Lard is one of those old-school cooking staples. Not nearly as popular as it once was, probably due to all the alternatives now available, lard used to be a primary cooking fat for many cultures. Lard can impart a unique flavor to food and is used in dishes such as tamales and flaky savory pastries.
But if you’re looking for a healthier option or just something different, here are the five best substitutes for lard that will work in most of the same recipes:
- Animal-based shortening
- Avocado Oil (not for making pastry)
- Shortening + bacon grease
- Vegetable-based shortening/Crisco
Best All-Around Substitute For Lard: Shortening
Animal-based shortening is an excellent substitute for lard due to its similar greasy, solid consistency. Animal-based shortening is typically derived from a blend of edible animal fats, and vegetable shortening is derived from vegetable oils, such as soybean and cottonseed. Both will vary in their ingredient list depending on the brand.
Animal shortening is slightly more solid than lard due to its higher percentage of saturated fat. It provides a more consistent texture than lard for use in various primarily savory recipes. Vegetable shortening would be the more appropriate choice for sweet pastries as it doesn’t have that animal flavor. Shortening is also more shelf stable than lard!
Best Raw Cooking Substitute For Lard: Avocado Oil
Avocado oil is a good raw cooking substitute for lard. ( if you find a raw recipe calling for lard, which is unusual.) It has a mild buttery flavor and is thicker than other liquid oils, with a fattier mouthfeel. It works well in raw dishes such as salads, dressings, and dips, but as it is liquid and not solid, you can’t use it like lard to make pastry.
Best Lard Substitute for Regular Cooking: Shortening
Animal shortening is the best substitute for lard in regular cooking that requires standard heat (not raw or high-heat cooking). This is because it works the same way as lard, has a similar taste and mouthfeel, and can be swapped at 1:1. Just be aware that most brands of shortening and lard are not suitable for high smoke points that may change the flavor.
Best Lard Substitute for High-Heat Cooking: Ghee
While shortening and lard can withstand some heat, ghee can withstand more. The smoke point of ghee is about 100 degrees Fahrenheit higher than most lards, at 480 degrees, while the smoke point of lard is 375, and the smoke point of its closest substitute, shortening, is around 360.
This makes ghee suitable for higher-heat cooking that cannot be done with lard or shortening, such as flash-frying and stir-frying. Ghee has a subtle flavor that will not overpower the taste of your food.
Lard Substitute that is Closest in Flavor: Shortening Plus Bacon Grease
While some lards claim to be relatively flavor-free, most taste meaty to me; I can definitely tell it has come from pork fat. So, the closest flavor is shortening mixed with a bit of bacon grease!
On the odd occasion, when I fry bacon, I pour the grease from the pan into a jar. This is kept in the fridge, and when I want to give things a porky and smoky flavor, I’ll add a dollop of the bacon grease to whatever I’m cooking.
When mixing it with shortening, I would add about ¼ of a tablespoon of bacon grease for every tablespoon of shortening used, just for flavor.
Best Neutral-Flavored Lard Substitute: Vegetable Shortening
Vegetable shortening, or Crisco, is the most neutral-flavored alternative to lard. Crisco is made with hydrogenated vegetable oil and is an all-purpose cooking fat that can be used as a lard substitute in many recipes like pie crusts, biscuits, and cakes, without imparting any flavor like lard might. Perfect for sweet recipes.
Hydrogenated vegetable oil is when hydrogen atoms are added to a liquid oil. The result is a semi-solid, white-colored fat that has little flavor and does not need to be refrigerated.
Best Budget-Friendly Lard Substitute: Vegetable Shortening
Vegetable shortening is the cheapest lard alternative. It is made from vegetable oils, such as soybean and canola, which are very affordable to produce en masse compared to the more expensive animal-based lard and shortening.
Best Healthy Lard Substitute: Avocado Oil
Avocado oil is the healthiest substitute for lard, though it cannot be used to make pastry very well as it isn’t solid at room temperature. Avocado oil is nutrient-dense, providing high levels of healthy fats, plus vitamin E, potassium, and other minerals.
Best Keto/Paleo/Whole30 Lard Substitute: Avocado Oil
Avocado oil is also suitable for the keto, paleo, and whole 30 diets, just like lard. It comes cold pressed from the avocado fruit, is grain, seed, and legume-free, and has zero carbohydrates.
Vegetable shortening or Crisco would not be suitable for these diets as it is highly processed and may contain things like soybean oil (its ingredients vary from brand to brand).
Best Plant-Based Lard Substitute: Vegetable Shortening/Crisco
If you simply want your lard substitute to be vegetable-based, then vegetable shortening/Crisco is your best alternative. Being animal fat-free means it won’t have the same flavor as lard, but nothing you can’t make up for with the right seasoning. Plus, Crisco is better for sweets as it doesn’t contain any pork flavor.
Yes, you can substitute lard with coconut oil; just be aware that it will not taste the same and will melt at a lower temperature. Coconut oil is not quite as stable at room temperature, so you would have to work with it differently (usually much faster!)
In some countries, lard has been continuously used, but in the USA in the 50s and 60s, lard was replaced by vegetable shortening as a cheaper alternative that did not contain saturated animal fat. At the time, saturated animal fat was considered an unhealthy food, and hence why, many people stopped using it. Now, it isn’t as widely available as other options and is more of a specialty item.
Lard is definitely not the demon people once thought it was. It is actually high in monounsaturated fat, and it has less saturated fat than butter. Should you be eating lots of it? No, but you could say the same about lots of things.
For a healthy individual, lard is healthy in moderate amounts.