Ghee and clarified butter are the two golden products of melting unsalted butter over low heat; similar, but not quite the same. The milk solids and water are separated from the butter fat during this melting process, and this makes ghee and clarified butter very stable at high heat. They both work very well for making my favorite Hollandaise sauce, they both have a great shelf life in or out of the refrigerator. Since they tolerate high heat without burning they are perfect for sautéing and deep frying.
The difference between the two is that, the clarified butter is made by melting the butter and then discarding the milk solids that collect as a foamy layer on top. Ghee is made by taking a step further and caramelizing the milk solids after they sink to the bottom of the pot. This method gives ghee a rich nutty flavor that the clarified butter lacks. The caramelized milk solids have a special nutty-cheese-like flavor, and it is called “Torta” in Azeri. Torta is used in some recipes to add a special nutty flavor to breads, pastries, and it is also used in a very old-fashioned Azeri snack called Dooymanj.
To make Ghee, add 2 pounds good quality unsalted butter to a large heavy bottomed stainless steel stockpot. Melt the butter over low heat. If you have a heat diffuser (to spread the heat evenly), it would be helpful to prevent the butter from burning towards the end of this process. You will need a 32-ounce large mason jar, or another heatproof jar with a tight lid to store the Ghee.
Heat the butter over low heat undisturbed until it melts. Don’t leave the butter unattended. The butter will start to boil very slowly and you will start to see single sporadic bubbles on the surface. Use a heat proof spoon to occasionally stir the melted butter. Gradually a white, almost solid, foam starts to form on top (this is the water and milk solids). Continue to heat on low heat, stirring occasionally.
Next, the layer of white foam will start to break up to little white balls that float in the butter. Continue to stir occasionally.
Continue heating and stirring occasionally until the tiny white balls start to settle in the bottom of the stockpot and leave a very clear and golden butter fat on top.
Continue heating over low and stir until all the milk solids have settled to the bottom of the stockpot
At this point things start going pretty fast and the milk solids could burn very quickly. Stir constantly until the tiny white balls in the bottom of the pot caramelize and have a light golden color and you can smell a rich nutty aroma.
Turn the heat off and wait 5-10 minutes without stirring or disturbing the pot . Now, you have a clear golden Ghee on top and the caramelized milk solids in the bottom of the pot. Pour the Ghee very slowly into a 32-ounce large mason jar. The milk solids will stay at the bottom of the pot. Do not try to get every bit of the ghee and stop pouring when there is about 1-2 tablespoons of ghee mixed in with the solids in the stockpot; you don’t want any milk solids to pour into the mason jar. There will be 3-4 tablespoons of caramelized milk solids, or “Torta,” mixed in with a little bit of ghee; store it the refrigerator for couple of days, or in the freezer for couple of weeks, and use it in bread recipes or Dooymanj.
Do not cover the mason jar with the lid, instead cover it with a thin kitchen towel for several hours, or overnight, until the jar feels completely cool to touch. Cover the jar tightly with the lid and store it in a cool and dark place. If you will be using the Ghee for your daily cooking there is no need to refrigerate. If you intend to use it only occasionally I would recommend refrigerating it; the shelf life is about 2-3 months at room temperature. The photo above is Ghee at room temperature and it solidifies when refrigerated. Not only Ghee is a superb cooking fat with an incredible taste, it is also tolerable by most people with lactose intolerance (unless there is hypersensitivity to lactose). The best Ghee in Iran comes from the town of Kermanshah that is in the west of Iran, about 300 some miles from Tehran. Kermanshah is famous for its fantastic food and specialty sweets.
Lida Moazezi says
Thank you so much, Homa, for all these great recipes. You are awesome.
My pleasure dear Lida; thanks very much for your comment 🙂
Thank you very much honored Homa
You’re most welcome dear Farzad 🙂
Suresh Kamath says
What is the Farsi word for Ghee. I have a colleague from Iran and when I asked him about how they use Ghee in persian dishes, he was not familiar with it. He left Iran for the US in 1979.
Hi Suresh; ghee is what most families make by melting massive amounts of high-fat hand churned butter. Through the cooking process that I have explained, the clear golden fat is separated from the milk solids to raise its heating point and increase its shelf life, even at room temperature! ‘Roghan heyvani’ or ‘roghan e zard’ are the most common names. Iranians use ghee instead of or in conjunction with vegetable oil or olive oil, pretty much the same way that we use it here!
Do you have to stir the top that’s settled at the top of the jar of ghee….the oily part into the more solid part before using?
Hi Bre, I’m not sure what you mean by ” the top that’s settled at the top of the jar of ghee.”
After the milk solids sink to the bottom and caramelize, the remaining liquid on top is clear. After you pour the clear fat into the jar there will be a small amount of solids left in the bottom of the pan. These solids should not be mixed with the clear butter fat. I hope this answers your question. Please let me know if you have more questions.
Elise Levine says
My beloved this morning was talking about the best butter in Kermanshah (I am an ashkenzai Jew and he is Sephardic so many things are different) I immediately googled and came to your page. I had no idea he meant Ghee. Now I’m sure it’s not going to be the same as his childhood in Iran, but I’m going to do my best to recreate it for him. Thank you Thank you!
Yes, the fragrance and flavor of roghan e Kermanshahi is absolutely the best in my book! However, in its absence, I use the most flavorful butter that I can find which I would enjoy on my toast in the morning! I do love this homemade ghee. It is pure and delicious without the additives that they use in the commercially prepared ones. I know he’ll love this, even if it is not from Kermanshah 😉 I would love to hear what he thinks. Have a great weekend!