Ghee, made from butter, is a delicious fat that can be used for cooking or flavouring recipes. The process of making ghee removes the milk solids, making this a good option for anyone sensitive to dairy.
Ghee is a shelf-stable fat made from butter. It has traditionally been used in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, Ayurvedic practices and religious ceremonies (Hinduism and Buddhism), and in the last several years has become popular in some health & wellness circles.
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When I was a kid the ghee in my house came in a large green can (think of the shape of a tuna can but about 5 times the size) with black writing, and the only time it was used was around religious ceremonies. My mother would use ghee to make traditional sweets and it was also used as the fuel for diyas - the small clay pots with fat and a cotton wick most often seen around Diwali.
I did not like ghee as a kid. To me it smelled a bit off and wasn't a flavour that I was used to consuming on a regular basis. I don't know if ghee was made differently back then, but it's definitely a taste that I now enjoy.
There was an incident with ghee that I will never forget. We were on a family trip to Trinidad and were hanging out for a day with my uncle's new wife. She took us to visit her aunt, and as always happens when visiting, there was food served. Her aunt was dishing up our food and added a big dollop of ghee to our rice before adding anything else. The minute we saw that happen my sister, brother and I quietly looked at each other in horror. It wasn't great, but we ate it anyway.
To make ghee you only need 1 ingredient: unsalted butter. Use the best quality butter you can find and that is within budget. I like to use high-quality, grass-fed butter, but here in Canada it can be hard to find and quite pricey so I use what is available.
Some butters will have more water content than others, which will affect the cooking time for your ghee.
How to make Ghee
Making ghee at home is a simple process, but it can take some time. If you are making a big batch it may take a bit longer for the water to evaporate and the milk solids to fall to the bottom.
Step 1: Add butter to a heavy bottom saucepan on medium low heat.
Step 2: Let butter melt and turn the heat down a bit for the remainder of the process. The butter will start to bubble and foam up as the water content in the butter starts to cook off and evaporate.
Step 3: Scoop off any of the foam and discard. Continue this process until the foam has subsided. This step will take a few minutes.
Step 4: The butter will start to look clearer. Continue cooking the butter to allow the milk solids to cook, separate from the fat and fall to the bottom of the saucepan.
Step 5: Once the milk solids have all fallen to the bottom of the saucepan, turn off the heat.
Let the ghee cool for a few minutes before straining and putting into jars for storage.
How to use Ghee
Ghee is a fat that can be used for high temperature cooking or as a flavourng. In the process of making ghee the water and milk solids are removed, making this a shelf-stable fat that can be stored at room temperature.
- To cook eggs - One of my favourite, simple ways to use ghee is for cooking eggs. Ghee, unlike butter, won't burn if you are using it to fry eggs. Whether using it to fry or scramble eggs, the ghee adds a beautifully delicious layer of extra flavour.
- To sauté veggies - If you are doing a quick, high heat cook of veggies ghee is a great option. It withstands high heat and adds great flavour.
- To add flavour - Ghee can be added to cooked rice or pasta, dolloped onto potatoes or veggies for some added fat and a boost of flavour.
What is the difference between ghee and brown butter?
Butter is made up of fat, water and milk solids. In some cases salt is added, but to make ghee we are using unsalted butter.
The process of making ghee removes the water and milk solids from the butter, resulting in a clear golden liquid that can be stored at room temperature and used for high heat cooking. Ghee has a nutty flavour and can be used for cooking, serving to add flavour or baking.
Making brown butter (buerre noisette) is a similar process but the milk solids are left in so it's best to use for low and medium heat cooking, and must be stored in the fridge. Brown butter has a nutty, caramelized flavour from the milk solids and is great for baking.
Ghee is shelf-stable and can be stored at room temperature. Much like coconut oil, your ghee will be softer in warmer temperatures and more solid in colder temperatures. The ghee may look grainy when it firms up and that's fine, it is still good to use.
Keep your ghee in the pantry away from the stove. If the ghee heats up being next to the stove condensation could form on the inside of the jar adding water which could cause the ghee to go bad. Be sure to use a clean spoon to scoop some out so you don't introduce any bacteria.
Health Benefits of Ghee
In recent years ghee has become popular to those on high-fat diets, Whole30, Paleo diets or for people who are sensitive to dairy.
In the process of making ghee the water and milk solids content of the butter is removed leaving a product that is predominately a fat that is high in Omega-3s and butyric acid. Butyric acid is a short-chain fatty acid that aids in digestion, can help in reducing inflammation and can help the body absorb essential fat-soluble vitamins.
For anyone who is dairy-free ghee can be a good option since the casein (protein found naturally in milk) and lactose (sugar found naturally in milk) are removed. It is important to note that if you are making ghee at home there may still be trace amounts of both casein and lactose, so for anyone who is allergic or has a severe reaction it may be best to avoid a homemade product and instead purchase a product that is certified to be lactose and casein free.
Ghee is a fat that is best consumed in moderation. If you are unsure if ghee is good for you it is always best to check with your healthcare provider.
Easy Homemade Ghee
- Cooking Spoon
- Mesh strainer
- Storage Jar
- Heat proof bowl
- 1 pound unsalted butter
- Add butter to a heavy bottom saucepan on medium low heat.1 pound unsalted butter
- Allow butter to melt and bring to a simmer. Lower heat to a simmer.
- Simmer on low heat. The butter will start to foam up as the water evaporates. Keep an eye on the pan so that the butter does not boil over. Scoop off the foam and discard. Continue this process until the foaming subsides.
- Continue cooking on low heat. The butter will start to look clear and the milk solids will start to separate. Do not stir so that the milk solids will continue to cook and fall to the bottom of the pan.
- The milk solids will fall to the bottom of the saucepan and start to brown. Once this happens your ghee can be removed from the heat.
- Let cool for about 5 minutes. Set up a straining station with a mesh wire strainer lined with cheesecloth (or a coffee filter) and a heatproof bowl or measuring cup.
- Strain the ghee through the cheesecloth lined mesh wire strainer to remove all of the milk solids. Discard the milk solids.
- Pour your ghee into a clean glass jar. As the ghee cools it will start to solidify.
- When the ghee is cooled it will be solid. Store at room temperature, away from heat, or in the refrigerator.
- The total cooking time will vary depending on how much butter you are starting with. 1 pound of butter should take about 45 minutes to an hour.
- This recipe can be scaled up to make a bigger batch of ghee.
- Make sure to use a saucepan that is large enough to hold all of the melted butter plus any foam that rises so that nothing overflows.