9 (Healthier) Substitutes for Lard
In the world of baking, lard is a magical substance that makes for super flaky, rich, tender, and flavorful baked goods.
In its most simple form, lard is made from slowly rendered pork fat that is cooked at a very low heat and then strained thoroughly so that it is smooth and free from impurities. It is then chilled and cut into blocks.
In its solid form, lard resembles butter and stays firm at room temperature, and can be quite hard when it is chilled. When heated, lard becomes a pale yellowish liquid.
Lard is known for making pasties rich and tender because of its very high-fat content. This means that it is especially good for making puff pasties, pie doughs, doughnuts, cookies, or any pastry that is fried. Lard is much more common in Europe, especially Central and Eastern Europe, than in North America but has its place in many classic recipes from all over the world.
It is also traditionally used in thin breads like tortillas and tamales because it is readily available and cheap – it is often a byproduct of cooking so many households have lard already available. Lard has a subtle meaty flavor that goes great with savory recipes and is the premium choice for professional chefs for its richness and velvety texture.
Lard has downsides too. Because it is made from pork, lard is unsuitable for many religious people, including Jewish folks. When baking or cooking with lard, it also means that anyone following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle is left out.
Lard is also very high in fat, particularly saturated fat, because it is sourced from animal protein, so it is not recommended for those with heart problems or other health concerns. For these reasons, we’ve compiled a list of lard alternatives – some of them are healthier options for lard, and some of them are just as decadent.
Either way, any of these substitutes for lard will work well, but please take note of the recipe conversion notes provided; these ingredients will have different fat contents and therefore yield different results.
Whether you cannot have lard for medical, religious, cultural, or health reasons, here are nine great ways to substitute lard in your baking or cooking recipes!
Butter is probably the number one choice for a lard substitute by professional chefs and pastry chefs because it is very similar in fat content (slightly lower) and in texture, especially if your recipe calls for chilled lard or butter.
Because butter’s fat content is slightly lower than lard, you will need to use a ratio of 5:4 butter to lard in any recipe.
Butter is technically vegetarian but as it does contains dairy, recipes cooked with butter are unsuitable for vegans or those with a dairy allergy, so butter might not be the best alternative depending on who you are cooking for.
However, butter does make a great substitute for lard in most pastry recipes, including savory and sweet applications. When shopping for butter, check the labels to see if you are buying salted or unsalted as you may want to choose unsalted if you are baking something sweet!
2. Beef Tallow
This is another great substitute for lard that acts very similar in its solid (chilled) or liquid form! Beef tallow is often used to substitute lard in savory cooking, but not often in baked goods (unless it is strictly savory and/or meat-based!) because tallow is made from rendered beef and marrow, meaning it has a robust, meaty, rich flavor.
Tallow should be strained repeatedly and it is a good idea to chill and remove the layer of fat from the top, otherwise, tallow can be greasy and have an oily mouth-feel.
Tallow is not suitable for vegetarians, vegans, or cultures that do not consume beef.
3. Vegetable Shortening
Shortening such as Crisco brand vegetable shortening comes in pure white or pale yellow (unrefined) and is an excellent option for a lard alternative in all baking applications.
You can substitute shortening for lard at a 1:1 ratio and it will not impact your recipe much. The flavor might be slightly less rich, but overall, these two products act very similar and have almost identical fat content.
Shortening is neutral in flavor so it actually isn’t a great substitute for savory cooking, but in baked goods, especially sweets, shortening is the best lard alternative!
The best of both worlds – margarine is a cross between butter and shortening in that it is dairy-free/vegan, but it also gets firm when chilled because of its high-fat content. Margarine is also neutral in flavor and can be used 1:1 in sweet or savory baked goods!
5. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is a miracle fat that actually lowers cholesterol! It’s true! Coconut oil, when cooked at a lower temperature, can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
For this reason, coconut oil can be used in place of lard to make your recipes more healthy! When chilled, coconut oil will be solid, like lard. The downside of coconut oil is that it can have a strong flavor and will burn if cooked at high temperatures so keep this in mind!
6. Bacon Grease
Another tasty alternative for lard is bacon grease… which is basically the same thing, but bacon grease will be much saltier and can be cooked at a very high temperature.
Along with added salt, bacon grease will also have a cured or smokey flavor, which, depending on what you’re baking, could make or break your recipe! Give it a try next time you’re cooking bacon – save some of that grease and use it in place or lard or butter!
7. Mashed Avocado
You might be thinking… How much could rendered pork fat and an avocado have in common? Well… they’re both surprisingly high in fat!
Avocado has the highest fat content of any plant-based food and for this reason, can be used in baked goods to give a nice, creamy richness.
Avocados are also very healthy meaning you’ll also be adding fiber and nutrients. Mashed avocados are completely plant-based making them a good vegan substitute for lard.
The only downside to avocados is that they can be very expensive and they will of course make your baked goods slightly green or discolored, so take this into consideration.
8. Olive Oil
Olive oil is another healthy fat that will work in place of lard because it gets firm when chilled. However, olive oil will burn if cooked at a high temperature, and will also impart its signature olive flavor to whatever you’re cooking.
Use olive oil as a 1:1 ratio for lard, or use half olive oil and half neutral-tasting oil like avocado or canola.
9. Mashed Banana
Bananas, while not high in fat, do make a good lard substitute in baked goods because they firm up while baking and add a certain richness.
Mashed banana should be used as a 1:2 ratio to lard (½ cup banana for every 1 cup of lard) and should only be used for sweet recipes like cookies or loaves!
Lard is a wonderful, magical ingredient treasured for its richness and flavor, but it’s not suitable for everyone, so take caution if you decide to cook with it. If you’re unsure, use any one of these excellent alternatives without missing out on any of the flavor or texture that lard offers to your favorite baked goods!