The symmetry breaking of protein distribution and cytoskeleton organization is an essential aspect for the development of apicobasal polarity. In embryonic cells this process is largely cell autonomous, while differentiated epithelial cells collectively polarize during epithelium formation. Here, we demonstrate that the de novo polarization of mature hepatocytes does not require the synchronized development of apical poles on neighbouring cells. De novo polarization at the single-cell level by mere contact with the extracellular matrix and immobilized cadherin defining a polarizing axis. The creation of these single-cell liver hemi-canaliculi allows unprecedented imaging resolution and control and over the lumenogenesis process. We show that the density and localization of cadherins along the initial cell–cell contact act as key triggers of the reorganization from lateral to apical actin cortex. The minimal cues necessary to trigger the polarization of hepatocytes enable them to develop asymmetric lumens with ectopic epithelial cells originating from the kidney, breast or colon.