I’ve personally tried and tested a range of different duck fat substitutes to find the best one.
Whatever your reason for avoiding duck fat is and whatever dish you’re cooking.
Here’s the quick answer.
The best duck fat substitute is another flavoured animal fat like chicken fat (schmaltz). Lard or vegetable shortening are cheap options, but it’s best to mix them with a bit of duck, chicken, or bacon fat to add flavor. Neutral flavored oils like canola oil will work in a pinch. I also like ghee!
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I whipped up a batch of roast potatoes to test out 10 different duck fat substitutes.
Duck fat imparts a rich, savory, and subtly gamey flavor to dishes. It’s also great at crisping things up. There aren’t many substitutes with a similar flavor, but lots of fats are great at the crisping side of things.
Here’s what I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitute||How to substitute||Verdict|
|Goose fat||Replace duck fat in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Schmaltz (chicken fat)||Replace duck fat in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Lard||Replace duck fat in a 1:1 ratio||710|
|Tallow||Replace duck fat in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
|Ghee / clarified butter||Replace duck fat in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Canola oil||Replace duck fat in a 1:1 ratio||6/10|
|Olive oil||Replace duck fat in a 1:1 ratio||6/10|
|Bacon grease||Mix bacon grease and another neutral oil then sub in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Vegetable shortening||Replace duck fat in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
|Butter||Avoid this substitute||0/10|
Common dishes that use duck fat and the best substitutes
Here are some common use cases for duck fat and the best substitutes for those situations:
- Duck confit: schmaltz, lard, canola oil
- Roasting/frying: goose fat, schmaltz, ghee, oil
- Baking: lard, vegetable shortening, goose fat
- Sauces / salad dressings: schmaltz, bacon grease
Goose fat is an incredibly close substitute for duck fat – geese are just big ducks after all!
Both fats share a luxurious, silky texture and impart a rich, savory flavor to dishes. If I was to get picky, goose fat tends to have a slightly more gamey taste, while duck fat boasts a lighter, sweeter flavor profile.
But to most palates the differences are very subtle.
Goose fat can be easier to find than duck fat, especially in the holiday season. But if you’re worried about price goose fat is the more expensive option, so it’s not a good sub in that regard.
How to substitute: replace duck fat in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with goose fat.
Schmaltz (chicken fat)
Schmaltz (also known as rendered chicken fat) is another excellent substitute option that tastes quite similar to duck fat.
Schmaltz brought a rich and savory flavor to my roast potatoes, although it was slightly less decadent than duck fat.
The good news is that you can easily make your own schmaltz at home.
Roast a chicken, take the chicken skin and fat trimmings, and cook them over low heat until all the fat melts out. Strain and cool the fat, then store the schmaltz in the fridge until you’re ready to use it!
Psst… turkey fat is super similar and will work too.
How to substitute: replace duck fat in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with schmaltz.
Lard (pork fat)
Lard, or rendered pork fat, isn’t as flavorful as duck fat or schmaltz (in fact it’s pretty neutral tasting). But it’s incredibly budget-friendly and easy to find in most grocery stores.
Its neutral flavor makes it an ideal choice for recipes where other ingredients provide the dominant flavor profile. And you can always up the seasoning in your dish to give it a boost!
Psst… mixing lard with a small amount of duck fat can add a touch of that luxurious savory flavor to your dish without breaking the bank.
How to substitute: replace duck fat in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with lard, or use a mixture of lard and duck fat for added flavor.
Tallow (beef fat)
Tallow, which is rendered beef fat (can you sense a theme here), is another option to consider when looking for a duck fat substitute.
Like lard, tallow has a very neutral taste and a high smoke point.
It doesn’t bring the same flavor notes duck fat does, but it will add depth to your dish and is great at crisping things up.
Pro tip: you can sometimes find pre-flavored tallow, which has herbs or spices added so is great if you want more flavor.
How to substitute: replace duck fat in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with tallow, or experiment with a combination of tallow and duck fat or schmaltz for extra depth of flavor.
Clarified butter / ghee
Clarified butter or ghee (they’re interchangeable for most uses in the kitchen) are fantastic substitutes for duck fat when you’re looking to replicate the rich and indulgent flavor.
With its deep, nutty notes, ghee adds a delightful complexity to dishes and a touch of luxury.
And since the milk solids have been removed, ghee has a much longer shelf life than traditional butter, so you can keep it on hand for whenever the ‘duck-fat’ craving strikes.
It’s also got a higher smoke point so you can use it for frying and making roasties.
How to substitute: replace duck fat in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with clarified butter or ghee.
Canola oil (or any neutral oil)
Canola oil may not be the most glamorous substitute for duck fat, but it’s affordable and you probably already have some in your kitchen.
This neutral oil won’t impart any strong flavors, so it works best in substitutes where the duck fat serves more of a functional roll, rather than contributing lots of flavor.
Psst… you can use any neutral-flavored oil you want. Or even a flavored oil, as long as the flavor will work with your dish.
How to substitute: replace duck fat in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with canola oil.
Light (mildly flavored) olive oil is another option to consider when looking for a duck fat substitute.
I specify mild olive oil, because a strong olive oil will transfer to much flavor to your dish and overshadow everything.
This sub is great for dishes that have some Mediterranean influence (like roasted vegetables), or in dishes where a hint of fruity or grassy notes is desirable.
How to substitute: replace duck fat in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with mild olive oil, but be mindful of the additional flavors it may introduce to the dish.
Bacon grease is a delicious substitute for duck fat if you’re after a punch of flavor.
It’s best not to replace the duck fat in a 1:1 ratio with bacon grease because it’s super flavorful. The smokey, savory notes will totally take over your dish if you use too much.
But mix a bit in with a more neutral oil like lard, and you get a fantastic duck fat substitute.
You can also easily make your own bacon fat. Simply save the fat from cooking bacon and strain it to remove any solid bits. You can store it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
How to substitute: replace duck fat in your recipe with a mixture of bacon grease and a neutral oil, adjusting the ratio to suit your taste and desired flavor intensity.
For those looking for a plant-based substitute for duck fat, vegetable shortening is an excellent option.
Although it lacks the rich, savory flavor of duck fat, it’s easy to get hold of and you can use it in everything from frying to baking.
To boost the flavor, you can always add in extra herbs and spices. I added a pinch of smokey chipotle to my roast potatoes and it was divine.
How to substitute: replace duck fat in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with vegetable shortening.
Some sources suggest that you can use butter as a substitute for duck fat but this is a bad idea (unless you’re baking with it).
When you use butter instead of duck fat, you risk burning the butter and turning it really bitter.
You also won’t get the same level of crispiness with butter because it contains water, which will steam when you cook it.
Neither of these issues matter in baking, so you can sub butter for duck fat in that use case. Butter is also fine for sautéing.
Read next: the best substitutes for bacon grease
Best Duck Fat Substitutes [Tried and Tested]
- 1 tbsp Goose fat
- 1 tbsp Schmaltz (chicken fat)
- 1 tbsp Lard
- 1 tbsp Tallow
- 1 tbsp Ghee / clarified butter
- 1 tbsp Canola oil
- 1 tbsp Olive oil
- 1/2 tbsp Bacon grease mix with another neutral oil
- 1 tbsp Vegetable shortening
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen duck fat substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.