To some it’s known as clarified butter, to others the golden elixir of healing—ghee is a staple ingredient in Indian cooking and Ayurvedic healing known for its versatility, great taste, and many health benefits. It’s derived from butter through a process of cooking off the milk solids until it becomes an easier to digest, healthier alternative to butter and oil that can be used for cooking or as an ingredient to add flavour and richness to foods.

Cooking benefits

  • Excellent cooking oil – Since ghee doesn’t start smoking until it’s heated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, it will neither burn nor splatter easily. Its chemical structure also remains more stable than other oils when heated.
  • Stores well – Due to its low moisture content, ghee can go weeks without refrigeration. It can last up to six months in the fridge or one year in the freezer, according to the Ayurvedic Institute. The key to ghee longevity: store it somewhere cool, keep it covered, and make sure it doesn’t get contaminated by other liquids—don’t double dip!
  • Flavourful – Thanks to its strong flavour, not much ghee needs to be added to a dish to make it sing.

Health benefits

  • Easy digestibility – The process of cooking off milk solids from butter burns off lactose and cholesterol, says Holistic Chef Shani Cranston of hOMe Grown Living Foods, making it easier to digest than butter or vegetable oils.
  • Anti-inflammatory. According to the Sushruta Samhita, a text of the ancient Indian healing system of Ayurveda, ghee is the best anti-inflammatory food.
  • Whole body healing. Ayurvedic practitioners use the golden elixir for everything from rejuvenating skin to aiding digestion to balancing hormones.
  • Flexibility. Dr. Vasant Lad, founder and director of the Ayurvedic Institute, explains ghee’s popularity among yogis by stating that it lubricates connective tissues and makes the body more flexible.
  • Enhances your essence. As reported by Paul Pitchford in Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, ghee boosts ojas (Sanskrit: vigour), the underlying essence of body issues, leading to an increased immune system and greater longevity.
  • Increases agni. In Ayurveda, proper digestion revolves around agni, the body’s digestive fire. Consuming ghee boosts one’s agni, leading to better digestion and faster metabolism.

Butter’s yummy richness adds to many a dish, yet its perceived unhealthiness prevents people from using it. Though it still has a high fat content, ghee’s many health benefits make it a fine alternative to butter or oil that you can make yourself.

[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]

Ghee recipe

Ingredients:

Makes approximately 850ml in liquid form

  • 1 kg unsalted white butter
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A pinch of cooking salt

Preparation:

  • Heat a deep, heavy-bottomed vessel on a medium flame and put the butter and bay leaves in it. Simmer and allow to melt and then cook.
  • When a froth/ scum appears on the surface of the butter, spoon it off and dispose of it. Keep cooking until all the scum has risen and been removed.
  • Allow to cool, remove the bay leaves and strain/ filter the ghee—it will look pale golden in colour.
  • Add a pinch of salt and mix well. This gives the ghee a lovely grainy texture when solidified.
  • Store unrefrigerated for 4-6 months or refrigerated for even longer.
image: Susy Morris (Creative Commons BY-NC)