Ghee: Part Four – Cooking with Ghee

Welcome to “How to Make Ghee and Cook with It,” the 4th blog in my Ghee Blog Series.

When I came to the U.S. from India eons ago, I did not have access to ghee, which was a common pantry ingredient in every home. Ghee was part of my life in India, everything from cooking to rituals in the temples to festivals and events. Lighting a lamp with ghee is thought to bring protection and positive energy and honor the divine. This was part of my daily routine growing up. I would light the lamp, diya, in the morning before I left for school or any other activity.

However, I took ghee for granted because it was such an integral part of my life that was woven into every aspect. When my mom would put it on my chapati and pour it in my rice, I would cringe because I didn’t realize the value of it at the time. But when I moved to the U.S. and had to do without it for years and years because it was not readily available to buy in stores, I started to miss it because of its rich flavor and texture. I remembered the taste, the feel, and the smell of ghee, and how it enhanced the flavors of any dish. Fortunately, today ghee is so easy to find on grocery store shelves, but I make it at home because I love the way I feel while I make ghee. For me, it is a meditative and calming process. It brings back wonderful memories of my youth.

I use ghee often in my cooking. It has a very high smoke point and can be used to cook foods at much higher temperatures than butter, without burning. For example, eggs turn brown when cooked with butter because the milk solids in the butter burn easily. Also, ghee can be used as a substitute for olive oil, which does not have a very high smoke point. In addition, if you are tempering spices, which is cooking whole spices quickly on high heat in hot oil, ghee is ideal to use.

When you make your own ghee, it is so much better and much more affordable than buying it at the grocery store. You can also add your own spices and flavors to the ghee to customize your dishes. Fresh herbs should be cooked or dried before adding to the ghee. Below are the instructions for making your own at home!

Recipe for Ghee

The recipe below calls for one pound of butter, which makes 1 1/2 cups of ghee. But if you use more butter, note that it will take longer than 15 to 20 minutes to cook. Make sure your butter is at room temperature before making ghee.

Ingredients: 1 pound unsalted butter at room temperature

Time: 15–20 minutes

Melt the butter in a stainless-steel pot with a heavy bottom or a Dutch oven. Bring it to a boil over medium heat—do not cover. As it melts, the butter will separate into three layers. Do not stir. A clear foam will form on top, a golden liquid will float in the middle, and the milk solids will settle at the bottom.

Simmer the butter, which will produce a symphony of spluttering sounds and a nice aroma. As it cooks, white curds will appear on the surface, and the liquid will become cloudy. Reduce the temperature to medium-low and simmer again. Watch carefully to make sure the butter does not burn. Listen to the sound of the bubbles; it is meditative and mesmerizing. After 10 to 15 minutes, the foamy white bubbles will dissipate into clear bubbles at the edge of the pan as the moisture evaporates. This means ghee is close to being done. At this time, you can use a clean, dry spoon to skim away the foam, revealing the clarified golden liquid, which is ghee.

Remove the pot from the stove and let cool to room temperature, allowing the solids to settle at the bottom. Then, carefully—leaving the solids undisturbed—strain the golden liquid through a cheesecloth and into a clean, dry glass jar. To avoid moisture buildup, make sure the liquid is completely cool before putting the lid on the jar. Store at room temperature for up to 1 to 2 months, or in the refrigerator indefinitely.

Read more about cooking with ghee as well as recipes using ghee in my cookbook Turmeric & Spice. The book also has a section on tempering spices with ghee. In addition, I have a line of Ayurvedic spice blends which pair well with cooking with ghee. Once you start cooking with ghee, you will discover the value it provides in so many different ways beyond your imagination. Get creative, and enjoy this healthy fat!