Q. I am attempting to cook this recipe I found on the internet. It calls for 1/4 cup of lard OR vegetable shortening. I am health-conscious and I was wondering which option is healthier?
A. If the vegetable shortening contains hydrogenated or inter-esterified oils, I’d say go with the lard–unless you’re a vegan, of course.
Lard has a bad reputation that I’m not sure it deserves. Like most animal fats, lard contains a mixture of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. In fact, it contains more monounsaturated fats (13mg per ounce) than saturated fats (11g per ounce). It also provides 280mg of omega-3 fatty acids per ounce.
If you’re looking for a vegetarian option, see if you can find a shortening that combines coconut or palm-kernel oil with unhydrogenated vegetable oil. Both coconut and palm-kernel oil contain saturated fats, which allow them to stay solid at room temperature. In baked goods, that is often key to getting the right texture.
But straight coconut or palm kernel oil might not produce the best results. Unlike lard, coconut and palm kernel oil are almost 100% saturated fat. At room temperature, they are the consistency of candle wax! To produce something similar to shortening, manufacturers blend them with liquid (unsaturated) oil.