What Is Lard

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Lard may have developed a bad reputation over the years, but this potential alternative to other cooking oils and fats could give your cooking some variety and extra flavor.

What Is Lard?

Lard is simply the common term for pork fat, which can be rendered from different parts of the pig. Just as people may use olive oil, butter or vegetable oil as a cooking medium, lard is also a reliable option. For centuries, pork fat was one of the more common cooking fats, but over time it developed something of a negative connotation.

The appeal from a culinary perspective is that lard can add a hearty, meatier element to your dishes than regular butter or plant-based oils. Particularly if the fat is rendered at home, by cooking pork in various forms, the rich flavor and smokiness of the animal fat can be transferred to the dish.

Vegetables like broccoli or asparagus cooked in pork fat are particularly popular, and have been for generations! The versatility of this cooking fat also makes it appealing in the kitchen; from frying up potatoes to keeping a pie crust firm, lard can be both useful and uniquely delicious.

A wooden bowl with lard on a wooden counter

Lard is particularly favored for the preparation of pastry because of the “flakiness” it provides. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Where to buy?

You can purchase lard at the store, although buying it directly from a butcher will likely result in a richer and higher-quality fat.

Nutrition Facts

Lard
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Energy [kcal]902
Energy [kJ]3774
Total lipid (fat) [g]100
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.11
Selenium, Se [µg]0.2
Choline, total [mg]49.7
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.6
Vitamin D (D2 + D3), International Units [IU]102
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]2.5
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) [µg]2.5
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]39.2
10:0 [g]0.1
12:0 [g]0.2
14:0 [g]1.3
16:0 [g]23.8
18:0 [g]13.5
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]45.1
16:1 [g]2.7
18:1 [g]41.2
20:1 [g]1
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]11.2
18:2 [g]10.2
18:3 [g]1
Cholesterol [mg]95
Sources include : USDA

How to make?

You can also make it at home, which may give you the highest quality of all! After all, you render pork fat every time you cook bacon in a pan; that residual fat that burns off and eventually hardens is lard, although it is recommended that you strain that liquid before it settles to eliminate any stray particles or bits or char.

However, in recent years, despite its long tenure as a dangerous cause of obesity, pork fat has experienced a resurgence in popularity. As people increasingly move away from trans fats in their diet, lard is once again becoming a viable option alongside some of the healthier cooking oils. The problem is that a lot of the commercial lard available on the market is less healthy than homemade lard, or lard that comes from the butcher.

Is Lard Healthy?

Lard has a unique nutritional composition for animal fat.

Positive

  • It doesn’t contain any trans fats. This immediately makes it appealing for people who want to eliminate these potentially inflammatory fats from their diet. Furthermore, when compared to other common cooking fats, such as butter, pork fat actually ends up being the healthier of the two.
  • When it comes to monounsaturated fats, lard is composed of roughly 60%, while butter only has 45%; monounsaturated fats like omega-3s are the beneficial forms of fat that the body requires, and have been associated with a decrease in heart disease. Studies have found that pork fat is an excellent source of these beneficial fatty acids, such as oleic acid. In fact, the oleic acid found in this cooking fat is known to reduce bad cholesterol, and it is found in significantly higher concentrations than in butter, but not as high as the level of oleic acid found in olive oil.

Negative

  • That being said, pork is also somewhat high in saturated fat, which is not good for your heart health and can lead to atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular issues. In comparison to fish oils or plant-based oils, which usually have less than 10% saturated fat, lard can be as high as 40%. While some amount of saturated fat is needed by the body, most people already get too many saturated fats in their diet, so the aim is generally to reduce the amount you consume.

In short, it is not as healthy an option as olive oil, but it can be used to replace butter for a slight nutritional boost. Lard and butter have roughly the same amount of cholesterol per serving. The other point to consider is that the quality of the pork fat, as numerous studies have found, depends largely on the diet and health of the animal itself, which adds an inherent variability to the quality of the product.

Given that pork is traditionally used in certain recipes to achieve a specific consistency or taste, there is nothing wrong with occasionally adding it to your diet, but replacing healthy plant-based oils with pork fat would not be a wise long-term health choice.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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