Ghee has long been a staple in Indian cuisine and recently become quite popular in certain circles elsewhere.
Some people praise it as an alternative to butter that provides additional benefits.
However, others question whether ghee is superior to regular butter or may even pose health risks.
This article takes a detailed look at ghee and how it compares with butter.
Ghee is a type of clarified butter. It's more concentrated in fat than butter, as its water and milk solids have been removed.
It has been used in Indian and Pakistani cultures for thousands of years. The term comes from the Sanskrit word meaning "sprinkled." Ghee was created to prevent butter from spoiling during warm weather.
In addition to cooking, it's used in the Indian alternative medicine system Ayurveda, in which it's known as ghrita.
Given that its milk solids have been removed, it does not require refrigeration and can be kept at room temperature for several weeks. In fact, like coconut oil, it may become solid when kept at cold temperatures.
Summary Ghee is a type of clarified butter that is stable at room temperature. It has been used in Indian cooking and Ayurvedic medicine since ancient times.
Ghee is made by heating butter to separate the liquid and milk solid portions from the fat.
First, butter is boiled until its liquid evaporates and milk solids settle at the bottom of the pan and turn golden to dark brown.
Next, the remaining oil (the ghee) is allowed to cool until it becomes warm. It's then strained before being transferred to jars or containers.
It can easily be made at home using grass-fed butter.
Summary Ghee can be made by heating butter to remove the water and milk solids from the fat.
Ghee and butter have similar nutritional compositions and culinary properties, although there are a few differences.
Calories and nutrients
|Fat||13 grams||11 grams|
|Saturated fat||8 grams||7 grams|
|Monounsaturated fat||4 grams||3 grams|
|Polyunsaturated fat||0.5 grams||0.5 grams|
|Protein||Trace amounts||Trace amounts|
|Carbs||Trace amounts||Trace amounts|
|Vitamin A||12% of the Daily Value (DV)||11% of the DV|
|Vitamin E||2% of the DV||2% of the DV|
|Vitamin K||1% of the DV||1% of the DV|
Both contain nearly 100% of calories from fat.
Ghee contains a higher concentration of fat than butter. Gram for gram, it provides slightly more butyric acid and other short-chain saturated fats.
Test-tube and animal studies suggest that these fats may reduce inflammation and promote gut health (
It's also slightly higher in conjugated linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated fat that may help increase fat loss (
Overall, the differences between the two are small, and choosing one over the other likely won't have a significant impact on your health.
However, ghee is completely free of the milk sugar lactose and the milk protein casein, whereas butter contains small amounts of each. For people who have allergies or sensitivities to these dairy components, ghee is the better choice.
Summary Ghee and butter comprise nearly 100% fat, but ghee may be the better choice for people with lactose or casein sensitivities.
Culinary uses | Uses
Butter and ghee are rich in saturated fatty acids, which can handle high temperatures without becoming damaged.
Heating ghee also appears to produce much less of the toxic compound acrylamide than heating vegetable and seed oils.
In fact, one study found that soybean oil produced more than 10 times as much acrylamide as ghee when each fat was heated to 320°F (160°C) (
Furthermore, ghee has a high smoke point, which is the temperature at which fats become volatile and begin to smoke.
Its smoke point is 485°F (250°C), which is substantially higher than butter's smoke point of 350°F (175°C). Therefore, when cooking at very high temperatures, ghee has a distinct advantage over butter.
However, while ghee is more stable at high heat, butter may be more suitable for baking and cooking at lower temperatures because of its sweeter, creamier taste.
Summary Ghee may be better for high-temperature cooking, but butter has a sweeter taste that may be more suitable for baking.
People's responses to saturated fat intake are highly variable.
Those whose LDL (bad) cholesterol levels tend to increase in response to high saturated fat intake may want to limit their ghee or butter intake to one or two tablespoons per day.
Another concern is that during the production of ghee at high heat, its cholesterol may become oxidized. Oxidized cholesterol is linked to an increased risk of several diseases, including heart disease (
According to one detailed analysis, ghee contains oxidized cholesterol but fresh butter does not (
Summary The potential adverse effects of ghee include an increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and the formation of oxidized cholesterol during its production.
Ghee is a natural food with a long history of medicinal and culinary uses.
It provides certain cooking advantages over butter and is certainly preferable if you have a dairy allergy or intolerance.
However, no evidence suggests that it's healthier than butter overall. Both can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy diet.