Lard In Your Doughnuts and Pies? 3 Things You Need To Know

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“Hey, I had a question about your doughnuts.” I say over the phone. “Are any of them made with lard?”

“Hold on, let me check,” the employee at Stan’s Donuts in Wicker Park in Chicago tells me. He asks what sounds like a manager elsewhere in the store.

“Hello? Yes. All of our doughnuts except for our old-fashioned doughnuts and vegan contain a little bit of lard in them,” The employee explains.

I need more information. “Are they all fried in the same fryer?”

“Yes,” He answers.

And that’s when Stan’s Donuts, the L.A.-based gourmet doughnut shop getting popular in Chicago got on the do-not-eat list for me as a Muslim eating Halal.

Fortunately, Chicago has a lot of doughnut shops, both gourmet in the city and old-school in the South side and throughout the suburbs, that use only vegetable oils and butter.

But lard in a doughnut? Why is that even a thing? What does this mean for Muslims trying to keep Halal? How can someone know if a simple pastry is Halal to eat or not? And how far does one have to go in trying to find out?

It comes down to three things.

Assortment of lard-free doughnuts from Donut Drop in Schaumburg, IL at Brewpoint Coffee in Elmhurst, IL.

Assortment of lard-free doughnuts from Donut Drop in Schaumburg, IL at Brewpoint Coffee in Elmhurst, IL.

1. Some old-school and new-gourmet places may use lard

You’re used to hearing about it in the tortillas at Mexican restaurants. But historically, lard was used to make pie crusts flakier and fry doughnuts crispier. Vegetable shortening replaced it in the 1900s and only a few rural mom-and-pop shops held on to using it. With gourmet cooking, animal fats are all the rage. The means your favorite fancy pants doughnut shop or bakery may have joined the old-school joints in using the famous rendered pig fat.

2. Most places do not use lard

For every place you find that uses lard, though, you will find tons more bakeries and pastry shops that don’t. The most common fat I’ve found in places I’ve called around is vegetable shortening, probably because it’s cheap. More gourmet places will use butter. High-end places will choose high-fat-content European butter. Because lard still has a stigma with it and isn’t vegetarian friendly, it’s not that common.

3. Restaurants and bakeries don’t mind if you ask (so, ask!)

Don’t feel shy to ask if a bakery uses any animal fats. In a world where peanuts aren’t allowed in elementary schools, gluten-free is a thing, and vegan items are showing up on restaurant menus, asking about lard is not something to feel embarrassed about. You can simply explain you want to make sure the desserts they sell are vegetarian-friendly, and you should get the answers you need. Ensuring you’re not consuming any non-Halal animal fats will make it all worth it.

So, eat some great doughnuts. Just make sure they don’t have any lard in them.

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