Ghee is a class of clarified butter that originated from the Indian subcontinent; and is mainly used in South Asian Middle Eastern cuisines. Other uses include traditional medicine, and religious rituals.
Ghee is prepared by simmering butter, which is churned from cream (traditionally made by churning yogurt), skimming any impurities from the surface, and then pouring and retaining the clear, still liquid fat, while discarding the solid residue that settled on the bottom. Spices can be added for flavor. The texture, color, and taste of ghee depend on the quality of the butter, source of the milk used in the process and the duration of the boiling.
Traditionally, ghee (Sanskrit: गोघृत, go-ghṛta) is always made from the milk of cows, which are considered sacred, and it is a sacred requirement in Vedic yajña and homa (fire sacrifices), through the medium of Agni (fire) to offer oblations to various deities. (See Yajurveda).
Fire sacrifices have been performed dating back over 5,000 years. They are thought to be auspicious for ceremonies such as marriage, funerals, etc. Ghee is also necessary in Vedic worship of mūrtis (divine deities), with aarti (offering of ghee lamp) called diyā or dīpa and for Pañcāmṛta (Panchamruta) where ghee along with mishri (mishri is different from sugar), honey, milk, and dahī (curd) is used for bathing the deities on the appearance day of Krishna on Janmashtami, Śiva (Shiva) on Mahā-śivarātrī (Maha Shivaratri). There is a hymn to ghee.
In the Mahabharata, the kaurava were born from pots of ghee. Finding ghee pure enough to use for sacred purposes is a problem these days for devout Hindus, since many large-scale producers add salt to their product. Ghee is also used in bhang in order to heat the cannabis to cause decarboxylation, making the drink psychoactive.
Ghee is common in cuisines from the Indian subcontinent, including traditional rice preparations (such as biryani). In Rajasthan, ghee often accompanies baati. All over north India, ghee tops roti. In Tamil Nadu, ghee tops pongal, dosa, and kesari bhath. In Bengal (both West Bengal and Bangladesh) and Gujarat, khichdi is a traditional evening meal of rice with lentils, cooked in curry made from yogurt, cumin seeds, curry leaves, cornflour, turmeric, garlic, salt and ghee. It is also an ingredient in kadhi and Indian sweets, such as Mysore pak and varieties of halva and laddu. Pakistani and Punjabi restaurants typically incorporate large amounts of ghee, sometimes brushing naan and roti with it, either during preparation or just before serving. Ghee is widely used in South Indian cuisine for tempering curries, in preparation of rice dishes and sweets. South Indians have a habit of adding ghee to their rice before eating it with pickles and curries. South Indians are one of the biggest consumers of ghee. The people from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh especially use ghee for preparation of savoury and sweet dishes alike. Ghee is important to traditional Punjabi cuisine, with parathas, daals and curries often using ghee instead of oil for a richer taste. The type of ghee, in terms of animal source, tends to vary with the dish; for example, ghee prepared from cow's milk (Bengali: গাওয়া ঘী, gaoa ghi) is traditional with rice or roti or as a finishing drizzle atop a curry or daal (lentils) whereas buffalo-milk ghee is more typical for general cooking purposes.
Ghee is an ideal fat for deep frying because its smoke point (where its molecules begin to break down) is 250 °C (482 °F), which is well above typical cooking temperatures of around 200 °C (392 °F) and above that of most vegetable oils.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Vitamin A||3069 IU|
Fat percentage can vary.
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Ghee differs slightly in its production. The process of creating traditional clarified butter is complete once the water is evaporated and the fat (clarified butter) is separated from the milk solids. However, the production of ghee includes simmering the butter, which makes it nutty-tasting and aromatic.
A traditional Ayurvedic recipe for ghee is to boil raw milk, let it cool to 110 °F (43 °C). After letting it sit covered at room temperature for around 12 hours, add a bit of yogurt to it and let it sit overnight. This makes more yogurt. This is churned with water, to obtain cultured butter, which is used to simmer into ghee.
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Ayurveda considers pure unadulterated ghee to be sāttvik or sattva-guṇi (in the "mode of goodness"), when used as food. It is the main ingredient in some of the Ayurvedic medicines, and is included under catuh mahā sneha (the four main oils: ghṛta, taila, vasā, and majjā) along with sesame oil, muscle fat, and bone marrow. Ghee is used preferentially for diseases caused by Pitta Dosha. Many Ayurvedic formulations contain ghee, for example, Brāhmi ghṛta, Indukānta ghṛta, Phala ghṛta, etc. Though eight types of ghee are mentioned in Ayurvedic classics, ghee made of human breast milk and cow's ghee are favored. Ghee is also used in Ayurvedas for constipation and ulcers.
|Fats & fatty acids||Amounts per 100 g of ghee|
|Total fat||99.5 g|
|Saturated fat||61.9 g|
|Monounsaturated fat||28.7 g|
|Polyunsaturated fat||3.7 g|
|Trans fats||4 g|
|Omega-3 fatty acids||1.447 mg|
|Omega-6 fatty acids||2.247 mg|
|Omega-9 fatty acids||25.026 mg|
|Other non-fat nutrients||Amounts per 100 g of ghee|
|Cholesterol||256 mg (85%DV)|
|Vitamin A||3069 IU (61% DV)|
|Vitamin B, C, D||0|
|Vitamin E||2.8 mg (14% DV)|
|Vitamin K||8.6 µg (11% DV)|
Like any clarified butter, ghee is composed almost entirely of fat, 62% of which consists of saturated fats. Ghee is also sometimes called desi (country-made) ghee or asli (genuine) ghee to distinguish it from "vegetable ghee".
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Several communities outside the Indian subcontinent make ghee. Egyptians make a product called samna baladi, meaning "countryside butter" identical to ghee in terms of process and result, but made from water buffalo milk instead of cow milk, and white in color. Also, during the process, the darkened milk solids are considered a delicacy called morta which is a salty condiment used sparingly as a spread, or as an addition on fava dishes. Regular samna is also made from cow milk in Egypt and is often yellowish.
Ghee is also used by various ethnic groups in the Horn of Africa. Tesmi (in Tigrinya language) is the clarified butter prepared in the country of Eritrea. The preparation is similar to that of ghee but the butter is oftentimes combined with garlic and other spices found native to the area. In Ethiopia, niter kibbeh is used in much the same way as ghee, but with spices added during the process that result in distinctive tastes. In North Africa, Maghrebis take this one step further, aging spiced ghee for months or even years, resulting in a product called smen.
In Switzerland as well as bordering areas, butter was rendered in the old days to preserve the product for several months without refrigeration. "Boiled butter", as it is commonly called, is used extensively to finish a typical dish of rösti, the Swiss version of hash browns. It gives the dish a distinct flavor in baking of various pastor use in baked goods as a substitute for fresh butter to enhance flavor.
The market size of ghee in India is 10,000 crores 11) or 1.5 Billion USD as of 2016. India is the world’s largest producer of buffalo and cow milk and consequently also the largest producer and consumer of ghee.