Ghee is traditionally been used in Indian cooking, but has been gaining Western mainstream appeal as there has been a renewed interest in healthy fats. You might have come across some Indian recipes that call for it, and have no idea what it is or where to find it. Luckily, there are several ghee substitute options to choose from.
What is Ghee?
Ghee is simply fat from butter that has been isolate from the water and milk solids. It’s made by melting butter down so that the water evaporates, and then skimming and straining the milk solids out. Ghee is yellow in color and does not need refrigeration (since it is just fat, no milk proteins). It usually has a spreadable consistency and a neutral taste. You might see ghee and clarified butter used interchangeably, and they are basically the same, but ghee is just clarified butter than was heated a little bit longer so more flavor develops.
Can ghee be substituted in cooking recipes?
Yes, ghee can definitely be substituted in cooking and even baking.
What is ghee like?
These key attributes of ghee are essential to this unique and traditional cooking fat. An adequate ghee substitute should be similar in the following ways:
➤ High Smoke Point
Ghee has a fairly high smoke point of around 400°F. A ghee substitute should have a similar smoke point, as I’m fairly certain no recipe ever calls for burnt oil flavor! The smoke point is the temperature in which an oil or fat will burn or smoke. Oils and fats should be kept at temperatures below their smoke points, as burning can create unhealthy compounds, and burnt tastes.
Ghee can vary in taste- from very neutral to more nutty or buttery. Ghee never tastes that strong, though, and it usually melds into the dish without standing out. There are even flavored ghee that have added spices and seasonings, but, plain ghee is the most commonly used and most versatile. So, the perfect ghee substitute should have a neutral or slightly nutty flavor.
➤ Fatty Acid Profile
Ghee is mainly made up of saturated fat. This fatty acid composition is what makes it semi-solid at room temperature. This saturated quality of the fats is important because saturated fat tends to have a heavier mouthfeel and richer taste. It’s important to use a ghee substitute that can also have a rich mouthfeel- contrary to what others might say, “light” vegetable oil just isn’t an accurate ghee substitute.
Best Ghee Substitutes
Both virgin and refined coconut oil work as ghee substitutes, but refined will have a more neutral taste, and virgin coconut oil tastes like coconut. Both versions have high smoke points, although refined coconut oil has a smoke point of 400°F to even 450°F, much closer to ghee, while unrefined coconut oil’s smoke point is around 350°F. Coconut oil is even commonly used in Indian and South Asian cooking, so the flavor should not ruin any Indian recipe. Coconut oil is even solid at room temperature, just like ghee. Which is why the fact that coconut oil is mostly saturated fat, just like, ghee, should come as no surprise. If you need more of a ghee flavor, they actually even make butter flavored coconut oil.
Olive oil is a cooking oil that is likely already in your pantry. Olive oil has a stronger taste than ghee does, which should be considered when cooking recipes with delicate flavors. In terms of smoke point, olive oil’s varies a lot depending on quality. Extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of around 350 to 410°F, and regular olive oil’s smoke point is 390 to 468°F. These smoke points are similar enough to ghee to be used as a ghee substitute. Olive oil also has less saturated fat than ghee, and is liquid at room temperature. Olive oil certainly works as a convenient ghee substitute, but the stronger flavor of the oil should be considered, as there are more neutral tasting options.
Butter may make a great ghee substitute in certain cases. Butter is only a suitable ghee substitute when you are not using it for high-heat cooking. Butter only has a smoke point of around 300°F, so it will burn at higher temperatures. This low smoke point is definitely an issue if you are searing, stir frying, or broiling. Butter is also not lactose-free, as ghee is, which may pose a problem for those with allergies. Ghee is made from butter, so obviously they share many traits such as taste and nutrition, but butter is only suitable as a ghee substitute in situations of low-heat cooking.
Avocado oil has quickly become a very popular cooking oil and one that you may likely already have in your kitchen. It works great as a ghee substitute because it has a fairly neutral taste, and a high smoke point of 500°F. It doesn’t have the same fatty acid profile though, as avocado oil has more polyunsaturated fat, and is liquid at room temperature. Nevertheless, avocado is a very convenient ghee substitute.
Macadamia Nut Oil
Macadamia nut oil may not be a cooking oil you are familiar with, but you should be, as it as beneficial as a fatty acid profile as olive oil does, but with a much more neutral flavor. On the off chance that you do have macadamia nut oil on hand, it would make a great ghee substitute. It has a neutral flavor, health benefits, and importantly, a high smoke point of around 410°F. Macadamia nut oil could seamlessly replace ghee in a pinch. Read this article to learn more about this newest trendy oil.