Suet is a type of solid white fat that is removed from the kidney area of animals like sheep or cows. In the kitchen, it’s not as popular as it once was, but it still pops up in older recipes. The fat’s high melting point makes it useful in pastries, puddings, dumplings, and deep-frying. But its best-known use is in steamed Christmas pudding recipes.
If you’ve got no suet or you want a vegetarian option, then keep reading. We’ve created a handy list of suet substitutes so that you can complete any recipe without it.
What can I use to replace suet in cooking?
To replace suet in your next recipe then use vegetable suet or vegetable shortening if you want a plant-based alternative. If you’re okay with using animal products, then beef fat is an excellent option and is readily available from your local butcher.
If you use a replacement from the list below, use the same quantity as the recipe calls for.
1. Vegetable suet
Vegetable suet is an excellent replacement option. Use it in the same way you’d use regular suet and get similar results. The best-known brand is Atora, which is common in grocery stores. If you can’t find any near you, it’s easy to find online.
Vegetable suet is made from vegetable oils and wheat flour. It can be used in any recipe that calls for regular suet and is suitable for vegetarians.
2. Vegetable shortening
Vegetable shortening is another excellent substitute for suet. An everyday brand that you’re likely to have on the supermarket shelf is Crisco. Its main ingredients are soybean oil and palm oil, making it a useful choice for vegans.
Its melting point is 117-119°F (47-48°C) which is similar to suet. This results in authentic figgy puddings that have amazing texture and flavor. Shortening has been used since the early 1900s by home bakers to make delicious pie crusts, cookies, frostings, and cakes. It’s also great for deep-frying food, especially donuts and French fries.
Shortening is moister than suet so if you use it as a replacement in baking, you’re best to freeze it first and then grate it. Return the grated shortening to the freezer until you’re ready to incorporate it into the other ingredients.
3. Beef fat
Don’t have a problem eating animal products but can’t find suet in a store near you? Beef fat is a great backup option that you can usually source from your local butcher. Fat isn’t much to look at, so it’s not usually on display. Instead, ask your butcher and they’ll likely have some out back.
Beef fat yields perfectly light, flaky pastry that’s comparable with suet. If you’re partial to British classics like steak and kidney pudding or spotted dick, then you’ll be impressed with how beef fat performs.
4. Chicken Fat
Rendered chicken fat, aka schmaltz, is a good way to use up the unwanted fat and skin that you may not usually eat. You can also check your butcher for leftover chicken scraps. Slow cooking these bits will result in a liquid that you can strain into jars and use in place of suet. Of course, you can also buy the product ready-made from kosher butchers if you prefer.
Use rendered chicken fat for making traditional chopped liver or roasting vegetables with amazing crispy skins.
Keep in mind that its subtle chicken flavor isn’t suitable for sweet desserts and baking. Also, a medium-high smoke point means it isn’t as useful for high heat cooking like deep-frying.
Lard is a semi-solid white fat that results from rendered pig fat. It is an easy-to-find product in supermarkets and can replace suet in many recipes. Its neutral flavor will allow you to create moist, flaky baked goods, but you can also use it for frying, searing, grilling, and roasting.
The melting point of lard is lower than suet so we wouldn’t recommend using it in Christmas puddings. The problem is that lard melts too early and you won’t get those delicious pockets in the pudding that suet provides.
If possible, try to source leaf lard, which takes the fat near the pig’s loin and kidneys. It is considered the best lard, resulting in high-quality baked goods.
If you’re in a pinch, butter can be used as a suet substitute in limited applications. It is fine for roasting vegetables until golden brown or for cakes, cookies, and pie crusts.
Butter isn’t suitable for deep frying as it will burn thanks to a low smoke point. There are better options than butter for making traditional cloth-boiled plum puddings. If you decide to use butter, then the texture will be heavier and more cake-like. You’ll need to be extra careful transferring the pudding to the plate once it’s cooked as it’s more likely to fall apart.
If you must use butter to replace suet, be sure to freeze it first as it has a much lower melting temperature. If it melts too fast, you’ll end up with a heavy dessert that isn’t airy.
Ghee has a delicious nutty fragrance and butter flavor with a high smoke point that is ideal for frying, sautéing, and roasting. It is a fairly common item at the grocery store but if you can’t find it, try an Indian grocer.
8. Cooking oil
9. Xanthan gum + fat
Xanthan gum is a handy ingredient you can combine with one of the other suggestions on this list. It is useful for adding to most gluten-free baked goods or for making Christmas puddings.
Suet contains wheat flour, which isn’t suitable for coeliacs and those on a gluten-free diet. While you’re still going to need to use fat, adding 1-2 teaspoons of xanthan gum will assist with stabilizing and emulsifying the pudding mixture.
This gum isn’t always easy to find in regular stores. A quick search online will reveal plenty of availability, which is fine if you’re not in a rush.
Comparison chart of suet substitutes
|Type of fat||Melting point||Smoke point||Flavor|
|Suet||113-122||392°F||Mild, slightly meaty|
|Beef fat||104°F||400°F||Slight savory flavor|
|Chicken fat||86°F||357°F||Subtle chicken undertone|
|Lard (leaf fat)||109-118°F||375°F||Neutral|
|Butter||100°F||350°F||Creamy, rich, subtle sweetness|
|Cooking oil (Safflower)||2°F||510°F||Mild|
Commonly asked questions
Where can I buy suet?
You can find animal-based and plant-based suet in many grocery stores in the United States. If you can’t find any near you, look for a British food store or search online.
What does suet taste like?
Suet has a mild, unoffensive flavor that won’t add any unwanted savory flavor to your sweet desserts and baking. The major brands incorporate wheat flour into the fat, resulting in a crumbly, dry texture.
How do I store suet?
Fresh suet should be refrigerated for up to five days or frozen in freezer bags for 2-3 months. A store-bought prepared suet mix can be stored at room temperature for at least 12 months.
What’s the difference between suet and lard?
While they are both animal fats, lard is semi-solid and comes from a pig. Suet is a hard white fat derived from the kidney and loin area of sheep and cows. While they can be used interchangeably, suet has a higher melting point, making it better for baking light and airy dumplings and Christmas pudding.
Can I use butter instead of suet for Christmas pudding?
If you’re in a pinch butter can be used to replace suet in Christmas pudding, but the final texture won’t be as good. Keep in mind that suet has a high melting point that stabilizes air bubbles during cooking, resulting in a delicious light texture. Butter will melt much quicker, so you won’t get the same light texture.
If you can’t get your hands on suet, then your best option is to use vegetable shortening. You’ll find a brand like Crisco in most grocery stores. Although your Christmas puddings won’t have the same structure to them, most people probably won’t notice the difference. Shortening is a versatile substitute that’s also suitable for high heat cooking and baking.
People looking for a plant-based alternative are best to use vegetable suet. This is another common ingredient that can be used in similar ways to animal-based suet.
If you’re just trying to bake crispy golden potatoes or cook cakes and cookies, then butter will work fine.