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Ghee Substitute


Ghee is a delicious cooking butter that adds a nutty flavor and allows you to cook dishes at higher temps. You’ll commonly find recipes from India and Asia that require ghee as an ingredient. Check out the ghee substitute list below for options in case you don’t have any at home.

wooden spoon filled with yellow ghee

What Is Ghee?

Ghee is a type of clarified butter. It’s like a concentrated version of butter that offers a more robust taste to dishes. It’s made by heating butter and then separating the liquids and milk solids as you heat the butter. While most people choose to purchase this type of butter at a store to save time, you can also create ghee easily at home.

The origin of ghee centers around the legend of Prajapati, also known as Brahma; it states that Prajapati created ghee and added it to flames to make his children. Now, it’s still added to fires for good luck surrounding special ceremonies.

This butter initially came from India as a way of preservation. Since the temperatures are much warmer there, dairy does not stay good for very long. However, clarifying the butter allowed ghee to avoid going bad for much longer.

Ghee Substitutes and Alternatives

Sunflower Oil

Sunflower oil, like ghee, has a high smoke point. This smoke point means that you can use this ghee replacement for any dishes that require higher temperatures, like dishes that require deep frying. Along with having a high smoke point, sunflower oil also offers a nutty taste like ghee.

There is a difference in consistency as sunflower oil is much thinner. Depending on the recipe you intend to create, the quantity may or may not need to change.

Sunflowers are one plant that originated in the US. The higher number of sunflower plants is due to the higher demand for sunflower oil. Sunflower plants were initially used for other things such as dying clothing and food sources (sunflower seeds).

In the 1700s, the sunflower plant was noted by Russia as being able to provide oil. The plant was modified over the years by Russia and Europe to produce the current version.

Pros

Sunflower oil provides a similar taste and offers a high smoke point. It works well in many recipes that call for ghee.

Cons

Sunflower oil has a different consistency that may not work with all recipes or cause the substitution ratio to change.

Cooking Tip:

Start with ¾ the amount of sunflower oil the recipe calls for and adjust as needed.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil, at room temperature, offers a similar consistency as ghee. This consistency makes for an easy swap as you can use the same amount in recipes. Coconut oil has a subtle taste making it a good alternative. While it lacks the nutty flavor that ghee provides, its mild coconut taste will not be noticeable in most dishes unless you have a sensitive palate.

You will notice that coconut oil is pricier than other alternatives. This cost may make this option not doable for everyone. Choose unrefined coconut oil for a slightly cheaper option. This version of the oil has a stronger coconut taste, whereas refined coconut oil has a more subtle flavor.

Another note about unrefined vs. refined coconut oil is that they have different smoke points. Crude coconut oil can only be heated to 350°F, while refined can be heated up to 450°F. If budget is not a concern for you, you can find coconut oil in most grocery stores.

Pros

Coconut oil has a similar consistency to ghee and has versatile uses.

Cons

This swap is more expensive, even when choosing unrefined. The flavor will be slightly different than if you use ghee, especially if using unrefined coconut oil.

Cooking Tip:

Use coconut oil in a 1:1 ratio as a replacement for ghee.

Butter

Since ghee is a version of clarified butter, it only makes sense as a substitute for ghee. Butter will provide a similar flavor, though it will be much milder and without the nuttiness. The consistency to ghee is also close, making this another easy replacement.

While there is not a clear history of how butter came into existence, it is known that butter has been around for 9000 years. This is a food that was in use around the world and continues to be consumed every day.

If you’re in a pinch, you can make butter at home using heavy cream. It will add time to your recipe, though you’ll be able to add the amount of salt you enjoy along with other seasonings as you please (like fresh herbs). Butter will work with most recipes flavor-wise. However, it has a much lower smoke point, limiting the number of dishes you can create with this swap.

Pros

Butter is easy to come across and relatively cheap, especially if you purchase the off-brand version or make your purchase during a sale. Since this replacement has a subtle flavor, you can use it in an array of dishes.

Cons

When using butter, you will not achieve the nutty taste that ghee offers. You also are unable to whip up recipes that require higher temps.

Cooking Tip:

Use butter in a 1:1 ratio as a substitution.

Sesame Oil

Sesame oil is another excellent alternative as it provides a nutty taste similar to ghee. This option is thinner, like sunflower oil, so you may also need to adjust the quantity when using this as a ghee alternative.

You can likely find sesame oil at your nearest grocery store in the Asian aisle. While some may suggest using toasted sesame oil because it has a more intense flavor, regular sesame oil is better for cooking. This note is due to having a higher smoke point. You can use sesame oil as a drizzle for flavor or in salad dressings.

Otherwise, opt for regular sesame oil for your cooking needs. Sesame oil can also be on the pricier side, so it may not be budget-friendly for everyone.

Pros

Use sesame oil to provide a nutty flavor to your dishes. It’s easy to find at your nearby store and has a delicious taste.

Cons

Sesame oil is pricey and not the same consistency as ghee. Meaning, you will need to experiment with the quantity for each recipe.

Cooking Tip:

Start with ¾ the amount requested by the recipe; add more if you need.

Olive Oil

Like sunflower oil and sesame oil, olive oil adds a nutty taste to the recipes you use it in. There is also a noticeable olive taste, especially with higher quality olive oil. This oil has a bolder flavor than ghee, so there will be a pronounced taste difference when using this replacement.

Olive oil was initially used as fuel for lamps and in important ceremonies. This type of oil has been around in one form or another since about 400 BC. Creating olive oil includes washing and crushing the olives, then pressing the pulp until all the oil is removed.

There are three varieties of olive oil available – extra virgin olive oil, standard virgin olive oil, and light olive oil. EVOO (extra virgin) is of the highest quality and bears the highest price tag. Though, it has a somewhat low smoke point.

Choose light olive oil if you need a higher smoke point, though it is the most inferior quality of the three. As olive oil has a thinner consistency, you’ll want to start with a smaller quantity and adjust depending on the recipe you create.

Pros

Olive oil adds a nutty taste to recipes, like ghee. It’s easy to find in grocery stores, and you can use it in a good number of recipes.

Cons

Olive oil (especially EVOO) is expensive to purchase, and this grade has a low smoke point. Because of the price, olive oil is not suitable for all budgets. It also adds an olive flavor when using a higher grade of oil that may not be suitable for some recipes.

Cooking Tip:

Use ¾ the amount required by the recipe and add more if you need.

Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oil works as a replacement for ghee for a few reasons. It is an option that most people have available in their kitchens. If you don’t already have this oil, you can purchase it from any grocery store, and it’s pretty cheap.

You will notice a difference in flavor as vegetable oil does not have a distinct taste. When using this swap, there will not be a nutty taste. Vegetable oil has a very mild flavor so that you can use it for nearly all recipes.

It has a high smoke point and, due to its flavor, works well in sweet and savory dishes, unlike some other oil substitutes above. Although vegetable oil has a thinner consistency, you can use this alternative in an even ratio.

Pros

Vegetable oil is easily accessible and low-budget-friendly. Its neutral flavor and high smoke point allow you to add it to any recipe that usually requires ghee.

Cons

This cooking oil replacement does not provide a nutty taste to your recipes and has a bland flavor.

Cooking Tip:

Use vegetable oil in a 1:1 ratio in recipes.

Clarified Butter

Many people assume that all clarified butter is ghee. However, this is not the case. Ghee is a type of clarified butter, though other clarified butter exists, and there is a difference. The process is similar when creating clarified butter and ghee, except that ghee cooks longer.

This additional cooking time allows the milk solids to brown, giving ghee a stronger flavor. Because clarified butter and ghee go through a similar process, they yield nearly the same consistency and a close flavor profile.

Clarified butter is an excellent substitution if you can find it. Unfortunately, this option can be challenging to find at your local store. If you do find it, it’s typically pricey. Some people opt to create a homemade version from unsalted or salted butter.

Pros

The flavor and consistency of clarified butter are very close to ghee. You can use clarified butter for all recipes that call for ghee.

Cons

Clarified butter can be tricky to find at the grocery store. It does lack some of the rich taste that ghee provides. It’s also a pricey option when found at the store.

Cooking Tip:

Use clarified butter in a 1:1 ratio to replace ghee.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Substitute Regular Butter for Ghee?

es, you can substitute regular butter for ghee. You’ll notice a taste difference as the butter has a milder flavor. However, it does make a good swap as butter is readily available. Remember that you cannot heat butter to as high of temperatures, so it may not work for all recipes.

Can You Substitute Coconut Oil for Ghee?

Yes, you can substitute coconut oil for ghee. Keep in mind; the flavor will be different as coconut oil has a coconut flavor. If you do not enjoy the taste of coconuts, use a different replacement in your recipes.

Is Ghee Similar to Butter?

Yes, ghee is similar to butter. Ghee is butter that has been clarified. Butter is heated, and any solids that separate from the liquid are taken out to make ghee.

Can I Make Ghee From Salted Butter?

Yes, you can make ghee from salted butter. Depending on the source, some claim using unsalted butter offers the best ghee. However, you can use either, and after separating the liquids and solids, you’ll have ghee ready to use in your recipes.

Why Would You Use Ghee Instead of Butter?

The biggest reason to use ghee instead of butter is for its bolder taste. Ghee provides a strong nutty flavor that translates to other ingredients in the recipe. Another reason is the high smoke point, as noted above, allowing you to use ghee in more dishes.

Summary

If you’re looking for a ghee alternative, use clarified butter if available. Otherwise, butter or olive oil work as good ghee replacements. Whether you’re looking for an alternative to ghee because it’s unavailable at your local store, you’ve run out, or it’s out of your budget, the options above will work for both budget-conscious individuals and those with limited store choices.

Recipes With Ghee

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document easy real food recipes perfect for busy families. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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