If you’ve been trying to make healthier choices in your diet, you’ve probably already heard of ghee. Ghee is basically a clarified version of butter, as it has lower dairy content.
What this means is that the butter has been strained to remove the excess water, so you’re left with a low-fat product with a high smoke point and a nutty taste. However, if you don’t have any lying around, you may need a ghee alternative.
Depending on your recipe, you may need different flavors, and smoke points. We’ve tried to cover all of these factors, so take a look!
The best substitutes for ghee
Ghee is highly-clarified butter, and the purpose of this process is to make a butter-like product with fewer dairy proteins. Since ghee is practically melted butter, it is also made of cow’s milk.
In order to get ghee, butter must be melted and heated for longer than other butter types, and this kind of processing gives it a distinct nutty flavor and a darker color. Ghee also has a higher smoke point than other types of butter, so you can use it for deep frying or sautéing.
When butter is melted, it is actually separated into milk solids and liquid fats, which allows for the milk solids to be removed. This basically means that ghee has less lactose than other types of butter, which makes it a pure source of fat ideal for high-fat diets such as keto.
Most of the clarified butter types have uncooked milk solids, which leaves a sweet, clean, rather neutral flavor. Ghee, on the other hand, gets its nutty aroma and slightly caramelized flavor from the process of browning, which also makes it very shelf-stable.
Ghee is a very common ingredient in Asian cuisine, and it is used both as a cooking oil and an ingredient in various dishes. However, it has applications in Ayurveda as well, where it’s used for massages. In fact, ghee has been a prominent factor in Ayurveda for centuries.
Being that the excess water has been removed, ghee offers shelf stability, and with the casein and lactose being removed, it is suitable for people with dairy sensitivity. It doesn’t have to be refrigerated, so you can safely store it in your pantry.
Ghee is a great choice for high-heat cooking, and you don’t have to worry about it burning when you’re frying your food. Besides being used as a cooking medium, it is also a great finishing oil since it has a deep, nutty, grassy flavor.
But what is the best way to replace it? If you don’t have any ghee at the moment, a good ghee substitute can save the day.
1. Homemade ghee
Making ghee from scratch may sound a bit intimidating, but it is actually much easier than you may think. You’ll get the best results if you’re using quality butter, so make sure you choose organic, unsalted, grass-fed butter.
For 2 cups of delicious ghee, you’ll need 1 lb of organic butter of your choice. You’ll want to slice the butter into cubes and cook it over low heat. Let the butter melt and bring it to a simmer, until foam forms.
You want to remove the foam by using a spoon, and this process may have to be repeated a couple of times. Continue cooking the mixture for about 25 minutes, until the middle layer is translucent.
At the bottom of the pan, you should be able to notice the remains of milk solids, and by now your ghee should fill up the kitchen with a fragrant smell. Let the ghee cool for a bit, and then strain it using a nut milk bag, coffee filter, or cheesecloth.
You can substitute ghee for butter if you don’t mind the lactose, you’re not intolerant, and you actually prefer the sweetness and neutrality the milk content provides.
When you think about it, ghee is just melted butter with a lower dairy content, so the difference in flavor isn’t that big. However, keep in mind that most of the butter varieties don’t offer that caramelized, nutty flavor ghee has.
Also, butter doesn’t have that high of a smoke point, so it isn’t suitable for high-heat cooking such as frying. It is, however, one of the go-to choices for a finishing touch to any dish, as it can transform any dish into creamy, rich goodness.
3. Olive oil
Olive oil is one of the healthiest cooking oils, and a cooking medium meant for low-heat cooking. Therefore, if you need a replacement for ghee that doesn’t necessarily have its high-heat cooking capability, you’re in the right place.
Another difference between olive oil and ghee is that the latter is usually sold as a solid product, whereas olive oil is liquid. Other than that, they’re rather interchangeable, especially as finishing oils, and they both have very rich nutritional profiles.
Olive oil may be a better choice than ghee if you appreciate a more neutral flavor. Depending on the brand, olive oil may have a completely neutral flavor or a bit more olive aroma, but it is generally quite mild.
4. Coconut oil
When it comes to texture, oil from coconut and ghee are quite similar, as coconut oil is also initially solid, but it is easily melted. Since it replaces ghee in a one-to-one ratio, it can also be a good substitute for ghee in baking.
However, virgin coconut oil, just like olive oil, has a low smoke point, so you don’t want to use it for frying. Refined versions, on the other hand, have a somewhat higher smoke point, but they’re not as beneficial for your health.
Besides being used in desserts, smoothies, marinades, and dips to add creaminess, this alternative to ghee can be used as a butter alternative to grease the pan, and as a low-heat cooking medium in general.
5. Canola oil
This substitute for ghee comes from the seeds of the rape plant (Latin for turnip), hence the name rapeseed oil used in Europe. It is a rather convenient option since it can be used both for high and low-heat cooking, just like ghee.
Canola oil is great for deep frying but you can also use it as griddle oil for pancakes and eggs. It also works amazingly in baked goods, including all kinds of cakes, cookies, and muffins. You can simply use it to grease up the pan or drizzle it over salads and dishes.
6. Sesame oil
Sesame oil is incredibly popular in Asian cooking, and it is essentially a cooking oil extracted from sesame seeds. Depending on whether it is made from plain or toasted sesame seeds, it has different flavors, and therefore – different applications in the kitchen.
Light sesame oil made from plain sesame seeds is typically a cooking medium since it is quite neutral and mild. Toasted sesame oil, on the other hand, has a nuttier, richer flavor, and it is often used as a condiment or flavoring in sauces, dips, and soups.
You’ll notice that toasted sesame oil is generally black, while light sesame oil has more of a reddish-brown hue. Both versions are amazing as finishing oils, but toasted sesame oil has a richer, toasty taste.
7. Soybean oil
Soybean oil is a rather common cooking medium, and one of the most widely used vegetable oils. It is quite affordable, and it has a high smoke point which makes it extremely versatile.
You can use it pretty much for all cooking techniques, including frying, stir-frying, deep-frying, and sautéing. Soybean oil is also a great choice for baking since it is quite neutral and it combines well with other ingredients.
It is also a pretty good emulsifying agent, which isn’t the case with the majority of other oils. It is also often fully hydrogenated form which prolongs its shelf life.
8. Sunflower oil
Sunflower oil comes from sunflower seeds, and it is available in both refined and virgin forms. Refined, on one hand, is quite versatile, affordable, neutral, and it has a high smoke point which adds to its versatility.
Virgin sunflower oil, on the other hand, has a stronger, nutty, buttery flavor that you can never get from the refined version. However, it is hard to find, definitely more expensive, but ideal for low-heat applications, as a finishing oil, or as an addition to vinaigrettes and dressings.
The refined version you will probably come across in every single grocery shop has a rather high smoke point (440 to 475°F), so it is ideal for high-heat cooking like frying and sautéing.
9. Clarified butter
We’ve already defined ghee as a version of clarified butter, but there is a difference between ghee and regular clarified butter. While ghee will solidify at a certain temperature, this won’t happen with clarified butter.
Also, clarified butter is usually cooked just to the point where the milk solids separate from the fat and the water evaporates. Ghee, on the other hand, entails a longer cooking period which allows for the mixture to caramelize and get a richer, deeper aroma and flavor.
Other than the deepness of the flavor and the color, clarified butter and ghee are pretty much interchangeable in the majority of recipes.
10. Grapeseed oil
Grapeseed oil is the choice of many when it comes to cooking since it has a neutral, clean flavor that won’t clash with other ingredients and flavors. It is a beautiful finishing oil often used in vinaigrettes, salad dressings, or simply drizzled over dishes.
However, this ghee replacement also has a high smoke point, which means you can safely use it for frying, sautéing, and baking. Also, it is quite affordable, as opposed to some other cooking mediums that offer the same level of versatility.
11. Avocado oil
Avocado oil is one of the healthiest oils you can use in your diet since it comes directly from pressed avocados. This ghee substitute is packed with healthy fats, and it has a fresh yet buttery flavor.
If you’re a fan of avocado you’ll certainly gravitate towards avocado oil for marinades, sauces, soups, dressings, and vinaigrettes. It also has an extremely high smoke point (up to 500°F), so you can safely use it for all cooking methods.
How to choose a ghee substitute
With so many great ghee alternatives, it may be hard to make up your mind and pick just one. However, since each of these options offers a different flavor, aroma, and smoke point, you can just choose the one that is the closest to what you were looking for in ghee.
When it comes to low-smoke points and products that are typically used for low-heat cooking and as finishing oils, you can go with butter, olive oil, coconut oil, or sesame oil. Also, keep in mind that most of these options are quite neutral, with the exception of sesame oil.
On the other hand, options ideal for deep-frying and other high-heat cooking methods include homemade ghee, canola oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, clarified butter, grapeseed oil, and avocado oil.