Lard is a semi-solid substance that is used in cooking to shorten or fry fats. This animal fat is derived from the abdomen of pigs–after an intricate process of ‘rendering.’
By now, you can already guess that lard is not vegan in any form. So let’s learn the reason behind it and obtain some useful alternatives to lard.
What is Lard
Lard is largely derived from animal fats and contains large quantities of pork fat. Most lard is obtained through the rigorous process called rendering. The majority of the fatty portions of the pig such as the abdomen, hands, or belly are cooked slowly so that the fat gets deposited at the bottom and separates itself from the meat.
Any water involved in the process gets evaporated, leaving the fatty semi-solid residue behind. After being cooled, lard assumes an opaque, smooth texture and leaves a pork-filled aftertaste.
Types of Lard
There are roughly four types of lard depending on the portion of fat used and how it is extracted.
Lard can be unrendered as well. This means that it does not go through the rendering process to remove fats. Unrendered lard is usually obtained by simply trimming the fatty portions from the meat. This method is not always the best choice as it leaves a lingering taste of pork which can taste profane if combined with other food.
As discussed, rendered lard is the most common method of separating fats from meat. A more popular choice than its unrendered counterpart, rendered lard does not leave a strong pork flavor behind.
This kind of lard goes through the same rendering process of melting and filtering. For processed lard, an extra step is added to get rid of the pungent lingering smell and flavor of pork. This is referred to as clarification, where the pork fat is bleached and hydrogenated to keep lard at solid room temperature.
Leaf lard is one of the most sumptuous out of the four types. This exquisite leaf-shaped fat is extracted from the kidney and abdomen of pigs. Leaf lard is the creamier and smoother alternative that proves beneficial for baking, especially since it is naturally free from pork flavor.
Can Vegans Use Lard?
Since a major portion of the ingredients contains direct sources of animal products, vegans cannot consume lard. The fatty remains are even unsafe for regular consumption as it contains high saturated fat and cholesterol content.
Due to this reason, lard can adversely affect people suffering from heart or arterial diseases. Since vegans opt for a plant-based diet due to ethical reasons, lard is not a suitable ingredient for vegan foods.
Vegan Substitutes for Lard
Although the animal-based product is not vegan-friendly, there are some vegan substitutes for lard that can be a great alternative to the original formulation. Let’s dive right into the most-awaited part.
Shortening refers to any fat that assumes a solid form at room temperature. Generally, vegetable oil and soybean oil are great substitutes opposed to animal-derived products. You must be wondering how oils can be used for shortening as they are liquids at room temperature.
As one of the safest and the best vegan substitutes for lard, vegetable shortening usually involves plant oils that have been hydrogenated to achieve a more pliable texture at room temperature.
How is this achieved? Hydrogenation is a simple process where liquid fats such as vegetable oil are enhanced with hydrogen to make them solid at room temperature. One of the most common examples of hydrogenated shortening is soybean oil. Soybean oil is fully hydrogenated and then whipped with air to improve its plasticity and texture.
Vegan butter is the simplest substitute for lard. Just like a normal one, vegan butter contains plant-based oils and derivatives which makes it a great alternative. It is also high in calories and fats, so it won’t crumble even in baking dishes.
Use approximately 1 ¼ cup ( 284 grams) of vegan butter as a substitute for lard. The end result is wonderful, and the best part is that you can even use it in pie crusts, cookies, dough, and tortilla shells.
Coconut oil is an excellent substitute for lard and generally works well with all recipes. Since it has a high smoke point, it is suitable for intensive cooking that involves deep-frying techniques.
For high-heat cooking, coconut oil is a perfect replacement for lard. However, if you are not comfortable with the taste of coconut in dishes, consider skipping this method or using coconut oil only for complementary dishes.
Olive oil has a low smoke point, so it only works well with lighter dishes. It is a perfect alternative to lard because of its versatility and high nutritional value.
Instead of lard, use olive oil at a 1:1 ratio for sauteing, frying, and grilling dishes. Since it is rich in antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, it protects your organs from damage.
Avocado is generally a staple ingredient for vegans. Due to its mild flavor and creamy texture, you can combine it with a number of recipes. Avocados particularly work best with baking goodies like cakes, muffins, cookies, and bread.
For one cup of lard (205 grams), you should approximately use ½ cup of mashed avocado, although this can vary depending on the amount needed.
We’re all aware of the benefits of this juicy fruit that is rich in potassium, fiber, and vitamins B6 and B7. Mashed bananas can be doubled as a great substitute for lard due to their low-calorie content.
Use ½ cup (113 grams) of mashed bananas with every cup of lard to achieve a smooth consistency in cakes, bread, and muffins.
Vegan food is so diversified now that one can find a substitute for every kind of dish. Vegan substitutes are healthier in comparison and serve as a tasty yet ethical way of obtaining the most from plant-based foods.
Create your own recipe and let your imagination run wild with the number of vegan substitutes!