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What is Leaf Lard? Your Guide to Cooking With This Unique Fat

So, your interest is piqued. You’ve heard things about animal fats and leaf lard specifically. And now you want answers to the burning question… What is Leaf Lard?

Well, if you love devouring flaky croissants and scoffing juicy chicken drumsticks, keep reading. This soft fat from around the pig’s kidneys is making a major comeback among chefs and home cooks alike.

But what is leaf lard exactly? And why should you should be choosing this, and other animal fats, over these man-made fats that we’ve been told we should be eating.

Below are the reasons why I’ve been using animal fats for both eating and skincare since 2016 and why I wouldn’t go back.

Let’s dig in…


  • Leaf lard comes from the pig’s kidneys/loin and has a creamy, neutral taste
  • It excels at baking flaky pastries and frying without imparting a porky flavor
  • Contains less saturated fat than butter or coconut oil
  • Purchase from butchers, farmers’ markets, online, or render your own
  • Refrigerate for 1 month or freeze for 6+ months
  • Has nutritional and baking benefits over vegetable oils
  • Avoid hydrogenated lard containing trans fats
  • Can be used for pie crusts, biscuits, frying chicken
  • Also great for skin care thanks to its moisturizing properties
  • Has unique properties compared to beef tallow, butter, and shortening
  • This traditional & natural fat is making a comeback over vegetable oils

What is Leaf Lard?

Pure leaf lard specifically refers to the soft, visceral fat found around the pig’s kidneys and loin. It comes from the internal pork fat deposits rather than external back fat or other areas.

Leaf lard has a uniquely smooth, spreadable, creamy texture at room temperature, unlike more grainy or waxy fats rendered from other parts of the pig. This soft fat’s super spreadable consistency can be spread like butter when chilled.

Before lard fell out of favor, folk would spread pure lard onto some fresh bread. When I mentioned to my father-in-law I was writing this post, he recalled fond memories of using lard instead of butter on his toast.

What Makes Leaf Lard Different From Regular Lard?

Unlike regular lard rendered from pork fatback or bacon drippings, leaf lard made from pigs visceral fat has a clean, subtle, lightly sweet flavor without any strong porky flavor. The taste is neutral enough for both savory and sweet recipes.

This delicate flavor and mouthfeel come from leaf lard’s origins near the kidneys and loin rather than other areas.

The lack of pork flavor makes leaf lard the highest quality grade of lard for versatility in cooking and baking recipes where you don’t want a dominant meat taste.

The Many Benefits of Cooking With Leaf Lard

Leaf lard offers many nutritional and culinary advantages over man-made seed and vegetable oil and shortening that are bringing this traditional fat back into style.

Here’s a closer look at what makes it so great:

Nutritional Benefits

While lard has a reputation for being high in saturated fat, leaf lard actually contains less saturated fat than butter or coconut oil.

It also has zero trans fats, unlike vegetable oil and shortening. Leaf lard provides fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D.

Recent studies show that moderate amounts of saturated fats from natural sources are not as harmful as decades of conventional wisdom claimed.

Leaf lard was a beloved baking staple for centuries before falling out of favor due to the rise of vegetable oil.

What is Hydrogenated Lard, and Why Should you Steer Clear?

Lard in it’s natural form, should be soft and creamy at room temperature. You’ll notice the lard in stores next to the butter, are solid. That’s because they’ve gone through the process of hydrogenation.

This process involves adding hydrogen to the fat, which turns it from a liquid into a solid at room temperature.

One of the benefits of hydrogenated lard is that it makes it shelf stable. The hydrogenation process extends the shelf life of the lard, making it less likely to go rancid compared to non-hydrogenated lard.

However, the dark side of the hydrogenation process is that the end product contains trans fats – how?

Let me break it down simply:

  1. What is Hydrogenation?
    • Hydrogenation is a chemical process. It adds hydrogen atoms to the fat.
    • This process turns liquid oils into solid fats.
  2. Formation of Trans Fats:
    • During hydrogenation, the structure of the fat changes.
    • Normally, fats in lard are in a “cis” formation, which is a natural form.
    • Hydrogenation can change some of these fats into a “trans” formation. This is not common in nature.
    • These transformed fats are what we call trans fats.
  3. Why Use Hydrogenation?
    • It makes the lard solid at room temperature.
    • It also increases the shelf life and stability of the lard.

In short, trans fats in hydrogenated lard, and in general, are a health concern. They are known to increase the risk of heart disease.

That’s why I steer clear of solid store-bought lard, and perhaps you should too.

Cooking and Baking Benefits

Beyond nutrition, leaf lard offers stellar cooking properties. Its high smoking point makes leaf lard suitable for all types of frying. Foods fry up gorgeously golden and crispy in leaf lard without taking on any pork flavor.

This makes it ideal for frying chicken, french fries, and donuts which keep their natural taste. In baking, leaf lard adds insane flakiness to pie crusts, scones, and pastries.

Its high moisture content allows baked goods to puff tall and stay tender. Leaf lard imparts a subtle creaminess without overpowering other ingredients.

Where to Find Leaf Lard

Compared to regular lard, leaf lard can be trickier to source. Check with your local butcher to see if they stock any. Many pig farmers at farmers’ markets also sell leaf lard, possibly from pastured heritage breeds.

In our modern world of the world-wide-web, there are plenty of options online that offer delivery right to your doorstep, such as:

Failing that, if you still can’t find leaf lard, ask your butcher for pork fatback and kidney trimmings to render your own lard. Home rendering is quite affordable.

How to Render Your Own Leaf Lard

Looking to DIY your leaf lard supply? Here’s a quick step-by-step guide:

  1. Gather quality leaf fat trimmings – ideally from around the kidneys and loin where the fat is thickest.
  2. Chop the fat into 1-inch pieces, removing any meat bits.
  3. Place in a heavy pot and add about 1 cup water per pound of fat.
  4. Cook over low heat for 2-3 hours until all the water evaporates and the fat fully renders.
  5. Strain out any crispy cracklings – yes you can eat these. Just add a pinch of salt… lovely stuff!
  6. Pour the liquid lard into jars, and cap immediately once cooled.

And that’s all there is to it… enjoy!

Storing Leaf Lard

Like any animal fat, proper storage is key to keeping leaf lard fresh. Here are some tips:

  • Store leaf lard in an airtight glass or plastic container to prevent oxidation from air exposure.
  • For short-term storage of 1-2 months, keep refrigerated at 40°F or below. The fridge slows rancidity caused by heat and light.
  • For long-term storage up to 6 months or longer, freeze leaf lard. Freezing stops the clock on shelf life.
  • When freezing, portion leaf lard into small containers rather than freezing a large block. This prevents having to thaw more than needed.
  • Let refrigerated leaf lard come to room temp before using to prevent condensation from forming. Frozen lard should thaw overnight in the fridge.
  • Use clean utensils each time when portioning out leaf lard. Contamination introduces bacteria that can spoil lard.
  • If lard smells sour or rancid upon use, it has spoiled and should be discarded. Fresh lard smells mild.

Following proper storage methods allows leaf lard to keep optimal freshness and quality for months after rendering or purchasing.

Cooking and Baking with Leaf Lard

Being that leaf lard is a high-quality type of lard, known for its purity and mild flavor, it makes it a prized ingredient in cooking and baking. Here’s a summary of what makes it special:

  1. Ideal for Baking:
    • Leaf lard is famous for creating flaky, tender pastries.
    • Its neutral taste doesn’t overpower the taste of your baked goods.
    • Perfect for pie crusts, giving them an incredible texture.
  2. High Smoke Point:
    • It has a high smoke point, making it great for frying and sautéing.
    • Foods cooked in leaf lard absorb less grease, staying light and crispy.
  3. Healthier Option:
    • Compared to other animal fats, leaf lard has less saturated fat.
    • It’s a better choice for those looking for a healthier lard option
  4. How to Use It:
    • Use it as a butter substitute in recipes for a flakier texture.
    • Great for roasting vegetables, adding a subtle, savory flavor.

In summary, leaf lard is a versatile, high-quality fat that can elevate your cooking and baking. It’s especially valued for its ability to create light, flaky pastries without adding a strong flavor.

If you’re exploring traditional cooking fats, leaf lard is worth a try!

Comparing Leaf Lard to Other Fats

Comparing leaf lard to other fats helps understand its unique qualities. Let’s look at how it stacks up:

  1. Leaf Lard vs. Regular Lard:
    • Leaf lard is from the area around the pig’s kidneys. It’s purer and has a milder flavor.
    • Regular lard can come from various parts of the pig and may have a stronger pork taste.
  2. Leaf Lard vs. Beef Tallow:
    • Beef tallow has a stronger, meatier flavor, while leaf lard is more neutral and mild.
    • Leaf lard is ideal for creating flaky, tender baked goods, unlike beef tallow.
    • Leaf lard is a staple in traditional baking, whereas beef tallow is often used in savory dishes and frying.
  3. Leaf Lard vs. Butter:
    • Both are great for baking. Leaf lard creates flakier pastries.
    • Butter adds a rich flavor, while leaf lard is more neutral.
    • Butter contains dairy, while leaf lard is dairy-free.
  4. Leaf Lard vs. Vegetable Shortening:
    • Shortening is plant-based, good for those avoiding animal products.
    • Leaf lard has a higher smoke point, better for frying.
    • Some prefer leaf lard for its natural source, while shortening is more processed.
  5. Leaf Lard vs. Coconut Oil:
    • Coconut oil is plant-based, a choice for vegetarians and vegans.
    • It has a distinct coconut flavor, unlike the neutral taste of leaf lard.
    • Both are solid at room temperature and can be used in similar ways in baking.
  6. Leaf Lard vs. Olive Oil:
    • Olive oil is liquid at room temperature, while leaf lard is solid.
    • Olive oil is known for its heart-healthy fats.
    • Leaf lard is preferred for pastries, while olive oil is great for dressings and sautéing.

In summary, leaf lard’s key features are its mild flavor and ability to create flaky textures in baking. It’s a healthier animal fat option but still different from plant-based fats like olive oil or coconut oil.

It stands out for its versatility and is especially valued in traditional baking recipes.

Using Leaf Lard for Skin Care

In addition to being a versatile cooking fat, leaf lard can also be used to moisturize and nourish skin when applied topically. The same properties that make it excel in baking also make leaf lard an effective skincare ingredient.

Leaf lard can penetrate deeply into the skin thanks to its spreadable, creamy texture. It acts as an emollient by filling in cracks in dry, flaky skin, leaving skin feeling soft and smooth.

The rich fatty acids in leaf lard help hydrate skin and reinforce the skin barrier.

When applied to areas prone to dryness and itching like hands, heels, elbows or lips, leaf lard provides moisture and relief. Its anti-inflammatory properties calm irritated skin.

Leaf lard is gentle enough to use on eczema or acne-prone skin without clogging pores.

To use leaf lard topically, scoop out a small amount and gently rub between your palms to warm before massaging over clean skin. Focus on any rough patches. Use leaf lard anywhere you would use a body butter or thick moisturizer.

While not the right choice for facial skincare for all skin types, leaf lard works wonders on the rest of the body.

The natural vitamins A, D and E found in leaf lard nourish and renew skin over time with continued use.

When reaching for a rich moisturizer, turn to leaf lard for soft, glowing happy skin!


I’m a massive fan of animal fats and steer well clear of highly processed seed and vegetable oils and shortenings.

It makes no sense to me that we should avoid something that we’ve been eating for millennia in exchange for something that’s man-made that we’ve been consuming for a short amount of time.

It’s now coming to light that these villainized animal fats are perhaps not so bad after all – and for good reason. Leaf lard is easier to cook with, tastes better, is stable when heated up due to there high smoking point, and can even be used as a moisturizer.

I hope this encourages you to use leaf lard and perhaps look into other animal fats such as beef tallow. I’ve written plenty about this wonderous fat too, here are a handful:

And that’s it, have a nutritious day!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a good substitute for leaf lard?

Butter or olive oil can substitute in most recipes, but will not replicate the ideal flakiness and moisture retention of leaf lard.

Is Crisco the same thing as leaf lard?

No, Crisco contains hydrogenated vegetable oils while leaf lard comes from pure pig fat. They have very different properties.

Why is leaf lard good for you?

Leaf lard contains vitamins like D, K2, and E, as well as less saturated fat than butter or coconut oil. Recent evidence shows natural saturated fats in moderation are not detrimental.

What recipes work best with leaf lard?

Leaf lard excels at baking insanely flaky pie crusts, biscuits, scones, and pastries. It’s also excellent for frying foods where a light, non-porky flavor is desired.

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