What is suet?

More than happy to tell you all about it, Lucy! Suet is beef fat, but not just any sort of beef fat. It’s fat taken from right near the kidneys of the steer. It’s the mildest-tasting, easiest-melting fat on the animal, which is why it’s used for an application like mincemeat. The equivalent fat on a pig is known as leaf lard, and by no coincidence whatsoever it has also been prized by bakers over the centuries (I’m a big fan of leaf lard in baking as some of you already know). Here’s what fresh suet looks like:

It can be had at virtually any butcher shop. You simply shred it and use it. Now then, those of you fortunate enough to live in places like Britain and New Zealand won’t have to go to the trouble of shredding your own lard. You can buy it pre-shredded in boxes. We Yanks don’t use enough suet to make it viable as a commercial product. We mostly use it to feed birds. I guess when people say America lags behind the rest of the civilized world, this is what they mean.

33 thoughts on “What is suet?”

  1. hi Joe, I live in France, and trying to gather the ingredents for a traditional christmas pudding. I am on the hunt for suet, is there any substitute for this if I cant find any here. Manny thanks..

    1. Hello Clare!

      There are quite a few pudding recipes out there that call for butter (many people are shy about putting suet in puddings now). However while butter produces a very good flavor, it does’t give the same texture, since the melting properties of butter and suet are different. If your local butcher sells beef, he has suet. If you explain what the fat is and where it comes from (around the kidneys of the animal) he’ll surely know what you mean. Fat from other parts of the steer can be used as well.

      Good luck!

      – Joe

      1. thanks for your quick reply. l have the french name – graisse de rognon de boeuf, i’m confident i shall find it, as the French still use many old and trusted ingredents. thanks to your picture gallery I know how to shred it.. Bonus.. Imay even try your mince pie recepie.. thankyou. Ps l’m British.

        1. Wonderful news, Clare! I was wondering about your name…c-l-a-r-e isn’t the normal French spelling! Keep me updated on the hunt, and if you try the mince pies please tell me how you liked them!


          – Joe

          1. hi Joe, my name is apparantly of lrish desent, but to be honest who is’nt? no luck with the suet, and one butcher tried to sell me some calf?? a friend in England has offerd to send a box of dried suet. prob arrive to late for Christmas, but hey C’est la vie! By the way, l read your mince pie man, l know of the story, and your narative is excellant.. bravo!! keep up the good work.

  2. Hi Joe, I live in the south of Spain where beef is not readily available (and if it is is generally of low quality). Here pig is king, the pork meat is exxcellent. Would pork suet work as well? thanks G

    1. You can indeed use pork fat, just try to get “leaf lard” which is the fat from near the kidneys. It has the mildest taste.

      Best of luck!

      – Joe

  3. I live in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA and we don’t have butchers as such. All the stores bring in their meat. What can I substitute it with: cocoanut oil? Thanks, Janet

    1. Hi Janet!

      There are plenty of puddings out there that use butter instead. It creates a slightly different texture, but it gives and excellent result. Just use that!


      – Joe

    2. I realize yours is an older post Janet, but I only today came upon it and thought that the info might still be helpful. I also live in Las Vegas, and we do in fact have a few butcher shops about town. Look up “The Butcher Block” on South Rainbow Blvd, or “John Mull’s Meats” on Thom Blvd. They may be able to hook you up with some suet if you’re still in need 🙂

      1. Neither one of those places in Vegas has beef suet, grass-fed or otherwise. In fact, I’ve given up on finding it locally.

        The only way to get grass-fed, beef suet in Vegas is to place a large order for beef (1/4, 1/2, or the whole cow) directly from a ranch and specify you want all the beef fat included, as well.

        1. Rats! Have you tried an online source? You could probably order a small quantity though it’ll be expensive for what it is, probably.

          Sorry to hear about your troubles, George!

          – Joe

  4. I’m from uk, suet is always used in mincemeat , I’m 60 now so have used it for years. I have now woken up to the fact that its not good for my health!!!!!! So why on earth do we still want to use it. I really don’t want to harden my arteries so I will try to find a recipe that doesn’t have it in. If you guys have never used it. Please don’t start now!!!!!!,Merry christmas.

    1. Your wrong. Tallow and lard don’t actually clog arteries if they are grass fed. They are actually good for the heart.

  5. I am in a small town in the Midwest, in Indiana, US. But, I lived in London for several years growing up, and my mum made excellent pies! I want to make one in celebration of the royal baby, but the recipe I have from her calls for shredded beef suet. What can I use instead that I can get at a small town grocery store?? No specialized butchers here. Sigh.

    1. You might still be able to by or order suet from the local supermarket, Christina. Give it a try! Otherwise you can use any other firm fat…butter, crisco or lard. The texture won’t be the same but it’ll be delicious!

      Let me know how it goes!

      – Joe

  6. We cannot buy shredded suet in New Zealand any more. That is disastrous for someone who has made Suet Christmas Puddings for years as gifts. My last packet of Shreddo had a use by date of December 2007. I just used it up the other day. Now my butcher has given me some fresh suet. Evidently I need to render it to get what I want from it and have it last longer than a few days.

    1. Sadly I haven’t seen packaged suet since I was last in the UK. Maybe people are right that we in the States really are philistines. Sigh.

      Glad you can at least find it fresh, Lyn! Good luck with the puddings this season!

      – Joe

  7. Also a Brit living in NY for many years. Love my suet but can’t find it.
    Now I know how to describe it to the butcher I can buy some but is it true, you have to render it before grating it? Thanks so much.

  8. Hey, thanks Joe. I’m relieved. Didn’t fancy having to render the suet.
    Ummmm beef stew and dumplings here I come! Now I can tell my sister ( who lives in UK ) not to bring Atora Suet when she comes.

    Thanks again

  9. I am about to try a recipe for the crust of Jamaican beef patty. It requires 3 cups beef suet. I live in Montreal and it is difficult to obtain this product. The recipe requires 4.5 cups flour and an additional 1/4 cup shortening. What can I use as a substitute for the beef suet and how much?

    1. Hi Allison!

      There’s no direct replacement for beef suet since it’s so firm. You could try pork fat if that’s easier to source. The firmer fat from the back is what you want. But just about any butcher should be able to set you up with some beef fat. Good luck!

      – Joe

  10. I’ve heard you can use bacon fat as a subsitute to suet. I’m trying to make a Christmas pudding, and I’m in a place in California where suet is hard to come by (small out in the boonies kind of town), can I get away with bacon fat or am I better off using something else?

    1. Hey J.A.!

      I’m afraid bacon fat won’t work very well. Not only is it too salty, pork belly fat is less saturated than suet, which means that it’s be mushy when it cools down rather than firm. Any chance you can get some from a butcher in a nearby town? I know it can be ordered via Amazon if all else fails. Good luck!

      – Joe

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