How to Make Ghee

This is how to make ghee. It's wonderful and simple! It's a process I enjoy, and it yields one of my favorite cooking mediums. For those of you who might be unfamiliar, ghee is an unsalted butter that has had the milk solids removed after separating from the butterfat, resulting in beautiful, golden, pure fat with an unusually high smoking point.

How to Make Ghee

I make homemade ghee from good butter every few weeks. Making ghee is a process I enjoy, and it yields a wonderful cooking mediums. For those of you who might be unfamiliar, ghee is an unsalted butter that has had the milk solids removed after separating from the butterfat, resulting in beautiful, golden, pure fat with an unusually high smoking point. In short, this post is all about how to make ghee. And, yes! You should absolutely do it.

This means ghee (and its cousin, clarified butter) is remarkably stable, even at higher temperatures. The process for making clarified butter is similar to that of making ghee, ghee is simply cooked longer and has more contact with the browning milk solids, in turn lending a different flavor profile. So(!), there you have a basic description, but ghee is so much more than this.

How to Make Ghee - Start with Good Butter

What is Ghee?

Ghee is an ingredient deeply revered in India, most often made from the milk of the sacred cow. There are few ingredients that have been as culturally significant for as long. Although, as I think about it, in the Arab world, there is smen, another ancient dairy-based fat made, traditionally, from the milk of sheep and/or goat. I encountered it in Morocco. Both butters are clarified, and both have been used in ceremonial, healing, and culinary ways for millennia. Smen is funky, technically rotten, and distinctive - accurately titled beurre ranci in French. It is sometimes buried for months to develop its prized flavor. I don't think there is a culture of celebrating rancid ghee in India (maybe someone can correct me?), but if your ghee does go rancid - which I have had happen on occasion when the kitchen is unusually warm, or if I wasn't quite careful enough straining solids - you can simply think of it as Indian smen? A distinctive finishing flavor, no question.Butter in a Saucepan

Use in Ayurveda

If you set a glowing jar of ghee next to a cube of shortening, you just know, one of these supports life and vitality, and the other doesn't. It's the sort of thing you can just sense. In India, Ayurvedic physicians know ghee to be the good stuff, the liquid gold. It is considered vital for health and well-being, and is used to balance and support the body from the inside and the outside - eyes, memory, strength. It's a fat that helps fat-soluble nutrients become available to the body. It is recommended for expectant mothers. And it is beautiful. Correspondingly, it can also be quite expensive to buy, particularly if it is from a good producer. The good news is, making it yourself is a simple, satisfying process.
Melted Butter in a Saucepan
Hot Ghee in a Saucepan

Tips to Cooking with Ghee

- Use less. If you've never cooked with ghee before, just go easy to start. I've found that I typically need less throughout the process compared with, say, olive oil.

- It loves a wok. Wok cooking or stir-fry is an exercise in high-temperature intensity. Which can be hard on oils, and you end up having the oils break down, and not in a good way. I don't like using highly refined oils, the ones that are highly-processed, even though they advertise high smoke points. So, ghee is a good option, as long as it works for the flavors you are cooking. I don't think it works alongside soy sauce, for example, but I'll often use my wok to knock out a quick vegetable stir-fry, that is more California in spirit - a little oil, salt, lemon zest, vegetables - and ghee works great. Another alternative is extra-virgin coconut oil. It likes the wok too.

- Some say the best ghee comes from homemade butter. Meaning, you first make butter from fresh cream, and then you set sights on turning that butter into delicious ghee. The extra step certainly turns a relatively easy endeavor into something more ambitious, but I thought I'd mention it for those of you who are up for a more extensive challenge. That doesn't phase you? There are also examples of ghee made from water buffalo milk, and sheep's milk. I'm not sure I could cite a goat's milk example, but I'm sure that exists as well. A cook I spoke with in Rajasthan told me ghee tastes different in India, in part, because they use butter that has been cultured before proceeding, also the diet of the livestock there varies, and in turn the milk reflects this. Cultured butter is relatively easy to come by, so you can experiment with cultured vs. uncultured if you like.

- Lastly, it's brilliant in place of butter drizzled over homemade popcorn.

Beautiful Ghee in a Jar

Other Uses for Ghee

Although I've made it a practice to prepare homemade ghee for some time now, I feel like there is so much I don't know about its culture, ceremonial use, historical relevance, or simply the way it has been used in daily life. I know it is used to treat infection, to anoint gods and idols, and to power lamps that are thought to ward off evil and negativity. I'm sure there is much insight you can share from your own lives and experiences, and I'd love to hear whatever you're compelled to share! -h

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How to Make Ghee

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4 from 24 votes

Source the best butter you can here, preferably organic. Experiment between cultured and uncultured butter. Also! I love to save the milk solids, they're delicious! Particularly tossed with brown rice. Use immediately, or refrigerate.

Ingredients
  • 1 pound / 16 ounces / 450 g of the best quality, unsalted butter you can source
Instructions
  1. To make ghee, gently melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. After melting, the butter will separate into three layers. This should only take a few minutes. Foam will appear on the top layer, the milk solids will migrate to the bottom of the pan, and clarified butter will float between the two. 

Heat and Simmer
  1. Let the butter come to a simmer and hold it here until the middle layer becomes fragrant, more golden than when you started, and clear - push the solids on top out of the way to have a peek. The milk solids at the bottom will begin to brown. At this point it is a matter of preference, you can let the solids lightly brown, or let things progress a bit further. 

Skim and Strain
  1. When the ghee is finished, skim absolutely all of the top layer of foam into a bowl with a spoon or strainer, turn off the heat, and allow things to settle for a minute or so. Next, carefully pour the golden central layer through a strainer, into a clean glass jar, leaving the milk solids at the bottom of the pan. 

Cool and Store
  1. If you were able to get all the solids out, and use clean and dry utensils in the jar, ghee will keep at room temperature for weeks. It can be used as a cooking oil, finishing element, and is also a traditional body moisturizer and massage medium :). Enjoy!

Serves
24
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
30 mins
 
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Comments

Monsoon Diary by Shoba Narayan is a wonderful narrative of the Indian kitchen in which ghee is mentioned often and with adoration — worth the read! Great post!

J

In Hindu mythology, Prajápati, Lord of Creatures, created ghee by rubbing or "churning" his hands together and then poured it into fire to engender his progeny; whenever the Vedic ritual was performed of pouring ghee into fire, it was a re‑enactment of creation. --- I found this -- and more ghee-lore-- at this website: http://www.webexhibits.org/butter/countries-india.html

Mink

I was taught to make ghee by making sour cream, butter, and then ghee. It's delicious and easy, but it does take a little longer. I just make the butter from the sour cream in the food processor, strain and rinse the butter (Save the buttermilk to drink!), and then make ghee.

Lisa Staffelbach

I recently bought some pastured organic butter -- available for a short time only, so I bought extra for the freezer. Can't wait to try this recipe. I also thought clarified butter/ghee was the same thing and have made clarified butter before. Now I'll try it your way. :)

Gen

I love to use half ghee, half extra-virgin coconut oil when I make popcorn...all it needs after that is a sprinkle of salt and you have delicious buttery popcorn without having to add extra butter.

Annette

Beautiful photos and write-up! I've always been curious about ghee but never brave enough to try it out. I think I'm going to give it a shot!

Sarah

I LOVE ghee and have used it many times. I have done research on ghee and because it is so much more rich in flavor ...when used in baking recipes where butter is called for you can halve the amount and use ghee instead...which is actually much less calories and fat!

Carly Robins

I love this post on ghee, Heidi. I try to follow many of the principles of Ayurvedic medicine and certainly believe in the benefits of ghee. That said I have not made it from scratch but I need to!!

Katie @ Whole Nourishment

I grew up in a Lebanese home and we used clarified butter a lot ...but I am not familiar with ghee. Looking forward to giving it a try. -Elaine

Elaine

I have done ghee for several years and cook regularly with it and the more experienced I get with making ghee, the longer I cook it. As some commenters have said, if you remove all milk solids, it keeps a long time, up to a year or so, even in moderately warm climates, or at least this is my experience. Regarding clarified butter in Morocco, very interesting! I once read that they keep some of their best for the weddings of their children, but for the life of me I couldn't find this article. Do you know about this? Very nice and elegant cooking site!

Nur

Absolutely gorgeous color! Super delicious and in my opinion guilt free if you make it from organic butter from organic grass fed cows. Nature's amazing gift!

CiaoFlorentina

wonderful tips! I love ghee

Arthur in the Garden!

I love this post on ghee, Heidi. I try to follow many of the principles of Ayurvedic medicine and certainly believe in the benefits of ghee. That said I have not made it from scratch but I need to!!

Katie @ Whole Nourishment

Ghee will keep for a long time without turning rancid. I guess this was done pre-refrigeration times as a method of preservation.

Somesh

We make ghee every fortnight and freeze it if we have too much. It freezes really well and will save it from going rancid. My mother uses browned milk solids to our poori batter- they are like crackers. The milk solids add a lovely crunch.

Poonam

Great info on ghee, Heidi and I want to make this....Question-is it just me or is the "print" function missing?

Cheri

I've always made ghee at home and I use Kerrygold butter. Of all the readily available brands I've tried, this one makes the most fragrant, delicious ghee. I stir a spoonful of it into my kids's meals, rice, soups, spread it on their rotis, pretty much everything. Grilled cheese or grilled nut butter and honey sandwiches with ghee instead of butter on the outside are absolutely delicious. Ghee as you said, has been around in India for a very long time and has many healing properties. Any Indian kitchen is incomplete without it. Ghee is a very essential part of a woman's pre-natal and post-partum care in India. It's believed to heal and replenish and provide essential fats to her nursing baby.

Anu

Abra Burke: re: your casein question. I turned to ghee when I found out I was sensitive to casein. It's actually recommended. I use fresh butter made from raw milk that I buy at the market ... yum! Love the stuff. Thanks for a very informative post!

Nathalie

Ghee is a must pantry item in South Asia not just India. My favorite part if making ghee is really the after snack. Warm a bread in the pan you made ghee, sprinkle some sugar and you'll get the best toast ever.

Lail | With A Spin

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