Lard: So Hot Right Now?


Every cook has been there. You find a much-wanted recipe — usually for something with an international flair, like tamales, arepas, or dumplings — you read through it thinking, “yeah, I can totally make this at home,” but then the recipe gets to the point: Lard. Oh right, that’s why it tastes so frigging good.

I always flip past a recipe once I realize it calls for lard, and I think many Americans are the same way. We’ll drown our dishes in pounds of butter, cover them in gallons of EVOO, and of course we’ll batter and deep-fry anything. But lard is just beyond the pale. So I was rather intrigued by this line in today’s NYT piece about Chilean-style empanadas:

The dough is made with lard.

“Though we’ve started producing very good olive oil in Chile, and it’s used more and more, dough or pastry is never made with it,” Ms. Hamilton said. She added that she finds it a little odd that United States cooks are reluctant to use lard, because it has less saturated and more unsaturated fat than butter.

Wait a minute, does this mean lard is OK now? Better than butter, even? We can use it without feeling like we’re pushing every dinner guest a big step close to a certain early death? This could open up a whole new world of cooking possibilities. But of course I have to check with ES-ers first. What do you think? To lard or not to lard?

(Photo: Another Pint Please)

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  • belmontmedina April 15, 2009  

    I will always and forever be a lard devotee. It’s the best for frying, and wonderful in pastries

  • Mrs. Joe Hoya April 15, 2009  

    If the recipe calls for it, I’d rather cook with animal fat than strange substitutes created in a lab. But its also an easy answer to the question “how unhealthy is this dish?” so I more often than not pass on lardy recipes.

  • gansie April 15, 2009  

    what’s a good lard brand? is crisco still in vogue?

  • BS April 15, 2009  

    @gasie – common misconception – crisco is actually the anti-lard, it’s all vegetable.

  • Alex April 15, 2009  

    @ BS – you’re so sexy when you make vegetarian comments before I do.

  • Laura April 15, 2009  

    Same problem – I have recipes that require lard just sitting around, waiting for the day when I can actually find it at the store. I’ve tried using Crisco as a substitute, and it sucks. So just waiting for lard to become “hot” again…

    I say “to lard”. There is no substitute.

  • Will April 15, 2009  

    Always been a fan of all things pork and that includes lard, which can be thinned with vegetable fat but never entirely replaced by it. As a biochemist I’ve always been amused by friends that will happily use a pound of butter, but are abhorred with the knowledge that my ultra flaky pie dough does in fact have a little pig in it.

  • Michael April 15, 2009  

    great post! lard definitely something exotic, but i am no longer afraid

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  • scott April 17, 2009  

    Be careful…Not all lards are created equal. Especially that nasty shit in the picture of this post. See the Hydrogenated lard? The man puts that garbage in the mix so he doesn’t have to refrigerate his product. It saves him money, but wreaks havoc on your arteries. Seriously that’s the trans fat that has been giving lard a bad name. And its not the lard the times is saying is better than butter.

    Next time head to an ethnic market, and hit the freezer sections. You want lard with one ingredient only. Lard.

    Or if you really want to get nuts render it yourself. Your house will smell pretty — I promise.

  • erica April 20, 2009  

    it can’t be that hard to find lard, an ex used to make cakes with it. Then again, I’m on the west coast.

  • erica April 20, 2009  

    all i ask is you please tell your dinner guests there’s lard in there, especially if you know they’re vegetarian 😛

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