Butter lovers unite, there’s a new ‘healthier’ spread in town
Can ghee really compete with butter?
Ghee is used in food, medicine, and beauty treatments
You can even make your own ghee at home
Foodies have called it a superfood
If you love butter like 99% of Americans — I’m guessing at the number, but it seems about right — an alternative is gaining in popularity. Ghee is trending as a new and improved butter substitute. It’s a kind of clarified butter used for cooking in India, South Asia, and Arab nations for more than 5000 years.
Ghee is pervasive in those countries, but it’s not just used for slathering on your Indian sweet cakes. In India, Ghee is considered sacred and used for religious ceremonies. It’s also used for natural healing, massage oil, and beauty treatments.
That trend hasn’t come to the states yet, which is good. It sounds a little messy. We would rather put large pats on toast, potatoes, even rice, which is likely frowned upon by many Indian and Asian cultures.
Ghee is easily digestible, and when eaten with vegetables or other healthy food, it’s said to improve the absorption of nutrients.
So what is it exactly?
Ghee is made with unsalted butter. It is heated on low, which causes the milk solids to separate. The solids then sink to the bottom, leaving clear, clarified butter. With the milk solids removed, it doesn’t spoil as quickly if it isn’t refrigerated.
Another benefit of ghee is its higher smoke point. Unlike its American counterpart, butter has a low smoke point and burns easily when cooking at high temps. Many cooks who use butter burn it regularly.
But is ghee actually healthy or just healthier than butter? Ghee does contain saturated fat, which is blamed for many health conditions such as coronary artery disease. But it’s considered a “healthy fat,” also found in nuts, fish, and avocados.
Ghee’s even been called a superfood by online foodies. Because it’s cooked on low heat, it retains more vitamins and nutrients. It’s a source of antioxidants, vitamin A and vitamin E. Those nutrients break down when butter is cooked at high temperatures.
Ghee is used as a substitute for butter or oil for stir-frying, over vegetables, or baking. An online search of ghee recipes brings up millions of results such as ghee fudge, ghee quiche, and many different Indian dishes.
It can even be drizzled on popcorn for movie night, though the jury’s still out on that one. I have serious doubts it could compete with buttered popcorn made with the real stuff.
Ghee is believed to have many health benefits
Ghee is also a part of ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda is part of India’s traditional, holistic healing system and has been used for thousands of years. Practitioners of Ayurveda believe wellness is a balance of mind, body, and spirit. Ghee is used for natural healing of inflammation, skin conditions, and chemotherapy symptoms. In India, it’s also used as a base for herbal ointments.
You can even make it for yourself at home! Take one pound of unsalted butter and heat on medium until it melts. Then turn the heat down to low and continue to cook it. Watch it carefully, so it doesn’t burn. When it’s almost to the boiling point, the milk solids sink to the bottom as white sediment.
“Ghee’s even been called a superfood by online foodies.”
Then pour it through a sieve to remove all that nasty sediment, and it will leave you with a clear, golden liquid that is now called ghee. It is also shelf-stable if covered. In fact, many believe its healing properties improve with age.
Vegans who travel to these countries and would rather not consume ghee may have a hard time doing that. Many foods in India and Asia contain loads of it. It’s also brushed on food as a “blessing.” You may request your food be prepared without ghee, but you may be met with a half-smile and a slow nod as if to say, good luck with that.
So as with many other foods, you have to choose between healthy food and unhealthy food that may taste better. It’s an easy choice for some.
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