How To Render Leaf Lard

| March 10, 2014 | 18 Comments

How To Render Leaf Lard, as seen on Taste of
Follow step-by-step, photo illustrated instructions and learn How To Render Leaf Lard.  Making your own lard at home, is much easier than you might imagine, and we’ll show you just how to do it. Leaf Lard is considered to be the finest lard for baking, especially when making pie crusts from scratch.  It just takes a little time to render down, but well worth the time involved. Printable recipe included.


How To Render Leaf Lard, slider.
How To Render Leaf Fat to make Leaf Lard:

Leaf Lard is said to be the very best lard one can use to make pie crusts. It’s suppose to produce a very flaky crust and is favored because it has very little pork flavor as compared to regular pork lard.

Derived from pork fat, it is considered a premium lard, and is made from the small amount of fat that surrounds the kidney area in pigs. Mostly used in baking, it provides a moist, flaky crust for homemade pies. It’s considered to be more healthy than regular lard and many of today’s chefs also prefer it because it smokes less when heated.

Most of the so called lard you find in supermarkets today has been rendered from fat taken from various parts of the pig, mostly the “fatback” from the back of the pig. It’s not as pure and in order to make it shelf stable, it is usually overly processed and hydrogenated.

Because it is more pure, and has not been processed like commercial lard, Leaf Lard must be refrigerated or frozen, to keep it from going rancid and producing a bad taste when used. Many chefs today will only purchase leaf lard from a well known source, or just render it themselves. You can do the same at home, and we’ll show you the easy process in the few steps listed below.

While it’s fairly easy to render down, you must remember to stir it about every 20-30 minutes during the 4-6 hours it takes to render over super-low heat on your stove top. It’s not something you’ll complete in an hour or two, so be sure to allow yourself the needed amount of time to render it down slowly.

I became intrigued with the idea of making Leaf Lard at home, after reading so much about it over the past year or two researching recipes for Taste of Southern. It is supposedly the best lard one can use when making pie crusts from scratch. So, always looking to bring my pie baking skills up a notch, I decided I had to find some Leaf fat and render it out myself here at home.

As a youngster, I remember the cold days of hog killing time each winter. By the middle of the day, a fire had been built underneath the big black wash pot that had been setup in the yard. Fat, only hours removed from the pig, was cut into cubes and placed inside the heated wash pot. There always seemed to be someone stirring the pot with a big wooden paddle, much like a boat oar, and the process of rendering down the fat turned into an all day affair.  It takes a good amount of time to make lard that way.

Later in the evening, you could see the browned chunks of the fat, floating on top of the oil.  When they started popping, the oil would be removed and strained into a large bucket.  The remaining pieces of pork were now “Cracklins” and were often lightly salted and enjoyed as a snack once they cooled a bit. Some of the cracklins would later be ground down and added to cornbread to make Cracklin Bread. It gave the cornbread a bit of a bacon flavor and is still considered an old Southern favorite.

Youngsters were hardly ever allowed to stir the pot more than just a few seconds. The adults always were fearful of the kids being too close to the fire and I guess it’s a good thing they looked out for us that way.

Many supermarkets still carry a type of lard in their stores today all throughout the South. Lard took a bad wrap for many years as shortening and cooking oils became a favorite, but that trend has started moving back towards good old lard as of late with many claiming it to be much healthier than any of the other types of shortenings.  Leaf lard, as mentioned, is supposedly the most healthy and purest form of pork lard.

Finding pure lard now requires a bit of searching.  Finding rendered Leaf lard requires even more searching. I asked for it at a large pork processing facility that has its own store about a year ago and the guy behind the counter, an older man, had no idea what I was talking about.

A few weeks back, I saw where one of the vendors at an area Farmer’s Market would be selling Lard and Leaf Lard at his booth over the weekend. I made a special trip just to pick it up and was a bit surprised when I saw it was pieces of fat as opposed to rendered lard. Not to be outdone, I purchased it anyway and brought it home to render myself.

I paid $2.00 per pound for the Leaf fat, and bought just about 1 and a third pounds that had been wrapped in small packages. Leaf fat comes from right around the kidneys of a pig, so there isn’t much actual Leaf fat per pig. Again, it’s not the same as the fat from the back of a pig.

So, if you’re feeling a bit “pioneerish,” let’s give this rendering process a try.  We’re in hopes of creating some high quality Leaf Lard, and we will be looking for those cracklins as a special treat once we’re finished.  Ready to give it a try?  Alright then… Let’s Get Cooking!


How To Render Leaf Lard, you'll need about one pound of leaf fat.
How To Render Leaf Lard:  You’ll need about one pound of Pork Leaf Fat.

Although it’s labelled as Leaf Lard, it’s actually just Leaf Fat, but the term is freely used between both.  It’s not LARD until it gets rendered down.

Leaf Fat can be stored in the refrigerator, but it’s best if you pop it in the freezer for about 30 minutes prior to slicing it up.  Because of that, I failed to actually get a photo of the pork fat outside of the packaging.  In other words, I just forgot.  Forgive me?


How To Render Leaf Lard, slice the fat.
Hopefully, you’ll get an idea of what it might have looked like before I sliced it up. I had placed all four packages in my freezer, and was pulling them out one-at-a-time, as I used them.

Here, I’ve sliced it into several pieces, about 1/4 of an inch thick, maybe just a little larger.


How To Render Leaf Lard, dice it up.
After I sliced it, I sliced some of those pieces in half also. Then, all the longer slices were diced into small cubes. The smaller pieces are suppose to yield more fat as it renders down.


How To Render Leaf Lard, all diced up.
It didn’t take too long to cut it all up. Keeping it good and cold is the key to making the work go easy. It does get a bit slippery so be careful. And, you’ll certainly want to be using a good sharp knife.


How To Render Leaf Lard, place some water in your sauce pot.
You’ll need a good thick pot if you have one. A cast iron pot would be great if you have that. I decided not to try this in my cast iron skillet because I didn’t want to overfill the pan with all the fat.

Begin the rendering process by adding 1/2 cup of water for each pound of fat you’re planning to render. This is a “small batch,” so I’m adding half a cup. Place the pot over Medium heat on your stove top and let the water come up just to the boiling point. Adding the water will help prevent the fat from burning or scorching as it begins to heat up.

Once the water is hot, REDUCE the heat down to the lowest setting your stove provides.


How To Render Leaf Lard, add the fat to the water.
Place the diced fat into the pot. You’ll want to use a wooden utensil to stir this with throughout the process. Just stir the fat around a bit and mix it in with the water.

You’ll need to stir this about every 20-30 minutes, just to keep it from sticking and scorching on the bottom.


How To Render Leaf Lard, after about two hours of rendering.
This is how it looks about two hours after it’s been rendering over the lowest heat setting on my stove dial. The water will evaporate out, and you’ll have just liquid fat in the sauce pot. I set a timer on my computer to remind me to stir it every 20 minutes while I was working on another project.


How To Render Leaf Lard, tools for straining the rendered fat.
I’m going to strain the liquid fat after it renders for about 30 more minutes. I want to get the best liquid out of the pot early, so it will be less likely to have any off flavor in it. To do this, I’m going to strain the oil and bits through three layers of cheesecloth. I’ll place the cheesecloth in the funnel, which I will then place in the top of this storage jar.


How To Render Leaf Lard, straining the liquid fat.
Even on super low heat, this stuff gets pretty hot, so be careful when working with it. I was able to pour most of the liquid straight into the funnel with the cheesecloth. After that, I spooned the remaining oil and fat pieces into the top of the funnel and let it strain and drain for just a minute or so.


How To Render Leaf Lard, hot oil that has just been strained.
As you can see, I got almost a full pint from the first straining. It looks yellow at this point, but it will cool down into some very white Leaf Lard eventually. This is after letting the fat pieces render at super-low heat for just under three full hours, stirring it about every 20 minutes.


How To Render Leaf Lard, return to heat.
Return the diced pieces of fat back to the sauce pot and place it back over the super-low heat on your stove top. We’ll let this continue to render for several more hours, until the pork pieces have given up as much of the fat as they intend to release. These pieces are on their way to becoming “Cracklins,” which we’ll use later to make Cracklin’ Bread.


How To Render Leaf Lard, after 5 hours.
I rendered the fat down for about 3 more hours, still stirring it every 20-30 minutes. I’ll strain it one more time at this point, mostly just to see the difference between what I strained off earlier and now that it’s been going for almost five hours.


How To Render Leaf Lard, after the second straining of the oil.
There really wasn’t much more left in the fat at this point. This is about 1/2 cup, if that much. It looks a little bit darker than the first batch, but that could just be because of the container.

Please note that I did actually strain this through the cheesecloth, just like I did the first time around. After I had done that, I placed the pan with the shriveled up pieces of pork fat back on the stove top for about 30 more minutes. It really wasn’t necessary though, as it didn’t yield but a few more drops of oil.


How To Render Leaf Lard, draining the cracklins.
This is what you’ll have when you finish.  These are called “Cracklins.” I placed them on a paper towel lined plate to drain off any excess oil that might be left in them.


How To Render Leaf Lard, drained cracklins.
Some folks like to sprinkle a little salt on these and eat them as they are. They’re very crunchy at this point with just a slight hint of oil left in them.


How To Render Leaf Lard, the finished products.
Our finished products.  I have about one cup of Cracklins’ on the left. The middle container holds the second straining of the oil, which did turn out a bit darker than what I strained off the first time, so that proved to be the best thing to do. As you can see, the almost full pint jar on the right has some lovely white Leaf Lard, just begging to be used in a homemade pie.

I’ll place tops on all of these and place them in the refrigerator now that they are cooled. It took several hours for the liquid fats to solidify to this point as it cooled. I plan to use the Cracklins right away to make some Cracklin Bread. The darker oil will be used, pretty much like bacon grease, for frying and seasoning. The pure white Leaf Lard, will be used to make pie crusts and for other baking purposes.

All total, I rendered out a full pint of lard from just about 1-1/3rd pounds of fat. I was very pleased with the overall yield from such a small amount. This will last several months for sure, and as mentioned, it’s considered the very BEST lard for making pie crusts. We’ll also see how that goes… real soon.

If you don’t think you’ll be using all of it within the next 4-6 months, it would be best to freeze part of the Leaf Lard. It should hold in the refrigerator for 4-6 months without any problems, but it will eventually get to tasting a bit rancid and that would be noticeable in any baking you might do with it. Freeze it, just to be on the safe side. All you’ll have to do is take it from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator a day or so before you need it so it can thaw out.



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How To Render Leaf Lard, as seen on Taste of, Printable recipe.

How To Render Leaf Lard

  • Author: Steve Gordon
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 6 hours
  • Total Time: 6 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: About one pint. 1x
  • Category: How To
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: American


Follow step-by-step, photo illustrated instructions and learn How To Render Leaf Lard. Making your own lard at home, is much easier than you might imagine, and we’ll show you just how to do it. Leaf Lard is considered to be the finest lard for baking, especially when making pie crusts from scratch. It just takes a little time to render down, but well worth the time involved.



  • 1 pound Leaf Fat
  • 1/2 cup Water


  1. Place leaf fat in freezer for 20-30 minutes prior to cutting.
  2. Slice the leaf fat into thin slices, about 1/4 inch thick.
  3. Slice again, then dice into very small cubes.
  4. Place water in a thick, medium size, sauce pot.
  5. Bring water just to a low boil over Medium heat.
  6. Reduce heat to the lowest setting on your stove top, add diced fat to the pot.
  7. Stir the diced fat and let render over the lowest setting for about 2-3 hours.
  8. Stir the fat and oil about every 20-30 minutes to prevent any sticking, scorching, or burning.
  9. Prepare a funnel, cheesecloth and jar to strain the rendered fat.
  10. Place cheesecloth in funnel, place that in the storage jar.
  11. Pour rendered fat into jar, then spoon the fat pieces in and let them drain for about 2 minutes.
  12. Return the fat to the pot. Place back on super-low heat and continue to render.
  13. After about 2 more hours, strain the next batch of liquid oil into a different container.
  14. Drain the “cracklin” pieces on a paper towel, reserve for later.
  15. Once oil has cooled, cover with lids and refrigerate or freeze as needed.
  16. Enjoy!


Rendered lard will store well in the refrigerator for several months. If you don’t plan to use it all within that length of time, freeze a portion for later. Leftover pieces of rendered pork may be lightly salted and eaten as is, or used later for making Cracklin Bread.

Keywords: How To Render Leaf Lard Recipe, pie crusts, made from scratch, lard, pork, render lard, southern recipes


Your Comments:  Have you ever rendered lard?  How about Leaf Lard? Was this something you remember seeing done in your younger days? I’d love to hear your comments on our recipe. It will only take a minute or two to share your thoughts with us. And, if you try our recipe, be sure to let us know how it turns out for you. Your comments could encourage someone else to give our recipe a try. Just know, all comments are moderated. That means that I personally read each and every one of them before they are approved for our family friendly site here on the Internet. I’ll be waiting to hear from you. Thank you in advance, and Thank You for sharing our information with your family and friends. It helps us grow Taste of Southern, and will be greatly appreciated.

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Category: Tips & Techniques

About the Author ()

Award Winning Food Preservationist, Fisherman, Author of three cookbooks. "From Mama's Big Oval Table, From Mama's Big Oval Table - BOOK TWO and Carolina Christmas Sweets and Appetizers." Online Contributor to Our State Magazine Newsletter.

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Sites That Link to this Post

  1. What Is Leaf Lard and How To Use It – Pineshine Farms | November 1, 2019
  2. Crackling Bread : Taste of Southern | March 24, 2014
  1. Dianne from Michigan says:

    Decided to start getting back to traditional foods, like real butter, lard, farm eggs, etc. Got a 3# pkg of pork leaf fat (pkg said 2 “tracks” of leaf fat) at a local farmers market. Froze most of it to render, then I found your recipe. Very quick & simple way to render. Used a heavy soup pot on my stovetop on the lowest setting & it turned out perfect! FYI, I use this for much more than pie crust. It’s great for anything that I fry, even making pancakes. I think of it as a substitute for other cooking oils, like canola or even olive oil. Except I don’t use it to make salad dressing. Thanks for this recipe, will look at other things here. God Bless You!!

    • Steve Gordon says:

      Hi Dianne from Michigan. I think we’d all be better off, and healthier, if we moved back to the traditional foods you suggest. I’ve tried to do the same hear since I started posting recipes online. I’m really glad to hear that you rendered out your own leaf lard. That’s awesome, and it is easier than most folks might think. Thanks for sharing that. I do appreciate your visits. Keep up the good work and be sure to stop by again… real soon. Be Blessed!!! -Steve

  2. Denise Tarbox says:

    Just found your site. Unable to find lard at my store. I bought pork fat and rendered my own. I froze it in ice cube trays (each “cube” is 2 TBL) Unknown to my family I used it to make pie crust (blueberry). I had never used lard before and they raved about it! Not knowing what to do with the cracklings (read Yankee here)I went on the computer and found you. I had never heard of leaf lard before. Thanks for the education, I’ll try to find some.

  3. Heather Anne Tomasini says:

    I’m curious, could this be done in the slow cooker? I would love to try this regardless of method. Thank you very much for the detailed instructions!

    • Steve Gordon says:

      Hi Heather, I’ve never tried this in a crock pot, but don’t see why you couldn’t do it. Perhaps you could try it in a pot first, then try the crock pot if you decide to do it again. Thank you for the question. Please let me know if you try it either way, and how it turns out for you. I appreciate your visits and trust you’ll stop by again… real soon. Be Blessed!!! -Steve

      • Pat B says:

        I ask the butcher for the lard when I have a hog processed. They grind it up for me and then I use a slow cooker to render it. I put a spoon across the top of the slow cooker and the lid on top of the spoon to help the moisture evaporate, stirring occasionally. I also do it outside as I do not like the smell of it rendering. It makes the best pie crusts.

        • Steve Gordon says:

          Hi Pat, I’ve never tried this in a slow cooker as you mentioned. Maybe I can do that next time. Thank you for the idea. It does make great pie crusts for sure. I appreciate your comments and hope you’ll visit with us again… real soon. Be Blessed!!! -Steve

      • Mary Weyant says:

        Hi Steve, I just found this site! Just retired, moved to a small town in TN,and decided to go more natural due to some health probs. The long-overdue acceptance of lard got me curious. Read a few articles, found a SLAUGHTERHOUSE 15 min away, and bought some leaf fat. I have NEVER made good crust or biscuits…until now. I did render mine in a crockpot for 7-8 hours and its beautiful! For a 67 y.o. city girl, it’s fun, but yes, 2 days of work for 15#, at 44cents/#. Gave most as gifts. Warning:get an exercise plan in gear, because you are going to LOVE these baked goods. One question:lots of debate on storage and longevity. Any additional advice? Thx so much.

        • Steve Gordon says:

          Hi Mary, I guess congratulations are in order for your retirement. So, CONGRATULATIONS. Smile. You’re fortunate to be able to find a source of the leaf lard. It can be hard to come by in a lot of places. It does make great pie crusts. I use just regular lard for my biscuits and keep the prized leaf lard for pie. As for storage, I’ve kept leaf lard for over a year in the refrigerator. I don’t use a lot, so a little bit goes a long way around here. I also keep my 5 gallon tub of regular lard in the refrigerator. It tends to melt on top if you leave it on the counter, and besides, I like to scoop it out with my hand to make biscuits. I’ve never froze either, but sources say it will keep for up to 3 years in the freezer if properly contained. I hope this helps. Keep up the great work. I’m thankful you found Taste of Southern and I do hope you’ll try some of our other recipes. I appreciate you taking the time to write and I trust you’ll visit with us often. Be Blessed!!! -Steve

  4. Jim Harris says:

    I’m a Virginian living in rural Missouri. Love to cook traditional dishes, and am looking for Fall killed free range pork products here. Puff pastry made with lard will be my first triumph soon.

  5. Kelly Pelton says:

    $5 a lb? Wow,I found a local butcher that sold me my leaf fat for $1 per lb! I guess I did get a good deal!

  6. dannyd of Champaign says:

    Sir, I’ve been filtering clean bacon fat for a few years and I recently have liked to keep it around for special dishes for the add flavor it brings! In doing this I’ve decided tocome away from other oils for gfrying or what not… So I bought my first pound of store shelf lard and I’m okay with it but I want to “Pioneer” some more for a cleaner flavor without the over processing effects. Plus all the while stretching my bacon fat x!
    How much (lbs) does one approximately need to render of leaf fat to obtain 2qts?

    Found your site about two weeks! Fascinating and WE readers are better for you takin on this endeavor…!

    All the best, May God continue in his blessings over ..
    dannydan of bubble city

  7. Dave Osborne says:

    Hi Steve,
    I just found your site yesterday while searching for pickling/canning recipes, great info. I’m getting ready to retire next week and plan on doing lots more cooking, canning, pickling etc…..I’m very interested in your leaf lard recipe. When I was younger I worked in a small slaughterhouse, processing “locker plant.” We had a large scalding kettle built into the processing room and a lard boiler. It was basically a large, 30gal?, double boiler that sat up about 4′ high with a gas burner under it. We’d put the pork fat in top, cook it down and pour the lard out through a spigot on the bottom. Then the best part, scoop the cracklins out with a wire dipper and eat em hot. WOW! And this is when I was about 18 years old and 50 south of Chicago…..We also made oatmeal sausage and liver sausage in the hog pot. Thanks for a great site, it’s on my favorites list and will be my go to for recipes.

  8. Donna Cook says:

    I rendered regular pork fat this year for the first time. I ground it up with my kitchenmaid meat grinder attachment and then cooked it in my crockpot. It finished in about 3 hours….white and beautiful. Even though I didn’t use leaf lard (they were asking $5.00/lb) my lard doesn’t have a strong pork smell.

  9. I had talked to a pig producer closer to the mountains and they said, ‘Yes, we can get you some leaf lard.’

    It arrived today. Bless their hearts, THEY rendered it! I now have 6 pounds and need to find some friends who know how amazing it is; I don’t make THAT many pies!

    • Steve Gordon says:

      Hi Barbara, Aren’t YOU the lucky one. Wow, six pounds of Leaf Lard. I might be a bit jealous. (Smile)

      I’m thankful you found Taste of Southern. I appreciate your visits and do hope you’ll stop by for another visit with us again… real soon. Be Blessed!!! -Steve

      PS: You have a great website, love the photos. Keep up the great work.

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