Making Ghee in the Oven

by Ellen

We love ghee in our house.  Also called “clarified butter” or “butter oil,” ghee is a delicious fat with a long shelf life.  Ghee is butter with the water and solids removed.  Highly prized in South Asian cooking, ghee also has a long tradition of Ayurvedic and modern Hindu religious use.  Ghee made from the cream of cows that eat grass is an excellent source of vitamins A, E, D and K2.  Pastured ghee is also high in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which may be protective against cancer and heart disease. 

Why cook with ghee?

Depending on the purity of the ghee (how well the solids were removed), ghee’s smoke point can range from 375°-485°F, making it an excellent choice for sauteing or stove-top frying.  Ghee is also casein-free and lactose-free, as long as all the solids are removed.  Now that we don’t use vegetable oil for cooking, ghee and coconut oil are our top two choices.  Sometimes we prefer a buttery taste to a coconutty one.

Ghee tastes wonderful — nutty and rich.  It’s perfect for frying eggs or drizzling over vegetables.  Try it on rice, toast or popcorn.  Use it whenever you’d like a full, buttery taste.  You can even bake with it.  Best of all, you can make it yourself!

How to Make Ghee in the Oven (Choola Ghee)

Unsalted butter from cows that ate grass

You will need:

  • 1 to 20 lbs. of unsalted butter (I used 1.5 lbs. of Kerrygold)
  • 1 heavy oven-proof pan, such as a dutch oven (I used Le Creuset)
  • strainer
  • cheesecloth or kitchen towel
  • 1 large bowl for strained ghee
  • 1 small bowl for solids
  • large spoon
  • 1 storage jar

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 300°F.  Cut butter into 1/4-lb. chunks and place pan full of butter in the oven.

Unsalted butter ready to go in the oven

Let butter cook undisturbed for at least one hour.  At first, foam will appear on top.  Later, the butter will start to bubble.  Milk solids fall to the bottom of the pan, foam rises to the top and the clarified butter sits in between:

Butter separating: Foam on top, solids on bottom, clarified butter in the middle.

When the foam starts to brown and you smell a pleasant aroma, scrape a little foam to the side.  The ghee underneath should be a deep, golden yellow color.  The solids on the bottom should just be starting to brown.  At this point, it’s done cooking.  If it cooks too long, the milk solids will begin to burn.  (The more butter you have, the longer it will take to make ghee.  According to The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, 11-20 pounds of butter can take 8-10 hours to turn to ghee in the oven and 6-7.5 hours on the stove.)  Remove the pan from the oven and use a metal spoon to scrape the foam off the top.
Using a ladle, carefully pour ghee through the strainer lined with either several layers of cheesecloth or a kitchen towel.  Try not to disturb the solids on the bottom of the pan too much.  Save these solids for later — they taste great on bread or soup. When you get down near the bottom, use a spoon to catch the rest of the ghee.

Straining the ghee through cheesecloth


Let the strained ghee cool and then pour it into a storage jar, if you’d like.  Ghee will last in the refrigerator for six months or in the freezer for a year.  It can also be stored on the shelf, with a tight lid, for a couple of months if it’s protected from air and moisture.  Ghee stored below room temperature will harden.

Strained ghee


You can also make ghee on the stove, but you need to watch it a little more closely to make sure the solids don’t burn.



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Comments on this entry are closed.

Jessica April 7, 2011 at 9:28 am

I can’t wait to try this! I am very curious about the flavor :)

Ellen April 7, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Hi, Jessica. You’ll find that the flavor becomes more intense as you let the milk solids brown more. There’s a fine line between brown and burned, though. I hope you like it! It’s hard to go wrong with butter…

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