One common, often demonized, fat that most of us use on the regular is butter. But butter is surprisingly good for you: it's a source of fat, it keeps you full, has some vitamins, and makes foods way tastier. On your journey for the perfect alternative, you may have heard that super-trendy coconut oil isn't actually any better for you than butter. But what about butter's exotic cousin, clarified butter, aka ghee?
Ghee is technically a type of clarified butter that's often used in Indian cooking, says Taylor Wolfram, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian in Chicago. When butter is melted down, the milk solids separate out, and turn brown as they simmer, he says. This leftover buttery oil is considered "ghee."
The process of making ghee raises its smoke point — the point at which a fat stops simmering and starts smoking — to about 375 degrees, Wolfram says. For context, regular butter's smoke point is around 300 degrees, coconut oil's smoke point is 350 degrees, while olive oil's smoke point is 410 degrees. "If you want to cook something at a higher temp, oils such as olive oil and grape seed oil are a better bet," she says, but for temperatures in the 300-375-degree range, ghee might be preferred.
Beyond the dairy factor, ghee is still 100% fat like regular butter, and contains roughly 60% saturated fat, Wolfman says. "I personally prefer oils over ghee and butter for their heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and their higher smoke points," she says. While ghee has its place in certain cultural cuisines, for those just looking for a fancier, "cleansed" version of butter, it might not be worth it, she says. After all, it's still just another cooking fat — and an expensive one at that.