Mar 9, 2014

Ghee: Very Good Dairy

Baby Black Widows Ghee header image

Have you been keeping up to date with your ever-vigilant Facebook Food Crusader Friends' posts on what you're supposed to feel bad for eating this month? I know I have! As you may remember from BABY BLACK WIDOWS' post on health myths, I don't mind doing the research and/or self-experimentation required to call "BS" on a new fad. [I even tried oil pulling for a month. No, that's not what oil pulling is, pervert. Look it up so we can make jokes about it in the comments below.] The opposite of that statement also holds true, though!

It's surprising more people don't know about ghee, considering A) much like oil pulling, it has deep roots in Ayurveda, for which New Agers have a colossal boner, and B) the evils of milk, cheese and other dairy products are topics of daily conversation. [To be fair, I did tell you a little about this in my article on Bulletproof Coffee.] Obviously, due to Ayurvedic involvement, ghee is presented as nothing short of a miraculous cure-all for skin, digestion, allergies, soul, etc.

More benefits than coconut oil, everyone's mega-fave!

But is ghee really all that? What's it actually good for? Well, I'll tell you! I'll even show you how to make it, since, duh, I wouldn't be writing this article if it sucked...

What Is Ghee?

[DISCLAIMER: If you have an allergy to milk casein and/or lactose, definitely do your own research here. I'm not a doctor or dietician. My self-experimentation with dairy is not based around an IgE-mediated allergy. You are responsible for any decisions you make after reading this website. Too, all supposed spiritual benefits of ghee will be ignored in this article.]

Ghee is made, traditionally, from grass-fed, unsalted butter by applying a low level of heat in order to evaporate the water and cook the milk solids (casein protein and lactose) until they separate and caramelize, leaving behind an aromatic product composed almost entirely of deliciously healthy fats. Essentially, you could think of it as creating oil from butter. For most people who have an allergy, or "intolerance," to dairy products, their undesirable reactions are caused by the exact elements removed in the process of making ghee. TweetThat

Right now you may be asking yourself...

Should I Be Using Ghee?

Honestly, I would cook with it no matter what the benefits were because of how amazing it smells and tastes. That being said...

I'm going to assume you're interested in your health if you're still reading this article, so let's talk Elimination Diet. The idea here is that you've probably been eating terribly for such a long time that you no longer recognize the negative effects certain foods have on your system. Twice a week or so, you say, "Hmm, something about lunch today is not agreeing with me!" Yeah, wow! I wonder what it could be...

milk products with a question mark

Elimination Diets present us with an opportunity to recognize things we should avoid by eating exclusively from a certain food group for a set time period, then reintroducing food groups to our diet, one at a time. My favorite version of this is The Warrior Fast, which I found through one of my favorite fitness sites, Onnit. [Yes, it's a version of a fast but the word "detox" is nowhere to be found on the page, so don't roll your eyes yet. Fasting is a meditative endeavor and an experiment in altered states of consciousness, above all else.]

I quit consuming all dairy after my first Warrior Fast. After having no milk products of any kind for ten days, my first experience with cheese left me feeling dizzy, nauseous, running a measurable fever, and with the terribly uncomfortable sensation of my skin being stabbed by needles from the inside of my face. It sucked, yeah, but I learned a lesson that day. I made a radical change to my diet and my general health improved, with significant reduction of acne, surplus phlegm, headaches, "colds," stomach aches, etc.

So, if you feel less-than-awesome on a more-than-occasional basis, look into it. Keep in mind that an intolerance to commercially produced, grain-fed dairy products doesn't mean you have to react like I did and drop dairy altogether. Some people who can't digest milk have zero problem with butter, and so on. Grass-fed butter is good for you. The point of this article isn't that you need to replace all dairy products in your diet. Put in the time to find out where your trouble lies. Wherever it is, ghee is hands down the safest/least likely to offend of all milk-based products. So, it may be necessary to forgeo all dairy except ghee for months while your body heals itself.

It should also be noted that ghee has a higher smoke point than all fats recommended for healthy cooking, such as olive oil, coconut oil and butter. This is important, if you're trying to reduce inflammation caused by dietary intake of oxidized fats.

How to Make Ghee

The mechanics of the process couldn't be simpler. Take grass-fed butter, put it in a pot and set it over low heat. The only difficulty the novice ghee maker will face is recognizing when the pot should be removed from the heat source to prevent burning your precious gold.

All you need are these simple tips!

Butter melted at low temperature
Small Bubbles
  • Use a taller, skinnier pot, to reduce mess.
  • At first, use only 16 oz. of butter. It will take less time, approx. 15-20 minutes.
  • Set heat level low so the butter simmers (small bubbles), rather than boils (big bubbles). Intermittent large bubbles are ok but keep temp. low so the water has time to evaporate before the milk solids start to burn.
  • Don't spoon out the milk solids as they separate and float on the surface, like pond scum. This scum eventually serves as your "done" indicator by beginning to turn brown at the inside edges of the pot.
  • When the milk solids are browning and the liquid beneath has turned clear, move the pot to an unused stovetop burner (or other safe surface) for cooling. Don't turn off the burner you were using and leave the pot on it because it still holds enough heat to burn your product.
  • Allow the liquid to cool sufficiently before filtering it (you could use cheesecloth & a rubber band but it's much easier with a mesh tea strainer) into a safe and convenient container, like a glass jar. Heating a glass container compromises its structural integrity. Trust me.

This is what your pot will look like at the end of cooking. I swirled the liquid around so that some of the milk solids would stick to the side and be identifiable in the photo. As you can see, when compared to the picture above, they've taken on a slightly brown, caramel color:

what ghee looks like when it's prepared

Here is my finished ghee, after it has cooled a bit and been filtered through a tea strainer into an empty, 16 oz. ex-peanut butter jar. It's okay if yours is a little darker than this in liquid form, as long as it turns bright yellow upon solidifying.

freshly made ghee poured in a glass jar

This is what all the stuff we got rid of looks like. If you leave your pot on the burner for too long, this will be stuck to the bottom in a weird, honeycomb-like structure, which, yeah, looks cool but is also a pain in the ass to clean. You can more clearly see here how the milk solids were just beginning to turn brown when I removed the pot from the heat:

Caramelized Casein Milk Proteins from Butter

And here, boys and girls, is what your jar should look like after a night in the refrigerator. When properly made, ghee can be stored at room temperatures for months without spoiling. It's purely a matter of preference whether or not to store yours in the fridge. Some like it hard, some like it soft:

hardened ghee from refrigerator

Thank you for your time. Are there any questions?


 You may have noticed that I made an extremely cool image at the top of this post. If you hover your cursor over that image then a little "P" button will pop up, enabling you to share that graphic (and this post) to your Pinterest! Try it out!


  1. Anonymous11:51 PM

    yummy. I knew the process was something like that. I have everything I need right now, but will probably wait until I run out of the store bought ghee I have.