Ghee should be a part of every kitchen. Oh wait! You’ve never cooked with ghee? Wouldn’t even know where to start? Hardly even know what ghee is? You’re missing out.
For thousands of years, ghee has been a staple in Indian cuisine. Ayurvedic thought believes ghee is the ultimate in cooking oils, healing to both mind and body. The ancient Indian philosopher Charvak (3000 B.C.) once opined:
As long as you live, live happily
Beg, borrow or steal, but relish ghee
Relish ghee. Now that’s a philosophy to live by! Why did the ancients value ghee so much? What’s so great about it anyway? Consider this my ode to ghee.
Ghee is basically butter, cleaned of milk solids. In the west, that’s caused it to go by many names such as “clarified butter,” “butter oil,” and “drawn butter.” Unlike many new-fangled oils and fats, you can make ghee at home, on your stove top. Ghee has a golden color, a nutty and savory flavor, and (if you source it from grass-fed cows) a rich nutrient profile. Like butter from pastured cows, ghee is rich in the fat soluble vitamins A, D, and K2. It is also rich in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) — the essential fatty acid found almost exclusively in grass-fed animals which is now believed to protect against cancer, heart disease, and type II diabetes.
But, you ask, why not just eat butter?
Mark Sisson answered the question this way:
Why remove the milk solids and water from butter? Separating the milk solids from the butterfat almost entirely removes the carbohydrates (lactose) as well as a protein that some people are sensitive to, casein. Evaporating out the water means the flavor of the butter is less diluted. Additionally, removing the milk solids and water also gives butter a higher smoke point, which means you can use ghee for sautéing, stir frying, or deep frying at high heats (375-485 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on purity).
What if you don’t cook Indian food?
How will you use ghee? Jenny, the culinary queen of the Nourished Kitchen, said:
While its heavily used in classical Indian cuisine, I rarely use it that way as Indian cookery makes only rare appearances in my kitchen. (I do love it though!) Indeed, I use ghee primarily in sauteing and frying where its beautiful almost nutty flavor is best highlighted. It’s a remarkably versatile and very under-appreciated fat. It’s better suited to a variety of dishes than coconut oil or tallow with their strong flavors. Even our locally owned movie theater uses a grass-fed ghee to top fresh popped corn.
So, why do I think ghee should be a staple in every kitchen?
Because of it’s flavor, nutritional profile, and versatility. If you have a hard time handling the heavy coconut flavor of coconut oil, ghee is the fat for you. If you find that tallow or lard simply taste too “heavy” for the dish you’re making, ghee is the fat for you. If you want a healthy saturated fat rich in antioxidants and essential vitamins, ghee is the fat for you. If you’re cooking at higher temperatures, want to avoid any potential complications from lactose or casein, yet desire that savory, silky, nutty, buttery flavor, ghee is the fat for you.
What are some of my favorite ways to use ghee?
- Mix with a quality salt and spread on sprouted grain or sourdough breads.
- Drizzled over fish, scallops, or lobster.
- Mix with herbs & seasonings, use as a rub for roast chicken.
- Use as a cooking oil when the flavor of coconut or tallow won’t do — particularly to saute or stir fry veggies.
- Stir into hot maple syrup before serving with sausage & swiss stuffed french toast.
- Fried & scrambled eggs! It doesn’t brown like butter will.
Where do I get ghee from grass-fed cows?
Unfortunately, although ghee is available in the ethnic aisles of grocery stores and at natural foods stores, you’ll be hard pressed to find ghee from grass-fed cows. As far as I can tell, you have two options:
1) Make it yourself. Once you’ve got butter from grass-fed cows, it’s only about 25-20 minutes of work (most of it waiting over a stove, so does it really count?) to turn that into ghee. Diana at A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa recently posted a handy tutorial.
2) Buy it. Check out the listings on my Resources Page to see what companies I recommend! Unless you have an incredibly cheap source of grass-fed cream or butter, I’ve found that buying it in bulk can be more economical than making my own. And, in the very least, it’s less work!
(photo by Chiot’s Run)