A Basic Tallow Soap Recipe
Plus Where to Buy Tallow for Soap, and Other Questions Answered
Reading Time: 4 minutes
What is tallow? Tallow is the hard, white fat that is rendered from cows, goats, deer, bears and other animals besides pigs during butchering. The best, hardest tallow comes from sheep or beef, and the organ fats called suet. Tallow soap has many wonderful qualities to recommend it, such as a hard, long-lasting bar and creamy lather. It has similar qualities in soap as palm oil. It can also be very emollient when combined with other soap making oils, such as olive oil. Tallow is a very economical ingredient, allowing you to use the most costly “luxury” oils while maintaining a reasonable cost per bar. The bright white color of tallow means that your soap can also achieve a very white tone without the need for titanium dioxide or micas in your tallow soap. If you are new to animal fats for soap making and have not seen clarified tallow available in your local grocery store, don’t worry — we will tell you where to buy tallow online or in your local community.
Tallow for soap making should be fresh and with little odor. It should be hard and creamy white throughout. Tallow melts at between 130-140 degrees F and it is solid at room temperature. You can find beef tallow for sale at many butcher shops and at some grocery stores in the meat department. It may also be marketed under the name “suet” and may be sold in the meat department as bird food in winter. If it is not available locally, you can purchase it from reputable online sellers such as Essential Depot, a soap making supplies website.
You may wonder, is tallow the same as lard? The answer is no. Lard is a softer fat derived from pigs. Although a softer fat, it acts in a similar way to palm oil in soaps, as well. Lard will also produce a very white, hard bar of soap with a creamy, emollient lather. For lard soap recipes, you may wish to check out the previous article on lard soaps.
There are many other tallow uses, including emollient solid lotion bars, salves, and even lightweight liquid lotions. Just think of tallow the way you would think of palm oil and stearic acid because tallow is actually full of the same fatty acids as these soap making ingredients. It will yield a hard, gentle lotion bar and a creamy white salve. If used in liquid lotions it can transform a thin recipe into a thick, rich body butter.
When formulating your recipe to include animal tallow, be sure to reference the soap making oil chart in order to best consider the qualities tallow brings to the soap. Because it acts in a similar manner to palm oil, it will produce a hard soap with stable, but not abundant lather. For this reason, coconut oil is often added to tallow recipes to boost the performance of the lather. Because tallow is inexpensive to buy, luxury oils such as babassu, apricot seed, and shea butters can be enjoyed in your soap without driving the cost per bar too high.
Included with this article is a simple tallow soap recipe that showcases the best qualities of animal fat soap. If you have not made soap before, please see Safety Precautions for basic soap safety and other important instructions.
You can adjust this recipe by adding the soap ingredients of your preference. This may mean substituting milk for part or all of the water or adding up to two teaspoons of the additive of your choice, such as powdered herbs, aloe vera gel, yogurt or pureed and strained fresh produce.
If you would like to know how to make tallow, stay tuned for future articles on the topic!
Tallow Soap Recipe
Makes approximately 3 pounds of soap
- 17.5 oz tallow, melted and cooled to 140 degrees F
- 8.5 oz coconut oil, melted and cooled to 140 degrees F
- 8.5 oz olive oil, warmed to 140 degrees F
- 4.85 oz sodium hydroxide
- 10.5 oz water
If you have not made soap before, please see Safety Precautions for basic soap safety and other important instructions.
Weigh the water and the lye into separate, safe containers. Slowly pour the lye into the water, stirring gently until the lye is fully dissolved. Set aside until cooled to 140F.
In a separate container, individually weigh out each of the fats before pouring into a large, lye-safe container. Mix well by hand, using a lye-safe utensil. Slowly add the lye water to the warm oils and mix well by hand. Next, using short, one- to two-second “zaps” of an immersion blender alternating with hand stirring, gradually mix the soap batter until thin or medium trace is reached, as you prefer.
This soap should be cut as soon as it is hardened and cooled, which may be sooner than 24 hours after making. Use gloves when handling fresh soap, and cut this recipe into bars as soon as possible to avoid brittleness and breaking. Recipe contains 6% superfat.