Benefits of Cooking With Ghee (Clarified Butter)

Updated on July 9, 2020
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Scientist and author, Beth is also a keen home cook. She enjoys trying new recipes.

Homemade ghee made from cow's milk by heating and clarifying unsalted butter.
Homemade ghee made from cow's milk by heating and clarifying unsalted butter. | Source

What Is Ghee? Is it Vegan?

Ghee is not vegan; it is a dairy product. Ghee is butter that has undergone further heat treatment to drive off all water from the product. This heating process is known as clarifying, and was originally devised as a way of increasing the shelf-life of the fat.

Without refrigeration, butter quickly turns rancid in a hot climate, so ghee has become associated with Asian cuisines. However, chefs around the world now use ghee in other types of cooking, too.

Ghee can be stored at ambient temperatures for several months without deteriorating, provided it is stored in a sealed container away from direct light.

Properties and Benefits of Ghee

Properties
Benefit
1. Good source of Vitamin A
Essential for overall body health.
2. Good source of Vitamin K
Helps you absorb calcium.
3. Lactose-free
Great for anyone who's lactose intolerant.
4. Casein-free
Good for people with milk allergies.
5. Heat-stable at high temperature
Ideal for frying and baking.

Why Is It Called a Superfood?

Ghee, or clarified butter, is made from buffalo or cow’s milk. One of the effects of the clarification process is to remove both the lactose and the casein in the milk. Many lactose-intolerant people find they can use ghee and suffer no ill effects.

The nutritional content of ghee is similar to that of ordinary butter but is slightly more concentrated as it has had all the water removed from it. The main nutritional difference between the two, as a result of the water removal, is that ghee is a better source of Vitamin A compared to butter.

Ghee contains 25% more Vitamin A than the same amount of butter. Vitamin A is used by the immune system to fight infection, and it also helps maintain night vision.

Ghee contains no lactose or casein. These can cause an allergic reaction in susceptible individuals, so it’s a good alternative fat for such people to use in their cooking. The Goodness of Ghee gives more detailed information on the health aspects of using this fat.

All About Ghee and What Makes It Special

Higher Smoke Point

For cooking methods that use high temperatures, such as cooking with a wok or using a deep-fat fryer, ghee gives better results, and is safer to use than butter. It can be heated to 450 degrees Fahrenheit before it starts to smoke and burn.

The smoke point is crucial as it is the moment immediately before the fat or oil catches fire, and bursts into flames. The smoke point of butter is only 350 degrees Fahrenheit, which is considerably lower than that of ghee.

For comparison, the smoke point of vegetable oils varies between 400 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the plant source. So, ghee can replace vegetable oils in cooking, broiling, grilling, and frying as it can be heated to same high temperatures as them, unlike normal butter.

Store-Bought vs. Homemade

If you decide to make ghee part of your diet, you can either buy it ready-made, or you can make your own. For many people, the convenience of the store-bought product outweighs the cost savings made by clarifying your own. However, if you use a lot of butter in your cooking and want an economical way to adopt this superfood, then it’s worth learning how to make it yourself.

The video below demonstrates how easy it is to make. Make sure you use unsalted butter, and not salted.

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter

How to Make Ghee

  1. Melt the butter over a low heat. The butter will separate into a clear liquid (the ghee or clarified butter) with a scum (the milk solids) floating on top.
  2. Separate the two by straining the melted butter through a fine muslin or cheesecloth.
  3. Pour the ghee (the gold-colored liquid) into a sterilized jar and allow it to cool. The milk solids in the cloth can be disposed of. The ghee does not require refrigeration but should be kept out of direct sunlight.

Homemade Ghee Recipe: 20 Minute Failproof Recipe From Unsalted Butter

The Role of Ghee in Ayurvedic Medicine

Ayurveda, or Ayurvedic medicine, is a philosophy of healthcare that began in India several thousand years ago. The word Ayurveda is from the Sanskrit language and means “the science of life". It is a holistic therapy that aims to create harmony between the mind, body and spirit. A healthy diet containing natural foods is a key part of Ayurveda philosophy. Followers believe that ghee is a pure ingredient that has been cleansed of irritating substances.

Practitioners of Ayurveda say that using ghee instead of butter has many health benefits. These include protecting against bowel cancer, assisting with weight loss, and maintaining a healthy digestive tract. There are no independent scientific studies to support these claims.

Ghee is a natural food with a history of medicinal and culinary uses. It has some cooking advantages over butter, and is useful if you have a dairy allergy or intolerance. But there's no evidence to support the claim that it's healthier than butter; both can be part of a healthy diet.

Complementary Health Therapy Versus Conventional Medicine

In Western countries, Ayurvedic medicine is not widely practiced. It is categorized as a complementary health therapy rather than a mainstream medical practice.

Both the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and the U.S.’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS) recommend that such therapies should only be followed in tandem with conventional prescribed medicines.

For serious illnesses like cancer, medical doctors say that Ayurveda should not replace mainstream treatments. No states in the U.S. license Ayurvedic practitioners, although a few have approved Ayurvedic schools.

According to Ayurvedic philosophy, ghee is a source of prana, a life force.
According to Ayurvedic philosophy, ghee is a source of prana, a life force. | Source

How to Switch From Butter to Ghee

Using ghee in place of butter is an easy change to make. You can substitute ghee wherever you would have used butter; spread it on toast, cook with it in stir-fry dishes, or when baking cakes. It has similar properties to butter, but is also suitable for lactose and casein intolerant diets.

Ghee can replace cooking oils where a high smoke temperature is required. However, ghee is a dairy fat, and so should not be used to replace plant oils for those following a vegan diet.

A possible downside of buying ready-made ghee is the relatively high cost compared to standard butter. The answer is to make your own ghee. It takes only a little effort in the kitchen to clarify butter, and it will save you a lot of money.

Is It Vegetarian?

Ghee is a dairy product. It is made from cow, buffalo, goat, or sheep’s milk. A vegetarian person who includes milk, butter, cheese, and eggs in their diet will be happy to eat and cook with ghee. However, ghee is not a vegan food. It is not derived from plants, and so should not be offered to your vegan friends.

Mysore Pak, a traditional Indian sweet made with chickpea flour, clarified butter and sugar.
Mysore Pak, a traditional Indian sweet made with chickpea flour, clarified butter and sugar. | Source

Does Ghee Increase Cholesterol?

Ghee is a dairy fat and should be eaten as part of a balanced diet, and in moderation. Just like ordinary butter, ghee is high in saturated fats. If you eat too much saturated fat, your arteries become "clogged" and your blood cholesterol level is raised. US dietary guidelines recommend that no more than 10% of your calories should come from eating saturated fats.

Can Ghee Butter Be Spread On Toast?

Yes, you can use ghee as a spread on bread or toast. It depends on your personal preference. As ghee is a more concentrated form of fat than normal butter, you should however use it sparingly in this context. If you do want to eat it with bread or toast, be sure to spread it thinly.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

Submit a Comment
  • Beth Eaglescliffe profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Eaglescliffe 

    4 months ago from UK

    The water in butter is removed by the simmering process; about 25% of butter is water. So, 16 oz of butter will yield 12 oz of ghee.

  • suzzycue profile image

    Susan Britton 

    4 months ago from Ontario, Canada

    Great Hub. I can see a lot of good uses for this product being that it lasts a long time. How much ghee to u get from one pound of butter?

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 months ago from Sunny Florida

    You really gave us some excellent information about ghee. I was wondering about ghee as I know some people are using it when on a Keto diet. Thanks for this information, Beth.

  • raymondphilippe profile image

    Raymond Philippe 

    4 months ago from The Netherlands

    Berh, i really enjoyed this article on ghee. I have never used it. But as we often wok it might be a good substitute for the vegetable oils we use.

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