Everything You Need to Know About Ghee
Meet your new favorite cooking fat.
Ghee is pure butterfat—it's rich, luscious, and absolutely delicious. Ghee is a type of clarified butter, but it's taken one step further to coax out a toasty, caramelized aroma. And whether you spread it over toast, drizzle it over popcorn, or use it to sear steak, ghee lends itself to many uses.
A staple ingredient in Indian cooking, ghee has recently gained attention for its association with low-carb, high-fat diets such as Keto and Paleo. But is ghee really better than butter—and should you be cooking with it instead? First, let's take a look at what ghee actually is, its health benefits and concerns, how you can make it at home, and the tastiest ways to use it.
What is Ghee?
Ghee is the cooking fat of choice for Indian dishes and cuisines across Asia. It's also used as a skin moisturizer in Ayurvedic medicine, a holistic healing system that originates from India.
Both ghee and clarified butter start as butter, which is composed of three key ingredients: milk fat, milk solids, and water. To make clarified butter, you remove the milk solids and water—but to make ghee, you have to take this process one step further.
To make ghee, you'll need to heat the butter longer, until it takes on a toasty aroma and deep, golden brown color. Compared to regular butter, ghee has a rich, nutty flavor that's reminiscent of butterscotch or caramel. Because clarified butter isn't heated for a prolonged time, it has a more neutral flavor.
Ghee also has a much higher smoke point than butter—485 degrees—which makes it ideal for high-heat cooking methods like sauteing, stir-frying, and deep-frying. Additionally, ghee is shelf-stable and can be safely stored at room temperature for a long period of time.
Health Benefits of Ghee
Ghee contains short- and medium-chain fatty acids, both of which are linked to heart health. Butyric acid, in particular, is a type of short-chain fatty acid that's associated with a strong immune system and known to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Because it does not contain milk solids—lactose, casein, and whey protein—ghee may be a good option for those who are sensitive to dairy. Ghee isn't technically dairy-free, but it can be considered lactose-free as long as the milk solids have been successfully removed.
What's more conflicting, however, is the question of whether or not ghee is vegan. While ghee doesn't contain milk solids, it's still derived from an animal product—milk. So if you are a strict vegan, then likely you would want to avoid ghee.
Despite the potential health benefits, keep in mind that ghee is pure fat and should be consumed in moderation. When the milk solids are removed from butter, the fat becomes more concentrated. As a result, ghee has slightly more calories and fat per teaspoon than butter. Ghee is also high in saturated fat, which is generally discouraged over healthier fats like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat.
Ghee and the Keto Diet
If you're familiar with the Keto diet, then you're likely very familiar with ghee. You may have even enjoyed it in Bulletproof coffee, a supercharged drink of brewed coffee, ghee or grass-fed butter, and a few drops of MCT oil. But why is ghee so often associated with the Keto diet? It's a perfect high-fat component to this diet, and its wealth of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT's) are easily converted into an energy source—a.k.a. ketones—by your body. When your body burns fat instead of glucose, this eventually forces your body into ketosis, a key premise of Keto.
How to Make Ghee at Home
Making ghee is easy, and you need only one ingredient: butter. Use grass-fed butter if possible, but any high-quality, unsalted butter will work. Follow this simple step-by-step guide to make ghee in your kitchen. We recommend making a large batch with at least three sticks of butter, since ghee has a long shelf life. When stored at room temperature, it should keep for about a month.
- Melt cubed butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Swirl pan frequently to prevent butter from burning.
- When butter starts to bubble, reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. When you see the milk solids separate (they're white and foamy-looking), use a spoon to gently skim them off of the surface. Discard into a small bowl. (Note: If you're making clarified butter, you can stop here!)
- Continue to simmer the butter until it turns clear and golden, about 6 to 8 minutes. Watch it carefully to prevent burning. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
- Line a heat-resistant bowl with cheesecloth, then pour in ghee to remove any remaining browned milk solids. Pour the strained ghee into an airtight container such as a Mason jar and store at room temperature.
If you don't have time to make ghee at home, you can find prepared versions at the grocery store or online. Many producers offer ghee flavored with ingredients like garlic, turmeric, and even vanilla bean.
How to Use Ghee
Because of its high smoke point, ghee (or clarified butter) is great for searing meat or cooking vegetables. Use it like you would any other cooking oil like canola oil, avocado oil, or grapeseed oil. You can also spread ghee over toast, drizzle it over popcorn, toss it with croutons, or incorporate it into baked goods like cakes and breads. Don't be afraid to get creative—use ghee instead of butter to make a jazzed-up roux to thicken sauces and creamy soups. To spark your inspiration, here are our favorite ways to cook with ghee:
If you're cooking classic Indian dishes like chicken tikka masala, biryani, or naan, then you'll want to keep a jar of ghee close. Try these mouthwatering Indian recipes that feature ghee:
Try using ghee instead of butter in pancakes, muffins, cakes, and breads to impart a nutty, caramelized flavor. These tasty baked goods all use ghee (or clarified butter) in their batters or doughs:
Play up the comforting flavors in a warming bowl of soup even more by making it with ghee. It's a perfect complement to creamy soups like chowders and bisques, but it also works well in gumbo.
Ghee is a popular choice by chefs for searing chicken, beef, pork, or fish—so why not give it a try yourself? Ghee's high smoke point helps it stand up to the high heat needed to develop a golden-brown crust on the outside of your steak or pork chop. You can also roast, bake, or grill meats brushed with ghee or clarified butter. Give these easy recipes a try: