I’ve personally tried and tested a range of different substitutes for bacon grease to find the best one, whatever your reason for avoiding bacon grease is and whatever dish you’re cooking.
Here’s the quick answer.
The best substitutes for bacon grease are chicken or duck fat. Butter and lard also work, but you’ll need to add extra flavor with something like smoked paprika or chipotle. For vegetarian and vegan bacon grease substitutes, try olive oil or vegetable shortening. If you want something with more flavor, try sesame oil.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
Bacon grease (also known as bacon drippings or bacon fat) is a versatile ingredient in the kitchen that can be used in frying, as a seasoning , and even in baking.
I was looking for substitutes that could replace the smokey flavor of bacon (this is pretty hard!), while also working in a range of different dishes.
Here’s what I tested and the results:
|Butter||sub in a 1:1 ratio, add extra flavouring to taste||9/10|
|Lard||sub in a 1:1 ratio, add extra flavouring to taste||8/10|
|Duck fat||sub in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Chicken fat (schmaltz)||sub in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Olive oil||sub in a 1:1 ratio, add extra flavouring to taste||8/10|
|Tallow||sub in a 1:1 ratio, add extra flavouring to taste||7/10|
|Sesame oil||sub in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
|Bacon||1 tsp bacon grease = 1 slice of bacon||10/10|
|Ghee||sub in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Vegetable shortening||sub in a 1:1 ratio, add extra flavouring to taste||8/10|
|Coconut oil||sub in a 1:1 ratio||6/10|
|Other oil (peanut oil, avocado oil)||sub in a 1:1 ratio, add extra flavouring to taste||6/10|
Common dishes that use bacon grease and their substitutes
Here are some common uses for bacon grease and the best substitutes for those situations:
- Frying or sauteing: chicken fat, duck fat, butter
- Roasting: duck fat, lard, olive oil
- In soups, stews, and sauces: bacon, ghee, chicken fat
- In baking: lard, butter, vegetable shortening
- For popcorn: chicken fat, duck fat, butter
Butter is a widely available substitute option for bacon grease. It offers a similar richness to bacon grease, albeit without the smoky notes. And if you’re using unsalted butter, you’ll need some extra salt to taste.
For dishes that rely heavily on the distinct flavor of bacon grease, such as Southern-style collard greens or cornbread, consider incorporating something like smoked paprika into your butter to better replicate that bacon-y goodness.
Butter also has a lower smoke point than bacon grease, which means it is more susceptible to burning… in other words don’t go crazy with the heat!
And if you’re using it in baking, keep in mind that butter has more moisture than bacon grease, which may impact the final texture of your dish.
How to use: butter can be substituted for bacon grease in most dishes at a 1:1 ratio.
Lard is made from pork, so it has a very similar underlying flavor to bacon grease. Although it’s much milder and won’t bring anywhere near as much depth to your dish as bacon grease does.
There are different types of lard with different levels of porkiness. Leaf lard and processed lard both have a very neutral taste. Rendered lard doesn’t go through any extra processing, so it can have a lingering porky taste, but it won’t be strong.
If you don’t mind the missing smokiness, lard has a high smoke point so it’s a great substitute for high temperature frying.
How to use: lard works great for frying and baking and you can sub it for bacon grease in a 1:1 ratio.
Duck fat can be a great substitute for bacon grease in cooking, particularly in recipes where you want to infuse a meaty flavor. It’s rich, with hints of sweetness and nuttiness.
But be aware its taste is more subtle and delicate compared to the robust bacon grease, so it’s best used in dishes where the rest of the ingredients aren’t too overpowering.
It’s perfect for roast potatoes.
Bonus: duck fat is a slightly healthier option due to its higher proportion of unsaturated fats. It’s more comparable to olive oil in its composition than bacon grease.
Psst… I also have a great article on duck fat substitutes
How to use: duck fat is a great replacement for bacon grease in most applications and you can sub in it a 1:1 ratio.
Chicken fat (schmaltz)
Chicken fat is similar to duck fat, although I think it has a more distinct flavor. When you taste it you can instantly tell it’s chicken.
It’s still a lot milder than bacon grease though.
A big benefit of using chicken fat as a substitute for bacon grease is that it’s super easy to make yourself at home.
Next time you have a roast chicken, save the skin (I know it’s hard not to eat it – but trust me, the chicken fat will be worth it).
Put the skin in a large skillet and heat it over a medium flame until the fat has melted out and the skin is crisp and browned. Strain the fat into a container and let it cool.
Pro tip: add a bit of salt to the schmaltz help bring out the savory taste.
How to use: chicken fat is a great replacement for bacon grease in most applications and you can sub in it a 1:1 ratio.
If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to bacon grease, olive oil is a great option.
It’s also a plant-based fat, making it suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
While olive oil doesn’t have the smoky, salty flavor of bacon grease, it does have a fruity, slightly bitter taste that can add depth and complexity to dishes.
It’s ideal for dishes where you’re not reliant on bacon being the main flavor. And when the cooking temperature isn’t too high because olive oil has a low smoke point.
Pro tip: you can buy smoked olive oil, which the brand claims is ‘like liquid bacon!’.
How to use: you can use olive oil in place of bacon grease for roasting, frying, or sautéing. You can sub it in a 1:1 ratio, but I tend to add 1/2 the amount first and then add more as needed.
Tallow is beef fat. It’s generally very neutral in taste with a background hint of earthy beef.
But the neutral taste does have its advantages, because you can easily add flavors to the tallow to increase its smokiness.
I mentioned smoked paprika before, but you can also try liquid smoke, smoked salt, chipotle, or even soy sauce for its saltiness.
(Psst… one animal fat I haven’t mentioned is goose fat, this would be a perfectly good substitute too).
Related: liquid smoke substitutes
How to use: tallow works great for frying and baking and you can sub it for bacon grease in a 1:1 ratio.
If you want something with a robust flavor, consider sesame oil.
It tastes totally different from bacon fat. But it will bring a similar strength. Instead of smokey notes, your dish will taste nutty and toasted.
It will smell amazing too.
Sesame oil will work best in dishes with an Asian theme like stir fries and noodle dishes. It’s also delicious in a marinade.
It won’t work as a substitute in baking!
How to use: you can use sesame oil in place of bacon grease for frying, sautéing, and in sauces. I would use a little less than the amount of bacon grease called for because of the oils strong flavor.
If you’re making a dish where you’re using the bacon grease as a frying agent, you can always fry some actual bacon in the pan beforehand and then use the grease that comes out.
That’s all bacon grease really is, except it’s been filtered and cooled.
The best way to render bacon is to go low and slow. This allows the fat to slowly melt out without burning.
If you’re using the bacon grease to flavor a soup or a stew, then you can chuck a few bits of bacon in during the cooking process instead.
How to use: one slice of bacon will produce around 1 teaspoon of bacon fat, so fry as many slices as you need.
Ghee is an upgraded butter.
It is made by simmering butter until the milk solids separate from the fat, resulting in a golden, nutty-tasting liquid that’s bursting with flavor.
It’s not smokey or salty like bacon grease. But it will bring richness and complexity to your dish, and its strong flavor won’t get drowned out by whatever other spices you’re using.
(psst… clarified butter is in between butter and ghee, and would also work as a substitute).
How to use: ghee can be substituted for bacon grease in most dishes at a 1:1 ratio.
Vegetable shortening is a solid fat made from vegetable oils – it’s a great vegan alternative to animal fats like lard, and of course bacon grease. Crisco is a popular brand.
It’s very neutral in terms of flavor, so you’ll likely want to up the other seasonings in your dish or add in extra umami flavorings to bring more depth.
And another thing to keep in mind is that vegetable shortening is highly processed, so if you prefer to stick to natural ingredients I’d avoid it.
How to use: vegetable shortening works great for frying and baking and you can sub it for bacon grease in a 1:1 ratio.
Another strong tasting oil you can consider using is coconut oil. It’s tropical, creamy, and nutty.
It’s definitely not to everyone’s taste but if you like it, then hopefully you won’t miss the savory taste of bacon fat!
You have to watch out for the smoke point here though, coconut oil will quickly burn at high temperatures.
The reason I gave this sub a lower rating in my table is because I think it’s pretty far removed from the essence of bacon grease.
How to use: you can use coconut oil in place of bacon grease for frying, sautéing, and in sauces. I would use a little less than the amount of bacon grease called for because of the strong flavor of the oil.
Other oils (peanut oil, avocado oil, etc)
You can use basically any oil in place of bacon grease.
Just be aware of the smoke point of the oil you’re using and any flavor quirks it might have.
Most oils are pretty unflavored, or they have just a hint of flavor like peanut oil or avocado oil. So when you use them as a substitute for bacon grease expect the final dish to have less depth overall.
You can fix that as I said above by using other ingredients to try and replicate the flavor of bacon (like chipotles)
One tip I didn’t mention yet is to grill any vegetables you’re going to be using in your dish to give them a smokey, charred flavor like bacon.
How to use: you can use vegetable oil in place of bacon grease for roasting, frying, or sautéing. You can sub it in a 1:1 ratio, but I tend to add 1/2 the amount first and then add more as needed.
Substitutes For Bacon Grease [Tried And Tested]
- 1 tbsp butter may need extra flavoring
- 1 tbsp Lard may need extra flavoring
- 1 tbsp Duck fat
- 1 tbsp Chicken fat (schmaltz)
- 1 tbsp Olive oil may need extra flavoring
- 1 tbsp Tallow may need extra flavoring
- 1 tbsp Sesame oil
- 1 slice Bacon
- 1 tbsp Ghee
- 1 tbsp Vegetable shortening may need extra flavoring
- 1 tbsp Coconut oil
- 1 tbsp Other oils avocado oil, peanut oil
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen bacon grease substitute and substitute in a 1:1 ratio (unless stated differently above).
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.