Is Lard the Same as Bacon Grease?

Lard and bacon grease are two common fats used in cooking but they aren’t exactly the same thing. As a food blogger focusing on Mexican cuisine, I often get asked if lard can be substituted with bacon grease. While they share some similarities there are also key differences that impact flavor and performance.

In this article, I’ll explain exactly what lard and bacon grease are, how they compare, and whether they can be used interchangeably in recipes. My goal is to clear up any confusion about these two pork fats so you can make informed choices in your own cooking.

What is Lard?

Lard is rendered and clarified pork fat. It’s made by melting down fatty tissues from pigs – usually from the abdomen area or back, not the belly.

To make lard, pork fat is cut into small pieces and cooked slowly until the fat melts and moisture evaporates. The melted fat is then strained and cooled until it becomes a creamy solid. This leaves pure lard that is shelf-stable for baking and frying

Traditional lard is snowy white and has a neutral flavor. It has a high smoke point of 370-400°F which makes it excellent for frying and sauteing. Lard makes flakey pie crusts and pastries because the fat crystals hold pockets of air. It’s also commonly used to make refried beans, tamales, and tortillas in Mexican cuisine.

You can find lard in a few forms:

  • Raw leaf lard – This is pure pork fat sold in slabs or blocks before rendering. You have to cut it up and render it yourself.

  • Rendered lard – Pure lard that’s already been cooked down and strained. This is sold in tubs or cans near baking ingredients.

  • Manteca – A Latin American version of lard flavored with pork cracklings for a richer taste. Manteca has a lower smoke point.

  • Hydrogenated lard – Lard that has been chemically processed to increase shelf-life. This creates trans fats so I don’t recommend using it.

Overall, traditional lard offers a clean pork fat flavor with excellent frying and baking properties when used properly.

What is Bacon Grease?

Bacon grease, also called bacon fat or drippings, is the leftover fat and juices from cooking bacon. It’s the byproduct of frying or baking bacon until the fatty pork belly meat crisps up.

Bacon comes from a different part of the pig than lard – it’s from the belly rather than the back. Bacon is also cured and smoked before being cooked.

So when bacon is fried, the melting fat takes on those smoky, salty, meaty flavors. Bacon grease tends to be darker in color than lard due to the curing process.

To collect bacon grease, cook bacon in a pan and then pour off the greasy drippings into a heatproof container once done. Let it cool and then store in the fridge or freezer. The fat will solidify into a creamy beige color.

Bacon grease has a rich smoky pork taste. It can enhance flavor when used for sautéing veggies or cooking eggs. But it may overwhelm more delicate recipes.

Key Differences Between Lard and Bacon Grease

Now that we know what lard and bacon grease are, here are the main ways they differ:

Flavor – Lard has a neutral, clean pork fat flavor. Bacon grease tastes smoky, salty, and meaty from the bacon.

Best Uses – The mildness of lard makes it versatile for both savory and sweet recipes. Bacon grease is best for adding a smoky bacon taste.

Smoke Point – Lard has a high smoke point around 370°F. Bacon grease is lower at 325-350°F since the milk solids burn faster.

Color – Lard is snowy white after rendering while bacon grease is a darker tan color.

Purity – Lard is pure pork fat. Bacon grease contains pork fat plus bits of meat, salt, and spices from the bacon.

Texture – Lard is smooth and creamy when solid. Bacon grease can become grainy as the meat bits separate when cooled.

Can You Substitute Bacon Grease for Lard?

Since lard and bacon grease are both solid pork fats, it’s natural to wonder whether they can be used interchangeably.

The short answer is – sometimes! Bacon grease works fine in place of lard for certain recipes and cooking tasks. But there are also times when substituting it is not the best option.

Here are some tips on when bacon grease can substitute for lard:

  • For sautéing aromatics like onions or garlic, bacon grease adds nice rich flavor.

  • In pan-fried dishes like eggs, bacon grease gives a smoky pork taste.

  • For cooking greens like spinach, bacon grease brings a salty, meaty flavor.

  • For baking savory pies like empanadas, bacon grease offers a subtle smoky note.

However, there are also instances where using only bacon grease is not advised:

  • For refried beans, lard’s neutral flavor works better than bacon grease.

  • In delicate baked goods like cakes or sugar cookies, bacon grease could overwhelm.

  • For deep frying at high heats, bacon grease may burn faster than lard.

  • For flaky pie crust the pure fat content of lard makes it more suitable than bacon grease.

Tips for Cooking with Bacon Grease

If you do want to substitute bacon grease for lard, here are some tips to use it successfully:

  • Start with a small amount – too much can overpower a dish.

  • Opt for grease from lower-salt bacons so it’s not too salty.

  • Mix with oil when frying to prevent burning from the milk solids.

  • Add some fresh herbs or citrus to freshen up the flavor.

  • Combine with lard for the best of both worlds.

  • Store grease in the fridge or freezer to prevent rancidity.

  • Fry an egg in the grease first to remove impurities if it smells off.

  • Use bacon grease to flavor bean or veggie dishes then finish with lard for frying.

The Bottom Line

While lard and bacon grease share some similarities, they aren’t quite the same in terms of flavor and cooking performance. Traditional lard offers a more versatile neutral flavor and higher smoke point.

Bacon grease can add nice smoky, salty notes in the right dishes, but may overwhelm in others. For best results, use bacon grease to enhance flavor then turn to lard for the pure frying and baking power needed in many recipes.

So next time a recipe calls for lard, first consider the dish and desired flavor outcome. Bacon grease can often substitute, just remember a little goes a long way. And for pure pork fat flavor, light color, and flaky pie crust, lard is still the winner!

Turn Store Bought Bacon Into Beautiful White Lard


Can you use bacon grease instead of lard?

Overall I’d have to say yes, you can substitute bacon fat for lard and still get a good result. But I will always reach for some real deal lard if given the choice. Why? Bacon is brined and sometimes smoked, so the leftover drippings are going to have a slight bacony flavor to them.

Can you use bacon grease instead of lard in tamales?

That said, there are other substitutes for lard that will work well in tamale recipes as well, like refined coconut oil, butter, and avocado oil. Chicken fat and bacon fat will supply a similar flavor profile to lard but aren’t as easy to buy off grocery store shelves.

Is lard same as Crisco?

Is lard the same as Crisco? In a word, no, but they can be used for similar purposes. Lard is made from rendered pork fat, while Crisco is vegetable shortening made from palm oil and soybean oil. Crisco can be used in pie crust recipes and for frying.

Can lard be used as grease?

Lard is just as versatile as any other cooking fat and can be used for roasting, grilling, sauteeing, frying, and baking. In its solid form it can be used just like butter or shortening and added to baking recipes. Use a small amount to grease a pan, or add it by the cup full to your cast-iron skillet for deep frying.

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