March 4, 2019 | Abby Caviness
In the last few years, ghee began trending as a healthier substitute for butter. While this type of clarified butter is a great way for those with dairy intolerance to enjoy a buttery taste, are the benefits really that great?*
What is Ghee?
Ghee is a form of clarified butter created by heating butter to separate the liquid and milk solid portions from the fat. The separated mixture is then strained, and the remaining liquid is ghee. The ghee can be stored in jars and used when cooled.
According to Healthline1, ghee has been used in Indian and Pakistani cultures for thousands of years—originally created to prevent butter from spoiling during warm weather. Because it does not contain the milk solids found in regular butter, it has a longer shelf life at room temperature. Ghee can also be used to cook in the same way you would use butter and is often preferred since it has a higher smoke point than butter, so it doesn’t burn as fast and is great for dishes like grilled cheese and French toast, according to Today2.
When prepared and stored, ghee looks like butter and tastes like butter, so what’s the difference?
How Great is Ghee?
Compared to butter, Healthline says ghee has a similar nutritional composition, but there are a few differences listed in the below chart1, mainly in fat content.
|Fat||13 grams||11 grams|
|Unsaturated||8 grams||7 grams|
|Monosaturated||4 grams||3 grams|
|Polyunsaturated||0.5 grams||0.5 grams|
If you’re following the American Heart Association’s directions3, one tablespoon of ghee meets the daily recommended serving of saturated fat per day—not counting the saturated fat occurring naturally in fatty meats and cheese.
Despite the insignificant differences between the two, ghee does show some pretty impressive benefits though scientific research. According to a 2018 study4 looking at 200 people in north India, people who ate more ghee and less mustard oil as sources of fat in their diets had healthier fat and cholesterol in their blood.
Though the study only compared the results between ghee and mustard oil, not butter, there is something to be said for ghee creating healthier cholesterol levels. Another study5 done in rural India suggested a higher consumption of ghee resulted in improvements in psoriasis symptoms, memory and wound healing. So, perhaps there is a benefit to eating ghee, it just isn’t as effective as many people think.
Put simply, the nutritional differences between ghee and butter are minute, so the switch likely will not significantly impact your health unless you need to cut out lactose and casein, which are not found in ghee.
Make Ghee at Home
Thankfully, if you are considering switching over to ghee, it’s super easy to make at home! Here’s how, according to The Health Foodie6:
What you need:
- A medium saucepan, preferably one with a heavy bottom
- A large spoon to stir
- A fine meshed sieve
- Several layers of cheesecloth to line your sieve
- A large bowl or measuring cup to receive the ghee (preferably one that has a pouring spout)
- One or two glass jars to store your ghee in
- One or two pounds of the best quality unsalted butter you can get your hands on, preferably grass-fed, but organic works just as well.
- Cut the butter into roughly one-inch squares.
- Set your butter in your saucepan over medium heat, occasionally stirring gently.
- Continue stirring until the butter begins to simmer, then lower the heat to medium-low.
- For the next 5 minutes, cease stirring and watch a thick foam form over the top of the butter.
- Soon, you will see the foam become thinner as butter continues to simmer. Then, the milk solids will start to curdle and attach to the sides of the pan. When this happens, scrape the sides of the pan to help the solids sink to the bottom.
- The butter will start to turn golden as the milk solids at the bottom begin to brown. Keep an eye on your butter and continue stirring to keep the solids from sticking to the bottom and burning.
- When the bubbles become very tiny, foaming for a second time, take the butter off the heat and allow the foam to settle for a few seconds before straining your butter. Line your sieve with several layers of cheesecloth, place over a large bowl and pour your butter into the sieve.
- Discard the milk solids left in the cheesecloth and store the remaining liquid, your ghee, into a glass jar. Cover the jar loosely and let your ghee set a room temperature for several hours.
Should you make the switch?
If you are lactose intolerant and love the taste of butter, go for it! However, the differences between butter and ghee are not significant enough to say ghee is definitively a healthier option. Whatever you decide, like butter, ghee should be used in moderation and according to your daily recommended serving.
*This material is provided by USHEALTH Group® for informational/educational purposes only and should not replace medical/clinical advice or direction from your health care provider.
- Spritzler, Franziska, “Ghee: Better Than Butter?” Healthline.com, last modified November 2, 2016, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ghee
- Largeman-Roth, Frances, “What is ghee? A nutritionist weighs in on this trendy butter alternative,” Today.com, last modified February 8, 2019, https://www.today.com/food/what-ghee-how-do-you-make-it-home-t141447
- American Heart Association, “Saturated Fat,” Heart.org, last modified June 1, 2015, https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/saturated-fats
- Sharma, H. B., Vyas, S., Kumar, J., & Manna, S., “Beneficial effect of ghee consumption over mustard oil on lipid profile: A study in North Indian adult population,” Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, last modified January 24, 2018, https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/jcim.ahead-of-print/jcim-2017-0101/jcim-2017-0101.xml
- Sharma, H., Zhang, X., & Dwivedi, C., “The effect of ghee (clarified butter) on serum lipid levels and microsomal lipid peroxidation,” April-June 2010, 31(2): 134-140, retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3215354/
- Lacasse, Sonia, “Making Your Own Ghee At Home – Much Easier Than You Think!” TheHealthFoodie.com, last modified November 2, 2013, https://thehealthyfoodie.com/homemade-ghee/