If you’re here, you’re probably about to make a recipe that calls for lard or vegetable shortening — and you don’t happen to have some in your pantry. So you’ve done what most home cooks would do in your shoes and asked the Internet: Is one the same as the other?
In this post, I’m going to help you get to the answer. By the end of it, you will know why shortening is not the same as lard — yet why that doesn’t stop you from being able to substitute one for the other.
Keep on reading to find out why.
Lard comes from pure animal fat, while shortening is made from hydrogenated vegetable oil, such as soybean or cottonseed oil.
Shortening, butter, and lard are generally interchangeable fats for home cooking. Lard is made from rendered fat from pork meat, butter from cow’s milk, and shortening from hydrogenated cooking oils. Shortening is the only cooking fat of the three that’s tasteless and suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets.
At the end of the day, it’s completely your choice whether to use shortening, butter, or fat in your recipes. Lard and butter are more natural cooking fats, so they come with their own aromas and flavors. Some home cooks like that and others don’t — going for the aromaless and tasteless shortening instead.
You can use shortening, butter, and lard for pan frying, deep frying, and baking. Just keep in mind that butter has the lowest smoke point (302°F) of the three and will scorch at temperatures that shortening and lard won’t.
In our household, we use first and foremost extra virgin olive oil, occasionally lard, and rarely shortening. As you can tell, though, we’re carnivore.
Here’s how shortening, butter, and lard compare against each other when it comes to their smoke points and nutritional facts (my source is USDA FoodData Central):
|Fact (per 100 g)||Lard||Shortening||Butter|
|Made from||Rendered pork fat||Hydrogenated vegetable oils||Cow’s milk|
|Total fat||100 g||100 g||81 g (and about 19 g water)|
|Saturated fat||32 g||91 g||51 g|
|Polyunsaturated fat||11 g||1 g||3 g|
|Monounsaturated fat||41 g||2.2 g||21 g|
|Cholesterol||97 mg||0 mg||215 mg|
|Sodium||27 mg||0 mg||11 mg|
|Potassium||15 mg||0 mg||24 mg|
|Vitamins||Cobalamin 1%||None||Vitamin A 49%|
Vitamin D 15%
Cooking Fats Throughout History
It’s always useful to go back in time and understand the historical context of the food you make and the ingredients you use.
This helps you to make an informed choice as a consumer about what food to cook and how, with a sceptical mind and less influence from advertising and marketing.
Not that long ago, lard was actually a staple in every kitchen across America. The by-product of rendered animal fat, home cooks used lard as a cooking oil on the stove top and in the oven. Then, in the early 1900’s, came vegetable shortening.
Shortening was invented by the Procter & Gamble Company in 1910. Originally, it was used as an alternative to lard and tallow for making soaps and candles. In 1911, P&G introduced it as an ingredient for home cooks — and it quickly gained popularity in the U.S.
Lard slowly grew out of favor. But it wasn’t until the 1950’s, when restaurants stopped cooking with it and public healthcare professionals began proclaiming how unhealthy it was on television, radio, and print, until lard turned into a rarity.
Today, for a number of reasons, lard is making a comeback. Here’s everything you want to know about it and its vegetable-oil counterpart, shortening.
How They’re Made
How Lard Is Made
Lard is semi-solid fat from the fatty cuts of pigs, like pork belly, butt, or shoulder. It’s made by rendering fat out of the meat.
Rendering happens when meat is cooked slowly — by steaming, boiling, or dry heat at 93°F to 113°F — until the fat liquifies and drips off of it.
You can make lard at home, but you can’t make your own shortening. Keep on reading to find out why.
How Shortening Is Made
Shortening is made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
Hydrogenation turns liquid vegetable oil into a solid by bombarding the oil with hydrogen atoms. This changes the chemical structure of the oil from mostly unsaturated to mostly saturated (Healthline).
Clearly, you can’t (and shouldn’t try to) make your own shortening at home. You’re going to need vegetable, pressure, hydrogen gas, and a catalyst like nickel.
The point of hydrogenation is to force hydrogen atoms into the unsaturated fatty acids in the vegetable oil, which ends up turning the liquid into a solid. And that requires some pretty special equipment to make happen.
Storing Lard & Shortening
How to Store Lard
Lard is solid and opaque at room temperature.
If you store lard in a jar and keep it in a cool and dry place, it will retain its quality for 6 months. Store lard in the fridge and it will keep for up to 1 year.
To store lard in the freezer, wrap it in wax paper (a.k.a. butcher paper) and cover it in plastic wrap or foil to prevent air exposure. Stored this way, lard will keep for up to 2 years in the freezer.
I’ve heard friends keeping lard for longer at room temperature, in the fridge, or in the freezer. When it comes to food, though, I always go by “better safe than sorry.”
Also, labeling your ingredients and knowing when they expire is a great way to try out new recipes and eliminate waste!
How to Store Shortening
One of the reasons why Procter & Gamble’s Crisco shortening became so popular shortly after it was introduced in 1911 was because it was (and continues to be) really easy to store.
To store shortening, simply keep it in a cool and dark place in its original airtight container. I suggest storing it in a kitchen cabinet or on the pantry shelf.
If you live in a really hot climate, you can also refrigerate shortening. Keep in mind that it will turn firm when cooled — and you will need to bring it back to room temperature for 25-30 minutes before using it.
If you want to store shortening for a very long time, you can freeze it. Just transfer it to an ice tray, wrap it tightly with plastic wrap (you don’t want the shortening to catch any other aromas and flavors), and put it in the freezer.
To thaw frozen shortening, move it to the fridge the night before. Then use it as you would otherwise do on the next day.
Buying Lard and Shortening
Where Is Lard Sold?
Not every grocery store carries lard. At those that do, you’re likely to find lard in the meat or canned meat sections or close to the cooking oils.
To date, lard continues to be a staple ingredient in Mexican cooking. This is also why you’ll find lard, labeled and sold as manteca (the Spanish word for lard), in the Mexican cooking aisle at supermarkets.
If lard is being sold unrefrigerated, it has probably undergone hydrogenation (the same process used for making shortening). Though this gives the lard an even longer shelf life, it reduces the amount of Vitamin D contained in it and transforms some of the healthy fats into trans fats.
Where to Buy Vegetable Shortening?
Vegetable shortening is sold in cans with plastic lids. You will usually find shortening near the cooking oils at grocery stores.
The “original” shortening invented by P&G continues to be sold today under the Crisco brand. But you will also find competitive offers from value brands at most grocery stores.
No, shortening is not the same as lard. Shortening is the product of hydrogenated vegetable oils, whereas lard is rendered pork fat. Though you can substitute one for the other in your cooking, the two have different taste, smell, and composition.
Lard is without doubt the more natural choice of the two. It’s widely used by nations across South America, whose cuisines have been less affected by the mass production of ingredients prevalent in North America and Europe.
On the other hand, vegetable shortening is plant-based and is often the choice of many home cooks on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Though you can argue about which one is the “better” or “healthier” option, now that you know all of this, I leave that to you.
You can use lard or shortening for pan frying, deep frying, and baking. The fact of the matter is, some folks don’t really like either option — so they go for palm oil, coconut oil, butter, and/or clarified butter instead.
Remember: Your kitchen, your rules 🙂 .