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Ghee - clarified butter

Written By Reena on 16 Apr 2010 | 05:00

My mum always has some ghee in her house and uses it extensively in cooking and religious rituals. I don't use it when I cook but when I was watching my mum make ghee from butter the other day I became a little curious; why would she bother going through this process unless there was a scientific reason?

The definition of ghee is clarified butter. I don't know about you but that definition has never clarified anything for me. So a little research has found that:
  • Ghee is butter where the water has boiled off and the milk solids (the proteins in butter) have been removed.
  • Unlike butter it can be stored for two to three months without refrigeration as long as it is in an airtight container (perfect in hot countries where prior to refrigeration butter would become rancid).
  • Compared to butter ghee has a much higher smoke point. The high smoke point makes it one of the best oils for baking, sauteing and deep fat frying.
  • Ghee is almost entirely composed of saturated fat.
Given all this I think I may try substituting ghee for butter in my cooking and see if I notice a difference. Stay tuned...

My research also found the following interesting facts:
  • Other cultures outside of India also use ghee including the Egyptians, Ethiopians, Moroccans, Brazilians and Austrians(!).
  • In India ghee is a symbol of purity which is why it is used as an offering to the gods, in wedding ceremonies and for lighting funeral pyres.
  • There is evidence of ghee being used in India since pre-historic times.

  • Unsalted butter
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan using a medium heat. It will splutter but if it is so violent that the butter is jumping out of the pan, turn the heat down a little.
  • You will see the whey proteins start to form a skin on the top of the melted butter. Don't stir it as it will recombine with the melted butterfat.
  • When the whey proteins have formed a white frothy top turn up the heat. Do not stir the ghee.
  • After a while you will see the milk solids settle at the bottom of the pan and turn a golden brown colour.  Use a spoon to move away the whey proteins so that you can see what is happening underneath.
  • When the liquid under the froth has turned a clear amber colour turn off the heat. This is an indication that all of the water has evaporated.  Keep an eye on the ghee as it is possible to burn it during this stage.  It should smell like butter rather than roasted nuts and shouldn't turn a brown colour.
  • Let the pan cool a little (it should still be liquid) and then skim off the whey solids and discard them.
  • Strain the butter fat into a container leaving behind the milk solids which can then be discarded (although some people view them as a delicacy).
  • Leave the ghee to cool.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to a year in the fridge.  It must be airtight to prevent oxidisation and to protect the ghee from moisture in the air.

About Reena


  1. We use clarified butter a lot in Lebanese cuisine and especially pastry-making; my grandmother used it every day to make rice and stews. GReat post.

  2. Hi Taste of Beirut. That's really interesting. I am going to start baking with ghee as I'm sure it will be so much richer. Thanks for your comment. Reena