|June 1, 2023

Ghee vs Butter: What’s the Difference, and Which is Best?

By Bulletproof Staff
Reviewed by Emily Gonzalez, ND for Scientific Accuracy

Ghee vs Butter: What’s the Difference, and Which is Best?

  • Ghee is type of clarified butter commonly used in India as well as Pakistan.
  • Ghee has a higher smoke point than butter because the milk solids and water are removed. It is both shelf-stable and concentrated.
  • Ghee can replace butter in most recipes (including Bulletproof Coffee). It’s suitable for high-heat cooking, like roasting and stir-frying.
  • Ghee is lower in lactose than other products made from milk.

Grass-fed ghee vs butter — is one better than the other?

Ghee is a form of clarified butter that’s been commonly used in Indian and Southeast Asian cooking for thousands of years. It was originally created to be shelf-stable and to not spoil in hot climates. Ghee delivers similar nutrients as butter (with some additional benefits), in a semi-solid form that has a much higher smoke point. Unlike butter, ghee can be used in higher-heat cooking methods without damaging or burning it.

Read on to find out the differences between ghee and butter and why you might want to stock both in a Bulletproof kitchen.

What is ghee?

Ghee is a cooking fat, like butter or oil. It has a buttery, rich and nutty flavor. It’s made by melting butter, simmering to let the water evaporate and straining out the milk solids. In the West, the concentrate is cooked only until the milk solids settle to the bottom. Clarified butter isn’t as nutty or rich as ghee, which is cooked until those milk solids turn brown. Ghee is used in India and Pakistan, as well as in Ayurveda, the traditional health system of India. Often mixed with herbs and other botanicals, ghee used in Ayurvedic preparations is called ghrita[1].

The key difference between butter and ghee is that the latter has a higher smoke point, so it is suitable for roasting and high-heat cooking. Ghee is also shelf-stable, making it a helpful pantry staple.

What is the nutritional value of ghee?

One tablespoon of Bulletproof Grass-Fed Ghee contains:

  • Calories: 123
  • Total fat: 13.9 grams
  • Saturated fat: 8.7 grams
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.5 grams
  • Monounsaturated fat: 4 grams
  • Total carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Calcium: 0.6 mg

One tablespoon of butter contains[2]:

  • Calories: 104
  • Total fat: 11.5 grams
  • Saturated fat: 6.4 grams
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.4 grams
  • Monounsaturated fat: 2.4 grams
  • Total carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Calcium: 3 mg

The nutrition is similar, but ghee is slightly more calorically dense than butter because it has had the water and milk solids removed. The fat is mostly what remains. Ghee is made by heating butter, which separates liquid butterfat from milk solids. Then the milk solids are removed. That is why ghee has less lactose than butter does[3].

Some individuals who experience mild lactose intolerance can consume ghee without the same side effects as butter. However, ghee is not suitable for anyone who has a milk allergy.

Research has found, in comparison to vegetable oils, ghee and other animal fats produce less acrylamide when cooked at high temperatures[4]. Acrylamide can form in some foods during high heat cooking methods, including roasting and frying. In some animal studies, high doses of this compound caused cancer in animals, but more research is needed.

Both butter and ghee do contain small amounts of important fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin A and other carotenoids. However, neither one contains enough of these nutrients to yield therapeutic or supportive amounts.

Butter contains butyrate, a fatty acid that helps maintain your gut lining and metabolism[5]. Ghee doesn’t provide much. To optimize your butyrate consumption, eat more foods with?resistant starch, or use both butter in addition to ghee in your kitchen.

How to cook with ghee

  • In place of oils in high-heat cooking and baking
  • On popcorn or steamed vegetables
  • Instead of butter in any of your favorite recipes
  • Make Bulletproof Coffee with ghee — it’s delicious!

Smoke point determines how much fat or oil can be heated before it oxidizes and breaks down[6]. Butter smokes at 350°F because the casein and lactose start to burn. With those components removed, ghee is one of the most stable cooking fats. You can heat it up to 485°F, making it ideal for pan-frying or baking. It’s more versatile than other cooking fats like butter, coconut oil, MCT oil or olive oil.

Ghee has a nutty flavor that’s richer than butter. It holds up well to strong spices, which is one reason it’s a staple in Indian and Pakistani cooking. Like other fats, ghee helps extract fat-soluble flavors and nutrients out of spices during the cooking process. It’s ideal for curries, sauces and slow-cooked or simmered dishes. It’s also great drizzled over vegetables or popcorn with sea salt. Use ghee instead of butter in those dishes and more.

How do you make ghee?

Ghee is easy to make at home. You only need butter, a spoon, a heavy-bottomed pan and a strainer or cheesecloth, plus a jar with a lid to store it. Ghee is shelf-stable, so you can store it in the pantry. However, ghee is a dairy product, so it is not safe to can for long-term storage[7]. Use it within a few weeks, and discard your ghee if it tastes, smells or looks bad.

Here is the basic process:

  • Place the butter in a pan and turn heat to medium-low.
  • Once melted, skim off and discard the whey that floats to the top.
  • Continue cooking over medium-low heat until the milk fats settle on the bottom and turn brown.
  • Let cool slightly, then strain to remove the browned milk solids.
  • Store in a very clean jar at room temperature.

You can also infuse ghee with different herbs and spices, based on your preferences. Add them at the beginning of the cooking process, but strain and discard them before you store your ghee.

Ghee vs butter: What’s the final verdict?

Ghee contains many of the same nutrients that butter does, but it contains less casein and lactose. Ghee is more useful for cooking because you can heat it to such high temperatures. Grass Fed Ghee tastes amazing and complements everything from roasted vegetables to Bulletproof Coffee.

If you like the flavor of ghee, keep a jar in your pantry or make a batch for yourself.

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This is an updated version of an article originally published August 2016.