…
    And my mum just loves “Saure Nierchen” (Sour Kidneys) which is awesome. The kidney (usually pig) is put into either water, vinegar, wine or milk for at least an hour. Then it is cleaned and cut. You fry it in butter with onions for a couple of minutes powder it with flour, let it brown a bit and add water or stock(~1/2 litre) and vinegar to taste. Then, the most important thing: cream and a bit of sour cream or crème fraîche. Salt and pepper are added, thyme or parsley.You can also add a bit of sherry, mustard, red wine, whatever. Almost every family has a recipe like this: total comfort food especially with home made mashed potatoes. Yumm!!

  • Excellent, and I believe very healthy. Of course, I can’t resist adding red onions!

  • Well, I’ll just have to take your word for all of this…innards, *sighing*…just don’t think so. I want desperately to be sophisticated food-wise, but kidney..the photo is nice…lol!

  • K

    I’ve never met a kidney that I like, and I’ve met many, but I’d be willing to try them all over again in the recipe you’ve posted. But cooking kidneys at home… Well, I suppose I can try anything once. :)

  • Many years ago, when I was more energetic, I used to make steak and kidney pie for the husband. He loved it but it was hard preparing the kidneys as the cats kept trying to fish pieces out of the pan. The ABSOLUTE favorite food of most felines.

  • This recipe looks just like a dish my husband and I had in Paris about ten years ago. We were at a restaurant and “rognons de veau” was one of the specials. Being fluent in French (a decade earlier, mind you), I clapped my hands in delight and said, “oh, how lovely . . . medallions of veal in a mushroom sauce” and convinced my husband to order it.

    When it came–in a cute little cassoulet–it looked like a pot chock full of button mushrooms. The sauce smelled great, and my husband was happy there were so many mushrooms, but after poking around a bit he asked, “where’s the actual veal?” Just as he was asking, I realized the mushrooms looked a bit mishapen . . . and then my French came back to me. Woops. Rognons=kidneys. Good thing it was my husband who ordered it ;-).

  • Celia

    Hi Clotilde,

    Your blog inspired me to start my own food blog in upstate New York. Check it out: I post recipes and restaurant reviews and have some good book recommendations and great links. I also wanted to let you know that I have a great recipe that uses pomegranate molasses. It is a Turkish recipe from Food and Wine Magazine: Eggplant and Lentil Stew with Pomegranate Molasses.

  • Brilliant! Can’t wait to try this … Mum used to cook a sort of kidney ragout for us when we were children – onion, tomato, mushrooms… but I love the idea of some fancier mushrooms with them.

  • KatyBelle

    Clothilde, I was wondering, could you use lamb kidneys instead of the beef ones?

  • Richard

    I`m trying to cook kidney`s like my great G Mother. do you cook foor along time to get tender? And what season`s? Thanks. RRG

  • eli

    Hi clotilde, in my hometown of San Antonio, Texas, we traditionally serve dishes such as “langua” wich is cow tounge in spanish and “menudo” wich is the stomach lining of a cow. both dishes are very satisfying

  • Olga L.

    Thank you for the detailed and easy-to use description, I made it today. Loved it!
    The only difference – I used portobello (fresh) mushrooms. My great-grandma and mom used to make kidneys, something simpler, but still great-tasting. But it’s been long time since I myself cooked them.

    • I’m so pleased, Olga, thanks for reporting back!

  • Emelie W

    Thankyou for this easy and delicious recipe! I’ve made it twice now and both my husband and toddler love it (despite cries of “What’s that smell?!” ” Is it rotten?” during the cooking process) The last time, I added sliced jicama for a little extra sweetness and crunch.

    • I’m delighted to hear it, thanks for reporting back! It’s true you have to brace yourself for the smell, but it’s worth it in the end. :)

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