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The Difference Between Butter and Ghee

If you're not cooking with this Indian staple, you don't know what you're missing
What's the Difference Between Butter & Ghee?
Photo: Tasting Table

If you're dabbling in cooking South Asian cuisine, it's likely you'll come across the ingredient ghee. A quick Google search will tell you it's similar to butter, but the two ingredients are actually very different.

Ghee is butter minus the milk solids and water.

During the cooking process, milk proteins and water are removed, resulting in a butter-like spread made of almost 100 percent pure butterfat. So is ghee the same as clarified butter? you ask. All ghee is considered clarified butter, but not all clarified butter is considered ghee, since ghee simmers longer and as a result turns the milk solids brown.

Traditionally used in Indian cooking, both ghee and clarified butter have a higher smoking point than regular butter, meaning they're great for searing proteins and sautéing vegetables. Clarified butter is also the secret ingredient in French hollandaise sauce.

Ghee and clarified butter are available at most grocery stores, but they're also easy to make at home: Melt unsalted butter in a saucepan over low heat; as the butter cooks, it will start to bubble and the white milk proteins will float to the surface and then eventually sink to the bottom of the pan. Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth, leaving as many solids in the bottom of the pan as possible. Ghee is made by turning up the heat a second time before straining it to turn the milk solids brown, which results in a golden color and subtle nutty aroma and flavor. Clarified butter can be stored in the refrigerator for a few months; ghee can be kept in a cool, dry place for a couple of months.

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