A cow and a pig representing the difference between tallow and lard

What the difference between tallow and lard?

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

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    "Wait, what's the real difference between tallow and lard?" If that's the question swirling in your mind as you type into the search engine, you're not alone. Many people find themselves pondering this very question, whether they're standing in the kitchen, planning a recipe, or exploring natural skincare options.

    I'm Annie Gagné, and at The Tallow Company, we've journeyed deep into the world of these traditional fats. It all started with a simple need – to find a natural remedy for my son's eczema. This quest led us to discover the wonders of tallow and lard, not just in our kitchen but in our everyday lives.

    In this article, we're going to gently guide you through understanding the unique qualities, uses, and benefits of tallow and lard. We'll explore how these fats differ in their source, texture, and uses in cooking and skincare, and why they might just be the ingredients you didn't know you needed. So, let's begin this exploration together and unlock the secrets of these versatile fats.

    The Difference Between Tallow and Lard

    A cow and a pig representing the difference between tallow and lard

    Understanding the source and how tallow and lard are made is key to appreciating their unique qualities. These fats, though similar, come from different animals and are produced through a process called rendering. Let's break it down:

    What is tallow?

    • Origin: Tallow is primarily made from the fat of cattle and sheep. It's a product with a rich history, often associated with traditional cooking and even candle-making.
    • Rendering Process: To make tallow, the fat is carefully separated from the meat, often from around the kidneys and other organs. This fat is then slowly heated, melting it down and allowing impurities to be removed. What's left is a pure, stable fat – tallow.

    Lard: The Pig's Gift

    • Origin: Lard comes from pigs. It's been a staple in many cuisines, especially renowned for its role in creating flaky pastries and delicious fried foods.
    • Rendering Process: Similar to tallow, lard is produced by rendering pig fat. The fat from areas like the belly and back is preferred for its purity and quality. After rendering, lard is typically softer than tallow, with a creamy consistency.

    Quality Matters

    Both tallow and lard can vary in quality. Factors like the animal's diet, the part of the body the fat is sourced from, and the rendering method all play a crucial role. Ideally, fats from grass-fed animals and minimally processed methods yield the highest quality tallow and lard.

    Chemical and Physical Difference Between Tallow and Lard

    watercolor painting representing the chemical and physical difference between tallow and lard

    Diving deeper into the difference between tallow and lard, it's fascinating to see how their physical and chemical properties set them apart. These differences not only influence how they're used in cooking and skincare but also affect their nutritional profile.

    Tallow: Firm and Sturdy

    • Texture and Melting Point: Tallow is known for its firm texture. It has a higher melting point compared to lard, which makes it solid at room temperature and ideal for high-heat cooking.
    • Chemical Composition: Rich in saturated fats, tallow is stable and less prone to oxidation. This makes it a great choice for frying and long-term storage. It's also a source of fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin E, essential for skin health.

    Lard: Soft and Spreadable

    • Texture and Melting Point: Lard has a softer, creamier texture and a lower melting point than tallow. This property is why lard is cherished in baking, especially for creating flaky pastries and crusts.
    • Chemical Composition: Lard is a good mix of saturated and monounsaturated fats. It's less dense in saturated fats compared to tallow, making it a versatile fat in cooking. Lard also contains oleic acid, known for its beneficial effects on skin health.

    Nutritional Content

    • Caloric Value: Both tallow and lard are calorie-dense, as they are pure fats. However, their nutritional value extends beyond just calories.
    • Healthy Fats: Despite the bad rap animal fats have received, both tallow and lard contain healthy fats that play a crucial role in hormone production and cell membrane integrity.

    Impact on Health

    While moderation is key, incorporating these fats into a balanced diet can offer health benefits. They provide essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins that are important for overall health.

    The physical and chemical properties of tallow and lard not only make them unique but also versatile. Their different textures, melting points, and compositions allow them to be used effectively in various culinary and skincare applications.

    Skincare Applications

    Skincare creation and the difference between tallow and lard in their applications

    Tallow and lard aren't just for cooking; they're also hidden gems in the world of natural skincare. As a mother, I personally discovered the benefits of tallow when I first made a whipped tallow balm to sooth my son's eczema. The results were so amazing that we started making some for our friends and family...as we say: "the rest is history", The Tallow Company was born out of this little miracle that happened in our own lives.  

    Now let's dive into the difference between tallow and lard for skincare. 

    Tallow: A Treasure for Skin Health

    • Nutrient-Rich Profile: Tallow is remarkably similar to the natural oils in human skin, making it highly beneficial. It’s packed with vitamins A, D, E, and K, crucial for maintaining healthy skin.
    • In Skincare Products: You'll find tallow in a variety of skincare items, from hydrating balms to nourishing soaps. Its ability to deeply moisturize and repair skin is unmatched.
    • Skin Benefits: Products containing tallow are excellent for enhancing skin elasticity and treating conditions like eczema. Its healing properties support overall skin health.

    Lard: The Gentle Moisturizer

    • Rich in Oleic Acid: Lard’s high oleic acid content makes it incredibly moisturizing, perfect for sensitive skin types.
    • Skincare Uses: Lard is a key ingredient in gentle skincare products, including soaps, lotions, and lip balms. It’s known for its ability to preserve skin’s moisture and softness.
    • Advantages for Skin: Lard-based products are great for maintaining youthful, elastic skin, aligning with natural anti-aging practices.

    Exploring Tallow and Lard in Soap Making

    We have an in-depth discussion on this topic in our article, "Tallow vs Lard for Soap". Here, you can dive deeper into the specifics of how each fat performs in soap making, their benefits, and the unique qualities they bring to skincare. But needless to say, both tallow and lard are amazing for soap making. 

    Culinary Uses

    Watercolor painting of a kitchen representing the difference of cooking with tallow or lard

    When it comes to cooking, tallow and lard are not just fats; they're ingredients that bring unique flavors and textures to dishes. Here's how these traditional fats can elevate your culinary creations:

    Tallow: The High-Heat Hero

    • Ideal for Frying and Sautéing: Thanks to its high smoke point, tallow is perfect for frying. It adds a rich, savory flavor to fried foods and is great for browning meat.
    • Flavor Profile: Tallow imparts a distinct, slightly meaty flavor, making it a favorite for enhancing the taste of steaks, burgers, and even vegetables when roasted.
    • Texture in Foods: Its firm nature at room temperature helps in creating a crispy outer layer in fried foods.

    Lard: The Baker's Best Friend

    • Perfect for Pastries and Pies: Lard's ability to create flaky, tender textures is unparalleled in baking. It's the secret ingredient for pie crusts that are both crispy and melt-in-your-mouth.
    • Subtle Flavor: Unlike tallow, lard has a more neutral flavor, which is why it's so popular in baking. It won't overpower the taste of sweet or savory baked goods.
    • Versatility in Cooking: Beyond baking, lard can be used for frying and sautéing, offering a lighter alternative to tallow.

    Culinary Versatility

    • Beyond Frying and Baking: Both tallow and lard can be used in a variety of other cooking methods, such as grilling, roasting, and braising.
    • Cultural Dishes: Explore traditional dishes from various cultures that utilize tallow or lard, like tamales made with lard or traditional British puddings with tallow.

    Other Practical Uses

    tallow candles and different application of tallow or lard

    Tallow and lard are not just confined to culinary and skincare realms; their versatility extends into various practical applications. Let's explore some of the creative and useful ways these fats can be utilized beyond traditional uses.

    Tallow: A Light in the Dark

    • Candle Making: Tallow has been used for centuries in candle making. Tallow candles burn cleanly and emit a natural, warm light. They are a sustainable alternative to paraffin-based candles and offer a touch of traditional charm. Check out our selection of handmade tallow candles
    • Leather Care: Tallow is also excellent for conditioning and waterproofing leather. It penetrates deep into leather, restoring flexibility and protecting it from the elements.

    Lard: The Multi-Purpose Fat

    • Soap Making: While we’ve touched on skincare, it's worth mentioning lard's specific role in traditional soap making. Lard soaps are known for their creamy lather and moisturizing properties, making them a favorite in artisanal soap crafting.
    • Lubricant for Metal and Wood: Lard can be used as a natural lubricant for metal and wooden tools. It helps prevent rust on metal surfaces and keeps wood from drying out and cracking.

    Sustainable Home Products

    • Homemade Wax and Polishes: Both tallow and lard can be used to make natural wax for wooden furniture and floors. These homemade polishes nourish wood and give it a natural, healthy sheen.
    • Cooking Seasoning for Cast Iron: Tallow and lard are excellent for seasoning cast iron cookware. They create a non-stick surface and help protect the cookware from rust.

    Crafting and DIY Projects

    • Making Natural Paints and Finishes: Historically, these fats have been used in making natural paints and finishes. They serve as a binding agent for pigments in traditional paint recipes.
    • Handicrafts and Traditional Arts: In various cultures, tallow and lard have roles in traditional arts and crafts, offering natural ways to create and preserve.

    Tallow and lard prove to be incredibly versatile, with uses that reach far into the realms of sustainable living and traditional crafts. 

    Storage and Shelf Life

    watercolor painting representing storage and shelf life of lard or tallow

    Proper storage of tallow and lard is crucial for maintaining their quality and extending their shelf life. Like any natural product, how you store these fats can significantly impact their usability and effectiveness. Let’s look at the best practices for keeping your tallow and lard fresh and ready to use.

    Tallow: Storing for Longevity

    • Cool and Dark Place: Tallow should be stored in a cool, dark place to prevent oxidation. Exposure to light and heat can cause it to spoil faster.
    • Refrigeration: For long-term storage, keeping tallow in the refrigerator is ideal. This can significantly extend its shelf life.
    • Freezing for Extended Use: Tallow can also be frozen, perfect for storing large quantities. It can last for years in the freezer without losing its quality.

    Lard: Keeping It Fresh

    • Airtight Containers: Store lard in airtight containers to keep out moisture and other contaminants. This helps in preserving its texture and flavor.
    • Refrigeration is Key: Lard is best kept in the refrigerator, especially after opening. It remains pliable and easy to use even when chilled.
    • Freezing Option: Like tallow, lard can be frozen for long-term storage. It can be portioned and stored in freezer-safe containers for easy access.

    Shelf Life Insights

    • Typical Shelf Life: When stored properly, tallow can last up to a year in the refrigerator and even longer in the freezer. Lard typically has a shorter shelf life but can still last for several months in the fridge and up to a year in the freezer.
    • Signs of Spoilage: Be on the lookout for any changes in smell, texture, or color. Rancidity is a clear sign that the fat has spoiled and should not be used.

    Maximizing Freshness

    • Minimize Exposure to Air and Light: Keeping these fats sealed and away from direct light helps in maintaining their quality.
    • Use Clean Utensils: To prevent contamination, always use clean utensils when handling tallow or lard.

    Proper storage of tallow and lard not only ensures that you can enjoy their benefits for a longer period but also helps in reducing waste. By following these simple yet effective storage tips, you can ensure that these versatile fats retain their best qualities, ready for your next culinary adventure or skincare creation.


    In this comprehensive exploration, we've done our utmost to demystify the differences between tallow and lard, covering everything from their unique origins and production processes to their diverse uses in cooking, skincare, and beyond.  We hope this article was useful and make sure to take a look at our selection of tallow products if you want to try their magic for yourself!


    Fat Content and Composition of Animal Products 

    - Tallow - Wikipedia

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