B well – let’s clarify something: what is ghee?

Do you know?

ghee1The only reason I know is because I was looking for a recipe to make butter chicken.  No where in this recipe does it call for regular butter, however the word “ghee” appears throughout my “the food of india” cookbook and so I decided to find out some info.  Of course the Indian grocery store had plenty in stock and it appears that ghee has been around for centuries and has many health benefits – always a bonus right?  For starters, ghee originated in India and is commonly used in South Asian (Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepali, Sri Lankan, and Pakistani) cuisine and ritual.  Here’s what I found out:

Long used in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine, ghee (pronounced with a hard ‘g’) may well be a healthier and lower cholesterol alternative to straight up butter.

Ghee, a better butter?

First off, what is ghee anyway?


Ghee is “clarified butter” made from raw unsalted butter from which the water and milk solids are removed. Ghee is a better choice of fat than butter and other saturated fats because it has a distinctive healing property not found in other fats. According to the Ayurveda tradition, ghee enhances the ojas, an essence that governs the tissues of the body and balances the hormones. Sufficient ojas in the body ensures a strong mind and body and resistance against disease, and is essential for longevity. The healing benefits of ghee are so high that Ayurveda deems it to be a pre-eminent healing food that helps in overall health and well-being.

Nutrition in Ghee and Butter

Ghee and butter contain all of the essential fatty acids, vitamins A, D, E and K, glycolipids that have anti-infective properties, butyric acid and conjugated linoleic acid, which is known to have anti-viral and anti-carcinogenic properties. Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., in his book ”The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth,” says that butter and ghee that come from grass-fed cows are rich in healthful omega-3s. Also, the conjugated linoleic acid found in such fats may be promising in fighting weight gain, particularly around the abdomen. Since, ghee is a source of saturated fats, Dr. Ch. Murali Manohar, author of “Ayurveda for All,” recommends no more than 2 tbsp. of ghee per day with meals.

How is Ghee made:

Ghee is made in a similar way to clarified butter, but using a different kind of cream, and it’s cooked more slowly. Ghee is simmered until all the moisture evaporates and the milk solids begin to brown, giving the resulting butter a nutty, caramel-like flavour and aroma. This extra step also gives ghee a longer shelf life and a much higher burning point, making it practical for sautéing and frying.

When you melt butter and let it boil for a little while, the water will gradually evaporate and the milk protein and solids will settle down into the bottom and be strained away. The butter fat that is left will be solid at room temperature, and since the moisture content is very low and there are no more milk solids left in it, it can be kept for a long time without refrigeration.

This process was used primarily in the Middle East and South Asia to preserve dairy.

Types of Fats in Ghee and Butter

When comparing ghee to butter in terms of health, one reason for the more favorable past research record of ghee versus butter might be the increased amount of medium- and short-chain fatty acids in ghee. Butter contains about 12-15% of these medium-chain and short-chain fats, whereas ghee contains about 25%. (Our bodies metabolize medium-chain and short-chain fats differently than long-chain ones, and medium- and short-chain ones are not associated with cardiovascular problems in the same way as the long-chain ones are.)

Other benefits:

Ghee will last for a very long time without going rancid, although I do keep mine in the fridge to prolong its life. It should last as long as you need it to: months and months at least. You can use it as a cooking oil anywhere else you would use butter or oil: cooking vegetables, frying rice before steaming it, or searing meat. Since it doesn’t have the milk solids of butter, you can fry with it at higher temperatures without it smoking.

 It is very high in fat of course, so do use it with good judgment!

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Taken in part from Livestrong.com