A friend of mine is coming back into town tomorrow and I have been planning a dinner for the occasion. I have been planning on making tamales out of leftover turkey. We talked earlier and she told me that she loves tamales, but she reminded me that she doesn't eat pork.

Oops, it's a good thing that I haven't made them yet, I would have used lard mixed with some bacon fat I have in the fridge. I don't have shortening, but I have about half the necessary rendered turkey fat, and I have plenty of butter.

For the tamale dough I plan to follow Rick Bayless's recipe.

Would a mixture of rendered turkey fat and clarified butter be an appropriate substitute for the lard in that recipe? Is clarifying the butter necessary step?

[Edit] after discussion in comments and in chat, I'd like to add one thing. I like tamales per Rick Bayless's method. I'm really not interested in reducing the fat, only in not using pork fat.

  • I would think that using the schmaltz by itself would be fine. Is there a reason you're planning on using butter? I wouldn't think that the water in the butter would be significant (one of the reasons for clarifying butter), as you're also adding other moisture from the chicken stock.
    – Joe
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 0:07
  • @Joe I don't have enough schmaltz, I am considering butter to make up the difference. The only other fats I have in the house are vegetable oil and olive oil.
    – Jolenealaska
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 0:10
  • 1
    I would think temperature/consistency of the fat and its melting point would be more significant ... so unless you have solid shortening, coconut oil, or similar ... or are prepared to clarify the butter, then let it set back up to the right temperature ... I'd just go with it as is.
    – Joe
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 0:19
  • What's the purpose of all that fat? I knew a couple of old ladies from Cuba who made delicious tamales, and I don't think they used very much added fat, if any. The broth can add most of the flavor — so there's where you can use your leftover turkey to make a rich stock. The recipe you linked to is not unlike a variation of cornbread, steamed in husks instead of baked, isn't it? Do you think all that lard is really necessary to make it work?
    – ElmerCat
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 0:47
  • 1
    Not an exact duplicate, but discusses fat substitutes: cooking.stackexchange.com/q/6473/1672
    – Cascabel
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 13:31

1 Answer 1


I recommend clarifying the butter first, and then using it for your tamales. Butter is about 16-18% water, which could significantly affect the fat content of the dish. If you do that, it should work fine from a mechanical perspective; the melting points and viscosity are similar enough. I think you may run the risk of being slightly distracted by the flavor. Maybe that's a good thing? I make butter/flour tortillas all the time and those are freaking delicious.

The safer bet, of course, would be to try and find some chicken fat. If you can't, I'd definitely use the clarified butter though. Who knows, it might be your new go-to secret ingredient for tamales!

::Columbo voice:: Just one more thing. If this person is avoiding pork because she's eating kosher, using butter with meat is likely a no no as well!

Good luck!

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