Beef Cracklings: A Guide to This Crispy, Savory Treat

Beef cracklings are a delicious and underrated treat that deserve more time in the spotlight! If you’ve never heard of beef cracklings before, you’re missing out.

This snack is made from rendered and fried beef fat, giving it an irresistible crispy, crunchy texture that is exploding with rich, meaty flavor It’s easy to see why beef cracklings have been enjoyed for centuries across many cultures.

In this article, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about beef cracklings including what they are, how they’re made, popular uses, nutrition, and where to buy them. Let’s crackle and crunch our way through the world of beef cracklings!

What are Beef Cracklings?

Beef cracklings go by many names around the world including chicharrones de res in Mexican cuisine, kreplach in Jewish cooking, and pork rinds in the Southern U.S.

But no matter what you call them, beef cracklings are made by:

  1. Rendering beef fat and connective tissue through slow cooking until liquefied and strained. This leaves behind crispy bits of protein and fat.

  2. Frying the strained bits again until puffed and crispy.

This double cooking method—first rendering then frying—is what gives beef cracklings their signature crunch. The high heat of frying evaporates all moisture, leaving just delicious crackly bits behind.

The History of Beef Cracklings

Fried animal fats have been enjoyed by cultures across the globe for centuries. Archaeological evidence from Native American sites suggests pemmican (dried meat, berries, and fat) was made and stored as far back as the 15th century. Frybread and chicharrones also have long histories in Native American cuisines.

In Europe, fried pork skin has been referenced since the Roman empire. Meanwhile, Jewish communities have long cooked kreplach, which are pieces of rendered beef fat.

During the colonial era, the cracklings tradition continued in the southern U.S. as pork fat was rendered into lard and fried to make pork rinds. Later, this extended to making cracklings from chicken skin as well.

Clearly, the human craving for these crispy nuggets of pure flavor is longstanding and crosses borders!

How Are Beef Cracklings Made?

The process of making beef cracklings is very similar to that of pork rinds. Here are the basic steps:

1. Rendering – Beef fatback and connective tissue is cooked low and slow in a pot until the fat renders out completely from the solids.

2. Straining – The rendered fat is then strained from the solids and cooled. The strained fatty bits are primarily protein and collagen.

3. Frying – The strained solids are then fried in rendered beef fat, lard, or oil at 350-375°F until puffed and crispy.

4. Seasoning – Beef cracklings are usually tossed in salt after frying but can also be seasoned with spices, sugar, or other flavors.

It takes patience to properly render beef fat into cracklings, but the reward of snacking on these crispy bites is well worth it!

Popular Uses for Beef Cracklings

So what do you do with these delightfully crispy nuggets of beefy richness? Here are some of the most popular ways to enjoy beef cracklings:

  • Eat them as a snack, simply tossed in salt.

  • Use crumbled ones as a topping over salads, soups, tacos, nachos, etc.

  • Mix into cookie or cake batter for an extra crunchy texture.

  • Coat with chocolate or maple syrup and eat as candy.

  • Sprinkle over ice cream sundaes for a salted crunch.

  • Use in place of bacon bits on baked potatoes, in dips, or in pancake batter.

  • Toss into bread dough or pizza crust for a fun pop of texture.

  • Crush up and use as breading on fried chicken, fish, etc.

Let your imagination run wild with unique ways to use these crispy bits of beefy deliciousness!

Nutrition Profile of Beef Cracklings

Since beef cracklings come purely from rendered and fried beef fat, their nutrition profile is quite different from typical protein sources. Here are the basic nutrition facts in a 1 oz serving of beef cracklings:

  • Calories – 230
  • Fat – 26g
  • Saturated Fat – 9g
  • Sodium – 280mg
  • Protein – 6g

As you can see, beef cracklings are very high in fat, including saturated fat. Most of the calories come from fat. They are also high in sodium, as salt is usually added.

However, they do contain a surprising amount of protein due to the collagen that becomes crispy during frying. Overall, beef cracklings are a high fat, high calorie food that should be enjoyed in moderation.

Where to Buy Beef Cracklings

Sadly, beef cracklings can be difficult to find in mainstream grocery stores in the U.S. However, you may get lucky and spot bags of them in the international or Hispanic foods aisle.

Your best bet is to check at butcher shops or Latin American markets. You can also order beef chicharrones online through specialty sites.

Of course, the very best option is to make them yourself! This ensures freshness and allows you to customize flavors. Any leftover rendered beef fat can also be used for cooking.

How to Make Beef Cracklings at Home

If you want to experience the joy of warm, freshly fried beef cracklings, then making them yourself is extremely rewarding. Here is an overview of the homemade beef cracklings process:

1. Choose your cut – Opt for beef fatback, suet, or fatty/connective cuts like brisket, chuck roast, or oxtails.

2. Simmer and render – Slow cook the beef for 2-4 hours until fat is fully rendered. Strain and separate fat from solids.

3. Fry the solids – Fry strained bits at 350-375°F for 4-7 minutes until puffed and crispy.

4. Toss in seasoning – Toss hot cracklings in salt, spices, or other seasonings. Eat immediately for the best texture.

If you love pork rinds, then you must give beefy, meaty cracklings a try. They deliver even bolder flavor in every crunchy bite!

How To Make – Beef Crackling


Is there a beef version of pork rinds?

Chicharrones and Pork Rinds Are Used Interchangeably The primary difference comes from the type of meat used, so chicharrones are only appreciably different if they’re made from beef or mutton.

What kind of meat is used for cracklins?

Cracklin’ are fried pieces of pork fat with layers of meat and skin still attached. Found in many of the meat markets located in Cajun country, cracklin’ is made fresh each day. To cook cracklin, pieces of pig belly must be cut into large chunks.

What to do with beef tallow cracklings?

You can use beef cracklins the same way you would use bacon bits or as a crispy topping for tacos. I like to make tacos out of rice, refried beans, and roasted jalapeños. Crispy beef cracklins tossed in add a satisfying beefy crunch. Like tallow, beef cracklins will hold up indefinitely in the freezer.

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