Ghee: How to Make and Use This Ritual Food
If you haven’t tried ghee, you’re missing out. Not only is it extremely satisfying, but it has many health benefits. Our chefs often cook with it at our yoga retreats. Yoga’s sister science Ayurveda uses ghee in recipes, therapeutically, and as an element in rituals.
What is Ghee?
Ghee is clarified butter, though when made traditionally—according to the Vedas (Vedic texts)—it starts out as milk. Then the boiling, churning and clarifying process is completed on the full or waxing moon. This is a ritual in itself to help the maker practice union with nature and bring this energy into the ghee.
Cows are revered in Hindu culture, and milk from the cow is no exception. Ghee is the most concentrated product the milk can become, making it a sort of essence of milk.
When prepared according to the Vedas, the ghee produced is known as desi cow ghee. Desi loosely translates to pure from Sanskrit, although homeland or country are also equally appropriate translations. You might say the word desi captures the essence of what the english language can’t.
Ghee vs. Butter
Ghee can be used like butter in most ways like baking or adding to coffee, but it tastes more strongly of butter and is generally not good for spreading on toast. But hey, I wouldn’t judge you if you enjoyed that.
The clarifying process gets rid of essentially all milk fat, so it can usually be enjoyed by those with a lactose intolerance without any issue. Check with your trusted health professional if you have any concerns about eating ghee.
For vegetarians, ghee can be a great way to maintain a clean diet but still enjoy the benefits of good fat. Ghee is also a great option for the paleo and keto diet. It contains fat soluble vitamins, contains short-chain fatty acids that are good for gut health, and may help reduce inflammation.
The best part is, you can easily make it at home.
What You Need to Make Ghee
You’ll just need a few basic kitchen utensils to make ghee.
A heavy-bottomed saucepan
Cheesecloth or cloth food straining bag
A large metal or glass bowl
Glass storage container with lid
Mason jars are perfect for storing your ghee. One 16 ounce jar is usually perfect for a small batch starting with 2 cups of butter.
The only ingredient you’ll need is unsalted grass fed butter.
You can be as selective as you’d like in sourcing your butter. Kerrygold yields great results, but cultured and farm fresh butter can be wonderful as well. The amount of butter is also up to you, but start with at least one cup or you’ll be disappointed.
Ghee is clarified butter, but not all clarified butter is ghee. You could technically make clarified butter from lower quality butter that isn’t grass fed, but consider that you’re going to be eating the most concentrated version of what has come out of the animal.
Your Ghee Ritual
There are some optional accoutrements when it comes to making ghee. The simplest is setting aside a quiet time to make it, such as in the morning or evening. You could also chant a mantra or play some peaceful music. A calm, nurturing environment is ideal for making ghee.
Letting the full moon to be your reminder to make ghee is a great way to bring a little more ritual into your life. This is a great time to journal, meditate, and reflect on your intentions.
How to Make Ghee
Once you’ve got your good vibrations in the air and a clean pot on the stove, you’re ready to make your ghee.
Heat the saucepan over medium heat
Add the butter—no need to wait for a hot pan
Once the butter melts, you may need to turn the temperature down a bit. This depends on how hot your stovetop gets.
Bring the butter to a simmer. Don’t let it get too hot or you’ll have bubbling explosions of hot molten butter all over the place.
Chant your mantras, say your prayers or just sip a beautiful cup of herbal tea. Reflect on your intentions.
Once the golden liquid simmering starts to subside, the process is nearly complete. Don’t go anywhere or it can burn and it will taste off. At this time you can prepare your jar by setting it in a bowl—I recommend this in case the glass breaks—and draping the cheesecloth over the jar. Push it in slightly so the liquid has a clear direction to spread to.
Somewhat like popcorn, when there’s time between pops, it’s time to remove it from the heat.
Do what you feel most comfortable with here to avoid splashing and pour or ladle it into the jar. If you’ve made a large batch, you might do a little of both. Personally, I make my husband pour it while I monitor the jar and cheesecloth.
Carefully remove the cloth and let the jar cool. The glass will be very hot, so try not to disturb it.
Once cooled, you can put the lid on. Don’t store it in the fridge. Room temperature is perfect, and a cool, dark cupboard is ideal.
Some recipes recommend skimming the ghee as foam develops on the surface, but in my experience, this seems to be unnecessary since it gets filtered out by the cheesecloth.
Generally you want to avoid putting anything in the ghee while it’s simmering, such as a spoon. There’s no real need to stir your ghee, but you could gently stir it while chanting your mantras to infuse the ghee with your intention.
The amount of time it takes for the ghee to be finished depends on the milk fat percentage of the butter. This can vary depending on the season and other variables. This is a reminder that it really is an essence of the cow it came from!
You can assume that the larger your batch of ghee, the longer it will take to be ready.
If your glass breaks, you could strain it if you want to save it, but only do this if your cheesecloth or straining bag is very fine.
If you’re a visual learner, here’s a great video that walks you through the process.
How to Use Ghee
Once you have ghee in your kitchen arsenal, it can be used as a 1:1 replacement for butter in baking and cooking. You should also try a teaspoon on oatmeal or kitchari (link). Since the milk fat has been removed, it’s also great for high heat cooking because it won’t burn. Use it just like you would any high heat oil.
Aside from culinary uses, ghee can replace many things in your home as a more natural solution.
Everyday uses for ghee include
Lamp or candle oil
Massage oil, especially for (oil ritual)
Hair conditioning treatment (rinse after using)
Oil pulling (when warmed)
Let Ghee Ground You
Having ghee preparation in your routine is an opportunity to take time for the things that really matter. Spending a little bit of time to be involved in the creation of this nourishing ingredient will help you feel empowered to heal yourself.
How do you like to harness the powers of ghee? Tell us in the comments below!