How to Make Ghee at Home

When I was at the grocery store the other day, I overheard a woman say to her friend, “Oh, wow, they have ghee!” She quickly put the yellow jar in her basket. I wanted to tap her on the shoulder and say, “I can tell you how to make ghee at home,” but of course, I didn’t. The 8-ounce jar sold for eight dollars. You could say she got a bargain. I saw 7.8 ounces of ghee on Amazon on sale for sixteen dollars, plus shipping! If you don’t cook Indian food, you might not be familiar with the Indian butter called ghee. It’s used in many recipes to add rich flavor or to sauté meats and vegetables.

Traditional ghee is made from farm-fresh cow or buffalo milk that is soured to make “yogurt” and then churned into butter. The butter is cooked until the water evaporates and the solids turn brown. The liquid butter is strained so that what remains is a beautiful yellow or golden ghee. The classic ghee is said to be more complex in flavor, but I am happy with the ghee I make at home from high quality butter. If you simply cook the butter, evaporate the water, and strain it, you have clarified butter. Cook it longer, until the solids turn brown, and you have ghee. Or continue to cook the butter until it smells nutty and the solids are really brown (but do not strain), you have browned butter—another delicious cooking ingredient!

I cook Indian food often, so I make ghee several times a year. Ghee adds a lovely flavor to the vegetables or lentils it’s swirled into, or the chicken sautéed in it, or the naan bread that’s brushed with it. Garlic, ginger, and herbs and spices—basil, rosemary, cumin seeds—can be added during cooking the butter to flavor the ghee.  When ghee is carefully strained to remove all of the milk solids, it has a higher smoke point than butter. Ghee’s smoke point is around 400 degrees Fahrenheit versus 350 degrees for butter. On a cool kitchen counter ghee can last a month or more but in the refrigerator it will last at least six months. And if you make it yourself, it costs no more than the price of the butter you use.

Ghee isn’t limited to Indian food. In fact, clarified butter, browned or not, is used in cuisines around the world. Here in the United States, for example, we serve it with lobster as a dipping sauce. With a high smoke point, it’s a flavorful substitute for oil when sautéing.

Indian food is easy to make with a good recipe. Although some recipes are time-consuming, and many dishes require a half dozen spices and as many other ingredients—the end result is worth the effort. A trip to an Indian market, if there is one nearby, is the best place to find the ingredients you will need at reasonable prices. Buying spices and other ingredients online is the second best way. If you purchase the spices at the grocery store, they will be expensive. If you want to try cooking Indian food, check out my favorite books at the end of the recipe. There are many newer books on the market that are probably excellent.

How to make ghee at home
Ghee
Print Recipe
This Indian butter is easy to make at home and it's handy to have in the refrigerator to use to flavor dishes or to use in place of oil for sauteing. If refrigerator space is limited, you can store the ghee in a sealed jar in a cool place in the kitchen. Have fun! Suzanne Carreiro, www.toumbria.com
Servings
-3 or more cups
Servings
-3 or more cups
How to make ghee at home
Ghee
Print Recipe
This Indian butter is easy to make at home and it's handy to have in the refrigerator to use to flavor dishes or to use in place of oil for sauteing. If refrigerator space is limited, you can store the ghee in a sealed jar in a cool place in the kitchen. Have fun! Suzanne Carreiro, www.toumbria.com
Servings
-3 or more cups
Servings
-3 or more cups
Ingredients
Servings: or more cups
Instructions
  1. Cut the cubes of butter in half, lengthwise, and then cut the pieces lengthwise again to form 1/2-inch wide pieces.
    How to Make Ghee at Home
  2. Continue cutting the rest of the butter in the same way, forming 1/2-inch wide pieces. Then line them up to cut them in half crosswise.
    How to Make Ghee at Home
  3. Finally, cut the butter pieces in half one last time to make 1/2-inch cubes; drop them into a heavy 5-quart saucepan with a light colored interior, such as stainless steel or white enamel.
    How to Make Ghee at Home.
  4. Put the saucepan on the stove over very low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until completely melted, 15 to 20 minutes. The surface of the melting butter will be foamy white.
    How to Make Ghee at Home
  5. When the butter is completely melted, turn the heat up to medium. The butter will gurgle and bubble while the water in the butter evaporates--this will take about 20 minutes. No need to stir.
    How to Make Ghee at Home
  6. When the bubbling stops and the surface is golden yellow, the water has evaporated and the milk solids have separated out.
    How to make ghee at home
  7. This step, browning the milk solids, takes about 10 minutes. You need to to stir constantly and watch carefully. Frequently, use a spoon to pull away the butter to see the color of the sediment against the bottom of the pan. When the sediment is caramel-brown remove the pan from the heat. Let it stand until the sediment settles to the bottom and the butter is slightly cooled, about 10 minutes.
    How to Make ghee at home
  8. Set a very fine mesh sieve over a 2-quart bowl (alternatively, if you don't have a fine mesh sieve, fit an oversized piece of cheesecloth into a large-mesh sieve). Slowly pour the melted butter into the sieve. Discard the sediments (or find an Indian dessert recipe that uses them).
    How to make ghee at home
  9. Pour the clarified ghee into pint-size glass jars (or any jars you have on hand). Let the jars cool about an hour before sealing with lids. Label the jars with the date you made the ghee.
    How to make ghee at home
  10. Store refrigerated for up to 6 months or in a cool place for a month or more.
Recipe Notes

Equipment: A heavy 5-quart saucepan with a light interior such as stainless steel or white enamel; two pint jars with tightly fitting lids; and a very fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth and a large-mesh sieve.

My favorite Indian cookbooks (if you buy them using these links, I will get a small percentage from Amazon. Thanks!)

 

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About suzanne@cookwithclass.com

After living in Umbria for 1-1/2 years and spending many more months there visiting friends, Suzanne creates and leads intimate food and wine tours in Umbria. Author of "The Dog Who Ate the Truffle: A Memoir of Stories and Recipes from Umbria."

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2 Responses to “How to Make Ghee at Home”

  1. Rita November 7, 2014 13:42 #

    Great post, Suzanne!

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