Ghee…what is this healthy fat that’s becoming so popular in the Paleo & real food world?
Essentially, ghee is a type of clarified butter that’s been cooked a bit longer to give it a nutty flavor. It’s got some fantastic properties that make it both healthy and good to cook with.
But first, let’s settle something: Ghee, derived from butter, is technically a dairy product. Yep. There it is. Dairy. Even if you’re a very strict Paleo-eater, don’t click away just yet. There are some reasons why ghee is a superior fat and one of the least problematic dairy products out there. Put simply, ghee is pure fat.
How is Ghee Made?
Ghee (rhymes with “me”) is made by heating butter slowly until all the water cooks off and the proteins coagulate in the bottom of the pan. The ghee is poured off and strained, solidifying once it has cooled. Ghee is cooked longer than traditional clarified butter which gives it a nutty, butterscotchy aroma. Basically, ghee smells like victory. If you’ve ever caught yourself just smelling the ghee jar for no reason, you’re not alone. Ahem.
It’s easy to find ghee is most large markets and health food stores, and if you’re feeling crafty, you can also make your own. When it comes to purchasing or making your own ghee, make sure the butter is from grass-fed, organic cows: If the butter is white or very pale yellow, it’s probably not high-quality. The fat produced from grass-fed cows is superior for a few reasons which are mentioned in the next section.
To see my favorite brand of ghee, click here.
But, Isn’t It Still Dairy?
Technically. But. BUT.
The reason why dairy is not part of a rigid Paleo template is because it can cause inflammation, sensitivities and intolerances. (Milk is a complex brew of proteins, carbohydrates and fat of which folks are generally sensitive to either the proteins or the carbohydrates, not the fat.)
Ghee is pure butter fat without the components that can make dairy problematic for many people. Note: If you’re really dairy sensitive, trace amounts of these proteins—such as casein—may remain and cause issues, but for most folks, it doesn’t.
So what’s so special about this delicious, golden butterfat? Cows that feed on grass produce butterfat with more conjugated linoleic acid (a fatty acid), vitamin K2, beta carotene (which is why it’s so vibrant yellow), vitamin A and a better Omega-3 fatty acid ratio than those fed on grain. Try to go with ghee made from grass-fed butter when you can.
And, butterfat is high in saturated fatty acids. In other words, it’s a healthy fat. Need to know more about saturated vs. unsaturated fats? Read here.
3 Reasons Why Ghee is a Star In My Kitchen
Besides the aforementioned, when it comes to cooking, ghee is my favorite fat to use in the kitchen for these reasons:
- It has a really high smoke point: 485°F (252°C), far higher than coconut oil, olive oil, lard, butter, etc. This makes it ideal for high temperature cooking.
- It’s incredibly shelf-stable. Ghee will last for months without refrigeration, though it’s recommended that you store it away from direct light and heat and only use clean, dry utensils to remove it from its jar. Keep it tightly covered when not in use.
- It has a rich depth of flavor and adds a complexity to many foods that can’t be achieved with other oils or fats. Plus, I know a lot of folks don’t like the taste of coconut oil so ghee is a great alternative.