Making Ghee at Home
What is Ghee Used For?
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Once you’ve mastered butter from goat milk, making ghee at home provides a unique cooking ingredient that you may not find anywhere else.
When I first tried making ghee from butter, my small-town supermarket offered two brands of ghee: both from cow milk. I couldn’t find goat butter ghee anywhere. Since then, I found one company that offers premium cooking fats; they now offer goat butter ghee. But it’s plain, white ghee: not infused with any flavors. That’s the unique product you can make at home. And making ghee at home isn’t difficult.
But my favorite thing about ghee isn’t the unique product; it’s the waste-not, want-not factor. By making ghee at home, I create a sustainable cooking oil without needing any oil presses or expellers. Though ghee has the cholesterol that plant-based oils don’t, I use so much less ghee than olive or coconut oil. The ghee adds one more element to my grown-at-home lifestyle.
Our goat milk goes through a flow chart. If we have more than we need for fresh-drinking, I make yogurt or chèvre. But during the weekend, when I have more time, I create hard cheeses. When I don’t have time to make cheese or don’t need more yogurt, I run the milk through the cream separator. That cream usually becomes butter. But when I have too much butter, that turns into ghee.
Ten gallons of milk, later in the season and higher in butterfat, makes four quarts of heavy cream if I set my separator at the highest thickness. Four quarts of cream becomes three and a half quarts of butter, which then cooks down to about three quarts of ghee.
What is Ghee?
Have you ever melted butter then let it cool? And you notice how golden oil sits on top of a white layer? When you cool those two layers, you can lift the solid fat off the top. That layer is clarified butter. If you cook it down, letting it top 266 degrees Fahrenheit, the water evaporates and the proteins experience the “Maillard reaction,” which greatly improves flavor of the ghee and anything that you cook with it. That taste phenomenon when a steak sizzles and becomes crispy, or when a butter pie crust becomes golden and flaky, is the Maillard reaction.
That is ghee used for? Its most popular use is within Indian and Pakistani recipes, but you can use ghee in any recipe that requires cooking oil. I like to use it for roasting and broiling, since it enhances flavor without burning.
Ghee vs Butter
Why not just use butter? While creamy butter does have its place in cooking, it also has its drawbacks. Butter still contains a little lactose, which can cause faster spoilage. It may also contain water, which also reduces its shelf life. Also, once butter melts, it doesn’t go back to its original consistency. Butter burns at 350 degrees Fahrenheit but ghee has a smoke point over 480 degrees F. If ghee is prepared right, it can last for months in conditions that would quickly spoil butter.
Is Ghee Refrigerated?
I refrigerate my ghee. This is because I don’t currently have a nice, cool storage location like a basement. During the summer, it seems everything on my farm melts unless it’s in a refrigerator or a freezer. And, once I’ve gone through the work making ghee at home infused with black truffles or saffron, I want every drop to last until I need it.
Sealed containers of ghee can last almost a year in a cool (but not refrigerated) place. Store it away from light and heat to prolong its life. Once opened, bacteria and moisture can enter, which mean it should be refrigerated if you don’t intend to use it up soon. Opened jars of ghee last about three months in a cool pantry and six months in a refrigerator. But if you freeze your ghee, it will last indefinitely.
Eventually, like all oils, ghee will go rancid. If you didn’t remove all the moisture and solids, and if the jar wasn’t sealed properly, it will go bad sooner. To know if your ghee should be tossed out, open the container and sniff it. Does it smell sour or “off?” Goatier than it did before? Has the color changed and is there mold in the jar? If so, throw it out.
How is Ghee Made?
How do you make ghee at home? First, start with butter. Or, if you own dairy animals, start by gathering fresh milk. Once you separate the cream and churn the butter, thoroughly wash it in cold water then let it drain. If you don’t remove all the water, don’t worry. It will evaporate within the cooking process.
Next, heat the ghee on medium-low for at least 10 minutes. It’s not the time that matters; it’s the physical change, no matter how long that takes. First the butter will simmer and foam. Let it keep cooking until all the solids sink to the bottom then become crispy so you can drain them off. Let the ghee cool enough that it’s easy to handle but not solid. Pour it through a fine mesh sieve into sanitized, dry canning jars.
How to make ghee in the oven: simply fill a pot with butter and place in the oven at 250-300 degrees F. If you want that nice Maillard reaction for extra flavor, set the oven at 300. Don’t place a lid on the pot, because you want that water to escape. Cook until you see the solids turn crispy.
Ghee made with cow butter will start yellow then become golden; goat butter ghee starts snowy white then may become off-white.
I prefer making ghee in the oven because it allows me to multitask in the kitchen.
If you’re wondering how to make ghee with salted butter or if you should stick with unsalted butter, don’t worry. The salt won’t affect whether your ghee is successful. Many cooks choose unsalted butter because it gives them more control over salt content in the final recipes. I make ghee with unsalted butter because it eliminates one more step; I just don’t salt the butter after I churn it.
Now here’s my favorite tip to share: making infused/spiced ghee. Fresh chapatis, with saffron-infused ghee, are amazing. Or you can create chili-infused ghee, roasted garlic ghee … so many possibilities. Simply toss your spices in with the butter and simmer it all together. If the ingredient (like roasted garlic) still has some moisture, be sure you simmer until that garlic is crispy with the milk solids.
Recipes with Ghee
Since ghee is solid when cold, I don’t recommend it within salad dressings; use olive oil instead. But you can use ghee for just about anything else. I’ve used cold ghee for pie crusts. I have heated truffle-infused ghee in a skillet at 450 degrees F then tossed in French fries for oven-crisped goodness. We keep a jar of ghee next to the stove, and we spoon some out before frying up farm-fresh eggs. I mix the ghee with spices then roll sweet corn on the cob in the mix before wrapping it in foil and baking at 350 degrees F. Once, I even used it in place of butter within a caramel corn recipe; it worked great! Melt the ghee then toss over vegetables before roasting them. And then there’s a traditional and delicious use: lightly brushed over hot naan.
Sure, making ghee at home takes a few extra steps. But it’s worth it, especially if you have a deluge of goat milk that would otherwise go to waste. It’s a great feeling to have one more truly homegrown ingredient in your pantry.
Originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.