Tutorial Thursday: All About LARD

Tutorial Thursday - Lard by Paleo Parents

tutorial thursday by paleo parents




We’re back! After a long hiatus (thanks to the launch of Real Life Paleo), we’re back with another tutorial! Just in time for all of your holiday baking, we’ve got all the information you need on our secret ingredient.  This magical, pure white substance is the perfect ingredient to any number of terrific dishes. This week we want to teach you about our very favorite cooking fat of all time. And best of all? It easy to make, cheaper than butter, dairy-free, nutrient-dense, delicious, and 100 percent paleo by any definition. What is this stuff?



Lard! The lynchpin of our second book Beyond Bacon and the secret ingredient in many of our most popular recipes! So divine, Stacy has made “Praise the Lard!” her signature quote (no seriously, we have t-shirts about lard)! We know quite a few of you are overwhelmed at the idea of rendering your own lard or don’t know where to start. Don’t worry, that’s what our tutorials are all about – we’ll show you how to do it and how to implement it in your cooking today!

tutorial thursday how & why by paleo parents




Lard is perhaps the oldest cooking fat; it is found in every culture that cultivates pigs. And why not? It’s available in massive quantities every time a pig is slaughtered, it’s very versatile and it’s pretty darn tasty as well. But this most traditional of fats came under attack in the early 1900s from an unlikely source. Cotton.


Yep. Good old Crystalized Cottonseed Oil was introduced in 1911 into a marketplace that didn’t need it. With a plethora of satisfied homemade butter and lard makers. If you’re invading a marketplace with a, frankly, inferior product, you have to do a really hard sell. They made headway by claiming to be a better cooking substance. In the 50s hydrogenated oil was finally popularized, since claiming to be modern (during space age technology) was a big selling point.

But the real hammer blow that knocked lard out of popular consciousness was the saturated fat scare of 70s and 80s. Once we started demonizing saturated fats and animal fat in general, lard was immediately viewed as one of the most unhealthy foods. Fortunately, in recent times lard has made a resurgence as people rediscover its unique culinary traits and we now have books on lard and mainstream articles about its virtues. But it’s not not the health demon it was once believed to be!

Health Benefits

Believe it or not, but lard is a better health choice that most cooking fats and oils! In fact, our family came to be the Prince & Princess of Pork because Stacy was limited to the types of fats she could digest after having her gallbladder removed (read more about that here) and did very well with lard. Rather than being the pure saturated fat menace many would have you believe, 44% of lard is the much touted monounsaturated fatty acid oleic acid, the fat that makes olive oil so heart healthy. Not only that, but another 14% is stearic acid, which has been shown to lower cholesterol. And while we know that cholesterol is not the heart killer that it was once thought to be, you should know that lard is lower in cholesterol than butter. So why was lard pushed out while we continued to eat butter?

Most importantly, there is very little of the actual heart killer, trans fatty acids, in lard. In contrast, its vegetable shortening replacements are chock full of them.

Pastured vs. Not

Some will tell you about “toxins” stored in the fat of animals and that you should be concerned about consuming the fat of conventionally raised animals. While I don’t know if you should really be concerned about this, it is true that vitamins are certainly stored in fat. Specifically, the fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, D, E and K. These are what you would expect to find in fat that you render yourself.

And pastured pork fat is one of the highest food sources of Vitamin D, the vitamin people are often very deficient in. The reason for that is simple: Vitamin D is made in mammals from sun exposure and pastured animals are always out in the sun.

Keep in mind that none of this is necessarily true about the fat blocks purchased in grocery store, as they have been rendered into pure fat with no other content whatsoever. Which is why we’re going to teach you how to do it yourself, we believe in you – you can do it! We know it seems inconvenient and time consuming to do yourself, but you can render your own from start to finish in under an hour and most of that is inactive time. Not to mention, making your own lard is super cheap, not just vaguely affordable. Since farmers end up with so much leftover fat when they process pigs for pork, huge amounts of pork fat can usually be found for under $5 – lasting us months! Plus, we’re big on supporting humane, sustainable farms and buying the “odd bits” is by far the most affordable way to do that (read more about that here)!


There are two different types of fat that are rendered into lard. First, and most common is back fat. Back fat that is rendered into a lard that is awesome for sauteing and savory preparations. It has a “porky” flavor, reminiscent of a unsweetened bacon. This lard will make your roasted vegetables taste 1000% better and replace butter in your mashed veggies.

The other variety of lard is leaf lard, made from the fat inside the abdomen that protects the kidneys. Although it’s more “bumpy” before its rendered, it has a smoother texture as lard and more neutral flavor than back fat lard. It’s best used in baking and makes an amazing pie crust. Some people claim claim that leaf lard is more rich in nutrients than back fat, but in our research we cannot find any evidence of this being proven.

We discuss this further in Beyond Bacon, but it’s important to note that different breeds do have a distinction between their quantity of fat and flavor profile. Certain breeds are known for better quality and quantity of fats, of these Mangalitsa is the most famous. Coincidentally, it’s one of the most distinctive looking breeds with its wooly coat that makes it looks like a cross between a sheep and a pig.

mangalitsa-7[2]photo credit: amusingplanet.com

tutorial thursday tools & tips by paleo parents


For making lard, you’ll need a food processor (we recommend this one) or, preferably, a meat grinder (we use this one). You need to get the fat into as tiny pieces as possible. The smaller your fat pieces, the more fat you can extract. The grinder is perfect for this task.


Some people will tell you that you can do this in a crockpot, but we advise against this. Because there’s a fine line between perfect, white lard and burned, bitter lard, you don’t under any circumstance “set it and forget it.” I’ve burned large pots of fat with a crockpot and I don’t want you to do that too. Some people say that making lard is stinky, and it MUST be a crock-pot version that creates a burned aroma for them. Making lard this way is quick and relatively aroma-free, save for the hint of baconesque flavor wafting for the air… and if you’re complaining about that, no one can help you.

Be careful! If your lard ends up that brown color on top, it has been burned! The result will be bitter and not tasty! You want it creamy and white like the bottom. This is why our method involves a bit more effort, but a whole lot less time and will result in the stunningly snow white lard of everyone’s dreams.

Tutorial Thursday - Lard How To by Paleo Parents


Itutorial thursday recommendation & recipes by paleo parents

How to Make Lard

Tutorial Thursday - Fat Back for Lard by Paleo ParentsThis is back fat. If it’s more in clumps, it’s likely to be leaf fat instead.
Know what you are making and label the jar afterwards!

1. First step in making lard is to get your fat. Usually it will come in sheets like this.

2. Grind your fat in your food processor or meat grinder. Grind the fat very small into a large heavy bottom pot.

3. Place the pot over medium-low heat uncovered. Simmer for up to 2 or 3 hours, depending on the amount of fat you are rendering.

4. Every 20 to 30 minutes, pour off the accumulating liquid fat through a strainer into your storage container, then stir your fat pieces and return to the heat. This ensures that you can’t burn your poured off fat! Your fat is done when your solid fat pieces have lightly browned, about the shade pictured below.

Tutorial Thursday - Rendering Lard by Paleo Parents

5. Pour off the remaining fat. Save the browned fat pieces as they are an excellent garnish. Crispy Lardons taste just like bacon, only without the salt and sugar. They make an excellent garnish to just about anything, even apple pie and salad!

Tutorial Thursday - Crispy Lardons by Paleo Parents Yes, we included a 2nd gratuitous crispy lardon shot. We know what we’re talking about here.


We store our lard in mason jars (we like these) for a couple of reasons. Pouring hot fat into plastic might melt the plastic or leech chemicals from the plastic into your lard. Glass will not do that. The screw top lids are also idea because they are tight enough to prevent spilling the hot fat. They’re also very good at keeping out medling cats who love to eat the stuff.

We put our lard in the fridge to cool and solidify. You can keep it there, of course, but rendered lard is extremely stable and can then be frozen or kept on the kitchen counter for a very long time (unless food bits get into it, so use a clean spoon)!

Tutorial Thursday - Perfect Snow White Lard by Paleo Parents

How to Use Lard

If you were to buy Beyond Bacon, you would find a ton of uses for lard. We use it to fry things, like the raved about Chicken Fingers and Yuca Fries in Real Life Paleo as well as these (not) Corn Dogs and Potato Chips from Beyond Bacon – but we also use it to roast vegetables, saute vegetables and brown meat, for cooking our eggs, and in our baking. Of particular note is our award winning The Best (lard) Brownies, our grain-free traditional Lard Pie Crust like grandma used to make, and the crazy good Rosemary Carrot Mash.

Corn Dogs from BeyondBacon by Paleoparents  Lard Pie Crust from BeyondBacon by PaleoParents  The Best Brownies from BeyondBacon by PaleoParents

But an even more traditional use of lard is as a spread. Really! In French restaurants, you are often served both butter and lard for spreading on your bread. We recommend salting, whipping, and adding a touch of honey if you intend to serve it this way, but we assure you you’ll love it that way! Heck, we watched our friend Kimberly from What In The Health eat freshly rendered lard from Patowmack Farms off a spoon last Friday!

Tutorial Thursday - Lard Butter by Paleo ParentsLove butter? We dare you to try Lard!

All food photos by Aimee Buxton from Beyond Bacon

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  • Kris K

    We have a 25lb ball of fat in my freezer from the pig we bought this year so now I know how to render it!

    • Good luck! I recommend small batches until you get the hang of it. Try only a few pounds at first and see how it goes for you.

      The process is very rewarding. It’s one of those things where you’ll think “I can’t believe I did that!”

  • Maureen

    Great article! I’ve been telling my husband I want to do this for months now. Can you purchase the fat at any store, like whole foods? Or do you need to go to a specialty store? Thanks!

    • We recommend buying fat directly from farmers to know the quality you’re getting, but many butcher shops (including whole foods) sell it as well.

  • Aroberts

    Can I render “salt pork” into lard?

    • Well, you’d get fat and it would probably end up looking much the same, but it would end up much saltier and thus cover up the sweetness of lard. So yes, but it would taste different. You could boil it first, I suppose.

  • Christine

    We bought a 1/2 pig this year and have used Beyond Bacon so much, LOVE it! Love this post, too. I’m finally going to give it a try over the holidays. Then I can make that carrot mash I’ve been salivating over. 🙂 Thanks for a great post!

  • leslie

    I finally am getting ready to do this, though I have a huge piece of fat to thaw out (pulling it out tonight). I wanted to clarify a direction though. Under #2 it said to grind it up in a food processor and then put it in a pot? The wording is a awkward (or I’m an awkward reader, which I accept). I’ve processed meats and organ meats and they don’t end up clumpy, more like mousse or something. That’s what goes in the pot? I’m excited to finally do this. I bought this fat on accident. Thought I was getting leaf lard for a steal! But now i realize how much cheaper it is to do this way… as long as I don’t mess it up. Even if I don’t hear back from you, I’ll give it a go and see what’s what. Thanks for the instructions!

    • Yes, that is what goes in the pot – you have it right. 🙂 Good luck with the lard!

      • leslie

        OK, i finally planned ahead enough and did this and it was so unbelievably easy! I had a harder time making ghee! In fact, I was so revved up to do this, that on my trip to Costco this weekend, I found Beyond Bacon and bought it and realize I can make lardons! And finally, that pie crust I’ve heard so much about… I only had 2.5 pounds of leaf lard, but this made a lot. So happy! Thanks, as always!

  • Sarah

    Can you use this same process for fat from other animals? Say, deer for example?

    • Yes, you could, but deer is very lean and might not work as well as a fattier animal.

  • tiff

    i think I’m going to vomit.. you are rendering the fat from an animal to eat it.. to lose fat ?? doesnt make sense.. you should really take a step back.. paleo is obviously not working for you

  • Pen

    This is simply ignorant. Lard has more than 100 calories per tablespoon, with 25% of saturated fat. Your pie crust alone is 700 calories, 360 of which are from lard, adding 75% of saturated fat. That is the pie crust….without the filling. Olive oil is a much healthier alternative especially in terms of the amount of good fats it has in comparison. Not to mention lard makes baked goods taste horrendous. Educate yourselves.

  • Teddy

    Hi, thanks for all the information about Lard, I want to try to render it myself, so it will really help me. Just a question : I don’t have a food processor or meat grinder, is it possible to cut the lard with a knife or another simple tool ? I guess I could find a cheap food processor, but I’m just curious about it.
    And how much fat should i have to fill up a jar like the one you showed ?

    • Yes, you can do it with a knife. However, we recommend the food processor or meat grinder because the smaller you chop your lard, the more fat you’ll be able to render out. It’s a matter of getting the most surface area possible, so chop tiny! To fill up that jar, which I believe is a pint, I think about 1.5 pounds would do. Essentially, you’ll get about 60-70% of your weight and volume back when you render as liquid lard. I generally get about 1.5 cups of lard per pound rendered. All of this is rough, of course, and your mileage may vary.

  • Dave Medich

    Very helpful. Thanks.

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