Lard has a long history and it was once a staple cooking fat in kitchens around the world.
However, starting in the early 20th century, consumers progressively turned to trans fats and vegetable oils following public health concerns over animal fat.
In recent years, research has shown that animal fats are not the dietary demon they were made out to be.
As a result, lard has seen a resurgence over the past few years.
But is lard a healthy choice? This article examines the benefits and drawbacks of cooking with this traditional cooking fat.
What Is Lard?
Put simply; lard is fat that comes from a pig.
This fat is usually rendered to remove any impurities, and the resulting lard looks like a pure white brick in appearance.
In the past, lard used to be one of the most popular choices of cooking fat.
However, it lost its place in the kitchen to artificial trans fats such as Crisco, which were (wrongly) pushed as healthier alternatives.
Lard is a very versatile fat, and it is an excellent option for frying, deep-frying, and even baking.
Key Point: Lard is a traditional cooking fat and it is made of pig fat.
Here is the full nutrition profile for lard per tablespoon (13 grams) (1).
|Calories/Nutrient||Per 1 tbsp|
|Saturated Fat||5.0 g|
|Monounsaturated Fat||5.8 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fat||1.4 g|
As shown in the table, lard is an isolated fatwhich is primarily a source of unsaturated fatty acids.
Fatty Acid Ratio
- Saturated Fat: 41%
- Monounsaturated Fat: 47.5%
- Polyunsaturated Fat: 11.5%
Vitamins and Minerals
Lard is not a significant source of vitamins or minerals.
However, lard from pigs raised on pasture can be high in fat-soluble vitamins D and K2.
There is more information on this later.
Key Point: Lard is a source of dietary fat, and it may also provide vitamins D and K2.
Is Frying With Lard Healthy?
While there are many strong opinions about animal fats, there are both benefits and drawbacks to consider.
First, let’s take a look at some of the advantages of using lard for cooking.
The benefits of using lard come from its heat-stability, versatility, and nutrition properties.
1) Heat-Stable For Cooking
First of all, lard is very heat-stable, so it is more suitable for frying than common vegetable oils.
For instance, one study compared the oxidative stability of lard to sunflower, rapeseed, and peanut oils. In this study, researchers heated each of the four fats to different temperatures between 25°C and 200°C.
The results showed that (2);
- Heated lard generated fewer harmful free radicals than the other oils.
- Lard was less prone to oxidative degradation, likely due to its low levels of linoleic acid (omega-6).
- The peroxide value, which indicates oxidation products, didn’t start to rise in lard until temperatures over 150°C, and it rose slowly. On the other hand, the peroxide values for the vegetable oils rose rapidly after only 3 minutes.
- Only lard showed a slow increase in oxidation products at temperatures over 200°C, and the other oils all showed rapid breakdown and oxidation.
Lard only contains approximately 11% polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are the most heat-sensitive (and prone to oxidation) types of fat (3).
Lard is not alone in this regard, and other animal fats such as tallow (beef fat) and goose fat are equally heat-stable.
Key Point: Lard is one of the most heat-stable cooking fats, and it exerts good oxidative stability at high heat.
It would be nice if everyone could use those flavorful award-winning olive oils, but they can’t because the price is often prohibitive.
On the positive side, the price shouldn’t be an issue with lard; it is very cheap.
If you want to save even more money, it is usually cheaper to request some lard from a local butcher.
For the cheapest option, it is also possible to render your ownlard at home.
Key Point: Lard is widely available for an affordable price.
3) May Provide Vitamin K2
It is difficult to get reliable figures for the amount of vitamin K2 (menaquinone) in animal foods since this greatly depends on how the animal was raised.
That said, foods from animals raised on fresh pasture tend to have a better nutrition profile.
Key Point: Lard from grass-fed animals supplies more vitamin K2.
4) A Good Source of Vitamin D3
Vitamin D3 occurs in pork, and it is most concentrated in pork fat.
As a result, lard is a significant source, and it contains a much higher proportion of vitamin D3 than various cuts of lean pork meat (8).
To be specific; a study found that there is “8 to 10 times more vitamin D-3” in lard compared to lean pork (9).
For the most substantial amounts of vitamin D, lard from outdoor reared pigs is the best option. Past research showed that pigs getting sun exposure had 9x the vitamin D3 content in their adipose (fat) tissue (10).
In other words, lard from pasture-raised pigs may offer nine times the vitamin D3 content of lard from conventionally raised pigs.
Key Point: Lard is a surprising source of vitamin D. Outdoor bred pigs provide an especially significant amount of the vitamin.
5) Lard Contains No Trans Fat Unlike Artificial Alternatives
Various artificial alternatives to animal fats like lard and tallow came into the market in the early 20th century.
The most famous of these was Crisco, which is renowned for being the first vegetable shortening (and a substantial source of trans fat).
At present, there are various vegetable shortening products on the market, and they all offer a similar texture and mouth-feel to lard in food.
Although they do not have as much trans fat as they did in the past, some of these products do still contain small amounts of these harmful fats.An easy way to identify the presence of trans fat is by checking the product label for an ingredient called ‘partially hydrogenated oil’.
Trans fat has an adverse effect on markers of cardiovascular risk, and it increases inflammation, raises LDL and triglyceride levels, and lowers HDL.
Fortunately, lard offers the same taste experience as shortening products without containing any trans fatty acids.
Lard is also famous for the crisp and flaky texture it gives to bakery products like pastries and pie crusts.
Key Point: Lard is a much healthier option than shortening products, which may contain partially hydrogenated oil.
6) Lard Has a Mild and Neutral Flavor
Sometimes we want to avoid strong, overbearing flavors in our food.
Although most people have no issue, others dislike the slight aftertaste that coconut and extra virgin olive oils can give to food.
On this note, lard has a very mild and neutral flavor, and it does not change anything about the way food tastes.
Furthermore, food cooked in lard tastes delicious.
Key Point: Lard has a neutral flavor, which makes it an excellent choice for frying when you don’t want to affect the food’s flavor.
Lard Health Concerns
As shown so far, there are some excellent reasons to use lard as a cooking fat.
However, there are also some concerns that people have about this animal fat.
1) Large Source of Calories, Not Nutrient-Dense
As an isolated source of fat, lard provides a large number of calories for very few nutrients.
Since just one tablespoon supplies 115 calories, it is easy to overdo it on lard (1).
That said, this is the case for every cooking fat and oil, and this is not something that is unique to lard.
The main point:isolated fats shouldn’t make up a significant proportion of our energy intake, and whole, nutrient-dense foods are the healthier option.
Using reasonable amounts of lard as a cooking fat? No problem.
Key Point: Like all isolated sources of fat, lard is very calorie-dense but not so nutrient-dense.
2) Is the Saturated Fat In Lard a Problem?
Over the years, saturated fat has garnered a bad reputation as an “artery-clogging” fat.
However, recent high-level evidence has shown that saturated fat is not the artery-clogging danger as once thought.
It is also worth pointing out that monounsaturated fatty acids, particularly oleic acid, are the main constituents of lard.
These are the same fats as found in olives and avocados.
Key Point: As part of a healthy diet, a reasonable intake of saturated fat should not be a health concern.
3) Some Lard Is Hydrogenated For Shelf Stability
Lastly, it is important to realize that not all lard on store shelves is the same.
While some lard products are 100% pure rendered pork fat, others undergo a hydrogenation process to improve their shelf stability. These products usually have a few extra added ingredients too.
Firstly, fullyhydrogenated animal fats are not the same as partially hydrogenated (trans) fat, and there is no good evidence to show that they cause harm.
These hydrogenated lard options are also cheaper with a longer shelf life.
However, it is understandable that some people may prefer to buy pure, fresh lard in its original state.
If this is the case, be aware of this point and remember to check the label carefully.
Key Point: Sometimes lard can be hydrogenated to improve the fat’s shelf stability.
Common Uses For Lard
Some of the most typical uses for lard include;
- Deep-frying:Thanks to lard’s oxidative stability and affordable price point, it is a good choice for deep frying.
- Stir-frying: Lard is well-suited to cooking at high temperatures, and it is quite resistant to oxidation.
- Making pie crusts and other bakery products:lard is famous for giving pastry-style products a crisp and flaky texture.
- As a spread: some people like to use lard in the same way as they would use butter.
- Seasoning cast iron pans:it is a good choice for seasoning cast iron pans.
Key Point: Lard is a versatile fat, and there are many different ways to use it.
Lard is a traditional cooking fat that offers several benefits, great taste, and excellent versatility.
However, the most crucial aspect of any cooking fat is how it performs when exposed to high temperatures.
On a positive note, lard passes the heat-stability test, and it generates a much lower amount of oxidation products than most vegetable oils do.
Subsequently, lard is a healthy choice of fat for frying at high temperatures.
For more heat-stable cooking fats, see this review of red palm oil.
Fresh lard is usually just the rendered pork fat, while shelf-stable lard usually contains some amount of hydrogenated fat to preserve freshness. The fresh, refrigerated lard is the healthiest option.Why is lard so unhealthy? ›
Lard also has cholesterol, she notes, as do all animal fats. And that 45 percent fat can still be a lot, depending on how much you eat. Add to this that lard sold in supermarkets is often hydrogenated, to make it shelf stable, and you've got a product with cholesterol, trans fats, and saturated fat, too.Is lard better for cooking? ›
Because lard contains more saturated fat than veggie oils, it doesn't go rancid as quickly and has a higher smoke point, making it better for frying and high-heat cooking.Is lard healthier than cooking oil? ›
Cooking oil has more Vitamin E , Vitamin K, Iron, and Monounsaturated Fat, however Lard is higher in Vitamin D, Choline, and Polyunsaturated fat. Lard covers your daily Saturated Fat needs 127% more than Cooking oil. Lard contains 10000000 times less Vitamin K than Cooking oil.Does lard cause clogged arteries? ›
There is a pervasive myth that animal fats increase the risk of heart disease. Our great, great grandparents consumed lard and butter and experienced extremely low rates of heart disease. There is no evidence that saturated fat consumption raises the risk of heart disease.Is lard anti inflammatory? ›
Background: Pork lard (PL) is traditionally used as an anti-inflammatory agent.Which is worse for you lard or Crisco? ›
Lard actually has less trans fat than shortening and less saturated fat than butter. While it will never have a health food halo, it certainly doesn't live up to its bad reputation.Is lard worse than olive oil? ›
Lard still contains over double the saturated fat found in one tablespoon of olive oil – which has two grams – and just under half the amount of monounsaturated fat – olive oil has 10 grams.Do Chinese restaurants use lard? ›
Like Paula Deen loves her butter, Chinese chefs love lard for its ability to add richness and flavor into any stir-fry or braised dish.Why did people stop cooking with lard? ›
Poor lard didn't stand a chance. In the 1950s, scientists piled on, saying that saturated fats in lard caused heart disease. Restaurants and food manufacturers started to shun lard.
Lard is still a traditional cooking fat that is used to flavor refried beans and tamales, but nowadays, the majority of Mexican restaurants use vegetable oil. Lard, a staple ingredient in many Mexican dishes, is the ideal fat to use when making these dishes because of its unique flavor and texture.Is lard less healthy than butter? ›
With an unusual chemical composition, pure lard contains no trans fats. And in terms of its fatty acids, it's better than butter: Lard is 60 per cent monounsaturated fat, which is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease. Butter is 45 per cent monounsaturated fat.Is Crisco a lard? ›
Lard is actually rendered and clarified pork fat. You can read more here. Crisco®, which is a brand name and part of the Smucker's family of brands, is a vegetable shortening.Is lard healthy for deep frying? ›
Animal fats, such as lard, tallow, ghee, and fat drippings, can be excellent choices for deep frying.Can you fry eggs in lard? ›
Yes, yes it is. Lard is my husband's favorite for fried eggs. Tortillas, salsa and cheese is always a good upgrade too. Had my fried in cow fat this morning.What is the number one food that clogs arteries? ›
Overeating processed meat like bacon, jerky, ham, and sausages might raise LDL or harmful cholesterol levels. It, in turn, blocks the arteries by cholesterol deposits.What food clogs your arteries the most? ›
The study, published Aug. 13 in Science, suggests that consuming food rich in saturated fat and choline - a nutrient found in red meat, eggs and dairy products - increases the number of metabolites that build plaques in the arteries.Is lard cancerous? ›
Significant correlations (P less than 0.01) were found between dairy and lard fat intake and total, breast, prostate, rectal, colon, and lung cancer. Significant relationships between site-specific cancer mortality and ischemic heart disease mortality could also be established.Can lard cause heart problems? ›
Saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids from animal (lard) fat are major components of the western-pattern diet and its regular consumption leads to obesity, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.Does lard easily cause heart disease? ›
New research reveals that consuming high levels of four major saturated fats – such as those found in butter, lard, red meat, dairy fat, and palm oil – may raise the risk of coronary heart disease.
The National Kidney Foundation notes that heart disease is a major risk factor for kidney disease and vice versa. Consume less butter, lard and shortening to reduce your intake of saturated fat and lower your risk for heart and kidney disease.Why do people stop using Crisco? ›
However, shortening has fallen out of favor in the past few decades because of its high trans fat content. Now that trans fats are banned in the United States, however, shortenings have been reformulated to be free of these fats ( 1 ).What brand of lard is not hydrogenated? ›
Fatworks Premium Pasture Raised Lard. The Original Non-Hydrogenated Pasture-Raised Lard crafted for Traditional, Keto, and Paleo Chefs.What is the healthiest oil to cook with? ›
The healthiest oils are those that are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as vegetable oil and olive oil. These types of fats can help lower your risk of heart disease when used instead of saturated fats.Do people put lard on toast? ›
Lard on toast might seem slightly strange at first, but the British have been eating bread and dripping that was popularised during the inter-war years for decades.What oil is the unhealthiest type of fat? ›
- Corn oil.
- Canola (also called rapeseed) oil.
- Cottonseed oil.
- Soy oil.
- Sunflower oil.
- Safflower oil.
- Grapeseed oil.
- Rice bran oil.
The amount of Monounsaturated Fat, and Polyunsaturated fat in Avocado oil is higher than in Lard. Lard covers your daily need of Saturated Fat 138% more than Avocado oil. The amount of Saturated Fat in Avocado oil is lower.Why do Mexicans use lard? ›
Even stewed dishes often contain a step where ingredients are fried; lard beautifully melds the flavors and textures in moles and pipianes . It is still a favorite Mexican cooking fat. However, most Mexican cooks are using safflower and other oils these days because they're cheaper.Did McDonald's use lard in their French fries? ›
The fries are not coated in any fats or substances from an animal. Once at the restaurant, our fries are simply cooked in dedicated frying vats in a non-hydrogenated blend of sunflower and rapeseed oil which is 100 percent suitable for vegetarians.When did McDonald's stop using lard? ›
The taste will be familiar to Americans 40 and older who visited fast-food restaurants before 1990, the year McDonald's stopped using animal lard to cook its popular fries. Other chains soon followed suit.
|Country||Production, 2018 (tonnes)|
Technically, it's not against the law to cook in lard. Yet all fast food chains have stopped cooking with lard or trans fats for health reasons — financial health reasons.Is it safe to cook with lard? ›
And compared to other fats (especially butter), lard is considered one of the healthier options of the group. It's a single unprocessed ingredient which is as natural as it gets, and it contains zero trans fats. While it should still be consumed in moderation, lard has less saturated fat than butter and coconut oil.Does King Taco use lard in their beans? ›
Taco King uses its own hybrid method, simmering the meat in oil rather than lard, but the result is still tasty.Does Taco Bell still use lard? ›
2. Taco Bell: The main thing: Taco Bell's beans are not fried in lard. Therefore, you can basically substitute beans for beef on any protein dish.What is Mexican lard called? ›
Manteca- manteca is lard and a lot of people would argue that it's not carnitas if it isn't slow cooked in lard (confit). I personally disagree with this since I've made carnitas many times using a completely different method and it turned out just as good.Why is olive oil healthier than lard? ›
Palm oil (crude or refined) and lard are rich in SFA, while olive oil is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. SFA are considered harmful to health, while polyunsaturated fatty acids are beneficial to health.Is animal lard healthier than vegetable oil? ›
If vegetable oil contains a lot of vitamins E, K, then animal fat contains a lot of vitamins A and D. Pork fat and cooking oil are two indispensable foods in human's daily life.What happens if you use lard instead of butter? ›
The melting point of lard is lower than butter, which means that more air and steam are released during bake times. This results in greater leavening and a flakier texture in baked goods. Lard also has larger fat crystals that leave open spaces as they melt, creating more layers than you would achieve with butter.What is the best substitute for lard? ›
- Butter. Butter may be the simplest substitute for lard. ...
- Coconut oil. Coconut oil is a tropical oil that has been linked to some health benefits. ...
- Vegetable oils. Vegetable oils are often used in cooking and baking. ...
- Olive oil. ...
- Avocado. ...
- Beef tallow. ...
- Mashed banana.
The Pie Crust Takeaways
This time, though, there was one very clear victor. Butter made a tastier, flakier, sturdier crust by far. This isn't to say that shortening and lard aren't useful ingredients. Shortening is a great way to get incredibly tender desserts.
While they come from the same animal, bacon fat and lard differ in taste and function. Bacon fat has a smoky taste, while lard—rendered fat from the pig—has a neutral flavor. You can use bacon fat to add flavor to baked goods, gravies, and sautés, but lard primarily adds texture to fried or baked foods.Are french fries fried in lard? ›
NOTE: It's a fact that the most delicious French fries are cooked in rendered lard or beef fat. (McDonald's fries haven't been quite the same since they stopped using beef fat.)Is chicken fried in lard good? ›
Traditionally the best fat for frying chicken is lard. Today Crisco is favored by some cooks, other use vegetable oil. One trick for flavor is adding a few spoons of bacon fat to unsaturated cooking oil. Most important are three things: use no more fat than comes half way up the chicken.What is the healthiest fat for deep frying? ›
Heart-healthy oils like safflower oil and rice bran oil are perfect because they can withstand frying temperatures of almost 500° F. You can also look to peanut oil and sunflower oil if you're frying at 450° F, or canola oil and vegetable oil to keep temperatures around 400° F.Can you fry steak in lard? ›
Add one tablespoon lard to your hot pan and swirl to coat. Then, using tongs, add your steaks. Cook over medium high heat until well browned, then flip, about 2 minutes per side. Use the tongs to sear the fat caps on the side as well, and to maneuver steaks around so they get evenly seared.Is it better to cook with lard or butter? ›
It has less saturated fat than butter. Yes, that's right lard has 20 percent less saturated fat than butter; it's also higher in monounsaturated fats, which are good for cardiovascular health. Lard is also rich in oleic acid, the same fatty acid that is in olive oil and praised for its health benefits.Can I use lard to cook bacon? ›
Overall I'd have to say yes, you can substitute bacon fat for lard and still get a good result. But I will always reach for some real deal lard if given the choice. Why? Bacon is brined and sometimes smoked, so the leftover drippings are going to have a slight bacony flavor to them.What is a healthy substitute for lard? ›
Rich in antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, olive oil can give your recipes a heart-healthy twist when used in place of lard ( 4 ). It can also be used instead of lard at a 1:1 ratio, making it one of the most simple substitutes available.
Lard gained a bad reputation in the late 20th century for being particularly unhealthy, but in reality it's not that different from other solid fats. Lard actually has less trans fat than shortening and less saturated fat than butter.
The Original Non-Hydrogenated Pasture-Raised Lard crafted for Traditional, Keto, and Paleo Chefs. Artisanally Rendered, WHOLE30 APPROVED, Glass Jar, 14oz. In Stock. Ships from and sold by Fatworks.Which is worse for you lard or butter? ›
It has less saturated fat than butter. Yes, that's right lard has 20 percent less saturated fat than butter; it's also higher in monounsaturated fats, which are good for cardiovascular health. Lard is also rich in oleic acid, the same fatty acid that is in olive oil and praised for its health benefits.Is Crisco still hydrogenated? ›
Crisco, the brand synonymous with shortening, changed its formula to use fully hydrogenated oil, while others, such as Nutiva and Spectrum, use nonhydrogenated oils.Is Crisco lard hydrogenated? ›
Crisco, you may recall, was made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, a process that turned cottonseed oil (and later, soybean oil) from a liquid into a solid, like lard, that was perfect for baking and frying.What's the best kind of lard to buy? ›
Leaf lard, the fat around the kidneys, is considered the best. Lard is a great cooking medium for sautéing, pan-frying, deep-frying, and making confit; it is also a wonderful shortening and produces biscuits and pastries that are much more tender and flaky than those made using only butter.Is Crisco healthier than lard? ›
Until recently, it was also thought to be healthier because it contains less saturated fat than butter and lard. However, we now know that highly processed shortening offers no health advantages over butter or lard and may in fact be a less nutritious choice ( 5 , 6 ).What's better Crisco or lard? ›
The highest-quality lard for baking is leaf lard made from the fat around pork kidneys. Shortening: Vegetable shortening is, unsurprisingly, a better option for vegetarian and vegan bakers. Due to its neutral flavor, shortening is a good choice for baked goods with delicate flavors.Why did people stop buying lard? ›
In the 1950s, scientists piled on, saying that saturated fats in lard caused heart disease. Restaurants and food manufacturers started to shun lard. It's only been in the last 20 years that nutritionists have softened their view on saturated fats like butter and lard.Which lard is of lowest quality? ›
The lowest grade (for purposes of rendering into lard) is obtained from the soft caul fat surrounding digestive organs, such as small intestines, though caul fat is often used directly as a wrapping for roasting lean meats or in the manufacture of pâtés.Is Armour lard made of pork? ›
Lard is rendered pig fat, but it does not impart a pork flavor. Unlike butter, some oils or even bacon grease, Armour lard does not add any flavor to the foods you make.