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Clarified Butter vs. Ghee: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on March 4, 2024
Clarified butter is butterfat rendered to separate milk solids and water from butter; ghee is clarified butter cooked longer for a nutty flavor.

Key Differences

Clarified butter and ghee are both products derived from butter but differ in their preparation and characteristics. Clarified butter is made by melting butter and removing the milk solids and water, resulting in a pure butterfat with a higher smoke point than regular butter. This process enhances its utility in cooking, especially for frying and sautéing at higher temperatures without burning. It retains a mild, buttery flavor, making it versatile in culinary applications.
Ghee takes the process of making clarified butter a step further. After the milk solids have been separated, the butter is cooked longer, allowing the remaining water to evaporate and the milk solids to brown. This browning process imparts a rich, nutty flavor to ghee, distinguishing it from the more neutral taste of clarified butter. Ghee boasts an even higher smoke point and is a staple in South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines, not only for its cooking properties but also for its perceived health benefits.
Both clarified butter and ghee share a common starting point, their differences lie in the extent of cooking and the resultant flavor profile. Clarified butter is essentially pure butterfat with a subtle taste, suitable for a wide range of cooking styles. Ghee, on the other hand, features a distinct aroma and taste that can enhance the flavor of dishes it is used in.
The nutritional content of clarified butter and ghee is similar, as both are forms of concentrated butterfat. However, since ghee is cooked longer and the milk solids are browned and then removed, some people find it easier to digest, especially those with slight dairy sensitivities. This is due to the lower lactose and casein content in ghee compared to clarified butter.
In terms of storage, both clarified butter and ghee benefit from the removal of milk solids, which increases their shelf life compared to regular butter. Ghee, however, due to its additional processing, tends to have a longer shelf life and can be stored at room temperature for extended periods without spoiling, making it highly valued for both its culinary and preservative qualities.

Comparison Chart


Butter is melted, and milk solids are removed.
Butter is melted, milk solids removed, and cooked longer.


Mild and buttery.
Nutty and more intense.

Smoke Point

Higher than regular butter.
Higher than clarified butter.

Cultural Significance

Used broadly in Western cooking.
Integral to South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Lactose and Casein Content

Lower than in butter, but not completely removed.
Minimal, making it suitable for those with dairy sensitivities.

Shelf Life

Longer than butter, but may require refrigeration.
Very long, can be stored at room temperature.

Use in Cooking

Versatile, suitable for frying and sautéing.
Used for its distinctive flavor in dishes.

Health Perception

Seen as a healthier alternative to regular butter.
Often touted for additional health benefits.

Clarified Butter and Ghee Definitions

Clarified Butter

Butterfat rendered to remove impurities and components that burn at lower temperatures.
To make perfect popcorn, he always chooses clarified butter for its pure taste and higher heat tolerance.


A clarified butter that is simmered longer to bring out a distinct, rich taste.
Ghee is essential for making traditional Indian sweets, imparting a depth of flavor unmatched by any other fat.

Clarified Butter

A cooking fat with a high smoke point, made from butter.
Clarified butter is ideal for frying fish, as it doesn't smoke as quickly as regular butter.


Ghee is a type of clarified butter with a nutty flavor, used extensively in South Asian cooking.
He added ghee to the rice, giving it a rich, aromatic flavor unique to Indian cuisine.

Clarified Butter

A versatile kitchen staple made from butter, used in various cuisines for its clean, buttery flavor.
For his signature lobster dish, the chef relies on clarified butter to elevate the taste.


A lactose-free alternative to butter, cherished in many cultures for its culinary and medicinal qualities.
To cater to all guests, including those lactose intolerant, she cooked the entire meal in ghee.

Clarified Butter

A dairy product obtained by separating and removing the milk solids from butter.
Clarified butter was her secret to rich, flavorful baked goods that kept well.


Dairy fat rendered from butter to separate all milk solids and water, characterized by its caramelized flavor.
For a touch of authenticity in her dal, she stirred in a spoonful of ghee before serving.

Clarified Butter

Clarified butter is butter stripped of water and milk solids, leaving pure butterfat.
She used clarified butter to sauté vegetables, enhancing their flavor without burning.


An ancient cooking oil known for its high smoke point and healthful properties.
Using ghee for frying spices brings out their aroma while keeping the dish healthy.


A clarified semifluid butter used especially in South Asian cooking.


A type of clarified butter used in South Asian cooking; usli ghee.


(South Asia) Vegetable oil for cooking.


Butter clarified by boiling, and thus converted into a kind of oil.


Clarified butter used in Indian cookery


What is ghee?

Ghee is clarified butter that has been cooked longer to evaporate all the water and caramelize the milk solids before straining, giving it a unique flavor.

Is ghee healthier than clarified butter?

Both are similar in terms of health, but ghee may be better for those with dairy sensitivities due to its minimal lactose and casein content.

Can clarified butter and ghee be stored at room temperature?

Ghee can be stored at room temperature for months, while clarified butter's storage depends on the purity level; it may require refrigeration.

How are clarified butter and ghee different?

The main difference lies in the cooking process; ghee is cooked longer than clarified butter, resulting in a nuttier flavor and a higher smoke point.

Can I substitute clarified butter for ghee in recipes?

Yes, but the dish may have a milder flavor than if ghee were used due to ghee's distinct taste.

Do clarified butter and ghee taste the same?

No, ghee has a nuttier, more caramelized flavor compared to the more neutral taste of clarified butter.

Are there vegan alternatives to clarified butter and ghee?

Yes, there are vegan "ghee" products made from vegetable oils designed to mimic the flavor and cooking properties of ghee.

Is it difficult to make clarified butter or ghee at home?

No, both can be easily made at home with butter and some patience during the cooking process.

What is clarified butter?

Clarified butter is butter that has been melted and strained to remove water and milk solids, resulting in pure butterfat.

Why is ghee favored in Indian cooking?

Ghee has a unique flavor that enhances the taste of traditional dishes and is also valued for its nutritional benefits.

What's the best way to use ghee in cooking?

Ghee is versatile and can be used for sautéing, frying, baking, or as a spread, enhancing dishes with its rich flavor.

What's the nutritional profile of ghee vs. clarified butter?

Both are rich in fats, but ghee may contain more butyric acid due to the caramelization of milk solids.

Is clarified butter or ghee better for frying?

Both are excellent for frying due to their high smoke points, but ghee's flavor might be preferred for certain dishes.

Why use clarified butter in cooking?

It has a higher smoke point than regular butter and adds a rich, buttery flavor without burning quickly.

Can I use ghee for baking?

Yes, ghee can replace butter in baking, offering a richer taste to cakes, cookies, and pastries.

Why does ghee have a higher smoke point than clarified butter?

The removal and caramelization of milk solids during the making of ghee raise its smoke point compared to clarified butter.

Can I use clarified butter or ghee for dairy-free cooking?

Ghee is often considered suitable for dairy-free cooking due to its minimal lactose content, while clarified butter may still contain trace amounts.

What are the main uses of clarified butter and ghee in cuisine?

Clarified butter is used for its high smoke point and subtle flavor, while ghee is chosen for its rich taste and cultural significance in certain cuis

How long can I store clarified butter?

If properly stored in an airtight container, clarified butter can last for several months in the refrigerator.

Can lactose intolerant individuals consume ghee?

Yes, most lactose intolerant individuals can consume ghee as it contains minimal to no lactose.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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