Though it is not quite as common as many other types of cooking fats, lard has been used for centuries for cooking and baking purposes. Lard is 100% rendered pig fat, and while this might raise red flags for some people, it is a perfectly healthy source of fat.
To make lard, the fattiest parts of the pig, like the belly, butt, or shoulder, are cooked slowly so as to extract, or render, the fat. This fat melts into a liquid and is separated out from the rest of the pork solids, and when it cools, it hardens and turns opaque, giving you lard.
While you won’t find lard in quite so many modern recipes, it is a very common ingredient in old-fashioned recipes, such as pie crusts or roasted whole chickens.
However, people don’t usually have lard stocked in their kitchen, and making it, though relatively simple, can seem like a bit of a hassle. But there is no need to fret if a recipe that you are preparing calls for lard and you don’t have any, as there are a number of other cooking fats that you can use in place of lard with no problem.
Lard is a delicious cooking fat that provides a slightly smoky flavor, though it does not have an overwhelming pork taste. It is smooth and subtle, and results in delicious meats, vegetables, and even desserts. Another plus side of lard is that it has an incredibly long shelf life, as it can last for up to a year in the fridge.
Though it lost popularity in the 1950s due to its high fat content, lard is really no less healthy than any other cooking oil. In fact, lard contains no trans fat, which makes it a healthier option than hydrogenated fats. It also has less saturated fat and cholesterol than butter, and it contains the same beneficial monounsaturated fats that olive oil does.
Lard used to be a kitchen staple, and while it is not commonly found in today’s recipes, it can still be used in a number of ways in the kitchen. It has a relatively high smoke point, so it can be a great option for frying and roasting, but it can also create flakiness in a variety of baked goods.
Though lard is a great cooking fat, it may not be the best option for everyone. For one, it is not Kosher or Halal friendly, as it is made from pork, nor can it be consumed by vegetarians or vegans. Additionally, it may not be as readily available at your local supermarket as other cooking fats. Fortunately, there are a number of alternatives that you can use in place of lard without a problem.
So, without any further ado, here are the top 4 best substitutes for lard!
Butter is perhaps your best option when it comes to replacing lard. You’ll want to make sure that you use unsalted butter to best mimic the subtle flavor of lard, and butter is the ideal option when looking for a lard substitute in baked goods, as it also helps to create the flaky layers that the rendered pork fat is so often utilized for.
However, due to the fact that lard has a lower melting point than butter, it lends to more leavening and flakiness in baking. Nevertheless, butter is better than any other lard alternatives when preparing a pie crust or biscuits, as it creates airy and buttery layers.
It is important to note that you will need to use a little bit more butter when substituting for lard, so if a recipe calls for 1 cup of lard, you will need to use 1 ¼ cups butter.
2. Vegetable Shortening
If you’re looking for a vegan or vegetarian baking fat to substitute lard, vegetable shortening is your best bet. Thanks to the fact that, like lard, vegetable shortening is solid at room temperature, it is the ideal plant-based option for pie crusts or other baked goods that are appreciated for their flakiness.
Vegetable shortening has practically the same amount of fat as lard, and in fact practically replaced lard when it came onto the market in the 20th century. Vegetable shortening and lard can be swapped in almost equal amounts, but you will want to use slightly more shortening than the amount of lard that the recipe calls for.
While shortening helps to create flakiness like lard, it doesn’t provide the same rich flavor due to the fact that it is a plant-based and not animal-based product. Shortening also has a very high smoke point, so it is one of the best lard substitutes when it comes to frying.
3. Coconut Oil
Believe it or not, coconut oil can also be a perfectly suitable replacement for lard. It is another great alternative for vegans, vegetarians, and those who observe a Kosher or Halal diet. Like lard, it has a very high smoke point, so it is especially fit for frying or cooking at high temperatures.
Coconut oil will, of course, add a slightly sweet, coconut flavor to whatever you are preparing, but that could in fact be a very good thing, especially when making desserts, though it won’t create the same flakiness in baked goods that lard does.
Coconut oil can be substituted for lard in a 1-to-1 ratio. You should just keep in mind that coconut oil is incredibly high in saturated fat, as it has much more than lard and even more than butter, so it may not be the most appropriate alternative for people who are watching their cholesterol levels.
4. Olive Oil
Our last lard replacement is another plant-based option: olive oil. Olive oil and lard can be swapped in equal ratios, though olive oil is not an appropriate substitute for every occasion.
Olive oil has a relatively low smoke point, so it is not suitable for frying. When olive oil is overheated, it can form a number of potentially harmful compounds, so you will want to save it for recipes that don’t require high cooking temperatures.
Olive oil can also be used to replace lard in baked goods, though it should be noted that it will certainly add a distinct flavor, so it is not appropriate for all recipes. Surprisingly, though, olive oil pairs very well with chocolate, so it could certainly replace lard in chocolate cake or cookies.
Nevertheless, olive oil is one of the healthiest oils around, as it is packed with antioxidants and healthy fats. If you are watching your saturated fat intake, olive oil is perhaps the best lard replacement for you.
Your particular situation and needs will determine which cooking fat is most appropriate for substituting lard. In most baking situations, you will want to turn to butter, as it will help to create the flaky layers in biscuits and pie crusts that lard is so coveted for.
However, when it comes to frying, vegetable shortening and coconut oil are better options thanks to their higher smoke points. And for those watching their weight or cholesterol, olive oil is perhaps the healthiest lard substitute that you can find.
Vegetable shortening, coconut oil, and olive oil are all appropriate replacements for those who are avoiding animal products or who observe a Kosher or Halal diet. Just keep in mind that coconut oil and olive oil will each provide their distinct respective flavors, so if you are looking for a plant-based cooking fat with a more neutral taste, you should turn to vegetable shortening.