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.