What Do Kidneys Taste Like? (Beef, Lamb, Pork)

Kidneys, those humble organ meats often relegated to the shadows of their more famous siblings – the liver and heart.

While they might not have the same widespread appeal as some other organ meats, they hold their own when it comes to delivering a punch of flavor.

But here’s the thing – the taste of kidneys isn’t just about the organ itself. The key to unlocking the true potential of kidneys lies in proper preparation and cleaning.

This crucial step can significantly tone down any unwanted flavors, such as a urine-like or overly gamey taste, and bring out the organ’s inherent richness.

So, if you’ve been hesitant about trying kidneys because of their reputation, it’s time to reconsider.

In this guide, we’ll discuss their taste, texture and kidneys can transform from an overlooked offal to the star of your meal with the right preparation.

How Do Kidneys Taste?

The taste of kidneys is a culinary adventure, marked by a robust, meaty flavor with a hint of earthiness. There’s a slight gamey undertone, and depending on the animal and preparation, you might detect a hint of sweetness or a touch of bitterness.

What Do Kidneys Taste Like

Kidneys, whether they’re from a lamb, a cow, or a pig, have a taste that’s quite distinct. They’re meaty, but there’s more to them than that.

Their flavor has an earthiness, a richness that’s hard to compare to anything else. Some folks even describe the taste as slightly metallic, a characteristic often associated with organ meats.

The texture of kidneys is another aspect that sets them apart. When cooked right, they’re tender and slightly creamy, a real treat for the palate.

And the smell? It’s as unique as the taste-rich, inviting, and unmistakably kidney.

stir-fried kidney

But here’s the thing about kidneys their taste can vary. A lot depends on the animal they come from and how they’re prepared.

Lamb kidneys, for instance, are often described as milder and sweeter than their beef counterparts.

And the way you cook them can make a world of difference too. A quick sauté might highlight their inherent flavor, while a slow braise could mellow it down.

What Does Kidney Compare With?

Kidneys have a flavor profile that’s quite unique, but if you’re looking for a comparison, here are a few foods that come somewhat close:

  • Liver: Both kidneys and liver are organ meats and share a certain depth of flavor. However, liver tends to be smoother and creamier, while kidneys have a firmer texture.
  • Game meats: The gamey flavor of kidneys can be compared to that of wild game meats like venison or rabbit. These meats also have a robust, earthy flavor that’s quite distinct.
  • Mushrooms: This might seem like an odd comparison, but the earthy, umami flavor of mushrooms, particularly wild varieties like morels or porcini, can be somewhat similar to the taste of kidneys.
  • Dark meat poultry: The rich, meaty flavor of kidneys can be somewhat compared to the dark meat of chicken or turkey, although kidneys have a stronger, more distinct taste.

Remember, these comparisons aren’t exact, but they might give you a rough idea of what to expect when you taste kidneys for the first time.

Do Kidneys Taste Good?

Some folks can’t get enough of it, while others don’t care for it at all. It’s all a matter of personal preference.

Kidneys do have a strong flavor that some people find off-putting. They’re gamey and have a certain metallic undertone that’s characteristic of organ meats. If you’re not a fan of these flavors, kidneys might not be for you.

And then there’s the texture. Cooked right, kidneys are tender and slightly creamy. But they can be tough and chewy if they’re not prepared properly. So, a lot depends on the cooking method.

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room – the urine-like smell or taste that kidneys can sometimes have. This is a natural characteristic of kidneys, given their function in the body.

But don’t let this deter you. Proper cleaning and preparation can significantly reduce this smell, leaving you with just the rich, meaty flavor of the kidneys.

How To Make Kidneys Taste Good

Making kidneys taste good is all about preparation. Here are some tips to help you turn this humble organ meat into a culinary delight:

  • Clean them properly: Kidneys have a membrane that can be tough and chewy. Make sure to remove it before cooking. Also, kidneys have a core of fat and tubes that should be cut out.
  • Soak them: Soaking kidneys in milk or acidulated water (water with a bit of vinegar or lemon juice) can help mellow their strong flavor. A good soak for a few hours or overnight in the fridge can make a world of difference.
  • Don’t overcook them: Kidneys can become tough and rubbery if overcooked. They’re best cooked quickly over high heat. A quick sauté or grilling are great methods.
  • Use flavorful ingredients: Kidneys can stand up to strong flavors. Don’t be shy with the herbs, spices, and sauces. Ingredients like garlic, onions, mustard, and red wine can beautifully complement the kidneys’ flavor.
  • Try classic recipes: For a reason, dishes like steak and kidney pie or deviled kidneys are classic. They use kidneys in a way that highlights their unique flavor while balancing it with other ingredients.

How To Eat Kidneys

Kidneys are versatile ingredients that can be prepared in a variety of ways. Here are a few popular methods of preparation that highlight their unique flavor and texture.

Kidney Pie

steak and kidney pie

Steak and kidney pie is a classic British dish that’s loved for its hearty, comforting flavors. The kidneys are cooked with chunks of steak, onions, and a rich gravy, then baked under a layer of flaky pastry.

The kidneys add a depth of flavor to the pie that’s hard to resist. It’s a dish that’s perfect served with a side of mashed potatoes and a pint of ale.

Sauteed Kidneys

sauteed kidneys with onions

One simplest and most delicious way to enjoy kidneys is to sauté them. After cleaning and slicing the kidneys, they’re quickly cooked in a hot pan with a bit of butter or oil. The high heat seals in the juices and gives the kidneys a nice brown crust.

They’re often served with a sauce made from pan drippings, a splash of wine, and a dollop of mustard. The result is a rich, flavorful, and utterly satisfying dish.

Deviled Kidneys

deviled lamb kidneys

Deviled kidneys are a bit of a throwback, but they’re making a comeback in gastropubs and home kitchens alike.

The kidneys are cooked in a spicy, tangy sauce (hence the “deviled” part), often made with mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and cayenne pepper.

The strong flavors of the sauce pair beautifully with the robust taste of the kidneys. Served on toast, deviled kidneys make a deliciously different breakfast or brunch.

Grilled Kidneys

If you’re a fan of grilled meats, why not try kidneys on the barbecue? Lamb kidneys are particularly good for grilling.

They’re usually marinated first to tenderize them and add flavor, then skewered and cooked over hot coals. They’re great served with a simple salad and a squeeze of lemon.

What Do Kidneys Look Like?

In their raw form, kidneys are a deep, rich red color. They’re shaped a bit like a bean!

what raw kidneys look like
Whole Raw Beef Kidneys

They’re usually about the size of a fist, although this can vary depending on the animal they come from.

Lamb kidneys, for instance, are smaller than beef kidneys.

One of the most notable features of a kidney is the layer of fat that surrounds it. This fat is often a creamy white color and can be quite thick, especially in beef kidneys.

what raw kidneys look like sliced
Sliced Raw Lamb Kidneys

Inside, you’ll find a core of tubes and fatty tissue, which should be removed before cooking.

When it comes to texture, raw kidneys are firm but not hard. They have a bit of a spring to them when you press them with your finger. The surface is smooth and slightly shiny.

Once cooked, kidneys darken in color, becoming a rich brown. They can develop a nice, brown crust if they’re cooked quickly over high heat.

Different Types Of Kidneys

There are several types of kidneys you might come across in the culinary world, each with its own unique flavor profile:

  • Lamb Kidneys: These are often considered the most delicate in flavor and are prized for their tenderness. They’re smaller than other types of kidneys and have a sweet, mild taste that’s less gamey than other varieties.
  • Beef Kidneys: These are larger and have a stronger, more robust flavor. They’re often used in traditional dishes like steak and kidney pie. The taste can be quite rich and gamey, and they have a firm texture.
  • Pork Kidneys: These are somewhere in between lamb and beef kidneys in terms of flavor. They’re not as mild as lamb kidneys but not as strong as beef kidneys. They have a slightly sweet, meaty flavor.
  • Veal Kidneys: These are considered a delicacy in many cuisines. They’re very tender and have a mild, sweet flavor. They’re often served in high-end restaurants and are usually more expensive than other types of kidneys.

Kidney FAQs

What is the best way to cook kidneys?

Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this one. The best way to cook kidneys really depends on your personal taste. Some folks swear by a quick sauté in a hot pan, while others prefer a slow braise to really bring out the flavor. And then there are those who love a good grilled kidney. The key is to experiment and find the method that suits you best.

How do you get the taste out of kidneys?

One of the most common methods is to soak the kidneys in milk or acidulated water for a few hours or overnight. Also, make sure to remove the membrane and the core of fat and tubes before cooking, as these can contribute to the strong taste.

Are kidneys good to eat?

Absolutely! Not only do kidneys have a unique, robust flavor, but they’re also packed with nutrients.

What do lamb kidneys taste like compared to beef kidneys?

Lamb kidneys are generally milder and sweeter than beef kidneys. They’re less gamey and have a more delicate flavor, which makes them a good choice for those trying kidneys for the first time. On the other hand, beef kidneys have a stronger, more robust flavor and a firmer texture.

About Justin Micheal

Hey, I’m Justin and the home cook behind Food Meets Flavor. I have a passion for cooking and making food delicious. So, I started this blog to help others understand what different types of food taste like and how to make everyday meals taste even better.