Ghee Nutrition Facts

Calories, Carbs, and Health Benefits of Ghee

Jar of ghee

 subodhsathe / Getty Images

Ghee, sometimes called “desi ghee” or “asli ghee,” is a clarified butter with origins in Indian cooking. “Clarified” doesn’t mean that this type of butter is see-through—rather, clarification is the cooking process that separates milk solids and water from fat, making ghee thicker than other butter you may be familiar with.

With a history steeped in tradition, ghee has been respected in Indian culture for thousands of years as a curative for a number of ailments.

Many people believe that the clarification process removes impurities, leaving behind a purer—and therefore healthier—finished product. Research is ongoing as to whether ghee offers measurable health benefits, especially as compared to regular butter.

Here’s a look at ghee’s nutritional value, uses, potential benefits, and drawbacks. 

Nutrition Facts

Ghee Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 tablespoon (15 g)
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 135 
Calories from Fat 135 
Total Fat 15g18%
Saturated Fat 9g45%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5g 
Monounsaturated Fat 5g 
Cholesterol 30mg10%
Sodium 0mg0%
Potassium 0mg0%
Carbohydrates 0g0%
Dietary Fiber 0g0%
Sugars 0g 
Protein 0g 
Vitamin A 8% · Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 0% · Iron 0%
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

 

Carbs in Ghee

Low-carb fans, rejoice! Since ghee is a pure fat, it doesn’t contain any carbohydrates.

Fats in Ghee

Like all butter and oils, ghee is 100% fat. One tablespoon has 15 grams of fat, nine of which are saturated.

The remaining fat content is divided between about five grams of healthier monounsaturated fat and less than one gram of polyunsaturated fat.

Protein in Ghee

Ghee may contain trace amounts of protein leftover from the whey used to make it, but this is minimal. Protein won’t show up on a ghee nutrition label.

Micronutrients in Ghee

The micronutrient content of ghee can vary by brand and the diet of the cows that supplied its milk. However, in general, you can expect to take in about 8% of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin A, 2% of your RDI for vitamin E, and 1% of your RDI of vitamin K in one tablespoon. Getting these micronutrients through ghee may be helpful; as fat-soluble vitamins, they’re all best absorbed when accompanied by fat.

Health Benefits

According to tradition, ancient Indians believed ghee to be the healthiest of all cooking fats. To this day, Ayurvedic medicine promotes ghee as a natural means of improving memory, increasing flexibility, and promoting healthy digestion. In addition to eating it, some people apply it topically as a creamy salve for wounds, burns, or rashes.

The jury is still out on whether scientific evidence supports the health claims around ghee. One animal study found no difference in memory or cognition from a diet that included ghee rather than regular butter. One the other hand, several studies have confirmed that ghee does contain healing properties for skin due to antimicrobial and antioxidant activity, most likely because of its vitamin A and E content.

As ghee becomes increasingly popular around the world, more research will likely be conducted to firmly establish its potential health benefits (or lack thereof).

It’s important to remember, though, that whatever advantages ghee may offer, it is still 100% fat, with nine grams of saturated fat per tablespoon. Since saturated fat is implicated in the development of heart disease, many public health organizations recommend limiting your intake. The American Heart Association advises keeping saturated fat to about five or six percent of daily calories. On a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s only about 11 to 13 grams per day.

With nine grams in a single tablespoon of ghee, it’s worth keeping a watchful eye on the amount you eat.

Common Questions

What does ghee taste like?

While ghee is a form of butter, many people find its taste quite different from butter that hasn’t been clarified. It’s often described as having a richer, nuttier flavor. This tends to complement the more savory flavors of Indian cooking ghee is so often used with.

Can I use interchangeably with butter?

Because of ghee’s nuttier flavor and higher density, you may not want to use it in all the same ways you use regular butter, like spreading it on toast or baking it into pastries. Cook’s Illustrated reports that substituting ghee for shortening in pie dough results in richer flavor, but greasier texture. Others have noted that using ghee in baked goods sometimes yields a crispier finished product.

Ghee’s high smoke point makes it an ideal fat for sautéing and stir-frying, two cooking methods often used in traditional Indian cuisine. Although it’s a solid fat, it may be helpful to think of ghee as an alternative to cooking oils like olive or vegetable, rather than butter.

Is ghee healthier than butter?

Ghee is more concentrated than regular butter, so it does contain more calories and more fat (including saturated fat). Compared to butter’s 102 calories and 12 grams of fat per tablespoon, ghee contains up to 135 calories and 15 grams of fat.

Until research confirms health benefits of ghee, it’s best not to rely on it as a health food. But if you like the taste and enjoy using it in your cooking, it can certainly serve as an occasional alternative to butter or cooking oil.

Where can I buy it?

Once only available in specialty stores and Indian grocery stores, ghee is now widely accessible at many mainstream grocers. If you can’t find it locally, ghee is also sold online. Just be aware that it may come with a significantly higher price tag than regular butter.

Recipes and Preparation Tips

Just starting out with ghee? Try it the way it’s been used for centuries: In an Indian main dish recipe, such as Mung Dal Kitcherie. Or experiment with it as an alternative to another cooking oil in a stir fry, like Chicken Fried Rice with Asparagus. Once you get comfortable cooking with ghee in curries, stir fries, or vegetable dishes, you may decide to branch out to more novel uses like pastries or other baked goods.

Allergies and Interactions

Ghee is, of course, a dairy-based product. Therefore, in people with a dairy allergy, it could provoke an immune response like a rash, hives, vomiting, or diarrhea. Likewise, for people with lactose intolerance, eating ghee could lead to symptoms of bloating, gas, or stomach upset.

However, many people believe ghee is less likely to cause allergic symptoms than butter, since the clarification process removes the milk solids that contain lactose and casein—proteins that typically bring about adverse reactions. If you know you have a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance, talk to your doctor, dietitian, or allergist about whether ghee could be a part of your diet.

If you don’t have any adverse reactions to ghee, just be sure to use it as you would any other solid fat: sparingly, but with plenty of enjoyment. 

 

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