You can always tell what's trendy in the food world based on what you can't stop seeing on your social media feed. When I scroll down my Instagram feed these days, all I see are ghee roasted potatoes, bulletproof coffee with ghee, ghee toast, ghee popcorn, even chicken fried in ghee. Ghee this, ghee that—clearly, ghee is all the rage right now. Why? What is ghee, and what makes it so special? Is ghee dairy-free, or is safe only for those who eat dairy products? 

What is Ghee?

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Maddy McGunagle

Simply put, ghee is clarified butter. Butter is heated until the water in it completely evaporates, and the milk solids are separated from the fat. The milk solids will float to the top of the butter, as well as sink to the bottom and caramelize, then they'll be filtered out, leaving pure butterfat. The intentional caramelization of the milk solids lends a delicious nutty and fragrant taste to the clarified butter left. The liquid butterfat formed is left to sit at room temperature, where it hardens and forms the yellow butter alternative that everyone can't seem to get enough of nowadays.

Is Ghee Healthy? 

We've all heard that we should be consuming butter in moderation because it's high in saturated fat, which has been linked to hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) and heart disease. Is ghee the same, nutrition-wise?

Like butter, ghee is made up of mostly fat, especially saturated fat, although it does contain some monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as well. One tablespoon has about eight grams of saturated fat, so it should definitely be consumed moderately as part of a healthy and well-balanced diet.

However, ghee does contain many health benefits. Because it's a source of ft, it's high in fat-soluble vitamins like A, E, and D. In addition, it contains a short-chain fatty acid called butyric acid, which may reduce inflammation, specifically in the gastrointestinal tract.  

The most widely known nutritional value of ghee is its high smoke point. Smoke point is the stage at which an oil/fat starts to break down and literally smoke when heated, at which point free radicals that may cause oxidative stress in the body are formed. The lower the smoke point, the less ideal the oil and/or fat is to cook with, because free radicals are capable of forming.

At 485°F, Ghee's smoke point is high, which makes it perfect for high-heat cooking, roasting, frying, and baking. This is much higher than butter's smoke point of 200-250°F, and olive oil's of 375°F. This is one of the reasons more people are using ghee to fry their chicken and roast their veggies.  

Is Ghee Dairy-Free?

Technically, ghee is not dairy-free because it's butterfat. However, it's lactose-free because all of the milk solids are completely removed during production. So if you're avoiding dairy because you're lactose intolerant, ghee is a safe option for you. It's a great alternative to butter, and if consumed in moderation, can be a healthy addition to any diet.

However, if you're vegan, I'd recommend choosing another butter alternative that's not derived from dairy products. Other foods that can be used instead of butter that are free of dairy are coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, or your favorite vegan butter, such as Earth Balance.

Ghee may seem intimidating to use at first; it's lactose-free butter for crying out loud! Nevertheless, it can be used easily just like you would use regular butter: for frying, to add moistness to a cake batter, or for slathering on our favorite toasts. The best part? No stomach aches, bloating, or cramps because it's 100% free of lactose. I'll take a teaspoon on my veggies, please!