Ghee: A Wholesome Fat

We don’t fear fat in my household.   Indeed, olive oil, coconut oil, tallow and butter make regular appearances in our kitchen, but there’s an under-appreciated wholesome fat: ghee.     Ghee is pure butterfat in its truest sense. Like many traditional foods, ghee is virtually ubiquitous in cultures that raised cattle for milk.   The French brought us clarified butter.   The Moroccans contributed smen, a clarified butter that is spiced and aged.   And India, of course, brought us ghee.

Ghee: Its Preparation and Culinary Value

The prepartion of ghee is simple and slow – just as it should be.   First butter is slowly simmered until the milk solids separate from the pure butterfat and any water contained in the butter evaporates.   With the milk solids and water removed, all that is left is a pure golden oil that’s rich in vitamin A.

About 60% of ghee’s fat content is saturated.   That high saturated fat content coupled with the lack of milk solids and water means that ghee is exceptionally well-suited to cooking in a way that mono- and poly-unsaturated fatty acids just can’t match. It is also rich in conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid that offers enormous value in a wholesome diet.   Indeed, recent research indicates that CLA may be useful in the prevention of and fight against cancers as well as in the mitigation of type II diabetes and associated adipose obesity.   It’s good stuff.   (Read more about CLA.)

Ghee is heat stable to roughly 400 º unlike butter which has a lower smok point due to milk solids naturally interspersed in the butterfat.   Moreover, ghee lacks both lactose and casein – two components of milk that make butter difficult to ingest for the milk-intolerant.   In this way,   ghee is a great replacement for butter in general with the added benefit of the very high smoke point.   Removing water and milk solids also contributes another added benefit: ghee is shelf-stable and should be stored at room temperature where it remains semi-solid.   Do not store ghee in your refrigerator – though many health foods stores tock it in the refrigerated section.

Cooking with Ghee

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 sautéing 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 grassfed ghee to top fresh popped corn.

Where to Find Good Quality Ghee

If you’re planning to give ghee a shot in your kitchen either because you’re looking for a new wholesome fat to add to your collection or because you’re casein- or lactose-intolerant and searching for a butter replacement, take care to purchase ghee from a company whose cows are grass-fed.   Not only are the cows treated with honor and respect for their natural ruminant behavior, but the butterfat they produce is richer in fat soluble vitamins than that of grain- or corn-fed cows. Choose a source of ghee that is grass-fed especially on spring and summer grasses.

If you can’t find ghee locally, you can purchase it online from various companies (check out the  resources page  for ideas). A good ghee should be a beautiful, gold-colored ghee and made the butterfat from grass-fed cows.   Ideally ghee is produced only when the cows are grazing on spring and summer pastures (read why fresh cream of spring and summer is better, and bottled in glass which eliminates the challenges of endocrine-disrupting plastics leaching into your food.

My Favorite Ghee Recipes

We use ghee frequently in our home because it is so remarkably versatile, and its subtle nutty flavor and rich golden color are useful in a lot of dishes.   Plus it holds up to high heat without burning or foaming.   So if you want to try ghee in your kitchen, but need a little guidance check out my favorite ghee recipes (and there’s a lot of them on this site!)

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What people are saying

    • Plato says

      The bad rap ghee gets is for 2 reasons. The first one is that the big money hogging medical-pharmaceutica-diet & nutrition industries are so very greedy that the members of these industries will find reasons to malign anything that will keep you from getting sick, which means less money for them & more in your pocket. The secoond reason that ghee is bad has not so much to do with ghee as it has to do wit the way the food industru=y treats the cow. With the western culture becoming the dominant culture & enslaving & empowerishing the cultures where the cows were kept as domestic pets & not eaten like in the west. Those cows i the west are treated like crap, fattened artifically, just like the artificial everything else in the west, the chemicals etc, ake the cows unhealthy & these cows produce unhealthy milk that is laced with the various poisons & toxins & thos are in the ghee too. & then the tell you the lies about the ghee. If any one is aware of how, 3 years ago, the false alarm spread by the west destroyed the mustard oil industry in India & now thw govt of India is forcing the soy oil & olive oil on Indians, all to gaet more money from the west & destroying the local food sources of India making it totaly dependent on the poisons produced by the west. FYI, the olive oil & soy oil are 2 of the WORST oils for human consuptio of all the other oils, unless you are cookinl in kerosene oil.

  1. says

    Great info!
    I’ve clarified my own butter for use in Indian recipes (same thing?), but I never really thought about using ghee more widely.

    I will have to keep my eye out for grassfed ghee in this area. Will give me an excuse to talk to the man who owns the Indian grocer not far from my house!

  2. says

    Great article, I couldn’t agree more about the value and benefits of using ghee. You’re blog is fantastic by the way, it’s always nice to find like minded bloggers with knowledge about real food!!

  3. Jeanmarie Todd says

    Wonderful article. I’m a big fan of ghee but it’s so easy to make your own, why buy it? I find I like even better my own combination of homemade ghee, still warm, with about equal parts coconut oil added, mixed well, then pour into a jar and let cool, stirring or shaking as necessary to keep it mixed (not usually a problem). There seems to be a wonderful synergy between the two fats and I use it for every kind of cooking. It tastes good enough to dollop on mashed potatoes! (Assuming you use good quality butter and coconut oil.) It’s a wonderful solution for people who don’t like the taste of coconut oil. Plain ghee is great, too.

  4. Valerie says

    I bought some grass fed ghee at the WAPF conference a few weeks ago. I spoke to the owner of the company. He said that the ghee available in neighborhood Indian grocery stores comes from corporate agriculture in India. That ghee isn’t organic or grass-fed. This is not intentionally an advertisement, but I was just reading their ghee website earlier and there is a lot of info about ghee. I like reading about the ayurvedic uses.

  5. A. K. says

    WHAT are you kidding. Ghee HEALTHY 60 % Cholesterol HEALTHY. Diabetes and Heart disease in India are at epidemic rates (heart disease is the number one killer in India)and Ghee and over use of oils with high saturated fat are a mains suspect. And you are trying to say Ghee in this is healthy and lowers the risk. Where did you get your information. You are low on facts and high on speculation. Yes it has a high smoke point great, but there are better oils with a high smoke point. You cite a tiny percentage of healthy oils but the 60% cholestorol will zero out any positive effects.
    I love Indian food, but I know given a choice of looking like my MIL at 66 who already had a heart bypass and has horrible diabetes and can not even go shopping without getting winded and who the family does not expect to live more than a couple years, or like my mom at 65 who is healthy as a horse and runs around the country in her motor home enjoying life, and may outlive me. I will choose my moms lifestyle. I will stick to a diet high in vegatables, lower in oil and fats. There is NOTHING healthy about Ghee it may be healther than LARD but that is about it.

  6. says

    Love the article:)
    I love butter and have been using it freely for as long as I remember. Have been using ghee for frying as well as coconut oil which also has a high smoke point. My BMI is about 23 and my cholesterol has never been better. As far as the scientific research goes, for every study done, there’s always another one that contradicts it. So, I always take them with a grain of salt and do what I think is best for me – I tend to lean towards the natural stuff rather than man-made. Butter and ghee seems to me more natural than plant based oils, margarine and spreads that contain partially hydrogenated fatty acids.

  7. Laura says

    Thanks for the article, I love Ghee and I too do not fear fat (and have very low cholesterol and healthy weight).

    I have been reading as much as I can about Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids due to an interest in inflammation and the link between omega 6 fats and inflammation, and how much more of the omega 6 we get in our diets than the 3. Olive oil is better than most in this regard but still much more 6 than 3. Macademia nut oil is pretty much 1 to 1 but SO expensive.

    WELL I recently read that ghee is somewhere between 1:1 and 2:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3, which made me very enthused and I’ve been using it even more than usual since reading that. I have only read it one place though and you know “they” can say anything on the internet. So I thought I’d run that by you in case you’re interested in seeing if it’s true and if so maybe adding that great benefit ghee to your very informative article.

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