I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of tallow substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or seeking an alternative tailored to your specific dietary requirements, rest assured that I’ve got you covered.
The best substitutes for tallow are the homemade version and lard. You can also try other animal fat-based alternatives like schmaltz, duck fat, clarified butter/ghee, or bacon fat. For a meatless option, try vegetable shortening or any neutral flavored oil like canola oil.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made a few batches of roast potatoes to try out all the tallow substitutes I could find.
Tallow is rendered fat from cows.
It has a neutral flavor, so you can’t really taste it. But it adds depth to food with its rich, meaty essence. Tallow has a smoke point of 400F, making it great for high-heat applications like frying.
Here’s what I tested, and the verdicts
|Substitutes||How to Substitute||Verdict|
|Homemade Tallow||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Lard||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Schmaltz||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Duck Fat||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Clarified Butter/Ghee||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Bacon Grease||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
|Canola Oil (or other neutral oils)||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Mashed avocado and banana||Replace with 1/2 the amount||8/10|
Common uses for tallow and the best substitutes
Here are some common use cases for tallow and the best substitutes for those situations:
- For deep-frying and sauteing – try homemade tallow, lard, or any neutral cooking oil with a high smoke point (like canola oil).
- For baking – try homemade tallow, lard, or butter. Lard is great for pastry. Mashed avocado is a healthy option.
- For seasoning cast-iron skillets – try lard, canola oil, or ghee. Ghee is my favorite far to season cast iron skillets with.
- For wrapping brisket – try homemade tallow, ghee/clarified butter, or canola oil.
The folks over at Hey Grill Hey have a great guide to making tallow.
You’ll need patience, because the whole process will take several hours. But going slowly will ensure you get pure tallow (fat) with no off-flavor.
You’ll need to get your hands on a decent amount of beef fat.
But here’s a savvy tip: ask your local butcher for fat trimmings! They’re usually more than willing to help and won’t charge much for the scraps.
Once you’ve rendered the fat, the key to long-lasting tallow is to strain out impurities not once but twice to make sure they’re all definitely gone.
How to substitute: Replace tallow in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with homemade tallow
Short on time and can’t make your own tallow? Don’t worry!
Lard is here to save the day.
Lard boasts a neutral flavor similar to tallow, and its made from pork so has the same subtle meatiness.
Its smoke point is marginally lower than tallow’s, but you can still use it for everything from frying to roasting.
Another difference is lard’s softer texture, which is perfect for creating those melt-in-your-mouth pie crusts and pastries we all love.
The cherry on top? Lard is both affordable and readily available in most grocery stores, so you won’t have to look far to find this fantastic tallow alternative.
How to substitute: Replace tallow in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with lard.
Schmaltz ( rendered chicken fat)
Schmaltz is another animal-based fat you can use instead of tallow.
It’s got a buttery texture, and is a lot more flavorsome than tallow with a deep, caramelized chicken taste.
It’s a staple in Jewish dishes like matzo ball soup and chopped liver, but I’ve had success using it for simple stir-fries and roasted vegetables.
You can get a jar of schmaltz at Jewish delis, but you can also make it from scratch with chicken skin and fat (it’s pretty easy!).
How to substitute: Replace tallow in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with schmaltz.
Don’t mind spending a bit more? Try using duck fat in place of tallow.
It’s got a rich gamey taste, with hints of background sweetness. In other words, it’s totally delicious and can transform your dish.
Pro-tip: you can mix duck fat with any neutral oil you have on hand for a more economical substitute, but this will reduce its richness.
How to substitute: Replace tallow in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with duck fat.
Clarified butter or ghee is the way to go if you want an alternative that can withstand temperatures up to 465°F.
They’re both made from butter and are very similar. The main difference is in flavor, with ghee having more of a nutty flavor than clarified butter.
You can buy clarified butter and ghee pre-made, but I always make my own with a regular stick of butter.
All you need to do is melt the butter and skim off the milk solids. But remember to keep a close eye on it and keep the heat low – you don’t want burnt butter!
Pro tip: if you’re replacing the tallow in a baked recipe, you can use straight butter.
How to substitute: Replace tallow in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with clarified butter or ghee.
Bacon fat is a super flavorful alternative to tallow.
It gave my roast potatoes a mouthwatering smoky, savory taste that had everyone reaching for seconds!
But you need to be careful not to use so much that the flavor totally overwhelms you dish. Like duck fat, you can mix it with another more neutral oil to tone down the flavor.
Psst… if you make your own bacon fat, you get loads of crispy bacon as a by-product. Talk about a win-win!
How to substitute: Replace tallow in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with bacon grease, mixing it with a more neutral oil if needed.
Canola oil (or other neutral oils)
Canola oil is a reliable, cheap, and easily accessible alternative to tallow. It’s also plant based.
Canola oil had a neutral flavor profile, so you can use it for basically anything.
And although it lacks that meaty essence tallow has, you can always add a splash of something like Worcestershire sauce to enhance your dish’s savory flavor and impart an umami kick.
Pssst… you can use any neutral oil you happen to have, don’t feel limited to canola oil.
For example, if you a healthier alternative – try avocado oil. Or go for refined coconut oil or peanut oil.
How to substitute: Replace tallow in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with canola oil.
Avocado or mashed banana (for baking)
Avocado or mashed bananas are healthier alternative to tallow in baking.
But you may need to adjust other ingredients in your recipe as well. For example, you might want to use less wet ingredients with mashed avocado.
This makes things more complicated, so I alway recommend doing a trial run. That way you can make adjustments before the big bake.
If you’re using bananas you also need to consider the extra sweetness they’ll bring.
Psst… avocados and bananas are obviously no good for any sort of frying!
How to substitute: Replace tallow in your recipe with half the amount of mashed avocado or banana.
Other substitutes to consider
The list above is my top substitutes for tallow, but here are other options you can use if you have them to hand:
- Suet – this is very similar to tallow, but it’s rendered from the fat that comes from the kidneys of sheep, cow, and mutton. It will lend a beefy flavor to your food, but can be hard to find outside of the UK.
- Vegetable shortening – this is another plant-based alternative for tallow. It’s often used for baking and it’s super cheap!
- Olive oil – this is a pantry staple you can use in a pinch, but go with a milder variety instead of extra virgin olive oil because the extra virgin oil has a very low smoke point!
Substitutes to avoid – palm oil
Palm oil is a cheap and neutral flavored cooking oil that I’ve seen suggested as an alternative to tallow.
But I don’t recommend using it because most palm oil isn’t produced sustainably and has a negative impact on the environment.
How to Make Tallow [+ 7 substitutes]
- 3 to 4 lbs white beef fat
- Place your beef fat in a large pot over medium-low heat.
- Let the fat simmer for four hours. Give everything a stir every 30 minutes, scraping your spatula along the bottom of the pan to remove the bits of fat to prevent burning. Keep the heat low.
- Once the fat has been rendered, you should be left with lightly browned, crisp bits. Leave it to cool before straining the larger pieces of rendered beef over the bowl.
- Strain the rendered fat again with a cheesecloth to further remove other impurities.
- Use immediately or store in the fridge for up to three months.