Duck fat is not as widely used as it used to be, probably due to refined oils’ rise in popularity and affordability. And it is a shame! Duck fat has a unique flavor that works in synergy with so many delicious dishes, like gravy, french fries or anything potato!
However, it can be expensive, hard to come by, and it is animal-based, so there are many reasons you might need a substitute. So, here are the best ones!
- Chicken fat/schmaltz
- Macadamia oil
- Refined coconut oil
Best All-Around Substitute For Duck Fat: Chicken Fat/Schmaltz
Schmaltz, also known as chicken fat, is arguably the most fitting replacement for duck fat, offering a comparable taste and depth of flavor for a variety of culinary purposes. The rich, creamy texture of chicken fat and its nutty, buttery taste makes it an excellent choice for many of the same dishes.
Schmaltz is important in Jewish cuisine, used for traditional dishes like latkes and matzo ball soup. One of the most notable dishes to prepare with schmaltz is the traditional Jewish chicken soup, often humorously called ‘Jewish penicillin.’ This dish involves cooking matzo balls in a savory broth made from chicken fat and vegetables.
Best Raw Cooking Substitute For Duck Fat: Macadamia Oil
Duck fat is not used for raw cooking because it is usually solid at room temperature. So, if you are looking for an oil that comes in liquid form to use in raw dishes, then macadamia oil is a great one.
It has a rich buttery flavor and the mouthfeel kind of mimics animal fat. In my opinion, it lingers a bit longer in the mouth than other plant-based oils.
Best Duck Fat Substitute for Regular Cooking: Chicken Fat/Schmaltz
Schmaltz exhibits a velvety, creamy consistency when kept at room temperature and turns into a delightful golden liquid upon heating, making it an excellent choice for cooking at standard heat levels.
Incorporate schmaltz into your go-to recipes to introduce a distinctive richness of flavor. Consider using it for crumbly pie crusts, heartwarming soups and stews, or for roasting chicken and potatoes. Surprisingly, it also works wonders in fried rice.
Best Duck Fat Substitute for High-Heat Cooking: Ghee
If you need something that will hold up under high temperatures, I recommend ghee (clarified butter), as it has a high smoke point and can withstand high heat. The smoke point of duck fat is 375 degrees compared to 480 degrees for ghee.
While ghee’s flavour is slightly different from that of duck fat, it can still add richness to dishes, which is probably why Indian cuisine tastes so good.
Duck Fat Substitute that is Closest in Flavor: Chicken Fat/Schmaltz
One of the main reasons duck fat is highly regarded in the culinary world is its ability to enhance the taste and texture of food. Schmaltz is probably the next best thing, offering a similar flavor and richness for most of your cooking needs.
Considering its prominence in Jewish cooking, it is also often more widely available than duck fat, and that availability means it comes at a lower price!
Best Neutral Flavored Duck Fat Substitute: Lard or Shortening (Neutral Flavored)
Duck fat has a distinct flavor often described as rich, savory, and slightly nutty. It’s used in various cooking techniques, including sautéing, roasting, frying, and confit. You can also use lard in some cases, but the flavor won’t be nearly as rich.
Lard is used a lot in baking. It is made from rendered pork fat or leaf lard, and neutral varieties are available that have barely any flavor, making it perfect when you aren’t looking to enhance the taste of dishes.
Shortening is usually made with a mix of vegetable and animal fats, but the more widely available kinds are made with only vegetable oils and have no flavor. Vegetable shortening is usually widely available and easy to find in most supermarkets.
Best Budget-Friendly Duck Fat Substitute: Butter
Duck fat is deliciously expensive. One ounce can be between $1- $2! Chicken fat, by comparison, is only 10 cents to 50 cents per ounce. But let’s factor in accessibility. Both duck fat and chicken fat can be hard to find unless you are near a specialty supermarket. So, with butter being about 25 cents an ounce and available everywhere, it probably is the most budget-friendly alternative if you factor in gas prices and travel time.
However, if you do have a chicken fat supplier near you, then load up on that!
Best Healthy Duck Fat Oil Substitute: Macadamia Oil
Macadamia oil is like the butter of plant-based oils. Its flavor makes it an excellent plant-based alternative to anything that requires a rich mouthfeel and flavor without all the saturated fat and cholesterol.
Macadamia oil is a nutrient-rich source loaded with Vitamin E and beneficial, non-inflammatory fatty acids, including monounsaturated fats. It also has a lower saturated fat content than other cooking oils, making it a healthier option.
Best Keto/Paleo/Whole30 Duck Fat Substitute: Chicken Fat/Schmaltz
Duck fat can be suitable for various dietary needs. Those following special diets like the paleo or keto diet often favour it. It is also a suitable alternative for individuals who are lactose intolerant and cannot use butter in their cooking.
Chicken fat (schmaltz) is probably the best substitute for duck fat, offering a similar flavor and richness for most of your cooking needs. It is made similarly, just with different poultry, and is suitable for all three diets.
Best Plant-Based Duck Fat Substitute: Crisco or Refined Coconut Oil
Crisco or refined coconut oil are two plant-based alternatives you could use instead of duck fat. While Crisco has a very neutral flavor, it is made from hydrogenated vegetable oil, which some prefer to avoid.
Refined coconut oil, on the other hand, offers a very mild coconut flavor compared to its unrefined counterpart, though it is not paleo or Whole30 compliant. It makes a suitable substitute as it is solid at room temperature and can be used for similar applications as duck fat.
If neither option appeals to you, stick with the macadamia oil!
Duck fat is made by slowly heating and rendering the fat from duck skin. The process begins with a mixture of salt, seasonings, and shredded duck skin that is left to simmer at a low temperature until the fat has melted away from the proteins.
Duck fat has a unique flavor that comes from the duck’s natural fatty acids, which provide an intense and savory flavor.
Duck fat is best used for cooking and baking. It can be used to fry meats, add flavor to sauces, or even spread on toast as a delicious condiment! Duck fat is also great for roasting potatoes and vegetables, adding a rich and savory flavor.
Chefs like duck fat because it can be used in various recipes to add complex flavors or depth of flavor.