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Ghee Substitute: What Should You Use If You Don’t Have It?


On the hunt for a 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 our 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. Since it’s like a concentrated version of butter, it offers a more robust taste to dishes. It’s made by heating butter and then separating the liquids from the milk solids.

This butter originated in India as a way of preservation. Since the temperatures are much warmer there, dairy does not stay good for long. Yet, they discovered that clarifying the butter allowed ghee to stay good for much longer.

Most people buy this type of butter at a store to save time. The good news is that it can also be made easily at home.

Ghee Substitutes and Alternatives

1. Sunflower Oil

Sunflower oil, like ghee, has a high smoke point. This means you can use this ghee replacement in more elevated temperatures. For instance, it’s perfect for deep frying. 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 be altered.

Sunflowers originated in the US. In fact, the high number of sunflower plants here is due to the higher demand for sunflower oil. Sunflower plants were initially used for dyeing clothing and food sources (sunflower seeds).

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

Pros

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

Cons

Sunflower oil has a different consistency which causes the substitution ratio to change.

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

2. 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. It lacks the nutty flavor that ghee provides.

You will notice that coconut oil is pricier than other alternatives. This cost may make this option not workable for everyone. Choose unrefined coconut oil for a slightly cheaper option. This 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 differ in smoke points. Unrefined coconut oil can only take up to 350°F, while refined can reach up to 450°F.

Pros

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

Cons

This swap is more expensive. The flavor will be slightly different than if you used ghee. This is especially true if using unrefined coconut oil.

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

3. Butter

Since ghee is a version of clarified butter, it 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.

There is no clear history of how butter came into existence. What is known is that butter has been around for 9000 years.

You can make butter at home using heavy cream. Doing this will lengthen your cooking process. But, this will enable you to add more salt and other seasonings 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. This is especially true if you buy the off-brand version or make your purchase during a sale. Since this replacement has a subtle flavor, you can use it in various dishes.

Cons

You will not achieve the nutty taste that ghee offers when using butter. Plus, it is unsuitable when whipping up recipes that need higher temperatures.

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

3. Sesame Oil

Sesame oil is another excellent alternative, providing a nutty taste like ghee. Like sunflower oil, this option is thinner. You may need to adjust the quantity when using this as an alternative.

Sesame oil is most likely available at your nearest grocery store (in the Asian aisle).

Some suggest using toasted sesame oil due to its more intense flavor. Yet, regular sesame oil is better for cooking. This is because it has a higher smoke point. You can use sesame oil as a drizzle for flavor or in salad dressings.

Sesame oil can also be pricier, so it may not suit everyone’s budget.

Pros

Use sesame oil to provide a nutty flavor to your dishes. It’s easy to find at your nearby store. Plus, it tastes delicious.

Cons

Sesame oil is pricey and does not have the same consistency as ghee. 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.

4. Olive Oil

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 400 BC. Creating olive oil includes washing and crushing the olives first. Then, pressing the pulp until all the oil is removed follows.

You can produce three varieties of olive oil. These are:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Standard virgin olive oil
  • 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 the light variety if you need a higher smoke point. But, remember that it has the most inferior quality of the three. Also, this oil has a thinner consistency. You’ll want to start with a smaller quantity and adjust depending on the recipe.

Like sunflower oil and sesame oil, olive oil adds a nutty taste to the recipes. There is also a noticeable olive taste, especially with higher-quality olive oil. This oil also has a bolder flavor than ghee. Expect a pronounced taste difference when using this replacement.

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 many recipes.

Cons

Olive oil (especially EVOO) is expensive, and this grade has a low smoke point. It also adds an olive flavor, which may not be suitable for some recipes.

Cooking Tip: Use ¾ the amount required by the recipe. Add more if you need.

5. 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 buy 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 you can use it for nearly all recipes.

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

Pros

Vegetable oil is easily accessible and cheap. 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. It also has a bland flavor.

Cooking Tips:

  • Use vegetable oil in a 1:1 ratio in recipes.
  • If you don’t have something labeled vegetable oil, try to look for canola oil. It is one popular kind of vegetable oil.
  • Another vegetable oil option is soybean oil. Processed soybean oil has a neutral flavor and is a good alternative to ghee. Avoid the raw version, as it has a green bean flavor.

6. Clarified Butter

Many people assume that all clarified butter is ghee. However, this is not the case. Ghee is a type of clarified butter. But, other clarified butter exists, and there is a difference. The production process is similar, except that ghee cooks longer. Because of this, they yield nearly the same consistency and a close flavor profile.

Ghee’s extra cooking time allows the milk solids to brown. This gives ghee a stronger flavor.

Clarified butter is an excellent substitution if you cannot find ghee. 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 are very close to ghee. You can use this for all recipes that call for ghee.

Cons

It does lack some of the rich taste that ghee provides. Plus, clarified butter might not work with everyone’s budget.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Substitute Regular Butter for Ghee?

Yes, you can substitute regular butter for ghee. You’ll notice a taste difference as the butter has a milder flavor. 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. Remember that the taste 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

You might be looking for a ghee substitute for many reasons. Maybe, you’ve run out, and it’s unavailable at your local store. It may also be out of your budget. Whatever your reason is, there is surely something that will work for you.

If you’re looking for the best ghee alternative, use clarified butter. Otherwise, butter or olive oil will also do the job. If you’re especially fond of the coconut flavor, you can also use coconut oil instead of ghee in most recipes.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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