4 Things You Should Know About Tallow Soapmaking + Tallow Soap Recipes

4 Things you should know about Tallow Soapmaking + recipes to get you started
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Clearing up misconceptions about tallow soap making and two tallow soap recipes for you to try out. Tallow can be a sustainable soapmaking ingredient and can also be used as a single oil soap recipe.

This is a piece written by Liz Beavis and you can find out a little more about her at the end. While many people choose to use Vegan or Vegetarian ingredients in soapmaking, Liz uses fat from the animals she raises on her homestead. She’s here today to help explain why she thinks that more people, especially those who eat meat and/or have a farm, should consider making tallow soap.

Since I started making soap three years ago, it has been my aim to use tallow produced from butchering our own beef cattle as part of my soap. I have been very happy with tallow as a soap ingredient and I want to share with you a few things that I have learned, which might make you consider using tallow in your soap making too.

1. Tallow is Cheap and Easy to Access

The main reason I wanted to use tallow was that we had an excess of beef fat after butchering our own beef cattle. Beef fat is very easy to render into tallow (see my post about rendering tallow here) and if you don’t have your own beef cattle, you can usually buy it pretty cheaply from a butcher. Pork fat (which makes lard) and lamb fat are also good options.

Although it does take a little effort to render the tallow, it works out way cheaper than buying oils like olive, palm, or coconut for soap making. You can usually also by rendered tallow and lard from the supermarket (in Australia it’s called “superfry”), which is relatively cheap too.

4 Things you should know about Tallow Soapmaking + recipes to get you started

2. Tallow Soap Doesn’t Smell

Often people are worried that tallow soap will smell like meat, but it doesn’t! If you render the tallow and strain it correctly, the soap will not smell like meat. It will smell like tallow soap, which is like the old sunlight soap, or the soap your granny used to have in her bathroom. You can use essential oils or fragrance oils to hide the smell if you don’t like it, but I make a lot of soaps with no added fragrance and the smell doesn’t bother me.

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4 Things you should know about Tallow Soapmaking + recipes to get you started

3. Tallow is a Sustainable Ingredient

Compared to oils, which need to be substantially processed (grown in monocultures, harvested, pressed, filtered, bottled, and transported to you from faraway places), requiring energy inputs, beef tallow can usually be produced relatively locally, and it easily processed at home in a pot or slow cooker. The fat from beef and other animals is a waste product from animal meat production and if you eat meat, you may as well also use the by-products such as tallow.

4 Things you should know about Tallow Soapmaking + recipes to get you started

4. Tallow Makes GOOD Soap

Tallow has a very similar composition to palm oil. It makes a hard long-lasting soap with a light creamy lather. Tallow is also similar to human fat, and so it makes a great moisturizer! Tallow soap with a superfat of 6% is a lovely soap for your skin. That means there’s six percent of the oils in your recipe stay in your bars as oil and aren’t converted into soap. These oils help condition your skin.

If you’re interested in trying tallow in soapmaking, you can find recipes and ideas for simple tallow soaps and tallow soaps with other natural ingredients below.

4 Things you should know about Tallow Soapmaking + recipes to get you started

Basic tallow soap recipe

(with a 6% superfat)

1 kg Tallow
132 g Caustic soda (aka lye or sodium hydroxide)
300 ml Water
1-2 tsp Essential oil (optional)

Basic tallow, olive oil and coconut oil recipe

(with a 6% superfat)

500g Tallow
250g Coconut oil
250g Olive oil
142g Caustic soda (aka lye or sodium hydroxide)
300 ml Water
1-2 tsp Essential oil (optional)

Head over here for general instructions for making cold process soap. Here are some more soap recipes (with full instructions) for you to try out:

Liz Beavis guest posting on Lovely Greens with recipes for making handmade soap with tallow

This piece is written by homesteader, Liz Beavis. Liz lives on eight acres in southeast Queensland, Australia, with her husband Peter and dogs Taz and Gus. They have a passion for small-scale organic farming and producing and eating real food. They keep chickens, beef steers, two jersey cows, and a big vegetable garden. Liz writes a blog about their farm to both inspire and help others who are interested in self-sufficiency, sustainability, and Permaculture. Find her online at Eight Acres the blog

46 Comments

  1. Lovelygreens,
    Is the soaponificatoon value different for grass fed grass finishes tallow vs. industrial/commercial farmed tallow?

    Alan

  2. Hello, as someone mentioned in an earlier question, how would we go about having the smell from the meat stay in the tallow ?

    A local BBQ restaurant to me used to sell soap that was made from their brisket renderings out of their smoker. It smelled delicious and sold out all the time. I bought it and used it. My wife even enjoyed the smell of it. I even sent a bar to a friend in Germany. Unfortunately the woman that made the soap moved across country. The owner has not had any since. I was considering trying to make some and see how well I did at it. Any actual input would be grateful. Thank you.

    1. Just follow any typical recipe and at in the final stage when they call for essential oils, substitute for any rendered fat from the cooking process. I use bacon fat for novelty gifts, just make sure whatever fat you use, it is filtered and any non fat liquid is separated out.

      1. Hi Daniel, and ordinarily I would not approve your comment since it’s not good soapmaking advice and I would not want anyone to follow it. Essential oils are not the same as ordinary fats/oils and cannot be used interchangeably. What you’re doing is adding quite a lot of extra oil to your batches and increasing the superfat. You need to work these oils into your base soap recipe rather than adding them this way. Soapmaking is chemistry, and adding too much fat at trace could leave a person with soft, and potentially oily bars. If you want to add bacon fat or tallow or any other extra oil to your recipe, you need to work it into the soap formulation.

  3. Hello, I happened across your website in an attempt to find out more about soap making. I’m a chef at an independently owned steakhouse and we have so much beef scrap, both meat AND fat. The long and short of it is I want to render the fat and make a novelty soap with our logo and hopefully the smell. By this I mean I want the bar to smell like our grill baste: beef fat, roasted garlic, rosemary, Through my reading, I’ve seen that tallow soap has a mild, barely noticeable, scent. Is this just because of the chemical reactions? I know I’m going against the grain here but I want them to smell. Am I about to waste a bunch of time trying to achieve something that just won’t happen? Any input would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Jamie, first of all, I’m curious to understand who would want to smell like a garlicky steak? Have you done market research on this idea? Have you seen any demand for meaty-scented soaps? Other than as a novelty or gag gift, I suspect that the soap wouldn’t sell well. To answer your question on scent — if tallow is rendered once, it can have a mild meaty/greasy scent. Most people avoid tallow soap due to this, and it’s one of the reasons that tallow soap can have a bad name. However, if the tallow is rendered twice, the resulting tallow has little or no scent.

      1. Thank you for your follow up. I realize the general population does not want to smell like a steak house but the idea is merely for novelty purposes, not intended to be used. If it can be confirmed that the aromatics that would be incorporated into it would indeed remain aromatic, then I can begin my little project (almost used the “mad scientist” cliche here but it’s actual science.)

        1. Your tallow soap wouldn’t smell like steak if that’s your question. Tallow has its own scent. For a steak scent, you’d need to use a synthetic fragrance oil that’s skin-safe. I know there are bacon scented fragrance oils, but you’ll need to do research on finding other meaty scents.

    2. Hi. I am Ewa from Poland. I read your post with curiosity. Recycling tallow is great, I started making soaps myself. However, I suggest using the herbal scent that you use in your kitchen.

  4. I wished I lived in the alternate dimension were butcher exist. I’ve also heard they give out free beef soup bones. Nothing like that here in my dimension.

    1. It’s obviously different from country to country. Here in Britain or in Australia there are still a lot of independent butchers. In parts of the USA, not so much.

    2. Where do you live?
      You may need to go up the chain a bit and go straight to the abbatoirs if you don’t have independent butchers.
      Here in the UK a long bone costs 70p if you buy it in the butchers shop but at the abbatoirs you can get a carrier bag full of mixed bones for nothing. The only thing I would be careful of is pulling out any vertebrae if you weren’t sure of the quality of the beef herd, to avoid BSE/CJD.

  5. Hi There,

    I used your recipe for Basic 100% tallow for cold process.
    Same amount of tallow and water.
    The soap came back too brittle and I found some orange spots on it.
    Did this happen to you ever or did it Happen because I used the cold process method.
    Would it make a difference if I use Deodorized Tallow on the cold process?

    Thank you kindly.

    1. The orange spots are called dreaded orange spot (DOS) and in the case of tallow, could be the result of using old oil. It’s basically the result of using rancid oil.

  6. I’ve been making a pure beef dripping soap for some time now. The appearance, quality, texture, lather, durability are all excellent. My main problem is getting the essential oil fragrance I use to remain beyond around 3 weeks in. Neroli is the only scent I can get to stick. Tried Lime – gone. Lavender – minimal scent. Sweet orange – gone. Eucalyptus – minimal. I’m up to 25g per 1kg batch and that’s expensive. Any tips anyone?

      1. You are using “top note” oils- basically, their scents dissipate quickly. Try using some “base notes” such as frankincense, cedar wood, vetiver or sandalwood (all of these are really good for your skin too!). Base note oils hold a scent for longer.

  7. I am new to making cp soap I used beef dripping which I believe to be the same as tallow .the soap turn out wonderful . I was wondering if I can double the amount of ingredients . You work in grams which I like. Not really sure how to use the lye calculator as yet . If can’t double it could you give me a larger recipe please

  8. My tallow has been in the refrigerator for about a week. It has something settled in the bottom do I scrape it off? Throw the whole batch away and start over?

    1. You can scrape it off.
      When I render tallow (usually 20-40 pounds at a time), I strain it and then pour it into containers with a few ounces of water in the bottom to cool. Most of the junk settles into the water.
      After it is quite cold (I usually freeze it), I remove it from the containers and scrape off any remaining crud.

  9. could I use the same amount of lard in your soap recipe as I would have the tallow leaving the tallow out of the recipe? Oh I mean I would leave the other oils in and just take out the tallow replacing it with lard. i am very new at this and for many months have been reading the different procedures. I have made the melt and pours
    for a few months now ready to try cold process

  10. Can one use both tallow and lard in the same recipe?
    And if so, how much of each?
    And, is the SAP for each similar?
    I guess from what I understand is use tallow the same way as (replace) palm. Am I correct?

    1. The SAP is different for each. If you’re thinking about creating your own recipe, please use the SoapCalc online tool to make sure you have the correct amount of lye.

      As for tallow replacing palm oil — they have the same qualities and SAP so that’s a yes to your question.

  11. Thanks for your article! This is the soap I first made many, many years ago. Finding beef kidney fat to render down to tallow has been difficult these days, but FINALLY I found a reliable source for a 40-lb recurring order and I’m so glad. Tallow does make an incredibly fine bar of soap. I’ve been making vegetable-oil soaps, Liquid Hot Process method, for quite some time and although the bars are excellent made this way and sell reliably well, so many folks have asked me, “Can you make that old-fashioned lye soap like my grandma used to make?” I’m glad to be able to say, “YES! And it will be available in April!” Found your site while browsing to see how soapers are making tallow soap these days… good work!

    1. I am wondering where you are ? I live in East Anglia in UK, and can’t find a supplier
      Any advice would be gratefully received
      Thanks

        1. I am looking for fat to render myself. The local butcher sells suet in small plastic bags for people to use for cooking, but I would need a larger amount for candles
          Thank you

  12. Hello Tanya,
    I read that while lye is bad for us, the chemical reaction that occurs in most modern soap-making neutralizes the harmful components. Do you think it is so with this recipe? Thanks for the recipe, I intend on making some wonderful homemade soap for Christmas presents– down with the consumerism mentality that says we must buy buy buy.
    Laura

    1. This is true — at the end of the soap making process there’s no lye left in the soap. It forms a bond with oil and becomes soap! All soap is made with lye at some point in it’s process. That goes for melt-and-pour and for traditional cold and hot process.

      As for whether I think this is so with this recipe. I wouldn’t have published it on my site otherwise :)

  13. We have to buy our meat from a butcher so we naturally need to pay for the fat as well. So I’ve taken to saving it in the freezer until I have enough to render, then I turn it into soap. Except for the lye it is made from something that people would just throw away.

  14. I made my first tallow recipe 5 weeks ago. 50% tallow 40% Olive 10% Rice Bran
    It is lovely but it is a bit oily as well as doesn’t lather much at all. I am going to let it cure a few more weeks. But was wondering if I need to adjust the recipe. I had to try this for a severe nut allergy.

  15. Hi
    may i know how much ingredients i need to produce a 1kg bar soap..i want to make soap making a project but need info for costing purposes/like the cost of producing 1 bar of soap using only tallow
    thanx

  16. I only make tallow soap as we too butcher our own cows. Why would I buy oil when I can use tallow for free. And like Liz says it makes lovely soap.

  17. Thanks for your post! I have been an unashamed user of tallow and lard since I began making soap 13 years ago, and I use it for all of the points you outlined above.

  18. Thank you for this very informative guest post Liz! Tallow has had a bad reputation in soap making for a long time but it makes sense that if you eat meat that you should use the entire animal. As you say, it’s less wastage and the soap that results is great for your skin.

    Tallow is also a great substitute for Palm oil, which is very popular in soap making and also very destructive to the environment. Great piece!

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