clarified butter or ghee

We all know butter, that silky, creamy spread that makes everything taste better, whether it’s melting into a warm, crumbly cornbread or slathered all over a chicken that’s about to roast in the oven. Simply put, a world without butter is a world we don’t want to live in.

So why even bother with ghee, butter’s slimmer, hipper, more bronzed older sister? For one, it’s lactose-free, which makes it all the rage with Whole30 and Keto devotees these days. (True story: I started buying it from Trader Joe’s last year while on Whole30, and I’ve never gone back.) But ghee is by no means new—it’s been used in Asian cooking for centuries, and has some deep roots in Ayurvedic practices for its anti-inflammatory properties. (Just imagine a ghee massage…yum.) Here’s the lowdown on what makes ghee different from butter.

So, What Is Ghee Exactly?

Ghee is clarified butter, meaning it’s just regular unsalted butter that’s been simmered, which causes the milk solids to separate and leaves behind a golden liquid that’s nutty in flavor. It’s also shelf-stable, so you can store it in the pantry instead of the fridge and it’ll last for months. Plus, because the milk solids have been removed, it’s lactose-free and much less likely to cause a reaction among dairy-sensitive people than butter.

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When To Use Ghee vs Butter

You can still use butter how you normally would: in baked goods and on top of them, too. But keep in mind that the process of making ghee removes water (and regular butter is about 20 percent water), so ghee has a higher smoke point—about 465 degrees compared to butter’s 350. That makes it a rock star for high heat cooking, like roasting a batch of veggies or sauteing garlic. It’s nutty flavor also holds up well against spices, which is why it’s great for curries and sauces. Or, use it like you would a finishing oil and drizzle it over veggies with some sea salt.

How to Make Clarified Butter and When to Use It

Should I Be Making My Own Ghee?

You could, and we’re not going to stop you, even though most grocery stores sell it in bottles nowadays. (Trader Joe’s even has a buffalo version!) Just take one pound (four sticks) of grass-fed, unsalted butter, and cut it into cubes. Arrange in a saucepan, and melt over medium heat for 20 minutes. First it will foam, then bubble, then stop bubbling. Then it’ll foam again. When you start to notice the ghee has a bright gold hue and there are milk solids forming at the base of the pan, that means it’s ready to remove from heat. Let the pan cool for a few minutes, and use a strainer lined with cheesecloth to strain your ghee. Discard the milk proteins that collects in the strainer and store the ghee in a jar. And remember that you don’t have to refrigerate it after that. Just pop it in the pantry for your next cooking adventure.

Related Video: How to Make Brown Butter in the Microwave

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Julie Vadnal is a writer and founder of the newsletter JULES. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Esquire, Glamour, and Real Simple. Follow her on Instagram at @julievadnal.
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