Ghee, at first glance, is nothing more than clarified butter. But if you look a little deeper, you’ll discover it has some interesting benefits besides its rich, nutty taste. Plus it's easy to make at home!
What is Ghee?
Clarified butter is also called “drawn butter.” It’s the golden, delicious stuff that comes in a cup next to your lobster or crab legs. Clarifying butter simply means the butter is melted and cooked for a bit, then the milk solids are skimmed away and it’s strained into a jar.
Milk is made up of fat, milk solids, and water. Making ghee takes the clarifying process of butter a bit further to remove the water and most of the milk solids, leaving the pure butterfat (oil).
This makes the butter easier to digest for those with lactose intolerance and also makes it shelf stable. Ghee doesn’t require refrigeration, but I prefer to store mine in the fridge to keep it more solid—it’s a little easier to scoop out of the jar that way.
Ghee is used in Indian and other Southeast Asian cultures not only as food but as medicine. You might not ever think of butter as having medicinal value, but ghee has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years [source] as part of an annual detox called Panchakarma [source].
What to know about eating ghee
Ghee is made up of unsaturated and saturated short-, medium-, and long-chain fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-9 essential fatty acids. Like butter, it also contains the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) act as anti-inflammatory compounds that can help with digestion by balancing the gut microbiota [source] and have been shown to reduce the risk of cancer [source]. However, it’s important to note there is only a small percentage of SCFAs contained in ghee and that eating high-fiber plant foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables actually promotes the production of SCAs in the gut [source]
Because ghee no longer contains water, it is good for high-heat cooking. Its smoke point of 485°F is much higher than butter (which is 350°F), which means it doesn’t break down as easily, oxidize, and form unhealthy compounds when used to cook at temperatures below its smoke point.
How to Make Ghee
Start with the best butter you can find. It is a little more expensive but worth it for the added health benefits.
Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat.
It will start to separate—the white foam is made up of milk solids. The water will begin evaporating as well.
Skim the solids off the top. Any remaining solids will sink to the bottom of the pan as the butter continues to cook.
When the process of clarifying is almost complete, there will be large bubbles on the surface as the butter boils. The remaining milk solids will sink to the bottom of the pan.
Pour ghee through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth into a clean jar or bowl. This will help remove any remaining milk solids that were not skimmed off or are on the bottom of the pan.
The bottom of the pan will look like this. If you cook the clarified butter further until it is brown, you will have made beurre noisette (brown butter), which is incredibly delicious and has a nice caramel flavor.
Let the ghee cool. It will be EXTREMELY hot. Use caution and let it cool before tasting.
Once cooled, it will set up and be spoonable. Use ghee in place of butter or oil for cooking.
You can also make flavor-infused ghee. We just love the rosemary thyme, cinnamon vanilla, or plain garlic versions!
How To Make Ghee
- 3- to 4-quart pan
- 1 pound unsalted butter (grass fed and pastured is best)
- flavor infusions (optional)
- Melt the butter in the pan over medium heat. Over time, the milk solids will begin to separate and rise to the top.
- Continue cooking the butter, skimming the milk solids from the top. The water will also start to evaporate.
- As the butter is closer to being completely clarified, the bubbles will become larger as it "boils," and it will continue to separate from the remaining milk solids.
- When the butter is nice and deep golden yellow, remove from the heat.
- Pour it through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth to remove any of the remaining milk solids. Some will be stuck to the bottom of the pan.
- The ghee will be very, very hot. Use extreme caution. Let the jar cool, undisturbed, until it reaches room temperature.
Ghee or Butterschmalz as my grandmother from Vienna Austria called it always made it herself. It always was a regular arable in my moms pantry and became one I’m mine since I moved out. My grandmother cooked as well as baked with it. It was cheeper more pure and lasted longer than Butter since a fridge was not available back then. Easy to make just takes some time (about 1 hour) make sure you let it cool some before you pour it in a glass container since it gets very hot. The glass might crack otherwise (happens to me once ????
This is not how you make ghee. This is only clarified butter.
I love how this sounds, definitely going to give it a try! I wonder though if all the heating wouldn't destroy many of the nutrients that the ghee is supposed to contain?
Josh Tousey says
I've been using ghee as a butter substitute for over 2 years. As for the cost of butter to make Ghee (Clarified Butter) Trader Joe sells it for $3.49 where cost of butter is at the best around LA is $2.49lb. save the buck and buy it already made.
I thought I might help by correcting a little piece of information above: ghee is definitely NOT mostly polyunsaturated fats. I'm not trying to say that makes it any less healthy than you are describing, it's just that that's not true. It's derived from butter, which is mostly saturated fats, so it itself could never magically become unsaturated. But that's a good thing! That it's not high in polyunsaturated fats, since those are very unstable for heating. And my humble opinion is that saturated fats are nothing to fear in the first place. And btw, you can recognize a mostly saturated fat for it being solid on room temperature, if it is in its natural state(unprocessed).
Ghee can also be made with milk cream. Here in India we store the cream from milk we buy everyday (we're big on fresh milk). It's best to freeze it. Believe it or not it stays fresh for a month. At the end of the month put the frozen cream into a heavy-bottomed pan and keep it on slow flame... Stir intermittently so it doesn't catch at the bottom. Once the cream defrosts and reaches boiling point, it'll start bubbling. Keep stirring to make sure it doesn't burn at the bottom. The solids will start settling at the bottom. Keep on the flame till the top of the liquid is clear and golden brown. There should be no trace of any froth. Transfer into a clean jar using a muslin cloth as a sieve (we use steel lidded jars as they work best). Once cooled enough to the touched by hand, put the solids in the muslin cloth and squeeze. You'll be amazed at how much ghee it retains. PS. the crumbly solids are totally yum with a little sugar! :)
This method works for us back here as making ghee from cream is far more economical (we're already paying for the milk!) than making it with butter which is quite expensive.
That sounds so very interesting I would love to see it done...made from cream...never heard of that method before
Do you know how long this will keep in the fridge? I'm definitely interested in trying this out!
You don't need to refrigerate it. It stays fine for at least a month in a container. We generally use steel containers to store ghee. But a glass jar will do just fine. Just be sure to cool the ghee down before you pour it into a glass jar. The jar needs to be absolutely dry. Zero dampness or moisture. We use a lot of ghee in our cooking. It's great for kids. 500 gms lasts about a month without refrigeration. Hope this helps :)
Brilliant! I think I'm going to have to do this. I've never even thought to try.
Lorri Stephenson says
It looks delicious! I might have to try making it sometime! Nice job!