How to make ghee from butter for cooking and baking. A step-by-step guide for the butter clarification process for producing richly flavored oil with nutty and toffee flavors.
What is Ghee? A staple of Indian cuisine, this specially prepared clarified butter is traditionally made by slowly simmering butter until the water evaporates and the milk solids gently brown. The butter clarification process yields a richly flavored butter oil with nutty and toffee flavors.
It has become a popular oil to use for people with slight dairy sensitivities, Paleo diet, and Whole30 program because most of the lactose sugar and casein proteins are removed that may pose health issues. High quality pastured, grass-fed and organic butter is recommended for these diets.
From a cooking perspective, ghee provides a lovely flavor to recipes. By removing the milk solids from the butter, the smoke point increases significantly. This means that instead of the butter solids burning under high heat at around 350°F, only the butterfat remains and can be heated to 485°F before breaking down. The high smoke point makes it an excellent cooking oil for sauteeing, stir-frying and roasting foods.
How to Make Ghee
When butter is clarified the milk solids like proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals are removed, except for the fat-soluble vitamins. Butter is composed of milk fat (at least 80%), milk solids (about 1%), and water (16 to 18%).
To successfully make ghee, the process starts with simmering butter between 221 to 244°F to evaporate the water. The temperature is then elevated to above 266 °F so the lactose, casein and whey proteins experience the Maillard reaction.
Browning the milk solids adds wonderfully toasted flavors that become infused with the butter oil. To prevent burning of the milk solids, the butter should not reach its smoke point of 350°F. You can use an instant-read thermometer for more accuracy to check the temperatures.
Here is the step-by-step on how to make ghee:
STEP 1: Melt the Butter
Use a heavy-bottomed pan, dutch oven, or stainless steel skillet so that the milk solids do not rapidly burn. It’s best to cut the butter into smaller pieces so it melts evenly and the solids brown consistently. Apply medium heat to melt the butter, then reduce to medium-low to simmer.
STEP 2: Allow Solids to Separate and Remove
Once the butter has completely melted, it will bubble and begin to separate. As the butter simmers, some of the milk proteins rise and sit on the surface as it separates from the fat and water.
Use a spoon to skim the white solids on the surface and discard. This process takes time for the butter oil to turn clear, so continually remove the solids. At this point clarified butter is made. The remaining steps will give ghee a toasted nutty flavor.
STEP 3: Allow Remaining Solids to Sink
Once most of the milk solids have been removed from the surface of the butter, there will be some white solids lingering on the bottom. Leave those so that they can be additionally heated and deepen in color through the Maillard browning reaction, creating butterscotch-like flavors.
STEP 4: Brown the Butter Solids
Continue to simmer the butter over medium-low heat. Make sure not to take your eyes off the butter. It will quickly begin to change a golden color with amber brown solids formed at the bottom of the pan. When you see this change and smell toffee flavors, it’s time to turn off the heat and remove the pan from the stove.
STEP 5: Strain the Brown Butter Solids
Allow the ghee to cool slightly for about 3 to 5 minutes. Line a fine-mesh strainer with at least a triple layer of cheesecloth. Place the lined strainer over a heatproof container like a glass measuring cup. Carefully pour the butter oil through the sieve, the browned solids should get collected on the cheesecloth.
Done! – Homemade Ghee
Transfer the ghee to a clean and dry glass jar which can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 months, or refrigerated for 1 year. The butterfat will naturally solidify at room temperature and below, creating an oil that needs to be scooped out of the container.
Recipes to Make with Ghee
Now that you know how to make liquid gold, it’s time to make some recipes!
- Indian-Spiced Vegetable Cakes with Chickpeas
- Sweet Potato Hash with Eggs
- Chickpea Cauliflower Butternut Squash Curry
- Crispy Garlic Roasted Potatoes
- One Pan Morrocan Lemon Chicken
How to Make Ghee
- 1 pound (454 g) unsalted butter
- Cut butter into even pieces and place in a large heavy bottomed skillet or dutch oven.
- Turn heat to medium and allow butter to melt. Once melted simmer over medium-low heat.
- Gently simmer the butter until the solids float to the surface, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on the how hot the stovetop and pan used. Bubbling will also occur with the foaming.
- Meanwhile, use a slotted spoon to remove the white frothy milk solids from the surface of the melted butter and discard. This can be done as soon as you see the solids rising to the top.
- Once the surface solids are removed, only yellow butterfat and white milk solids that have sunk to the bottom will remain.
- Continue to simmer the clarified butter until milk solids on the bottom are light amber in color, and the butterfat becomes a deep golden yellow color. The ghee should smell nutty when done. Time will vary depending on your stove.
- Turn off heat and remove the pan from the stove to ensure that the browned milk solids do not burn.
- Allow the ghee to slightly cool for about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Set a fine-mesh strainer over a heat-proof bowl or cup. Line the strainer with a triple layer of cheesecloth that hangs over the edges of the strainer.
- Carefully pour the ghee through the lined strainer into the container. The browned milk solids should collect in the cheesecloth.
- Transfer the ghee to a clean glass jar with a lid.
- Ghee can be stored in an air tight container at room temperature for up to 3 months, or 1 year in the refrigerator.
- Recipe Yield: 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces)
- Serving Size: 1 tablespoon (30 g)
- If following the Whole30 diet, it is recommended to use a pastured, grass-fed, organic source of butter, however, that criteria are not mandatory.