Ghee Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

homemade ghee butter

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Ghee is a type of clarified or drawn butter with origins in Indian cooking. Clarification is 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 they are strained out. This gives ghee a richer, nuttier flavor than traditional clarified butter.

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

Clarification does remove milk solids, decreasing the lactose and casein content of ghee. This may offer benefits to people who are 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.

Ghee Nutrition Facts

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

  • Calories: 130
  • Fat: 15g
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 0g

Carbs

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

Fats

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.

Ghee is more concentrated than regular butter, so it does contain more calories and more fat (including saturated fat). Like any fat, ghee should be used as an accent to enhance other foods and not as the bulk of the meal.

Protein

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

Vitamins and Minerals

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

You would have to eat more fat than is recommended to get enough of these nutrients through ghee. So it’s best to use a small amount of ghee in cooking vegetables and other foods with fat-soluble nutrients so your body can better absorb the nutrients.

Health Benefits

Ayurvedic medicine promotes ghee as a natural means of improving memory, increasing flexibility, and promoting healthy digestion.

However, the jury is still out on whether scientific evidence supports the health claims around ghee. For instance, one animal study found no difference in memory or cognition from a diet that included ghee rather than regular butter; there is no research on how ghee might help with memory in humans.

Soothes and Heals Skin

In addition to eating ghee, some people apply it topically as a creamy salve for wounds, burns, or rashes. Research has 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, some studies looked at ghee in combination with honey, which has its own beneficial properties. 

Limits Exposure to Acrylamide

Acrylamide is a potentially toxic and carcinogenic compound that is produced when cooking fats are exposed to high heat. Research, such as a study published in 2016, shows that compared to vegetable oils (and even other saturated fats), ghee produces much less acrylamide when heated.

Allergies

Ghee is, of course, a dairy-based product. 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, ghee may be less likely to cause allergic symptoms than butter since the clarification process removes most of the 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.

Adverse Effects

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% of total daily calories. A tablespoon of ghee contains about 40mg of cholesterol, or 13% of the recommended daily intake, which is only slightly higher than butter (30mg, or 10% RDI).

Varieties

Real ghee is made from cow-milk butter. You can also sometimes find ghee made from buffalo milk. "Ghee" that's made from vegetable oils is not really ghee and doesn't have the same qualities and benefits.

Some retailers also sell ghee with spices, such as turmeric, added. This could limit the versatility of your ghee; you may find it more useful to purchase plain ghee and add your own spices according to whatever dish you are using the ghee in.

When It's Best

Ghee is available year-round at many Indian and 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 the fact that it takes 16 ounces of butter to make 12 ounces of ghee.

Storage and Food Safety

Ghee usually comes in a reclosable glass jar. Depending on how quickly you will be using your ghee, you can keep it in a cool, dark place (at room temperature), where it will be good for about three months. To extend its shelf life, store in the refrigerator for up to one year. While it will solidify when cooled, it will soon return to a liquid state once removed from the fridge.

How to Prepare

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. Substituting ghee for shortening in pie dough may result in richer flavor, but greasier texture. Using ghee in baked goods sometimes yields a crispier finished product.

Take advantage of ghee's flavorful quality by using a small serving to enhance vegetable dishes. 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, rather than butter. The smoke point—the temperature at which 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.

Just starting out with ghee? Try it the way it’s been used for centuries: In an Indian main dish recipe, such as palak chicken. 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 other uses like pastries or other baked goods.

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Article Sources

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Udwadia TE. Ghee and honey dressing for infected wounds. Indian J Surg. 2011;73(4):278-83. doi:10.1007/s12262-011-0240-7

  3. Kotian S, Bhat K, Pai S, et al. The role of natural medicines on wound healing: A biomechanical, histological, biochemical and molecular study. Ethiop J Health Sci. 2018;28(6):759-770. doi:10.4314/ejhs.v28i6.11

  4. American Cancer Society. Acrylamide and cancer risk. Updated February 11, 2019.

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