This comprehensive Guide to Ghee is designed to give foodservice professionals the full 411 on ghee – the cooking fat which has been gaining traction in the food industry as a flavorful and more stable alternative to butter. While some are calling it ‘the new butter,’ ghee actually boasts a long history in both the culinary and medicinal worlds.It has been a staple in Indian, Pakistani, and Punjabi cuisine for millennium and a major component of Ayurveda, the over 6,000-year-old form of complementary medicine still widely practiced today.
So why is it that ghee is making a modern-day comeback (not unlike the resurgence of ancient grains on modern menus), to the extent that its global market value is expected to exceed 7 million tons by 2023? The answer to this question and many more will be revealed in this guide, including how ghee is both similar to and different than butter, how to make ghee, its nutritional profile, how to incorporate it into your customers’ favorite dishes, and why you should add ghee recipes to your restaurant menu.
How Ghee is Made
Ghee (the Hindi word for fat) is the 100% pure butterfat remaining after water and milk solids are removed from butter. It is made by melting butter, cooking off the impurities, and separating the resulting clear golden fat.
If this process sounds familiar to the chef inside of you, your culinary senses are right on. In almost every aspect, ghee resembles clarified butter. The difference lies in that ghee is cooked for longer, until all the moisture is evaporated and the milk solids begin to brown. Lending a slightly nutty and toasty flavor to the caramelized final product, the fact that ghee is devoid of water makes it highly spoil-proof. This is good news for foodservice operators, as its shelf life lasts approximately three months and it will keep in the fridge for up to one year.
Benefits of Ghee
What else do we know about ghee and the advantages it offers over other types of cooking oils? Here is what the experts tell us:
Ghee is both delicious and nutritious. It contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, butyric acids, and fatty acids that aid in digestion and help ward off inflammation. More specifically, it an excellent source of the fat-soluble vitamins A, E, and K, in addition to potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and selenium.
One of the greatest advantages of ghee is its exceptionally high smoke point, which makes it burn-resistant and the fat of choice for high-heat cooking, frying, and sautéing. Compared to butter, ghee has a smoke point of up to 485°F (252°C), while butter can withstand heat for only up to 350°F (177°C).
Since it is devoid of milk proteins and lactose, ghee is the perfect cooking fat for lactose-intolerant customers and for any consumers adhering to a dairy-free diet. These same properties make ghee Paleo-diet friendly and give it the stamp of approval for Whole30 diet followers.
In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, ghee continues to be prescribed to treat ulcers, digestive problems, and for its natural revitalizing properties.
How to Make Ghee from Scratch
To make ghee from scratch for your restaurant, catering service, or bakery, follow this simple recipe – so simple, in fact, that it requires only one ingredient: One pound of salted or unsalted butter. The process does, however, require an eagle eye, as follows:
- Place butter in a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat.
- Bring butter to a boil (2-3 minutes).
- As the butter melts, it will separate into three visible layers – a top foam which will soon disappear, a middle layer which will become your end product, and a bottom layer comprised of the mild solids that sink to the bottom of the pan.
- Once the middle layer turns golden and clear (7-8 minutes), remove from stove and skim off any top-layer foam.
- Carefully pour the middle layer through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth.
- Store ghee (at room temperature or in the fridge) in an airtight container or in a dry glass jar.
The Ghee vs. Butter Debate
Word on the street is that ghee might be a healthier alternative to butter for cooking. Here is what the experts have to say: While fats have been given a bad rap in the food-and-beverage industry, when consumed in moderation they pose no risk to your health; moreover, dietary fats are an integral part of a healthy diet.
Nutritionally, butter has long been considered healthier than margarine since it does not include trans fats and its associated high risk for clogged arteries, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. However, the nutritional profiles of butter and ghee are essentially identical! Other than ghee’s lack of lactose and higher smoke point, the fat and calorie differences between ghee and butter are negligible.
The bottom line? While real butter and ghee do not contain trans fats, they do contain significant levels of saturated fat and should be consumed in moderation. Given that fats are essential to a healthful diet, the American Heart Association recommends 5-6% or 13 grams of saturated fat in one’s total daily calories.
How to Cook and Bake With Ghee
Hungry for some ideas on how to include ghee in recipes and dishes? Simply use as a direct substitute for butter or oil in most recipes, including the following mouth-watering suggestions:
- Melt and spread on bread or toast for a tasty appetizer or snack
- Spread hardened (room-temperature) ghee over crackers and toast
- Add one tablespoon to milk or moon milk for a soothing before-bed beverage
- Drizzle melted over popcorn
- Drizzle melted over fresh steamed vegetables or corn on the cob
- Drizzle over vegetables prior to roasting for a caramelized texture and taste
- Enjoy on baked potatoes and in mashed potato recipes
- Use in any deep-frying recipe
- Add to cooking pans to prevent sticking (i.e. when making scrambled eggs)
- In true Indian cuisine tradition, fry and toast all your spices in ghee before adding them to appetizers, dishes, stews, curries, and soups. The infused fat will enhance the flavor significantly
- Have you heard of the recent trend to add butter to coffee and of its purported multiple health benefits? Now you can add ghee to your customers’ morning cup of coffee for a nutritious and delicious way to start their day
If you want your restaurants’ recipes to stand out from the pack, take a big bite of the following little-known fact: Instead of sufficing with plain ghee, you can add a variety of herbs and spices to infuse it with even more color, aroma, and taste.
Some chef-recommended flavored ghee varieties include: garlic ghee (made by adding 6-7 crushed or minced garlic cloves), cardamom ghee, rosemary-thyme ghee (made by adding 6 sprigs of each herb), ginger ghee (simply add two tablespoons of minced or ground fresh ginger), and mint-Jalapeño ghee, made by adding one large chopped jalapeño and ½ cup of mint leaves.
Creamy Potato Curry with Ghee
Now that you are fully in-the-know as to all things ghee, enjoy preparing this delish recipe for creamy potato curry.
- 6 medium peeled and diced potatoes
- 3 tbsp. ghee
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- 1/2 tsp. mustard seed
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper.
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup yogurt
- 2/3 cup frozen green peas
- Heat ghee in a skillet over medium heat
- Mix and add spices
- Add the potatoes to the skillet and coat evenly with the ghee mixture
- Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often
- Add water, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender
- Add yogurt and peas to the skillet, cooking until blended.