Both ghee and tallow are perfect high-heat cooking fats that are naturally high in saturated fat. They also are both dairy-free, suitable for the lactose-intolerant, solid at room temperature and shelf-stable. If you have researched or pursued the Keto, Carnivore, Paleo or Pro-Metabolic diets you’ve likely heard all about these versatile cooking fats and the benefits of saturated fat, as they are a great alternative to vegetable oils. But there are also slight differences in uses between tallow vs ghee.
What is Ghee?
Ghee is a type of clarified butter which means it is butter with the water and milk content removed. It is made by cooking butter in a pan over low to medium heat until the water in the butter evaporates and the dairy solidifies. The solidified dairy is then strained so that only the fat content of regular butter remains. Ghee is always stored in a jar and has a delightfully rich yellow hue, and a silky spreadable texture. Ghee is a very traditional cooking oil of Indian cuisine.
What is Tallow?
Tallow is just beef fat that has been rendered. The raw fat found around the loins and kidneys of cattle is called suet, and that suet gets melted, simmered and strained to form tallow. Unlike suet, tallow has a long shelf life, and does not require refrigeration. Tallow ranges from white to more yellow in color depending on the source and is stored in a jar as a solid.
Both fats are traditional, foundational fats that are the basis of many ancestral cuisines, and are a healthy source of dietary fat, contrary to what more modern health guidance would like us to believe.
Tallow vs Ghee Comparison
Smoke point is simply the temperature when the fat will start to smoke and burn. It is not advisable to use fats at temperatures past their smoke point, as it will usually produce a burnt and off taste. When fats surpass their smoke point, they generally will not be as healthy as the fats have been broken down by the heat.
Ghee has a smoke point of 375 to 485°F depending on purity . Anyone with even a little experience cooking will know that butter burns pretty easily, as it only has a smoke point of 350°F . Ghee’s high smoke point allows it to be used in so many ways.
Beef tallow has a smoke point of 400°F . This high temperature makes tallow perfect for deep frying.
Tallow vs Ghee Taste
Ghee often has a slight nutty flavor, especially if it comes from grass-fed butter. Tallow has a less neutral, very familiar beef fat flavor. It’s the same flavor as if you were to bite into a piece of fat on a steak. Ghee could be used in a variety of sweet and savory recipes, while tallow should only be used in savory foods, as the beef flavor will be noticeable. Tallow definitely has a beef flavor, although I don’t think it is incredibly overpowering. I actually notice that beef tallow smells more beefy as it cooks than it actually tastes. The color and flavor of your ghee or tallow will vary depending on the source.
Ghee is great for any high-heat frying and sauteing as well as roasting. I’ve even used ghee in recipes where olive oil is more conventional and had great results. For example, I’ve browned ground beef in ghee before making chili and I’ve found it adds a great richness to the chili without altering the flavor and tasting “buttery.” I also love ghee for making pancakes, because although pancakes are low heat, the ghee ensures there is never a burnt flavor (which sometimes develops with butter even on low heat) which can really ruin a pancake. Ghee makes exceptionally crispy and rich hash browns.
Tallow really shines when frying and roasting, especially when wanting to add a meaty richness to a vegetable dish. It’s no wonder that McDonald’s fries were originally fried in tallow until they were wrongly pressured into ditching saturated fats. Tallow makes fries addictingly crispy and flavorful, and adds great depth to roasted vegetables. Tallow is also great for pan frying leaner cuts of beef to add some flavor back in.
Both ghee and tallow work perfectly to pan sear steak. I would avoid using tallow for tortilla and pie crust recipes, or anything else more sweet, as I think other fats have a more preferable neutral flavor. Try roasting potato wedges slathered in tallow.
Ghee and tallow are both amazing skin balms and moisturizers. They could definitely be applied to heal areas of very dry skin, though they might be a little greasy for all over moisture.
In general, one teaspoon of ghee will contain 8% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, 2% of vitamin E, and 1% of vitamin K . Vitamin K is rarely found in other foods, and all of these vitamins are fat-soluble which increases absorption.
Although the vitamin content will vary, tallow is a great source of vitamin D, Vitamin E, and trace amounts of selenium, all of which are rarely found in food .
Per one tablespoon of ghee, it contains 9 grams of saturated fat, 5 grams of monounsaturated fat, and less than one gram of polyunsaturated fat .
Tallow is mostly composed of saturated and monounsaturated fats. Per a 12.8 g tablespoon, tallow has 6.4 g of saturated fat, and 5.4 g of monounsaturated fat .
The Importance of Sourcing
When looking for ghee it is important to use high-quality, grass-fed butter to bring maximum health benefits and the best flavor. Some very good brands that I’d recommend are Organic Valley, 4th & Heart, Carrington Farms, and Ancient Organics. Or you could very easily and thriftily make your own ghee with high-quality store-bought or homemade butter, a mason jar and a cheesecloth.
Again, like ghee, the quality of life of the cow that you source the fat from is very important. It is best to get the beef suet from a 100% grass-fed, organic local farm and render it yourself. Though I know this is not always possible, some brands I’d recommend are Fat Works, and Epic. If you’re looking for high-quality tallow for skincare, Vintage Tradition is a great brand carrying scented and unscented balms.
Tallow Vs Ghee Verdict
Overall, ghee and tallow are both very convenient, stable, saturated fats for cooking at high temperatures. It is important to remember that they are not neutral in flavor, and you definitely will need to do some experimentation to see how they could best be incorporated into your diet.
Finally, be sure to check out my article on Tallow vs Lard to learn how other healthy animal fats compare.