Ghee-licious

A jar of freshly made ghee

You’ve probably heard of clarified butter or drawn butter. But have you heard of ghee? I would like to take this moment to make a formal introduction.

Ghee (pronounced like Geek without the k) is a variety of clarified butter commonly found in India and surrounding countries and is used as an ingredient, a cooking fat, and a condiment. Both clarified butter and ghee are very similar butter derivatives with one simple, yet crucial difference.

Let’s start with a butter basic. Butter has three components: butterfat, water, and milk solids. In both clarified butter and ghee, you remove the water and milk solids to leave behind only pure butterfat. However, when making ghee, you *toast* the milk solids in the butterfat before removing them, leaving behind a roasty, toasty flavor.

Here’s how it works:

Start with unsalted butter. You can make ghee with as much butter as you like. I am using a pound. Place the butter in a sauce pan and turn the heat to medium-high.

Start with a pound of butter

The butter is ready to melt

The butter starts to melt

The butter is almost melted

The butter will melt and start to bubble as the water begins to boil off. Turn the heat down to medium and let it continue to bubble. A white foam will form on the top.

A white foam forms on the top of the melted butter

The melted butter starts to bubble

You will notice the color of the ghee will begin to turn from a golden yellow to a darker yellow. You will also notice the milk solids (they look like flecks) settling on the bottom or clinging to the sides of the pan. These milk solids will turn from white to dark brown as they toast. After about 15 minutes, the foam on top will subside, the bubbling will slow, the color of the ghee will be dark yellow, and all the milk solids will be dark brown.

The white foam starts to subside

The white foam is complete gone

Milk solids begin to cling to the side of the pan and turn brown

The milk solids are fully toasted and the ghee is ready to strain

At this point, turn off the heat. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt and let the ghee rest for a minute to allow the milk solids to completely settle out. Strain through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer into a glass jar with a tightfitting lid. Straining the ghee will catch all of the toasted milk solids. Screw the lid on right away to trap the heat inside; this is the traditional method and it creates a more desired texture. Right now the ghee will be a hot liquid (to me it looks like a nice dark beer), but after about 4-6 hours, it will cool to an opaque, semi-solid consistency.

Getting ready to strain the ghee

A jar of freshly made ghee

Ghee turns opaque after cooling completely

Ghee can be stored indefinitely at room temperature, as long as you don’t expose it to too much light or heat, and if you’re mindful about scooping out the ghee from the jar with a clean spoon.

So now you have a jar of ghee, what are you going to do with it? Here is the good news. Since ghee is pure fat, it won’t burn. The milk solids in butter are what burns, and those and been removed. Therefore, ghee can not only be used as a garnish, but in high-heat cooking applications, too! Here are some ideas:

  • Use it for sauteing, stir frying, pan frying, or searing meat, poultry or fish
  • Spread it on breads, flat breads or tortillas
  • Warm it up and drizzle it over popcorn
  • Brush it on when working with phyllo dough
  • Use it instead of butter when scrambling eggs, making omelets or when making French toast
  • Dress up simple steamed vegetables
  • Stir it into rice or toss with noodles
  • Melt a dollop on top of pureed soups or braised dishes
  • Spoon it directly into your mouth

Spooning out ghee from the jar

Spooning out ghee from the jar

Spooning ghee over a hot bowl of lentils and rice

Bowl of lentils and rice with ghee melted on top

You’ll always find a jar of ghee in my kitchen. Ghee’s versatility and long shelf life make it convenient to keep around. And nothing can quite describe the comforting flavor and aroma of this beautiful ingredient. It’s buttery, it’s warm, it’s toasty, it’s ghee.

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