Q: What’s the difference between ghee and butter? Which is better?
A: It’s the Indian name for clarified butter, which is exactly what you get when you melt butter, remove the solids and let the water evaporate. (And although all ghee is clarified butter, not all clarified butter is ghee; to make ghee, the butter is simmered a little longer than “ordinary” clarified butter in order to bring out ghee’s naturally nutty flavor.)
Ghee has a long-standing reputation as one of the healthiest cooking fats and has been used in Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine for thousands of years. It’s known to have a high concentration of important nutrients such as vitamin K2, conjugated linolenic acid (CLA), an anti-inflammatory substance known as butyrate, and fat-soluble vitamins like A, D and E.
The thing of it is, grass-fed butter contains all of these nutrients as well, in virtually the same amounts.
Because milk protein smokes at a lower temperature than fat, and because the milk proteins have been removed, ghee has a higher smoke point than butter. Unless you are highly intolerant or allergic to dairy, it’s perfectly suitable for those with dairy sensitivities since it only contains trace amounts of casein and lactose (dairy sensitivities or allergies are almost always related to casein and lactose).
To me, the major differences between ghee and butter come down to those two things: smoke point and dairy sensitivity. If you need to cook at higher heat, or if you’re sensitive to lactose or milk protein, go with ghee. But there’s no reason whatsoever to avoid good old-fashioned grass-fed butter, especially if you’re cooking at lower temperatures, don’t have an issue with dairy, and – as I do – just like the taste of it. I consider both ghee and grass-fed butter to be terrific fats.
Ghee has a nuttier flavor and butter is creamier. Choose whichever you like, or use both depending on what you’re using it for.
Try making ghee at home using our step-by-step guide!
Jonny Bowden PhD, CNS Board-certified nutrition specialist, motivational speaker, author and expert in the areas of health and weight loss.