Beef tallow used to be one of the most common cooking fats years ago, and with good reason, as it gives food a rich, savory flavor. Still, it’s no longer a popular choice due to its high saturated fat content and subsequent health concerns, causing a boom in vegetable oil-based cooking alternatives.
However, now and then, you will come across a recipe listing beef tallow as an ingredient, and you may wonder what on earth you can substitute it with. Luckily, there are options. From plant-based alternatives to other animal fats, here are our 5 best beef tallow substitutes for any situation!
Best All-Around Substitute For Beef Tallow: Lard And Shmaltz.
Lard is an excellent substitute for beef tallow. Usually, it is made with rendered pig fat, but it can also be made from other animal fats. It has a similar consistency and flavor to beef tallow, making it a great alternative for cooking.
Schmaltz is another good substitute for beef tallow. It’s a type of rendered chicken fat popular in Jewish cooking. It has a mild flavor and can be used in any dish where beef tallow is typically used.
Both alternatives can be used the same way; the difference is that one has a mildly porky flavor, and one has a mild chicken flavor, whereas beef tallow is decidedly beefy. Think of it like using a chicken stock cube in a recipe that calls for a beef one…. it’s still going to add flavor, it’ll just be a little different!
Best Raw Cooking Substitute For Beef Tallow: Macadamia Oil
It was hard to pick a raw substitute for beef tallow, as it is not an ingredient used for raw cooking because it is usually solid at room temperature. However, if I had to choose something, it would be macadamia oil. Nothing really tastes like beef tallow, but the fat in macadamia oil has a substantial mouthfeel that most closely mimics the mouthfeel of animal fat, so that would be my go-to!
Best Beef Tallow Substitute for Regular Cooking: Lard And Shmaltz
Both lard and schmaltz are suitable for cooking at normal heat temperatures, but not high heat as the smoke point isn’t high enough, and they burn. They both bring a deep flavor and heartiness that can’t be replaced by anything I’ve found yet on the vegan spectrum.
Lard is good in dishes such as gravy, pastry, and stews, while schmaltz brings depth to all types of cooking, especially with roasting vegetables and potatoes.
Best Beef Tallow Substitute for High-Heat Cooking: Ghee
If your recipe requires a blast of heat, then it’s better to be safe than sorry with the animal fats (they will smoke out your kitchen and catch on fire, I speak from unfortunate experience) and go with the closest high-heat alternative, ghee.
Ghee has a smoke point of around 480 degrees, higher than lard and schmaltz, so you can fry with it, but the flavor won’t be anything like beef fat. I find that ghee is best used in recipes that require the nutty flavor it brings, such as curries and other stews.
Beef Tallow Substitute that is Closest in Flavor: Lard
There is not really a closely flavored substitute for beef tallow, so between lard and chicken schmaltz, I would say lard is slightly closer in flavor (pork tastes more like beef than chicken, in my opinion!)
Another alternative might be an animal shortening containing some beef fat, though I think that would be even harder to find than beef tallow.
Best Neutral-Flavored Beef Tallow Substitute: Shortening
Shortening is the best neutral-flavored beef tallow substitute. Like beef tallow, it is not a liquid at room temperature, though it is more solid than fat. You can find shortening made with a mix of vegetable and animal fats, but the more widely available kinds these days are made with only vegetable oils and have no flavor.
Best Budget-Friendly Beef Tallow Substitute: Shortening
Shortening, particularly vegetable shortening, is cheap as it is made with hydrogenated vegetable oils. If you are buying it from the supermarket, it will cost less than beef tallow, though do keep in mind that beef tallow can be a cheap and simple thing to make yourself at home if you are game! It is a simple process of melting down beef fat and straining it into a container.
Best Healthy Beef Tallow Substitute: Refined Coconut Oil
If you are looking for a healthier or plant-based alternative to beef tallow, try coconut oil. Unrefined coconut oil will taste like coconut, so if you don’t want that flavor, the refined version is much more subtle.
Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, like beef tallow is, and is full of healthy fatty acids like lauric acid, which helps reduce inflammation and supports a healthy immune system. Plus, coconut oil is widely available and pretty affordable.
Best Keto/Paleo/Whole30 Beef Tallow Substitute: Lard
Lard is keto-friendly, paleo-friendly, and Whole30-friendly. This is because lard is made from pork fat and is usually not highly refined and processed like shortening. If you are following any of the above three diets and want a plant-based alternative, then unrefined coconut oil is suitable, but the flavor will make its way into your dishes, so make sure you are okay with that!
Best Plant-Based Lard Alternative: Refined Coconut Oil
Refined coconut oil is probably the best plant-based alternative to lard. It is one of the few solid at room temperature, so it can be used for pastry making. You could also go with a vegetable-based shortening, though some prefer to avoid hydrogenated oils.
Beef tallow can be used for many things, from the kitchen to other applications, such as greasing rifles! Typical uses include making french fries and pastries, and many people use it or lard to grease their cast iron.
Yes, you can, though I honestly do not recommend it. I find it really heavy and more likely to clog pores and cause breakouts than using a lighter oil. That being said, if you have very dry skin and need some moisture, it may be worth a try. It’s really best to do a patch test first, though!