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What is Ghee?

A pot of ghee.
The leftover solids from making ghee, with a cup of ghee below.
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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
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  • Last Modified Date: 26 July 2014
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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 air-tight 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.

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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 air-tight 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.

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anon234522
Post 26

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

anon213536
Post 25

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.

anon178439
Post 24

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?

anon157841
Post 23

@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.

anon155911
Post 22

no! never spread it on bread!

anon126467
Post 19

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!

anon109273
Post 17

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.

anon91621
Post 16

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.

anon83151
Post 14

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

anon81377
Post 12

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

anon78743
Post 11

I wonder if ghee is lactose free?

anon73627
Post 10

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.

anon69139
Post 8

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

anon66170
Post 7

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.

anon35093
Post 6

Is organic ghee casein free?

anon28884
Post 5

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.

RRingwala
Post 4

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

anon17717
Post 3

Does ghee solidify or remain in oil form?

anon7740
Post 2

Yes, and it is sooo delicious!

Ruth
Post 1

Can ghee be used as butter on bread?

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