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How to Make Super Simple DIY Tallow Soap [30-Minute Recipe]

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My soaps generally use a tallow (beef fat) recipe. We raise our own beef cattle, and I don’t like wasting anything, bring in the steak & kidney pies and liverwurst, so over time, I’ve developed an excellent formula for tallow soap!

I don’t get a lot of time during the week, so soap making, for me, needs to be quick and efficient. No tiny little batches, but pounds at a time, and I need to get it to trace (trace = when soap thickens, further explanation below) as quick as possible so I could batch it up and leave it to cure.

To make tallow soap, you can use tallow, coconut oil, olive oil, castor oil, some fragrances, and lye.

Homemade beef tallow in the jar ready for cooking.

This may not be the most decorative soap, but it is extremely practical! You can whip up 12 bars of soap, 130 grams each, in 30 minutes. That includes getting (and finding – always a problem in my house) the ingredients! So, let’s get into it!

Using Tallow as a Soap Ingredient and Tallow Alternatives

You’ll need several oils to make this beef tallow soap recipe. However, the essential ingredient is a nice, thick fat to keep your soap in bar form.

If you want to learn how to render tallow, you might want to read my other article, The Differences: Tallow vs Lard vs Schmaltz vs Suet and How to Use Them. Still, if you have beef fat to work with, you might find this tutorial helpful for now.

If you don’t have beef trimmings to work with, you can either buy tallow or use a replacement.

Tallow and lard both make lovely hard soap. Plus, they’re sustainable, practical, and soothing ingredients. If you want to learn more about why tallow is such as excellent soap base, you might find this video interesting:

Why Add Tallow to Soap | Bumblebee Apothecary

However, shea or cocoa butter would be suitable as a replacement. Add some beeswax if you aren’t using tallow to harden your soap up a bit more. We don’t want it going all gluggy the minute it gets wet!

Quick, Easy DIY Beef Tallow Soap Recipe

Ingredients

soapcalc recipe
Calculations from Soapcalc.net for 30 Minute Soap

To make this soap recipe, you’ll want a nice blend of oils with a bit of fragrance to keep the soap from smelling beefy.

Here’s the mixture that I’ve perfected over time:

You can get your ingredients from Amazon (links above) or Starwest Botanicals.

I use soapcalc.net for all my soap calculations, and running this through the calculator at 1000gr oils, 5% superfat, ends up with this recipe for beef tallow soap:

  • Beef tallow: 450 gr
  • Coconut oil: 250 gr
  • Olive oil (Pomace): 200 gr
  • Castor oil: 100 gr
  • Water: 380 gr
  • Lye (NaOH): 142.14 gr
  • Fragrance/essential oil: 31 gr

Tools You Need

tools-you-need
My big scales with unmelted tallow

This soap recipe requires quite a few tools, but you probably already have most of them. Here’s the summary:

  • Pyrex jugs or measuring cups. I use a 500 ml and a 2 liter.
  • Plastic container for lye. I use an old cup that I don’t need anymore. Keep this cup for lye only!
  • Scales. I have one big one and one very accurate, small one. The big one is for oils and fats, while the small one is for lye, essential oils, etc.
  • A microwave. You could get by without a microwave, but then you’d need to set up a double boiler, making this tallow soap recipe take longer.
  • Whisk or spoon (stainless). Stainless utensils are much easier to clean than wooden ones, and stainless steel is safe to use with lye.
  • Stick blender. A blender stick will make the mixing process super fast and straightforward, but if you have plenty of time on your hands, you could always use a whisk and some elbow grease.
  • Thermometer. Candy thermometers are best because they’re easy to clean, but be sure to get an accurate one.
  • Mold. I used to use a plastic container. Any plastic container, pretty much. Now I’m getting more fancy with a silicone mold that makes perfectly shaped soaps. Both are perfectly fine. You just need to cut the soap to shape before the soap is hard as a rock when using a plastic container. I like the silicone mold because I can quickly get the soaps out, even after leaving them for weeks.
  • Blankets/towels for insulation. One of these days, I’m going to whip up a cozy, snuggly, soap-sleeping bag. Until then, I use hand towels or old washable cloth nappies.

30-Minute Beef Tallow Soap Recipe Instructions: Step-By-Step

Scales, oils, and lye
My little scales with lye
  1. Measure out the water in a Pyrex jug (mine is 500ml, but bigger would be better).
  2. Measure out the lye carefully. Lye is caustic and can burn the skin. Wear gloves and protective gear if you like. Don’t touch it, and don’t get it on your skin.
  3. Add the lye to the water (not the other way around!) and stir to dissolve. The mixture will get hot and will give off a fume. Don’t breathe the fume, and make sure you’re in a well-aerated space or outside.
  4. Add your tallow to a big Pyrex jug (2-liter or bigger) while the lye cools.
  5. Melt the tallow in the microwave. This takes about 6-7 minutes in my microwave, but I melt it in 2-minute intervals. Be careful grabbing the jug – it might be hot.
  6. Once the tallow is pretty well melted, add the other oils – the coconut, olive, and castor oils. Sometimes the coconut oil can be solid in cold weather or early in the morning. If it’s in a wide-mouth jar or similar, that’s no problem. Just scoop it out to the correct measurement. It can be hard to get out if it’s in a bottle. I usually give it a bit of a go in the microwave to liquefy or sit it in a bath of hot water.
  7. Give the oils another blast in the microwave until they are all melted. Stir to combine them all.
  8. Check the temperature of the lye and the temperature of the oil. Once they are both at the same temperature, you can mix them. If the oils cool down faster than the lye, wait until the lye is at about 140F (60C), and gently re-heat oils until they are also at 140F (60C).
  9. Pour the lye and water mixture into the oils, and stir or mix! At this stage, I introduce my stick blender. A 5-minute blast with the stick blender gets the soap to trace. ‘Trace’ is when your oil and lye mixture thickens. You’ll see a trace or trail when you pull the stick blender or a spoon through the mix. Rather than being fully liquid with a smooth surface, you’ll now see lines through your soap.
  10. Once you get to trace, add the essential oils and stir. The soap will thicken quickly, so you should do this quickly.
  11. Get the mix into your mold straight away. If you use a silicone mold, place it on a chopping board. This gives it a bit of rigidity and allows you to bang it to get rid of air. That makes a lovely smooth-topped, flat soap.
  12. Cover your soap with plastic wrap. Then, wrap the whole lot up in a nice warm blanket to stop it from cooling down too quickly, resulting in cracks, etc.
  13. Let the soap cure for at least two weeks, and voila! You have soap! I like to leave mine to cure for as long as possible, but I usually use them after a month. The longer, the better, though!
  14. Toss all your tools and jugs into a bucket of vinegar and water. Vinegar neutralizes lye. Same for you – if you were to get some on your skin, rinse with vinegar rather than water.

Extra Tallow Soap Recipe Notes

tallow-lard-soap
Ah, voila!

Before closing, you should know some special considerations, especially if this is your first time making soap.

Knowing when your soap is at the right consistency, what’s safe and what’s not, and how to care for the soap after pouring can make the process very simple.

Trace and How To Identify It

The photo below shows a good, thick trace. See the lines in the mixture? It’s like a muffin mixture or a landscape rather than a flat lake. That’s what you’re aiming for. I blend until I get a thick trace. You could batch it up with less trace than the photo, but a nice thick trace speeds up the hardening process.

DIY-tallow-soap-trace
We have trace!
make-your-own-tallow-soap-trace
And more trace!

Safety Notes For Working With Lye

in-the-sink-vinegar
Clean up with vinegar (neutralize the high pH of lye)

Measure all your ingredients very carefully, especially the lye. Be careful handling lye; don’t breathe the fumes, make sure your workspace is well aerated (in front of a window or outside), and don’t touch the lye or get it on your skin.

Once you’re done with the soapmaking process, use a vinegar soak to neutralize the lye before cleaning anything.

Tips For Curing

Soap-wrapped-up
Cover your soaps with cling film
soap-wrapped-in-towel
Keep them warm and cozy

Be sure to cover the soap after pouring. Doing so will help the bars come out nice, smooth, and even.

Warming your freshly poured soaps will also ensure they cool slowly, helping them “set up” and cure into a solid bar.

The longer you leave your soap to cure, the better it gets. As I mentioned, mine only cure for around a month, but waiting longer will give you a more solid soap with a rich lather.

Finding Soap Making Supplies

You can get all your soapmaking equipment in a kit, too. Some of these will be melt & pour, which is great for doing it with kids, and some are entirely from scratch. Have a look at some bestsellers:

  1. DIY Melt & Pour Shea Butter Soap Making Kit, Includes Shea Butter Soap Base, Glass Measuring Cup, Liquid Dyes, Rectangular Soap Mold Set
    $69.99

    Looking for a productive way to pass the time? This DIY soap-making kit has everything you need. It includes 3.3 lbs of Shea Butter soap base, a Rectangular Mold Set, a 500ml glass measuring cup, stainless steel wavy & straight scrape, dried flowers, and fragrances. The best part is that the mold and measuring cup will last you many years, so it's a great investment.

    Amazon

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    04/14/2024 03:24 pm GMT
  2. 15g/Bag Natural Dried Flowers for Soap Making
    $14.99

    This set includes 100% natural dried flowers to mix into your soaps. It includes Lily, Chrysanthemums, Lemongrass, Rose, Lavender, Albizia, Calendula, Gomphrena, Rosemary, Roselle, Snow Chrysanthemum, Jasmine, Forget-me-not, and Lotus seed. They add a lovely fragrance and texture to any bar of soap.

    Amazon

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    04/15/2024 09:50 am GMT
  3. ALEXES Soap Making KitWith 1.1 lb Glycerin Soap Base
    $29.99

    This beginner soapmaking kit includes1.1 lb of glycerin soap base, mica powder, fragrance oils, silicone and plastic molds, a measuring cup, decoration materials, and a detailed user’s manual. It's the perfect starter kit, and you can keep using the molds and fragrances for other soaps as you learn new tricks.

    Amazon

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    04/15/2024 09:50 am GMT
  4. Aoibrloy Soap Making Kit with Shea Butter Soap Base

    From start to finish, no need to buy any accessories. Includes 1.1 lbs. shea butter soap base, 1pcs soap-making measuring cup, a stirrer, herbs, three unique soap-making molds, pigments, essential oils, heat shrinkable film, and a detailed introduction.

    Amazon

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

  5. DIY Melt & Pour Shea Butter Soap Making Kit, Includes Shea Butter Soap Base, Glass Measuring Cup, Liquid Dye
    $59.99

    Everything you need to create your own homemade soap is in this package. The package includes 2 lbs shea butter soap base, 2 silicone square containers, 6 fragrance oils, 6 liquid dyes, a glass measuring cup, a silicone stirring stick, 2 dry flowers, 12 homemade wraps, label tape, and a very detailed introduction.

    Amazon

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    04/15/2024 09:50 am GMT
  6. DIY Soap Making Craft Kit For Kids
    $34.99 $27.90

    This soap kit comes with 15 fun-shaped molds and easy-to-follow instructions, so it's the perfect kit for your curious kids. It comes with 30 pre-cut soap blocks, 5 different scents, 5 dyes, mixing sticks, a mixing cup, and a mess-free soap creation station for hours of fun.

    Amazon

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    04/15/2024 09:51 am GMT
  7. Pifito Soap Making Kit  with 3 lbs Melt and Pour Soap Base (Goats Milk, Shea Butter, & Clear), 10 Mica Colorants, Mold, and Instructions
    $33.99

    Not sure which hand soap base or colorant to buy? The Pifito Soap Making Kit is the perfect solution! You'll get a select few from each to try, so you can determine which you love best! It's also free of any synthetics, chemicals, detergents, and lathering agents.

    Amazon

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    04/15/2024 09:55 am GMT
  8. Soap Molds with Wooden Cutter Measuring Box (44oz Purple Silicone) 100pc Bags, and Stainless Steel Wavy & Straight Slicer
    $29.99

    Are you ready to commit to making soap and want a perfect bar every time? This mold with a Bamboo Cutter Box, 44oz Silicone Mold, Pine Soap Holding Box, Stainless Straight Slicer, and a Stainless Wavy Slicer is the perfect addition to your soapmaking toolbox! It works perfectly with melt and pours, cold process, and hot process soaps alike.

    Amazon

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    04/15/2024 09:59 am GMT
  9. Soap Making Kit for Adults,with Essential Oils, Silicone Soap Mold, Dried Flowers, 2lbs. Shea Butter Soap Base, 4 Colors, 9 Labels
    $43.99 $39.95

    This luxury melt-and-pour soap-making kit is great to start and learn the art of soap-making. Make about 8 luxurious homemade soap bars with all-natural ingredients! It's great for beginners & experts, and the ingredients are 100% safe, organic, vegan, & premium quality!

    Amazon

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    04/15/2024 09:56 am GMT

Final Thoughts

I hope this DIY tallow soap recipe serves you as well as it has served me! Beef tallow soap is super easy to make, quick to process, and thrifty; plus, it’s a great use of materials.

If you try out this soap or have any soapmaking tips to share, leave them in the comments. We love learning from you all!

Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful day!

More Reading on Soap Making and Homesteading:

 

How to Make Super Simple DIY Tallow Soap

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2 Comments

  1. I don’t have a microwave, and haven’t for many, many years ever since I found out that microwaves change the molecular structure of everything heated/cooked inside it, even water.

    I feel that the extra time involved to use my small countertop oven is a good trade-off for using any appliance for convenience sake, and for my health.

    I understand that cold process soaps MUST be cured for at LEAST 4 weeks. So I find it a bit disconcerting that you advocate using after a ‘couple of days’.

    Any issues that the small scale you show is NOT the same as the one you link to?

    I have read and saved many soap recipes, and favor the hot process as you CAN use that soap immediately (I’m not very patient!!), but have a lot of cold process soaps as well.

    I have read instructions and have a couple of soapmaking books…I look forward to making my own, as buying from small soapmakers is getting expensive as it is all I use…..

    I also bought a 5 gallon (6?) of tallow and am excited to finally begin making my own soaps…thank you for this recipe.

    1. Hi Carol! Thank you so much for your feedback! I see what you mean about the “couple of days” phrase. It is vague. We meant that you can remove the soaps from the molds after just a couple of days, but if you use this recipe, the soap itself needs to cure for at least two weeks. I went back and clarified that section. Thank you so much for pointing that out! The smaller scale Elle uses is no longer available for some reason, so we found one that was just as good (if not better).

      I’m so glad you found this article helpful! Happy tallow-soapmaking to you! Have a wonderful day, and thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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