Why Expert Cooks Use Ghee Instead of Butter

Updated on May 14, 2019
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Scientist and author, Beth writes on a wide variety of subjects.

Ghee is easy to make and is said to have superfood properties.
Ghee is easy to make and is said to have superfood properties. | Source

What Is Ghee (Clarified Butter)?

Ghee is butter that has undergone further heat treatment to drive off all water from the fat. The process, known as clarifying, was originally carried out as a way of preserving butter.

Without refrigeration, butter quickly turns rancid in hot weather. Clarified butter can be stored at ambient temperatures for several months without deteriorating, provided it is stored away from sunlight and protected from damage by vermin.

If you are not familiar with this versatile fat, I recommend you read The Goodness of Ghee: The Ultimate Guide to Using Ghee in the Kitchen and Beyond. It explains the benefits of using ghee as well as describing how you can make your own.

Why Is Ghee Described as a Superfood?

Ghee or clarified butter is made from cow or buffalo’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 water removed from it. The table below gives a comparison of the Vitamin A and fat content of the two products.

The main nutritional difference between the two is that ghee is a better source of Vitamin A compared to butter. Ghee contains 25% more Vitamin A in it than the same amount of standard butter. Vitamin A is used by your immune system to fight infection. Vitamin A also helps maintain night vision.

Replacing butter with ghee in your diet is straightforward. Use ghee wherever you would have used butter. It can be spread on toast, and used in all types of cooking including frying and baking. It has similar properties to butter but in addition it is suitable for lactose and casein intolerant diets.

Store-bought ghee can be relatively expensive compared to standard butter. However, it is easy to make your own ghee. It needs only a little effort to clarify your normal butter and convert it to this superfood.

Nutrition of Ghee versus Ordinary Butter

1 tablespoonful
Saturated fat
Vitamin A
438 IU
350 IU
Omega 3 fatty acids
Omega 6 fatty acids
Smoke Point
450 degrees F
350 degrees F
Nutrition data from Dr Axe (dot) com - Food is Medicine.
Fresh homemade ghee. Made from cow's milk by heating butter.
Fresh homemade ghee. Made from cow's milk by heating butter. | Source

Ready-made or Homemade

You can buy ghee ready-made or you can make your own. For many people the convenience of the bought product outweighs the cost savings made by clarifying your own butter. However, if you use a lot of butter in your cooking and want an economical way to adopt this superfood, then it’s worth having a go at making your own. The method is very simple. The video below demonstrates how easy it is to make your own ghee.

  1. Make sure you use unsalted butter (not salted).
  2. Melt the butter in a pan 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.
  3. Separate the two by straining the melted butter through a fine muslin or cheesecloth.
  4. 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.

How to Make Homemade Ghee

Higher Smoke Point of Ghee

When you are cooking with very high temperatures, such as with a wok or a chip pan, it is better to use ghee than ordinary butter. This is because ghee can be heated to 450 degrees F before it starts to smoke. Fat smoking is a sign that it has caught fire and is about to burst into flames. The smoke point of normal butter is much lower. It catches fire at only 350 degrees F; more than 100 degrees lower than clarified butter.

For comparison, the smoke point of vegetable oils is between 400- and 450-degrees F depending on the vegetable source. Ghee is therefore good to replace vegetable oils as well as animal fats as it can be heated to the same very high temperatures.

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 ideas. Ghee is perceived by followers of this philosophy as a pure ingredient that has been cleansed of irritating substances.

Practitioners of Ayurveda say that using ghee in place 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.

In Western countries Ayurvedic medicine is not widely practiced. It is categorized as a complementary health therapy rather than a traditional mainstream medical practice. Both the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and the US’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 be used to replace mainstream prescribed treatments. The US DHSS says that no states in the United States license Ayurvedic practitioners, although a few have approved Ayurvedic schools.

The video below gives an overview of the health benefits that are claimed for ghee by supporters of Ayurvedic healthcare ideas.

The Health Benefits of Ghee

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.


Submit a Comment
  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 

    3 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

    Ghee seems to have been around for as long as I can remember. It seems to be only just now that it has been promoted as a superfood. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.


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