Remember the rich, savory aroma of your grandma’s pot roast or gravy? Or the flaky, never greasy, melt-in-your-mouth magic of her fritters, pie crusts, or biscuits?
These recipes could coax even the pickiest eater to the table — and they were probably made with an ingredient most people don’t use today: beef tallow.
Our primal ancestors relied on tallow for centuries. But it fell out of favor with the rise of cheap, highly-processed vegetable oils (like soybean and canola) during the 1950s and 1960s, then dropped further into obscurity with the low-fat craze of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Thankfully, this humble fat is making a comeback. It’s a nutritional powerhouse with a surprising range of health benefits and uses.
So, let’s explore the world of beef tallow and discover how it may elevate your health and wellness game today.
WHAT IS BEEF TALLOW EXACTLY?
Beef tallow is rendered beef fat.
It’s the pure, unadulterated goodness left behind after patiently simmering suet (the fatty tissue around the cow’s organs, especially the kidneys and loins) until it separates into liquid and solid components.
The liquid is then clarified to remove impurities and water, leaving behind the clean, white, nutrient-packed tallow we love. Like butter, coconut oil, and pork tallow (aka lard), beef tallow is solid at room temperature yet melts into a liquid when heated.
This sustainable fat supports nose-to-tail utilization for every cow. 🙌 But tallow’s primary claim to fame lies in its rich profile of fatty acids.
TALLOW’S FATTY ACID FEAST
Beef tallow boasts a unique symphony of fatty acids that play vital roles in your body. Generally speaking, tallow from organic, grass-fed and finished cattle tends to be higher in healthy fats and nutrients than tallow rendered from grain-fed cows.
So, while the exact composition varies, here’s a general breakdown of what you’ll find:[*]
Beef tallow also contains two special fats worth shouting out:
Beef tallow is the second-highest dietary source of stearic acid after cacao butter. This saturated fat is prized because it may improve cholesterol levels, decrease insulin resistance, and lower inflammation.[*][*][*]
CONJUGATED LINOLEIC ACID (CLA)
Tallow from grass-fed cows boasts even higher CLA levels than tallow from grain-fed ones.[*] That’s a win because this polyunsaturated fat possesses anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, and fat-burning properties.
Now, let’s delve into the science behind the magic of these fats.
5 HEALTH BENEFITS OF BEEF TALLOW
Tallow’s appeal goes beyond its deliciousness. Studies show this superstar may help you:
1. ABSORB FAT-SOLUBLE VITAMINS
Tallow is a natural source of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Your body can’t put these vitamins to work without a bit of fat, so getting them from tallow is like a two-for-one perk. Adding more tallow to your diet may help you better absorb these vitamins from other foods too.
2. LOWER INFLAMMATION
Chronic inflammation contributes to aging and the onset of conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, autoimmune issues (like arthritis), and neurodegenerative disorders (dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.).[*]
3. REACH YOUR WEIGHT LOSS GOALS
Healthy fats are incredibly satiating, which may lessen those afternoon snack prowls and late-night fridge raids. Studies also suggest that the CLA and stearic acid in tallow may help burn body fat and torch visceral fat (the dangerous abdominal fat between your organs).[*][*][*]
4. BOOST YOUR IMMUNITY
Did you know that up to 80% of your immunity stems from your gut? [*] That’s why what you eat matters so much for your overall well-being.
Nourishing your body with the fat-soluble vitamins and powerful CLA in tallow may enhance your immune system and shield your body from (or lessen the severity of) colds, viruses, and infections.[*][*]
5. PREVENT FREE RADICALS FORMED DURING COOKING
Many cooking oils are susceptible to oxidation at high temperatures. This kicks off a chain of chemical reactions in which harmful free radicals may form.
Free radicals cause oxidative stress, which damages your cells and DNA. This is a major trigger of the aging process and the development of chronic illnesses, such as cancer, autoimmune disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.[*]
To get around this, choose fats with higher smoke points. Tallow’s smoke point is around 420–480 degrees Fahrenheit, so it can be used for high-heat cooking, roasting, frying, etc., without the fear of burning or producing dangerous compounds.
It also just tastes better. 😊 After all, many of the most popular fast food chains used to cook their french fries in beef tallow before processed veggie oils came on the scene.[*]
HOW TO CAPTURE ALL THESE BEEF TALLOW BENEFITS
Beef tallow isn’t just a relic of the past. This versatile fat shines in both culinary and non-culinary applications. Here are some ideas to help you reap its health benefits:
USE MORE TALLOW IN YOUR COOKING AND BAKING
Tallow’s high smoke point makes it ideal for high-heat cooking like searing, frying, and roasting. It adds a depth of flavor to dishes that vegetable oils just can't match. It also ensures a clean, flavorful finish.
You can even swap out some butter in your baking recipes for tallow. It adds richness and flakiness to make your pastries, pies, and cookies become the star of every get-together.
Remember: Opt for grass-fed beef tallow for the highest nutritional value.
MAKE DIY SKINCARE OR SWITCH TO TALLOW-BASED PRODUCTS
Ever use cocoa butter for dry skin? Tallow contains those same moisturizing fats (and more!). Its fatty acid profile closely resembles human sebum (the oil our skin naturally produces), making it a gentle, nourishing skin protectant and potential soother for dry skin, eczema, and even psoriasis.
You can use it to make your own hand lotion, lip balm, skin salve, healing balms, soaps, and more. It’ll soothe irritation, leave your skin feeling soft and supple, and promote overall skin health.
You can find tallow-based skincare products online or at your local farmers’ market. If you’d like to DIY your own recipe, whip up tallow with your favorite essential oils and carrier oils (such as jojoba or almond oil) to ensure you smell more delightful than savory.
MAKE YOUR OWN TALLOW CANDLES
Our ancestors used tallow candles, and now you can too!
Melt the tallow and add your natural fragrance oil of choice. Then, pour the mix into a heat-proof vessel with a wick in the center. Let it cure, and you’ll have a more sustainable, less-toxic, long-lasting burn when it’s ready.
WHERE TO FIND TALLOW
You can buy tallow sourced from organic, grass-fed and grass-finished cows online, at your local farmers’ market, at the grocery store, or specialty markets. Some butcher shops may also carry their own homemade versions.
Want to render your own tallow? Go for it! Your final product will likely be less expensive if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves. Check out this tutorial from My Herbal Apothecary.
SO, WHAT IS TALLOW? ONLY THE BEST FAT YOU’RE NOT USING (BUT WILL NOW!)
As a nutrient-rich, versatile fat, beef tallow deserves a place on the table (and maybe even in your skincare routine!). It’s not just a nostalgic ingredient from your grandparents’ kitchen, but a valuable addition for your health and wellness goals.
Give these tallow uses a try, and rediscover the goodness of this age-old culinary tradition. It may be the key to unlocking a new level of well-being, one delicious bite (or smooth application) at a time.
🐮 We’re huge fans of beef tallow here! Our mission at Bare Bones is to meet you where you are and nourish you with real, whole-food-based nutrients in the form that best fits your lifestyle.So, if you’re in the mood for slow-simmered beef goodness, try our Classic Beef Bone Broth, Low-Sodium Beef Bone Broth, or Instant Bone Broth in Beef or Mushroom!