Suet is an ingredient in British food that many shy away from, mainly because they do not know what it is, where they can buy it, and what substitutes there are.
Firstly, suet is an ingredient that pops up all over the place in both British and Irish food recipes and is found in many traditional dishes such as steak and kidney, or Christmas, pudding which would not be the same without it.
Before we go any further, it would be good to know exactly what suet is and the alternatives you can use and still enjoy all the great flavors and moisture it brings if you don't have any and nowhere to buy it, though in the UK it is readily available.
So, What Is Suet?
Suet is the fat found around the kidney and other organs in animals. It is a saturated fat and used traditionally in pastry, in steamed puddings and sweet mincemeat. There are ready-made vegetarian alternatives available which can be bought in leading supermarkets. Look for the brand Atora for both the meat and vegetarian versions.
You can also make friends with your butcher and ask for the fat from the kidneys. Make sure it is clean and then freeze and grate and use in your recipes.
There are many, many recipes that use suet, some of which are dark and rich while others are lighter. Some use beef suet and others vegetarian suet for a lighter pudding.
Alternatives to Suet in Your Cooking
Truthfully, any substitute you use for suet in your cooking will never be quite the same as using the ingredient itself. However, there are some decent substitutes which will get you close.
Some recommend using frozen butter, but we would avoid this as the butter melts much quicker than suet and your pudding will become greasy and heavy. You can mix an amount of butter with the shortening suggested below, but as is also mentioned, make sure it is frozen.
Shortening as a Substitute for Suet
If you do not want to, or cannot find suet then use a shortening instead. Trex, Flora White, and Cookeen work very well and are vegetable shortening, so suitable for vegetarians.
Before using the shortening freeze it until very firm. Once frozen grate on a large holed grater so you get more chunky pieces. Once grated freeze again and only use when you are ready to mix into your recipe. You can also pulse the frozen, grated shortening in a food processor which will clump the shortening and again, more resembles real suet.
Use your frozen, grated shortening as you would in any recipe calling for suet. You can also make the alternative suet in advance and keep it frozen in bags in the freezer if you are going to use it regularly. It will only keep for a month or two at most.