Homemade Bird Food Recipe: Suet

How to Make Suet for Winter Birds

November 27, 2018
Suet Recipe
Cornell Labs

Suet is the perfect bird food for the winter months, when birds’ food sources start to dwindle. Here’s how to make suet for your backyard birds!

Suet is especially loved by nuthatches, woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees, cardinals, and most insect-eating birds.

What is Suet?

Suet is essentially a solidified mix of fats, which birds eat to stay warm. Particularly in winter, suet is a valuable bird food.

  • You can use almost any seed or grain, mixed with beef fat, lard, or natural peanut butter. A basic suet combines equal parts of beef fat and assorted birdseed.
  • Put it in a tuna or cat food can to chill (or freeze) until it’s hard enough to hold its shape, then release it into a wire suet cage or sturdy mesh bag.
  • For a fancier suet, add natural peanut butter to the mix. You can also bind cornmeal or oatmeal with natural peanut butter and spread it into holes drilled in a post or log.
  • Birds also like dried fruits, so consider adding raisins, currants, apricots, or citron.

Suet Cake Recipe

  • 2 parts melted fat (beef fat or lard)
  • 2 parts yellow cornmeal
  • 1 part natural peanut butter

Mix all ingredients together and cook for a few minutes. Pour into small containers (tuna fish cans are good), and refrigerate or freeze until needed. Mixture can also be stuffed into 1-inch holes drilled in small logs to hang from trees. The recipe can be made all year long as long as you accumulate fat. Fasten containers securely to trees or feeders.

Note: Suet should be used only in very cold weather so that it does not melt and become rancid. If you live in a warm climate, we do not recommend using homemade suet because it will spoil too quickly. In this case, it is safer to purchase commercial suet cakes (which are treated and won’t spoil).

See more wintertime bird food recipes and enjoy watching your feathered friends warm up by your window!

Reader Comments

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We generally don't do suet in

We generally don't do suet in summer because melted soft suet can coat belly feathers which can be dangerous.
There are commercial no-melt suet cakes; they generally add lots of flour or meal to bind them together and keep them from melting. 

Suet that doesn't melt

I don't think it's necessary to feed birds in the summer. There is usually ample natural food available. I don't feed at all in the fall so that any birds that normally migrate won't be tempted to stick around and risk freezing to death. Once they have left, I feed the ones that tough out our winters.

Feeding birds in fall

Feeding birds in the fall will not stop them from migrating. Daylight levels, climate and instinct are what cause birds to migrate. Actually feeding them will help as they migrate south giving them fuel along the way.

Almost every time I make suet

Almost every time I make suet it falls apart. I have only made it once successfully. I used this recipe just yesterday, added bird seed and raisins and yup it fell apart too. I used Vegetable shortening is that the problem? I read in several places that it would be fine.



If you've modified the recipe

If you've modified the recipe a bit, perhaps the proportions of ingredients need adjustment? If it's too crumbly, try adding more sticky stuff, such as peanut butter.

Thank you, I will give it a

Thank you, I will give it a try. Is there much of a difference between the Beef lard you would buy and Vegetable shortening beyond taste that is.

Thank you much


Do not use veg shortening! It

Do not use veg shortening! It is hydrogenated veg fat, which is not a natural product and is certainly not part of any animal's diet and not what they are looking for.

Vegetable shortening does not

Vegetable shortening does not work. Most recipes tell you not to use. Lard works great.

help stop melting

You have used 'corn starch ' for other meals! why try it in suet cakes?


3/4 c flour,1/2 c water, 3Tbl. Corn syrup, 1 pkg. plain gelatin. Mix together...add to 4 cups seeds. Press into molds. I use cookie shapes with a string put inside the mix to hang in trees for decorations. This needs to be used soon or frozen because it will mold after a week or so.

would suet mixed with

would suet mixed with Planters Nut-trition peanut butter containing semi sweet chocolate, cherries and cranberries be OK to feed the birds. I'm worried about the little specks of chocolate in the peanut butter mixture. Thanks Kathy Y

Never feed birds chocolate.

Never feed birds chocolate. It is poisonous to them.

Easy attractive recipe! We

Easy attractive recipe! We live in Vermont and the birds just love it! So enjoyable to see life in anotherwise dreary long cold winter! Thank you

I love your suet recipe. I

I love your suet recipe. I live in Southern Arizona desert and I put the suet in containers because it will definitely melt in the heat. The Thrashers, Cactus Wren and all others, including the Doves, Woodpeckers and even the Pyrrhuloxia empty the containers fast! I also put out orange halves stuck on a stick.

Don't need to melt the

Don't need to melt the lard,just shape into balls and freeze...

I'm thrilled to find the bird

I'm thrilled to find the bird food recipes! Can't wait to try the suet. Keep the recipes coming!

I'm definitely going to try

I'm definitely going to try this with my grandson who is coming for the Christmas holidays.

This is a good suet. I add

This is a good suet. I add rasins, ground orange peels and honey. also if you use the hard plastic sandwich containers, they are perfect molds for the suet feeders. The citric acid from the peelings is a minor preservitve.

Thanks for the tip about the

Thanks for the tip about the hard plastic sandwich container! Fits perfectly in my suet feeder.

I love the bird food recipe.

I love the bird food recipe. My only problem is i live in Southern California And it's not practical to use suets. (It's just not cold enough) But if you hang Many Hummingbird feeders you will get an amazing show everyday! Especially in the evening, I get at least 20 or more fighting at once for a quick sip! What a show!!!!