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How to Make Ghee

Spelled ghee, ghi, or ghrta, depending on the language in which you are referencing it, this type of clarified butter is thought to be the best in existence by people in the Middle East. In terms of saturated fats, it is probably the best choice for a balanced diet. Rich in many vitamins and minerals, you can incorporate this into your diet and get rid of butter for a little bit less guilt. 

If you are less interested in the culinary world and more interested in looking for a good hair mask or moisturizer, ghee can do that too! It has been used all over the Middle East as a food, a beauty product, and a medicine. Get to know ghee and you probably won’t want to use butter ever again. Or at least, when your toddler puts handfuls of ghee in her hair, you won’t have as much room to get upset since you’ve probably done it, too. 


History of Ghee

Ghee is a type of clarified butter with many applications. It was used in oil lamps and as a salve on the skin for abrasions when it was first invented. Invented literally thousands of years ago, this clarified butter is said to have come about when in the warmer, southern parts of India butter would spoil too quickly. Ghee was the solution to that problem. 

Ghee was associated with many health benefits in Sanskrit writings, from the improvement of a person’s voice to their sight. Ghee was also thought to increase longevity.

Ghee is often made from buffalo milk butter, but when the ghee is made from cow’s milk butter, it is considered sacred in Hinduism. In fact, ghee is used at many milestones of a person’s life, from birth to weddings to death. 

After the birth of a child, women are encouraged to eat ghee to help produce breastmilk and to restore many lost nutrients to their tired bodies. 

You’ll often find ghee at Hindu weddings. Male guests will compete with one another, seeing who can consume the most ghee in one sitting. This is thought to be considered proof of fertility and is a sort of ritual performed to impress single female guests. 

At death, ghee is used in washing the body clean as preparation for burial. 

Edgar Allan Poe wrote the first American reference to ghee in print in his short story MS Found in a Bottle. Today, we in America are beginning to see the value in ghee, whether in the culinary world or the beauty world. Some Americans even use ghee as a hair mask; it is really good for repairing damaged hair.


How to Make Ghee

Ghee is traditionally prepared slowly over medium-low heat like this: 

  1. First, unsalted butter made from the milk of cows is melted over a fire.
  2. Secondly, the separated water is boiled off.
  3. This is allowed to cool and as it does, the semifluid, clear butterfat rises to the top and can be poured away from the leftover proteins, called curd, at the bottom of the pot. This clear butterfat is the ghee.

Ghee has a very intense nutty, butter flavor since the process of making ghee removes a lot of the water and the milkfat from the butter. If the butter is not left over the heat long enough, or put over heat that is too high, it will not develop that nutty flavor and will simply be clarified butter and not ghee. 

You know the ghee is good when it is a yellow color and has a granulation. This implies that the ghee has cooled in a room temperature environment, instead of being refrigerated directly after it has been made. When you cook with ghee, or spread it over something hot, the graininess quickly disappears. Ghee is used most frequently with warm foods, but when spread on something room temperature, like a bread, it will remain grainy. The grains are not an implication of poor quality, or of spoilage, so do not worry about that. 

Ghee can be stored at room temperature for up to three months, but it can be refrigerated for up to a year. When in the fridge the ghee will harden, but it can be warmed back to a softer solid by letting it sit out on the counter for a while before cooking. It can also be melted easily, if you desire a liquid for your cooking. The high smoke point makes ghee great for high heat cooking, like sautéing.


Where to Use Ghee

You can use ghee anywhere you would use butter or cooking oil. You will find that ghee has a more nutty flavor than butter, but this is a rich and deeply satisfying flavor. It complements vegetables quite well and can be used in baking easily. 


Is Ghee Good or Bad For You?

Ghee is a saturated fat, but it is actually a pretty good choice when it comes to fats. Fats help the cells maintain their structures and help aid in the immune system. Still, it is a fat, which should always be consumed in moderation.

Because ghee has a high smoke point, it can be used in cooking without losing all its health benefits, since the breakdown of the nutrients is slower. It has Vitamins A, D, E and K present in it, which help with everything from vision to healthy skin. Vitamin K is especially necessary for blood and brain health. 

It also contains conjugate linoleic acid (CLA), which is a fatty acid that provides some health benefits itself and has also been linked to helping lower body fat and cholesterol levels. 

Ghee also offers something interesting to people with lactose intolerance. Since most of the lactose and casein in the butter is broken down during the slow heating that’s required to make ghee, some lactose intolerant people can eat it. This does not mean all lactose intolerant people can handle the amounts of lactose present, just that it is less likely to cause a reaction than a regular butter would. The same goes for people who are particularly sensitive to casein. 

Ghee is great for anyone who wants to eat healthier, but doesn’t want to give up all that buttery goodness they have become accustomed to in their diets. With ghee, you can have your cake and eat it too! 


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