You’ve heard of ghee before, but aren’t exactly sure what it is.
Is it better than using butter? Or worse?
Ghee and butter look similar, taste similar, and are sold next to each other in grocery stores. But what’s the real difference between ghee and butter anyways?
This Indian version of butter has been claimed as a healthy substitute for traditional butter.
Is this really the case? Or is ghee just the newest health fad?
Is ghee good or bad for you?
Does ghee taste like butter?
And what is ghee used for?
In this article we’ll get to the bottom of what all the hype is about this so called “liquid gold.”
We’ll explain what ghee is made of, ghee nutrition and the benefits of ghee, and how to make ghee from butter.
We’ll also clarify just what exactly clarified butter is — and if clarified butter is actually the same thing as ghee or not.
Ready to learn if the gold rush is real?
So first off, what exactly is ghee butter?
What Is Ghee Butter?
Ghee butter is an Indian form of highly-clarified butter.
And how do you make ghee butter?
Like butter, ghee butter is typically made from cow’s milk.
To make ghee, you start by melting regular butter.
Once the butter separates into liquid fats and milk solids, take out the milk solids sitting at the top. And voilà — you’ve got clarified butter or ghee.
Clarified butter vs ghee
So does this mean that clarified butter and ghee are the same thing?
Ghee is clarified butter that has been cooked longer to remove all the moisture. First the milk solids are browned (caramelized) in the fat and then strained out. Ghee has a longer shelf life, both refrigerated and at room temperature.
Then what’s clarified butter?
Clarified butter is butter with the water and milk proteins removed. After that, it’s 99-100% pure butterfat. Before that, butter is 16-17% water and 1-2% milk proteins (also known as milk solids).
What’s the difference between ghee and clarified butter?
You can use ghee and clarified butter almost interchangeably, though there are a few differences:
- Taste — the extra cooking time gives ghee a nutty flavor. Ghee’s nutty, caramel essence comes from browning the milk solids before straining them out of the butter.
- Origin — ghee originated in India and tends to be featured in South Asian cuisine. You usually see clarified butter in French dishes, as its mother country is France.
- Availability — it’s more common to find ghee sold in grocery stores, particularly specialty grocers. To get clarified butter you often have to make it yourself at home.
What Are The Benefits Of Ghee Butter?
1. Ghee contains CLA
If you’re eating ghee made from grass-fed butter, ghee is rich in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). This is a fatty acid that may reduce inflammation.
Research has also shown CLA from food can help support you losing weight and your cardiovascular health.
In other words, CLA is a fatty acid you want to have in your diet.
2. Ghee is a good source of butyric acid (BTA)
Butyric acid is a short-chain fatty acid that sounds similar to one of the foods it’s found in: butter.
This means butyric acid is also found in ghee, and it’s one of the reasons why ghee is nicknamed liquid gold.
Butyric acid is an essential nutrient for your digestive system because it helps maintain healthy cells throughout your GI tract. It also provides energy to the cells in your large intestine.
3. Ghee is rich in vitamin A, D, E, and K
Let’s face it: we could all do with a few more vitamins and minerals in our diet.
Ghee is a source of the essential fat soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K.
If you live in a cooler climate that doesn’t get sun year round, chances are you may not be getting enough vitamin D. As we know, Vitamin D is critical in helping with your calcium absorption and supporting healthy bones and teeth.
Vitamins A and E also help boost your immunity. This is probably why ghee is often added to the warming Ayurvedic drink, golden milk.
4. Ghee contains MCTs
Medium-chain triglycerides (or MCTs) are medium chain fatty acids that your body can use for energy right away.
MCTs are fairly quick to digest because of their shorter chain of fatty acids. They get sent straight to your liver to be metabolized. This is one reason why they may help boost your energy levels and don’t get stored as fat.
You may have heard that glucose is your brain’s preferred fuel source. But research shows your body runs equally well, if not better, on ketones produced from fats.
This is why some people experience an increase in cognitive function, focus, and concentration when they add more MCTs to their diet.
If you’ve ever heard of bulletproof coffee or the ketogenic diet, you know what we’re talking about.
5. Ghee has a high smoke point
Ghee has a higher smoke point than most fats, which makes it perfect for cooking with.
Why does the smoke point of a cooking fat matter?
The smoke point is the temperature to which the fat can be heated to without having its nutrients destroyed. This is also the point that a fat can be heated to before it begins to smoke (hence the name).
Aside from being a kitchen hazard, when you heat a fat or oil beyond its smoke point, it can form free radicals, which are molecules that can cause damage to your cells.
This is why it’s always recommended to cook with a fat that has a higher smoke point.
While butter and coconut oil are okay for cooking at medium and medium-low temperatures, ghee can withstand the higher heat.
Ghee also holds up to strong spices well which is one reason it’s a staple in Indian and Thai cooking. It pulls fat-soluble flavors and nutrients out of spices when you cook the two together.
Ghee is ideal for curries, sauces, and other slow-cooked or simmered dishes. It’s also great drizzled over veggies with a bit of sea salt.
Oh, and you don’t have to refrigerate it. It’s shelf-stable and won’t go bad for years.
6. Ghee is paleo friendly
The paleo diet aims to support your health and recommends avoiding dairy products.
As Mindvalley instructor Eric Edmeades explains in his revolutionary nutritional program, WildFit, humans aren’t meant to be eating dairy.
Eric explains how everyone has some degree of intolerance to lactose (the milk sugar found in dairy) and casein (the main protein in milk) even if we don’t experience direct symptoms.
To learn more about how your diet influences your body shape, weight and overall well-being, make sure to check out Eric’s transformational nutrition program.
So, does this mean that ghee is dairy free?
Is Ghee Dairy Free?
One of the biggest differences between butter and ghee is that ghee has virtually no dairy protein in it.
This could be a game changer for you if you’re super sensitive to dairy.
Butter is mostly fat and water, but it still has trace amounts of casein and lactose. Casein and lactose are the two compounds in dairy that usually cause allergies and sensitivities.
Ghee has little to no casein or lactose, which means even very dairy-sensitive people can usually eat it.
Is Ghee Good Or Bad For You?
There’s no getting around the reality that, like coconut oil and butter sticks, it’s high in saturated fat.
And just like anything high in saturated fat and calories, we’ll want to limit our consumption of it unless we want to increase our risk of cardiac disease, diabetes and obesity.
What research out there on ghee consumption and blood cholesterol levels has mostly been conducted on animals such as rats and rabbits. This isn’t exactly the same as well-designed studies involving humans.
There’s no strong evidence to suggest that ghee is a superfood by any means though. Like other high fat foods, if you have ghee in moderate quantities, it shouldn’t have too much of a negative impact on your health.
The hype around the health benefits of ghee started with its association in Ayurvedic medicine. People who practiced Ayurveda believed that ghee was gut cleansing, immune system boosting, and had internal healing benefits.
That belief stemmed from the fact that true ghee in ancient traditions was made with yogurt-like cultures, which have probiotics.
Most brands of ghee that are sold in commercial grocery stores today and cooked at home, however, are not made with cultures. Its health benefits are therefore similar to butter.
What is ghee used for?
Ghee can be used in place of butter in any recipe. Because ghee is slightly more oily than butter, it may change the consistency of the recipe slightly.
Many people also love using ghee in coffee rather than butter.
If you do make your coffee with ghee, know that it won’t foam the same way butter does so you won’t get that frothy latte top. Don’t worry though – it’s still tasty!
Traditionally, ghee has been used as a cooking oil, an ingredient in dishes, and in Ayurveda therapy. Ghee is still used in Ayurvedic massage and as a base for herbal ointments to treat burns and rashes.
So now that we know exactly what ghee is, let’s move onto the other fatty dairy product that we all know and love: butter.
What Is Butter Made Of?
Butter is a solid, high-fat food usually made from cow’s milk.
Though we usually make butter from cow’s milk, you can also get milk from sheep, goat, yak, or buffalo.
And how is butter made?
Butter is created by churning the milk or cream until it separates into solid (butterfat) and liquid parts (buttermilk). The butterfat is what becomes butter.
Does butter have lactose?
Butter contains only trace amounts of lactose. This makes it different from most other dairy products.
Lactose-intolerant people can consume up to 12 grams of lactose at a time without symptoms, and 1 tablespoon (14 grams) of butter contains nearly undetectable levels.
Even though you might use more than this amount when cooking or baking, it’s impossible to reach the 12-gram lactose limit just by eating butter. Most people who are lactose intolerant are fine with consuming small amounts of butter.
Is butter good for you?
Is butter healthy?
Again, just like anything else high in saturated fats and calories, you’ll want to consume it sparingly.
Though butter, like ghee, is rich in nutrients and beneficial compounds like butyrate and CLA, consuming too much of it will increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart problems because of the high fat content.
If you’re open to substituting butter (or ghee) with other heart-healthy fats like avocado or coconut oil, this would be the healthiest option.
Okay, so we now know that ghee is made from butter.
But then what’s the difference between ghee and butter?
Ghee Vs Butter: What Is The Difference Between Ghee And Butter?
If you understand the differences between ghee and butter you’ll be able to figure out which one you should use when you’re cooking.
Ghee has a higher smoke point than butter, so it doesn’t burn as quickly. This makes it perfect for sautéing or frying foods.
Butter can smoke and burn at 350°F (177°C), but ghee can take heat up to 485°F (252°C).
Ghee also produces less of the toxin acrylamide when it’s heated compared to other oils. Acrylamide is a chemical that forms when you’re cooking starchy foods at a high temperature.
Acrylamide has been known to increase the risk of cancer in lab animals, but it’s unclear whether it also increases the risk of cancer in humans.
Because ghee separates milk from fat, this butter substitute is lactose-free. This makes it better than butter if you have allergies or sensitivities to dairy products.
When you’re choosing between ghee and butter, you should also take into account the different nutritional profiles for each.
Ghee has a slightly higher concentration of fat than butter and more calories. One tablespoon of ghee has about 120 calories, whereas there are about 102 calories in one tablespoon of butter
The differences in fat content varies based on the food manufacturer, but typically ghee has a bit more.
Here’s a breakdown:
|Type of fat per tbsp.||Ghee||Butter|
|saturated||10 g||7 g|
|monounsaturated||3.5 g||3 g|
|polyunsaturated||0.5 g||0.4 g|
The fat and calorie differences between ghee and butter are negligible. So, if you’re watching your fat and calorie intake, choosing one over the other probably won’t affect your health.
Does ghee taste like butter?
Ghee has a clear and lighter taste, whereas butter has a thick and heavy taste.
Ghee also has a more nutty taste which comes from the caramelization of the milk solids on the bottom of the cooking pot.
Depending on what recipe you’re using, ghee may also change the consistency slightly because it’s a clearer substance.
Where to buy ghee?
You should be able to find ghee in the dairy section of most grocery stores.
Since ghee is shelf stable, it’s not required to be stored in the refrigerated section though. You can usually find ghee in the baking section with the cooking oils.
Should you use ghee or butter?
Should we consider ghee a healthy butter substitute?
Ghee might sound cool and trendy, but that doesn’t make it necessarily healthier than butter.
In terms of nutrition, ghee and butter have similar benefits.
In terms of cooking, if you’re looking to cook foods at a higher temperature, ghee is a better option because of its higher smoke point.
Who is ghee recommended for?
If you’re lactose intolerant, ghee is definitely a better option because it has little to no casein or lactose.
If you’re following a ketogenic diet, ghee would be a better choice due to the higher fat content. Ghee also provides more nutritional bang for your buck because it’s higher in butyric acid, MCTs, and vitamin A than butter.
If you’re looking for a less energy dense and lower fat product, butter would be the better option.
Making mindful food choices
At the end of the day, becoming more educated and conscious about the food you’re putting into your body is the most important thing.
Make a mindful choice on what is best for your body.
Is what you’re choosing to consume contributing to forming the best version of yourself?
Whether it be something high-fat, low-fat, plant-based, or meat, be aligned with the food you’re eating. Use food as a tool to create the best version of yourself.
‘DIET’ DOES NOT MEAN ‘TEMPORARY ALTERATION OF YOUR LIFE FOR SHORT-TERM GAIN,’ IT MEANS ‘WAY OF LIFE.’
— ERIC EDMEADES, AUTHOR OF MINDVALLEY’S WILDFIT PROGRAM
And if you’re looking for more healthy recipes, make sure to check our blog for more delicious, nutritious meal planning ideas.
Are you going to use ghee or butter from now on? Will you use ghee in other ways besides cooking? Let us know in the comments below!