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What is Ghee?

Michael Pollick
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Ghee is a Sanskrit word for a clarified butter used primarily in Indian cuisine. Because the preparation of this butter involves heat, it has a distinctive toasted flavor, often described as nutty. Before the advent of commercial vegetable oils, ghee was widely used for deep frying. Unlike other butter-based products, it has a high smoking point and can be stored without refrigeration for weeks. As long as it is stored in airtight containers, it does not spoil easily.

Traditional ghee is produced from the milk of buffalo indigenous to the regions of India and Pakistan, but it can also be made from any other milk-producing animal. The process begins with the standard butter created through the churning of milk fats, solids and water. This butter still contains a significant amount of moisture, which must be boiled off to create a clarified butter.

Sticks of pure butter are placed in a large saucepan or kettle over medium to high heat. As the butter melts, it begins to boil. The solids settle to the bottom, while a thicker layer of oil forms in the center. The excess water forms a foamy top layer as it boils away.

Once the boiling process has slowed considerably, the middle layer should have a golden brown appearance. This is the clarified butter or ghee. The preparer carefully spoons off this layer, making sure not to disturb the layer of solids on the bottom. The ghee is allowed to cool in an airtight canister, similar to a solid vegetable shortening or animal-based lard. It can be reheated for deep frying or drizzled over dishes like a syrup or sauce.

Ghee is considered a saturated fat, since it is derived from animals. Nevertheless, some studies suggest that it is healthier overall than traditional Western fats such as lard and margarine. Ghee uses a natural process to maintain stability without refrigeration, unlike the hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils used in Western cooking.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to DelightedCooking, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By anon991782 — On Jul 18, 2015

Yeah, ghee can be used on bread. But I generally toast bread on a pan using a little bit of ghee, then eat it with an omelet. Yum.

By anon981025 — On Dec 09, 2014

Cow’s ghee is an essential part of a balanced diet. It contains both Omega 3 and Omega 9; Vitamins A, E, D and K.

Cow’s ghee benefits the internal health of the body such as brain, heart, eyes and skin. It improves blood HDL levels.

Cow’s ghee has immense healing benefits as it contains a balance of

easy-to-digest fatty acids essential for healthy nerves and cells.

By anon234522 — On Dec 12, 2011

Why and how should ghee remain liquid in winters when the temp is 20?

By anon213536 — On Sep 11, 2011

does ghee need to be refrigerated, before and/or after opening? I bought it in the refrigerated section and was wondering if I should keep it there.

By anon178439 — On May 20, 2011

I would like to know if it is legal to make ghee from raw butter and sell in Australia as a food. When it is clarified it would be pasturised, wouldn't it?

By anon157841 — On Mar 04, 2011

@Ruth: I only use ghee for toasting bread on a flat pan. never for spreading.

@anon35093: Ghee should be casein free, because it is all fat. Casein is protein. Casein may be present in butter and when you boil the butter to produce ghee (clarified butter), the milk solids stay behind. This is what I think as a biochemist. No reference to guide you to.

By anon155911 — On Feb 25, 2011

no! never spread it on bread!

By anon126467 — On Nov 12, 2010

I just bought a jar of ghee for the first time. I got it at Sprouts and it has an expiration date in 2012, and was refrigerated and is solid. When I unscrewed the top, there was a white splotch within the yellow ghee. Is this normal? It's not mold is it? Please, somebody who knows about this, advise me. Thanks!

By anon109273 — On Sep 06, 2010

When you clarify butter you essentially remove the fat. that is the ghee. how is fat cholesterol free? it's all fat. you just remove the whey, increasing the smoke point as well as the shelf life.

By anon91621 — On Jun 22, 2010

When heated in the right way butter becomes ghee. We buy 2kg at a time and make ghee. Whenever we want to eat it, we heat it and liquefy it and use. Is this correct way to use ghee? What happens if ghee is reheated once and again and again to use in liquid form? regards, Bilgin r.

By anon83151 — On May 09, 2010

I have been making and cooking with ghee for many years. The quickest and easiest way I have found to make it is in a slow cooker at medium heat.

Hiramo

By anon81377 — On May 01, 2010

Can ghee be used in substitution for lard, or rather shortening?

I'm trying to make this pie crust. The recipe calls for shortening, but I live in Spain and apparently it's non-existent here. People tell me just to use olive oil and that apparently that's what they do here and that we americans don't know any better.

but i disagree and I don't want my pie crust to have an olive oil residue, and so i went in search of shortening and came up short. since today is a holiday no spanish stores are open at all, but just about every ethnic store is open, and I've come across many places that sell ghee. Anyway, it looked like it was something i could use as a substitute, and i didn't realize it was in liquid form until i was in the car and shook the canister.

Anyway, I've put it in the refrigerator so that it may solidify if it does do so. also - i bought vegetable ghee instead (i don't know if that makes a difference, or if it was a huge mistake on my part).

Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Cheers! A

By anon78743 — On Apr 19, 2010

I wonder if ghee is lactose free?

By anon73627 — On Mar 28, 2010

anon69139: This article did not say anything about cholesterol, therefore no myths were initially spread. However, a biased view may be claimed of anon66170, who posted dietary information and recommendations unsupported by research, claiming ghee to be a "cholesterol vacuum."

It seems to me, that both anon69139 and anon66170 have 'pro vegetarian foodie, or, alternative medicine agendas', as seen by the wording of their posts.

In fact, physiologically the human body actually synthesizes cholesterol from internal sources (food, or body tissue, derived) if there is a deficiency of cholesterol in the body, because cholesterol is a necessary constituent in many natural compounds, mainly hormones, in the human body.

It is unfortunate that some people wish to spread biased myths about subjects on informational webpages such as these, instead of learning what unbiased, rigorous research has found.

Steven in Tempe, AZ, sustainability researcher, agroecosystems and food specialty.

By anon69139 — On Mar 06, 2010

Ghee is not free from cholesterol! Do not spread that myth.

By anon66170 — On Feb 18, 2010

Ghee is semi-solid at room temperature. It's consistency is odd, a bit like a gel; not quite solid, not quite liquid. You can use it like butter on bread, but well-made ghee has very little flavor though it does feature a strong buttery scent.

You must think of it as much more of a high-quality lipid like olive oil than a topping like butter or margarine. Personally I love ghee spread over toasted heavy whole grain bread and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

Ghee can actually be good for sufferers of certain heart conditions. Because all of the cholesterol normally found in butter is removed when you make it, ghee is a cholesterol vacuum. Ghee when used in conjunction with high quality fiber in the diet will help lower cholesterol levels faster and more permanently than with just fiber alone.

By anon35093 — On Jul 02, 2009

Is organic ghee casein free?

By anon28884 — On Mar 24, 2009

Ghee can also be made by bringing the butter to a slow boil for 2 or 3 minutes, the pouring it into a container and refrigerating it overnight. The next morning remove it from the container flip it upside down and clean the remaining water and milk solid off the bottom of the Ghee.

By RRingwala — On Feb 26, 2009

How safe is it for a person with heart disease to use ghee, like... Coronary artery disease? How much can be used per meal?

By anon17717 — On Sep 05, 2008

Does ghee solidify or remain in oil form?

By anon7740 — On Feb 01, 2008

Yes, and it is sooo delicious!

By Ruth — On Oct 04, 2007

Can ghee be used as butter on bread?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to DelightedCooking, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
Learn more
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