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Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy3,690 kJ (880 kcal)
99.8 g
Saturated64.9 g
6.5 mg
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.

Ghee (Sanskrit: घृत) is a class of clarified butter that originated in ancient India. It is commonly used in cuisine of the Indian subcontinent, Middle Eastern cuisine, traditional medicine, and religious rituals.


Ghee is typically prepared by simmering butter, which is churned from cream (traditionally made by churning the top most layer of dahi, which is also called Bilona method), skimming any impurities from the surface, then pouring and retaining the clear liquid fat while discarding the solid residue that has settled to the bottom. Spices can be added for flavour. The texture, colour, and taste of ghee depend on the quality of the butter, the milk source used in the process, and the duration of boiling time.


The word ghee comes from Sanskrit: घृत (ghṛta-, IPA: [ɡʱr̩tɐ]) 'clarified butter', from ghṛ- 'to sprinkle'.[1] In Dravidian languages, it is also known as Tamil: நெய் ney or Tamil: துப்பகம் tuppakam[2] or Kannada: ತುಪ್ಪ thuppa.[3]

In Hinduism and Buddhism[edit]

Traditionally, ghee is always made from bovine milk, as cows are considered sacred, and it is a sacred requirement in Vedic yajña and homa (fire rituals), through the medium of Agni (fire) to offer oblations to various deities. (See Yajurveda).

Fire rituals are utilized for ceremonies such as marriage and funerals. Ghee is required 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, honey, milk, and dahi (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.[4] In the Mahabharata, the kaurava were born from pots of ghee.[5]

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.[citation needed] Ghee is also used in bhang in order to heat the cannabis to cause decarboxylation, making the drink psychoactive.[6][7]

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
0 g
99.5 g
Saturated61.9 g
Monounsaturated28.7 g
Polyunsaturated3.7 g
0 g
Vitamin A3069 IU
Vitamin E
2.8 mg
Other constituentsQuantity
Cholesterol256 mg

Fat percentage can vary.
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA FoodData Central

In Buddhist scripture, stages of dairy production are used as metaphors for stages of enlightenment. The highest-stage product, sarpir-maṇḍa, is theorised to be ghee or clarified butter.[8]

Culinary uses[edit]

Ghee is common in cuisines from the Indian subcontinent, including traditional rice preparations (such as biryani). In Maharashtra, polis or Indian breads are accompanied with ghee. For example, 'Puranpoli', a typical Maharashtrian dish is eaten with much ghee. In Rajasthan, ghee often accompanies baati. All over north India, ghee tops roti. In Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, ghee tops 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 dahi (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. Indian restaurants typically incorporate large amounts of ghee, sometimes brushing naan and roti with it, either during preparation or just before serving. In the state of Odisha ghee is widely used in regional Odia cuisines such as Khechedi and Dalma. Particularly the satwik type of food prepared in most temples in Odisha uses ghee as a major ingredient in their culinary tradition. Ghee is widely used in South Indian cuisine for tempering curries and 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 among 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 North Indian 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.[9]


The main flavour components of ghee are carbonyls, free fatty acids, lactones, and alcohols.[10] Along with the flavour of milk fat, the ripening of the butter and temperature at which it is clarified also affect the flavour. For example, ghee produced by the clarification of butter at 100 °C (212 °F) or less results in a mild flavour, whereas batches produced at 120 °C (248 °F) produce a strong flavour.[citation needed][10]

Differences from clarified butter[edit]

Ghee differs slightly in its production from that of clarified butter. The process of creating 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.[11][12][13][14]

A traditional Ayurvedic recipe for ghee is to boil raw milk, let it cool to 43 °C (109 °F). After leaving it covered at room temperature for around 12 hours, add a bit of dahi (yogurt) to it and leave it overnight. This makes more yogurt. This is churned with water, to obtain cultured butter, which is used to simmer into ghee.[15]

Fats & fatty acids Amounts per 100 g of ghee[16]
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 g
Omega-6 fatty acids 2.247 g
Omega-9 fatty acids 25.026 g
Other non-fat nutrients Amounts per 100 g of ghee
Carbohydrates 0
Minerals 0
Cholesterol 256 mg (85%DV)
Phytosterols 0
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)

Nutrition and health[edit]

Like any clarified butter, ghee is composed almost entirely of fat, 62% of which consists of saturated fats.[16] It is also rich in oxidized cholesterol: 259 μg/g, or 12.3% of total cholesterol.[17][18] It has negligible amounts of lactose and casein and is, therefore, acceptable to most who have a lactose intolerance or milk allergy.[19][20]

Outside the Indian subcontinent[edit]

Several communities outside the Indian subcontinent make ghee. Egyptians make a product called samna baladi, meaning 'countryside ghee', identical to ghee in terms of process and result, but commonly made from water buffalo milk instead of cow's milk, and white in color. The recipe is considered to have come from South Asia during ancient times of the Pharaoh as revealed in inscriptions and could be the result of Mitanni and Hittite kingdoms, which predate the existence of Greeks. Also, the darkened milk solids that are created during the process 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's milk in Egypt and is often yellowish.

Ghee is also used by various peoples 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, ageing spiced ghee for months or even years, resulting in a product called smen.

It's also common in Western Africa especially among the Hausa and Fulanis. It's called Manshanu meaning Cow's oil.

Preparation methods[edit]

There are four common methods through which ghee is prepared. Industrial preparation on the other hand is done by using "white butter", usually sourced from other dairies and contractors.[21]

In the cream butter method, cream separated from milk must be churned to produced butter. The butter then undergoes heat clarification.
In the cream butter method, cream is separated from milk and churned to produce butter. The butter then undergoes heat clarification.

Milk butter[edit]

Sour raw milk is churned into butter. The butter is boiled in an open pan to allow the water to evaporate. The hot ghee is transferred and stored.

Direct cream[edit]

Fresh cream, cultured or washed cream is directly converted to ghee. This method requires a long heating time and produces a caramelized flavor.

Cream butter[edit]

Milk is separated into cream which is then churned into butter. The butter undergoes heat clarification to produce ghee.


This method is suitable for large quantities of butter. Butter is melted at 80–85 °C (176–185 °F) for 30 minutes. Layers of protein particles, fat and buttermilk are induced. The buttermilk is drained out. The remaining layers of fat are heated to a temperature of 110 °C (230 °F) to remove moisture and develop flavor.[22]


Ghee may be packaged in airtight glass jars and stored without refrigeration.

Ghee is generally found to be packaged in airtight glass jars. They should be kept away from direct sunlight as sunlight can cause moisture to build inside the jar. Moisture can cause deterioration to the ghee's quality as well as reduce its shelf life. To prevent the acceleration of the oxidation process, they should be protected from anything that causes it, such as UV rays from sunlight and fluorescent lights. If the jar is unopened, it does not need to be refrigerated as long as the previously mentioned conditions are met. Once opened, they can be stored in a kitchen cabinet for up to three months. Afterwards, it may be left in the refrigerator for up to a year. The refrigerator causes ghee to harden but if it is left at room temperature for a while, it will soften up again.[23]


Ghee may be made of milk from various domesticated ungulates, such as cows and sheep.[24] The composition of ghee varies depending on the animal whose milk has been used. The vitamin A content ranged from 315 to 375 international units per 100 grams.[24] Palmitic acid and oleic acid were two of the main fatty acids found in both cow and sheep ghee. The saturated fatty acid profile was 53.9 to 66.8%, the unsaturated fatty acid profile was 22.8 to 38.0% and the other fatty acids was 3.5 to 10.4%.[24] Cholesterol amounts ranged from 252 to 284 mg/100 grams.[24]


The market size of ghee in India is 10,000 crores[13] or US$1.5 billion 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.[25][26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ as contrasted with navanīta 'fresh butter': Carl Darling Buck, A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages, 1949, reprinted 1992 ISBN 0226079376, p. 399, §5.89 'Butter'
  2. ^ Fabricius, Johann Philipp (1972). J.P. Fabricius's Tamil and English dictionary. Tranquebar : Evangelical Lutheran Mission Pub. House. OCLC 744777832.
  3. ^ Kittel, F. (1968). Kittel's Kannaḍa-English dictionary. University of Madras. OCLC 132132.
  4. ^ Language and Style of the Vedic Rsis, Tatyana Jakovlevna Elizarenkova (C) 1995, p. 18.
  5. ^ Fitzgerald, James L.; Adrianus, Johannes; Buitenen, Bernardus (15 February 2003). The Mahabharata, Volume 7: Book 11: The Book of the Women Book 12 ..., Part 1. p. 613. ISBN 9780226252506.
  6. ^ Gottlieb, Adam (1993). Cooking with Cannabis: The Most Effective Methods of Preparing Food and Drink with Marijuana, Hashish, and Hash Oil. Ronin Publishing. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-914171-55-3.
  7. ^ Drake, Bill (2002). The Marijuana Food Handbook. Ronin Publishing. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-914171-99-7.
  8. ^ Petzold, Bruno (1995). The Classification of Buddhism. ISBN 9783447033732.
  9. ^ "What are the advantages and disadvantages of butter and ghee when it comes to cooking?". Archived from the original on 4 April 2015. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  10. ^ a b Rama Murthy, M.K. (1980). "Factors Affecting the Composition, Flavour and Textural Properties of Ghee" (PDF). Indian Dairyman. 32: 765–768.
  11. ^ Landis, Denise (2003). All About Ghee New York Times - Food Chain
  12. ^ Iyer, Raghavan (2008). 660 Curries, p. 21. New York: Workman Publishing ISBN 978-0-7611-3787-0
  13. ^ a b Jaffrey, Madhur (1982). Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking, p. 211. London: BBC Books. ISBN 0-8120-6548-4
  14. ^ Sahni, Julie (1998). Julie Sahni's Introduction to Indian Cooking, p. 217 under "usli ghee." Berkeley: Ten Speed Press. ISBN 0-89815-976-8
  15. ^ Joshi, KS (2014). "Docosahexaenoic acid content is significantly higher in ghrita prepared by traditional Ayurvedic method". J Ayurveda Integr Med. 5 (2): 85–88. doi:10.4103/0975-9476.131730. PMC 4061595. PMID 24948858.
  16. ^ a b "Nutrition data for Butter oil, anhydrous (ghee) per 100 gram reference amount". US Department of Agriculture, National Nutrient Database. May 2016. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  17. ^ Otaegui-Arrazola, A.; Menéndez-Carreño, M.; Ansorena, D.; Astiasarán, I. (December 2010). "Oxysterols: A world to explore". Food and Chemical Toxicology. 48 (12): 3289–3303. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2010.09.023. hdl:10171/22994. ISSN 1873-6351. PMID 20870006.
  18. ^ Jacobson, M. S. (19 September 1987). "Cholesterol oxides in Indian ghee: possible cause of unexplained high risk of atherosclerosis in Indian immigrant populations". Lancet. 2 (8560): 656–658. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(87)92443-3. ISSN 0140-6736. PMID 2887943. S2CID 19854410.
  19. ^ Heid, Markham (22 April 2019). "Is Ghee Healthy? Here's What the Science Says". Time. Retrieved 10 April 2021.
  20. ^ Abarbanel, Aliza (5 April 2018). "What Is Ghee, the Clarified Butter We Could Eat by the Spoon?". Bon Appetit. Retrieved 10 April 2021.
  21. ^ Narain, Priyanka Pathak (2017). Godman To Tycoon: The untold story of Baba Ramdev (2 ed.). New Delhi: Juggernaut Publications. ISBN 978-9386228383.
  22. ^ L. Sserunjogi, Mohammed; Abrahamsen, Roger; Narvhus, Judith (1 August 1998). "A Review Paper: Current Knowledge of Ghee and Related Products". International Dairy Journal. 8 (8): 677–688. doi:10.1016/S0958-6946(98)00106-X.
  23. ^ "Ghee Care". Goddess Ghee. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  24. ^ a b c d AbdulrhmanAl-Khalifah, HassanAl-Kahtani (1 January 1993). "Composition of ghee (Samn Barri's) from cow's and sheep's milk". Food Chemistry. 46 (4): 373–375. doi:10.1016/0308-8146(93)90007-3. ISSN 0308-8146.
  25. ^ "Milk in India: a popular refreshment, a huge business and a gift from the gods". Associated Press. 27 October 2015. Retrieved 16 August 2020 – via Fox News.
  26. ^ "Delhi's tax free budget: Desi ghee to cost less in Delhi". timesofindia-economictimes. Retrieved 27 December 2015.