Ghee Nutrition Facts

Calories, Carbs, and Health Benefits of Ghee

homemade ghee butter


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Ghee, sometimes called “desi ghee” or “asli ghee,” is a type of clarified or drawn butter with origins in Indian cooking. The term "clarification" refers to the cooking process that separates milk solids and water from fat. In ghee, the butter is cooked longer than in clarified butter, allowing milk solids to brown before straining. This gives ghee a richer, nuttier flavor than traditional drawn or clarified butter.

For thousands of years, ghee has been respected in Ayurvedic medicine as a curative for a number of ailments. The clarification process is believed to remove impurities, leaving behind a healthier product.

The clarification process creates some nutritional changes: It removes milk solids, decreasing the lactose and casein content, which may offer benefits to those allergic or sensitive to dairy. However, research is ongoing as to whether ghee offers measurable health benefits, especially as compared to regular butter. Ghee should still be used in small quantities to enhance other foods, as you would butter or oils.

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

Nutrition Facts

This nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one tablespoon (15g) of ghee.

  • Calories: 135
  • Fat: 15g
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 0g

Carbs in Ghee

Since ghee is almost completely pure fat, it doesn’t contain any carbohydrates.

Fats in Ghee

Like most cooking oils, ghee is very close to 100% fat. One tablespoon has 15 grams of fat, 9 grams of which are saturated fat. The remaining fat content is divided between about 5 grams of healthier monounsaturated fat and less than one gram of polyunsaturated fat.

Protein in Ghee

Ghee may contain trace amounts of protein that is leftover if the milk solids (whey) aren't completely removed in the clarification process.

Micronutrients in Ghee

The micronutrient content of ghee can vary by brand and the diet of the cows that supplied its milk. In general, a 1-tablespoon serving contains about 8% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin A, 2% of vitamin E, and 1% of vitamin K.

However, you’d have to eat more fat that is recommended to get enough of these nutrients through ghee so it’s best to use a small amount of ghee in cooking things like vegetables and foods with fat-soluble nutrients so your body can best absorb the nutrients.

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. However, these studies looked at ghee in combination with honey, which has its own beneficial properties.

As ghee becomes increasingly popular around the world, more research will likely be conducted to investigate its potential health benefits.

It’s important to remember, though, that whatever advantages ghee may offer, it is still fat, with 9 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon. Since saturated fat is implicated in the development of heart disease, the American Dietetic Association guidelines recommend limiting its intake to 10% or less of your daily calories. For people who need to lower their cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends reducing saturated fat to no more than 5 to 6 percent of total daily calories.

With 9 grams of saturated fat in a single tablespoon of ghee, it’s worth keeping a watchful eye on the amount you eat. One powerful way to do this is to take advantage of its flavorful quality using a smaller serving to enhance vegetable dishes, which are naturally lower in saturated fat.

Common Questions

What does ghee taste like?

While ghee is a form of butter, many people find its taste quite different from butter, including clarified or drawn butter. It’s often described as having a richer, nuttier flavor due to the browning of the milk solids before their removal. 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, higher density, and oilier texture, 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. The smoke point—the temperature when a fat starts to burn and smoke—of ghee is 482 degrees F, compared to butter at 302 degrees F. Olive oil's smoke point is 400 degrees F.

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. Like any fat, ghee should be used as an accent to enhance other foods and not be the bulk of the meal.

While potential health benefits are still being studied, 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, both because more time goes into making it and it takes 16 ounces of butter to make 12 ounces of ghee.

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 most of the milk solids that contain lactose and casein—components 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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