While it’s a staple of Ayurvedic cooking, here in the States, ghee (aka clarified butter) isn’t exactly in most people’s pantries. Butter and ghee can often be used interchangeably and since most Americans are more familiar with butter, the reasons to get cooking with the latter are widely overlooked.
But interest is definitely on the rise, in part due to the popularity of the ketogenic diet, which makes regular use of both butter *and* ghee. Ghee is made when butter is heated until the water evaporates and the milk solids separate away. This means it’s lactose-free and also has a longer shelf-life than butter. So if you’ve nixed butter from your diet because you have digestive probs when you eat dairy, you likely won’t have the same issues when consuming ghee.
The differences don’t stop there. Here, registered dietitian Ali Miller, RD, author of The Anti-Anxiety Diet, and host of the Naturally Nourished podcast, gives the nutritional low-down on ghee and her tips for how to make it at home. Keep reading for everything you need to know.
Ghee versus butter
There are several reasons why Miller is so into ghee. “Ghee provides the nutrients in butter including vitamin A, E, and quality fats without the known irritants casein and lactose,” she says. One tablespoon of ghee has 108 micrograms of vitamin A (over 10 percent of what you should eat per day), 0.4 milligrams of vitamin E (you want to aim to get 15 milligrams a day), and four grams of unsaturated fatty acids.
Miller says ghee’s saturated fat profile contains short chain fatty acids, which supports metabolism, energy production, and intestinal health. “Ghee made from grass-fed cream will also have beneficial conjugated linoleic acids, CLAs, to support healthy body composition and immune health,” she adds.
In terms of how it compares to butter, Miller points out that ghee has a higher concentration of fats since the milk solids are removed. “This provides higher amounts of the beneficial nutrients and the fats mentioned before, as well as butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid that supports intestinal health, microbiome balance, and nourishes gut cells,” she says.
Besides nutritional profiles, there are other ways ghee and butter are different, too. Miller says that ghee has a higher smoke point than butter (485°F compared to 350°F), making it a more versatile cooking ingredient since you can cook it at higher heat before it starts to burn. And of course, it bears repeating that people who are sensitive to lactose likely won’t experience the same nutritional distress as with butter.
How to make ghee—and what to use it for
You can buy ghee jarred and ready to use from brands including Bulletproof ($23), 4th & Heart ($17), and Spring Sunrise ($12). But considering how pricey those jars can be, it’s my job to tell you that you can absolutely make your own ghee at home too.
You only need two things to make it: a pound of grass-fed butter and a cheesecloth. (Okay, and a stove and pot.) Drop the butter into a pot on the stove on high heat, and let it melt. Allow the melted butter to come to a simmer and let it cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the liquid is a deeper golden color and the milk solids have sunk to the bottom. Turn off the heat, and use a slotted spoon to skim the foam from the top. Then pouring the liquid through a cheesecloth and into a mason jar. This removes all the solids from your ghee. Last, let it cool before securing the lid. That’s literally the whole process. Pretty easy, right? (For the full step=by-step, follow Miller’s recipe on her website.)
Once you master the ghee-making process, you can experiment by adding various healthy spices to it, such as turmeric, the all-star inflammation fighter. “Ghee not only serves as a nutrient dense food and healthy fat choice, it can also be a vehicle of flavor,” Miller says, adding that she likes to add rosemary and thyme or warming spices like cinnamon and ginger to hers. “Strain out all solids including residue from herbs and spices when straining in cheesecloth at final step,” she says.
One your ghee is in a jar and ready to go, there are all sorts of ways to start using it. Get a few ideas below:
1. Sauté your veggies in it. Since ghee has such a high smoke point, it works as a primary cooking fat when sautéing. Your veggies will taste super buttery and be more satiating as a result.
2. Spread it on baked goods. You can also eat it as is, using it as a spreadable for toast, breads, and other baked goods. Imagine how delicious a generous spoonful of cinnamon ghee would taste on warm banana nut bread. Is your mouth watering yet?
The perfect partner for your ghee: Paleo bread. Watch the video below to see how to make it:
3. Add it to your popcorn. Give your popcorn a buttery taste while reaping the benefits of healthy fats. Just heat the ghee up and drizzle it on top of your already popped bowl for a healthy snack ready in minutes.
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