Ghee Substitute

Ghee is clarified Indian butter which is used quite often in Indian dishes both sweet and savory. Find a list of ideas for the best substitute for ghee in a pinch.
Spoonful of ghee on a white plate.

About Ghee

Ghee has been a staple in Indian cuisine FOREVER.  More recently the Western world has caught on and is learning about its health benefits and delicious flavor.

It has a rich, deep flavor often described as nutty.  It takes the flavor of Indian dishes to another level.  The best example I can give is dal.  Try Dal Fry with ghee and then try it with a substitute.  While both will be delicious, the flavor of dal made with ghee is richer and different.

It is a key ingredient for me, ingrained in daily Indian cooking, and culture and even used for religious traditions. So, I wanted to give some perspective from an Indian cook as I see many blog posts on this from people who are not familiar with Indian cooking, which leads to misleading information and advice.

Particularly, I’d like to note the types of recipes in which ghee substitutes can be used in a pinch.

I always say there is no perfect substitute for any ingredient like in mine, but I think we can get close to a replacement for ghee that you can use in a pinch.

It’s not dairy-free and is made from cow’s milk. Though ghee may be a good choice for lactose-intolerant people. That’s because it contains extremely low levels of lactose and casein (a milk protein).

Uses For Ghee

It is used in much of everyday Indian cooking -in every day savory dishes and Indian sweets. OTher uses inclue:

  • A little can be slathered on Indian bread like Bhakri
  • Deep frying: You can fry food in it (high temperatures, higher smoke point)

What Makes A Good Ghee Substitute

A good ghee substitute includes many or most of the characteristics of ghee:

High smoking point

Rich flavor, nutty aroma

Versatile

Exists in different textures/forms: Solid, Creamy, and Liquid

One tablespoon solid ghee is equal to one tablespoon melted ghee.

So, cooking oils can be used in a 1:1 ratio of replacement for ghee.

The States Of Ghee

At room temperature, ghee is firm but soft

Refrigerated, ghee is solid

Heated, ghee is liquid-like oil

So, What Is the Best Alternative?

FAQ

What is the best substitute to ghee?

The best ghee substitute in a ratio of 1:1 is butter to mimic the richness of flavor and versatility of the fat in both sweet and savory dishes.  Savory Indian dishes can use cooking oil as a substitute.  Indian sweets require a fat that firms up like ghee which enables the sweet to set, so butter or Crisco (Dalda) is a good substitute.

Note, homemade ghee is very easy to make and can be found readily in your local grocery store or online.

The traditional way to make ghee

Make your ghee if you have regular butter!! It’s not hard at all.  In a deep pot similar simmer melted butter sticks for about 10 minutes.  The water content will evaporate, milk solids will float to the top, and then sink a bit.  Let cool and strain the milk solids or milk proteins.  You have ghee! I’ll have a post up soon and link it here.

Butter simmering in a pot to make ghee.

Alternatives to Ghee

The higher smoking point allows for greater versatility in cooking methods.

One tablespoon melted ghee is equal to one tablespoon creamy ghee. So, cooking oil can be used in a 1:1 ratio of replacement for ghee.

“Many unrefined oils are packed with minerals, enzymes, and other compounds that don’t play well with heat.”

Table of Ghee Alternative Options

#NameFlavorSmoking PointUse For Indian SavoryUse For Indian Sweet
 GheeVery rich, Nutty flavor465F X X
1Butter (unsalted) Creamy350FXX
2Coconut OilCoconut, Buttery350FX 
3Canola Oil Neutral400°FX 
4Avocado Oil (Virgin)Light avocado375-400°FX 
5Olive Oil* Fruity notes, light texture465FX 
6Toasted Sesame OilNutty350-410°FX 
7Mustard OilMustard seeds480FX 
8Sunflower OilMild to little flavor440°FX 
9Margarine*Light buttery410-430°FXX
10Vegan Margarine/Butter*Light buttery XX
11Clarified Butter (cooked less than ghee, used in France)Light nutty450°FXX
12Soybean OilMild, neutral450-495°FX 
13Olive Oil Extra Virgin Olive Oil*Peppery, bitter325-375°FX 
14Peanut OilNutty450°FX 
15Crisco (Dalda in India)Neutral flavor360°FXX
16Safflower OilMild, neutral510FX 
17Vegetable OilNeutral400FX 

Best Substitutes

I use coconut oil the most often as a replacement for ghee in savory Indian dishes.  We used canola oil in savory Indian dishes growing up. Primarily use Coconut and Avocado Oil in place of ghee. But, ghee itself has benefits so it is good to use it.

Unsalted Butter

This is the best option for a ghee substitute in terms of buttery flavor and versatility. I would use it in a one-to-one ratio.

Make your ghee if you have regular butter!! It’s not hard at all.  In a deep pot similar simmer melted butter sticks for about 10 minutes.  The water content will evaporate, milk solids will float to the top, and then sink a bit.  Let cool and strain the milk solids or milk proteins.  You have ghee! I’ll have a post up soon and link it here.

Stick of butter cut on a plate.

Similar consistency

In terms of flavor, it provides a rich taste as ghee does

Normally any type of butter can work, highly recommend unsalted.  Organic, grass-fed is great.

Solid fat

Canola Oil

Neutral flavor

Used on high heat

Great substitute

Olive oil

I use it often in Jeera Rice as a healthier alternative to ghee.  It tastes DELICIOUS! Jeera rice is made primarily with Indian Basmati Rice, cumin seeds, and Ghee.

It is best used for mid to low-heat cooking with a low smoke point, so I don’t use it for tadka or frying.

Best substitutes are always what you have on hand.  Highly encourage you to make ghee on your own or source it from a store/online if you are an Indian cuisine enthusiast.

Spoonful of ghee on a white plate.

Ghee Substitute

Shilpa Joshi
Ghee is clarified Indian butter which is used quite often in Indian dishes both sweet and savory. Find a list of ideas for the best substitute for ghee in a pinch.
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Total Time 5 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 1
Calories 36 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 tablespoon

Ingredients
  

  • 1 serving unsalted butter OR
  • 1 serving canola oil OR
  • 1 serving coconut oil See post for other ideas

Instructions
 

  • Substitute your choice of ingredient to use 1:1 in the place of ghee when you are in a pinch.

Notes

There is no absolute perfect substitute for ghee, but I think we can get close to one that you can use in a pinch.
Depending on what you are making choose unsalted butter or a cooking oil as a substitute.

Nutrition

Calories: 36kcalProtein: 0.04gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 11mgSodium: 1mgPotassium: 1mgVitamin A: 125IUCalcium: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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