Ghee also called as liquid gold, a type of clarified butter, has been used for thousands of years in Indian cooking and Ayurvedic healing, but only recently has it gained mainstream popularity as a beneficial cooking fat.
If you’re not already familiar with it, clarified butter is a fancy term for pure butterfat. While it has similar properties to regular butter, ghee is like an upgraded version with a richer taste, higher smoke point, deeper color, and more nutrients.
There are various types of clarified butter used in different parts of the world. Smen, for instance, is a type of fermented, salted clarified butter used in Middle Eastern cooking. Niter kibbeh is clarified butter spiced with turmeric or cumin that’s used in Ethiopian cooking.
What makes ghee different from these other varieties of clarified butter is that during the rendering process, it’s heated for a longer period of time to allow the milk solids to caramelize, which gives ghee its signature nutty flavor and golden hue.
For starters, ghee and butter are made up of different components. Butter on its own is comprised of butterfat (churned from cream), water, and milk solids. Ghee, which is rendered from butter, is only made up of butterfat.
Unlike butter, ghee and other types of clarified butter contain virtually no lactose and are very low in casein, which makes them an ideal alternative to regular butter for those with dairy and lactose sensitivities. However, sometimes ghee can contain trace amounts of casein and lactose, so it should still be avoided if you’re truly allergic or intolerant.
Ghee can be used in place of recipes that call for solid fats, such as butter or coconut oil. However, ghee does have a slightly nutty taste, which may alter the flavour of your dish — but not necessarily in a bad way. In fact, some describe the taste of ghee as “more buttery” than butter.
Ghee and butter have similar health benefits, and both are highly nutritious when sourced from grass-fed cows. However, when you swap butter for ghee, you get the added benefit of a higher smoke point when cooking and frying. There’s also the plus of removing the the milk protein, which can cause digestive problems in those who are sensitive to dairy.
Ghee also provides more ‘nutritional bang for your buck’ because it’s higher in butyric acid, MCT’s, and vitamin A than butter. You can buy ghee at your local health food store, or better yet, make your own ghee at home. It’s way less expensive to render ghee yourself, and it only takes 25 minutes.