What is Ghee?
To define ghee, you must first understand how butter is made. Whether from cow, goat, yak, or buffalo, butter is made when milk is churned until buttermilk separates from fat. The liquid is drained away for later use, and the remaining thickened butterfat is cooled and stored for cooking and baking purposes.
Ghee is a derivative of butter, created through yet another separation process which leaves only a pure, clarified substance. It is used in a variety of recipes, beauty products, and ancient medical and religious practices.1 Ghee varies in flavor, color, and texture depending on the type and quality of butter it is made with.
Is ghee healthy? As a saturated fat, it’s easy to assume that ghee is bad for cholesterol levels and heart health. However, a 1997 study focusing on the eating habits of 1982 males in rural India found that those who consumed ghee regularly had a lower occurrence of coronary heart disease.2 This is because ghee increases HDL (good) cholesterol, over LDL (bad) cholesterol.3
How to Make Ghee
Whether you’ve been eating ghee your whole life, or are just now being introduced to this delicious spread, you can make your own ghee at home by following this simple ghee recipe. To get started you will need:
- 1lb or 450g of high quality unsalted butter
- 1 saucepan
- 1 clean jar with lid
- 1 strainer
- 1 large square of cheesecloth
If you’re just learning how to make ghee at home, you should know that high quality butter produces the best ghee. To create ghee butter, begin by cubing your butter for even melting, and place it into your saucepan. Over medium-low heat simmer the butter until it begins to separate into three parts.
You will notice a foam beginning to form on the surface, while the milk solids sink to the bottom, and the clarified fat floats in the middle. As the milk solids turn golden and begin to brown, your homemade ghee is ready. Scrape all the foam away from the surface of the pan, and let the remaining liquid settle.
Place your cheesecloth into your strainer, and pour the clear fat out of the saucepan and into your waiting jar. When making ghee, you must be very careful not to allow the milk solids to mix back in with the fat. Let your ghee cool and enjoy.
As far as ghee nutrition goes, all the calories in ghee come from its fat content; there are approximately 135 calories per tablespoon of ghee, so use it sparingly.
Does Ghee Need to be Refrigerated?
Wondering how to store ghee? Unlike butter, which requires refrigerating, ghee will keep quite well in a dark, cool cupboard due to its low moisture content.3 To extend the life of the product, it can be refrigerated, but this will cause it to harden.
Does ghee go bad? All edible goods have an expiry date; for ghee, it is approximately 9 months from the date of opening. If you’re purchasing ghee from a grocery store you can answer the question, “how long does ghee last,” by checking the best before sticker.
Ghee vs. Butter
When you look at butter vs ghee, you can see that the main difference is the milk solids. Butter contains butterfat, water, and milk solids, while ghee only retains butterfat. Unlike other clarified butter products which are cooked only long enough to separate milk solids and fat, ghee is cooked down until the milk solids begin to caramelize, giving it a unique nutty flavor.
A common question when comparing the difference between ghee and butter is, “Is ghee paleo?” As you probably know, most paleo diets exclude dairy. Unlike butter, there is no ghee lactose, as all the milk solids have been removed. For most paleo eaters, it comes down to preference. Technically, ghee is an animal based, dairy-free fat, but it does come from cow’s milk, so you’ll have to decide for yourself.
The health benefits of ghee have been recognized by the people of India for millennia. Indian ghee has been used as part of the Ayurveda (ancient medical practice) system, for more than 3,000 years. It was thought to be a more useful herbal solvent than water, because it is so easily absorbed by the skin. It was primarily used to aid with digestion, respiration, and allergies.1 Today, we know that there are many other benefits of ghee, mainly as an ingredient in cooking, baking, and frying.
1. Vitamins and Antioxidants
Organic ghee is rich in vitamin A, which supports the immune system, reproductive system, and several internal organs. It is also a strong source of the antioxidant, vitamin E, which protects cells from free radical damage.1 The vitamins in ghee make it a great addition to fried foods, which may otherwise be lacking in nutritional value.
2. Improve Cholesterol
Pure ghee is rich in HDL cholesterol, the good cholesterol which helps remove excess amounts of LDL cholesterol from your bloodstream.3 Eating ghee in moderation may help improve heart health and reduce the risk of future heart disease.2
3. Lactose Free
For those who are lactose intolerant, it can be difficult to give up butter and switch to a vegetable based margarine. Fortunately, the removal of milk solids from ghee makes it a perfect butter substitute without any of the lactose or casein of butter.3
4. High Smoke Point
Most of the oils you see in grocery stores, which carry high smoke points, are genetically modified. Ghee is a natural product of milk and butter, which can be used in cooking practices that require high heat, such as deep frying.
5. Anti-Cancer Activities
According to a 2012 animal study, cow ghee has protective properties which help reduce tumorigenesis (the formation of tumors.) The study compared the carcinogen detoxification activities of soybean oil and ghee on the liver and mammary tissues of subjects. Over 44 weeks, a diet including ghee increased the carcinogen detoxification activities in both the liver and mammary tissues.4
6. Better Bone Health
Conjugated linoleic acid, an isomer found in dairy products such as butter and ghee, plays an important role in bone health. According to a reference manual on dairy products published in 2013, CLA improves bone mineral density and guards against age related bone loss.5
Through the years people have used ghee in cooking, in religious rituals, healing practices, and many recipes. How to use ghee is entirely up to the user, but here are a few of the more common ways to use ghee at home.
Bulletproof Coffee Ghee
Believe it or not, putting ghee in coffee creates an entirely new taste profile. Known as bulletproof coffee, this creamy drink is one of the most popular recipes with ghee. To make bulletproof coffee at home, brew one 8oz cup of coffee using the French press method, add 2 Tbsp. ghee, and 2 Tbsp. coconut oil. Mix in a blender before pouring into your favorite mug, and enjoy.
Cooking with Ghee
Ghee cooking dates back thousands of years and includes numerous recipes. As the ghee nutrition profile includes many vitamins and antioxidants, it makes it a great addition to any meal. Here are a few of the more common cooking uses for ghee.
- Melt over vegetables, or blended into a potato mash.
- Alternative to olive oil when mixing salad dressing.
- Deep frying oil for donuts, battered chicken, or fish and chips.
- Spread on bread, muffins, croissants, and bagels instead of butter or cream cheese.
- Mix with a light sprinkle of salt and drizzle over freshly popped popcorn.
- Sautee with garlic and pour over fresh seafood with a squeeze of lemon.
- Add seasoning to taste and melt into steamed rice for a pop of flavor.
- Mix with blended egg yolk, lemon juice and seasoning to create the perfect breakfast hollandaise.
- Melt over pancakes and French toast before adding maple syrup in the morning.
Ghee isn’t just great for stove top and fryer use, it also works well as a baking ingredient.
- Blend with powdered sugar and melted chocolate for a buttercream alternative to frost your cakes.
- Use as a binding agent in baking recipes, such as biscuits and pie, for a flakier, tastier dough.
- Use ghee rather than vegetable oil or butter in cake and cookie recipes.
- Grease your pans with ghee rather than butter, the high smoking point guarantees it won’t stick or burn to your cookie sheets.
Due to the long shelf life of ghee, it makes a great travel companion for campouts, and long road trips. Rather than worry about stocking the cooler full of ice so the butter will keep, you can pack a jar of ghee with your non-perishables and enjoy fresh spread on the go.
Where to Buy Ghee
You can buy ghee in the international section of many grocery stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joes. For a wide selection and high quality products, we recommend purchasing Ghee on Amazon.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Sharma, H., Zhang, X. & Dwivedi, C. (2010) The effect of ghee (clarified butter) on serum lipid levels and microsomal lipid peroxidation. An International Quarterly Journal of research in Ayurveda. 3(12), 134-140. DOI: 4103/0974-8520.72361
- Gupta, R. & Prakash, H. (1997) Association of dietary ghee intake with coronary heart disease and risk factor prevalence in rural males. Indian Med. Assoc. 95(3), 67-69, 83. Retrieved on August 6, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9212571
- Mahakalkar, A., Kashyap, P., Bawankar, R. & Hatwar, B. (2014) The versatility of cow ghee – An Ayurveda perspective. American Journal of Drug Delivery and Therapeutics. Retrieved on August 6, 2017 from – View reference
- Rani, R. & Kansal, V. (2012) Effects of cow ghee (clarified butter oil) & soybean oil on carcinogen-metabolizing enzymes in rats. Indian J. Med. Res. 136(3), 460-465. Retrieved on August 28, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3510893/
- Kwak, H., Ganesan, P. & Al Mijan, M. (2013) Milk and dairy products in human nutrition: Production, composition, and health. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 18, 390-404. Retrieved on August 28, 2017 from – View reference