Ghee: A Lovely Fat

Ghee

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. Here’s the brand I buy. 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)

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Comments

  1. Natalie says

    Your resources page comes up with nothing for Ghee. Are you not able to recommend a Ghee bulk source at this time? I recently moved back overseas and while I’ve found it here in small quanities, I’d love to order in bulk.

    • says

      Natalie — The Ghee is listed under both Butter and Fats & Oils. They might not be able to ship internationally, which could explain why the listing doesn’t show up for you. (Many of our listings are geo-targeted, meaning that the ads only show up for local distribution areas. So, while you might see an ad in CA, you might not see it in TX. I don’t know if that applies here, but I do know that *I* see the ad!)

      • Andrea Hussli says

        Is THAT why whenever I click on a resource I NEVER see anything? I was beginning to wonder!

        I need some MI/OH/IN/IL/WI resources – or start making my own.

        I’ve been buying the brand they sell at Whole Foods, but I’m not 100% sure it’s from grass fed cows.

        • says

          Andrea,

          I know we’ve got listings for your area because many of our suppliers will ship nationwide. Is it always that you get no listings at all, for any category at all? If THAT’S the case, then it is probably because you have javascript disabled (either through an ad blocker or just as part of your internet security settings). The entire page is pretty dependent on javascript to load.

      • Natalie says

        I have a US military address (APO). So, I’ll look again. And, when companies don’t ship to an APO or charge steep prices, I ship to my parents and have them ship to me (yes, sometimes this is cheaper).

        • Natalie says

          Yeah, it’s not showing up for me either. I can click on your colored ad and then nothing shows up when it jumps to the page. Usually, if something is blocked, like a pop up, my blocker will ask permission to open it, not completly ignore it…I wonder how many of your readers are having this issue. Maybe you could PM us who let you know that we can’t see it with the link (if you are an affiliate, they should be able to provide you with a link so you can still make your %)…

  2. says

    Thanks for posting about Ghee. Just this week I was having a conversation with some folks about it and we all wondered if you could use it to deep fry since none of us can find lard from acceptable sources.

    • says

      Ghee is excellent for deep frying. Various brands have different smoke points, based on processing techniques and how thorough the removal of milk solids was. All of them have smoke points above 400F, many ranging up to 480F.

  3. says

    I love ghee and make it all the time from the butter we buy in Amish country. Alas, the milk is pasteurized, but the cows are grass-fed so I look at it as a “lesser of two evils” type of thing.

  4. says

    Wow, great article. I’m actually going to go out and get ghee to do some experimenting this week.

    I’m a big fan of lighter fats/oils though. You mentioned that it’s not as heavy as tallow/lard, but it’s still a saturated fat. How does it stack up against, say, olive oil? Is a dish with lots of ghee still going to come off as overly heavy?

    Thanks for any help you can offer.
    .-= Edmund´s last blog post …Blue Duck Tavern =-.

  5. Cook says

    Some people swears that a cup of hot milk, added with one table spoon of honey and one tea spoon of ghee will keep you healthy too.

  6. says

    Hi.
    Well i didnt know that! I love a good curry from our local takeaway but do worry about the amount of Ghee in them as I always thought it was really bad for you. I have never cooked with it but think i will give it a try. Thanks

  7. Sammi says

    I use a LOT of ghee. I was getting ghee from pasture-fed cows from Purity Farms, but when I just tried to order, I found out apparently they have been bought out by Organic Valley. So if you want it in small quantities, I guess you can get it from stores which carry OV products. I was buying it by the bucket, so the hunt is on for another source. Love this stuff! I can fry eggs, etc. without it burning like would happen using regular butter that still has the casein in it.

  8. Peggy Webb via Facebook says

    I will leave out the swear word, but Malcolm Tucker in “The Thick of It” said, “I love ghee. It’s like freebasing butter.” Yes.

  9. Jennifer Anaya via Facebook says

    I used the last of it for breakfast this morning. Making more now. We use it on EVERYTHING! The eggs in the morning, the grilled cheese at lunch, and crash potatoes with dinner.

  10. Michele Hamilton Moorhouse via Facebook says

    oh … top secret is … it’s Clarified Butter! It is intimidating embarking on something new … can be paralyzing when it’s something so foreign. Doesn’t help that the mystery is still kept alive. They cook out the water & milk solids like the butter you get to dip your lobster or clams. Use it in place of butter or oils – like sauteing or cooking, baking that calls for veg oil or butter. don’t be nervous … take it off the shelf put it next to the stove and instead of butter grab this – then next you’ll have to try coconut oil, can be basically interchanged.

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