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Is ghee butter vegan? It sounds like a pretty silly and obvious question, given that the primary and only ingredient in ghee is butter. Still, some people consider it technically vegan, as it no longer contains any dairy. Learn more about ghee below and find your favorite vegan ghee substitute.

What is ghee made of?

If you’re at all familiar with Indian and South-East Asian cooking, you likely have already come across this unique ingredient in a few different recipes. It makes a delicious curry, stew, and can substitute for butter or cooking oil anytime you fry something. 

Ghee is clarified butter made from cow or buffalo milk, often used as cooking fat in popular cuisine in Asia, and is enjoying some more mainstream popularity in recent years.

Does ghee have dairy?

Ghee-makers render butter to turn it into ghee by heating it to the point that the butterfat separates entirely from the milk solids and water. Once the water evaporates, manufacturers remove the milk solids, leaving clear, pure butterfat. 

The remarkable difference between ghee and other clarified butter is the simmering time - ghee simmers for much longer, which imparts a nutty quality to its flavor.

What does ghee taste like?

Along with this unique nutty quality, ghee has a rich flavor similar to that of butter, without the creamy mouthfeel due to the loss of its milk solids.

Beyond its cooking uses in Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi dishes, it’s a part of traditional religious rites and Ayurvedic treatment, too. 

Ghee vs. butter

Ghee is butter, so what’s the difference? Quite a bit, it turns out. 

Ghee products have a very high smoke point, making it ideal for high-temperature cooking, unlike butter in its original form. The loss of those milk solids helps it withstand harsher conditions without burning. 

This clarified Indian butter also keeps much better than butter, especially at room temperature. 

How can a little heat make such a difference for ghee ingredients?

The process of making ghee removes most of the casein and lactose, making the product behave very differently than regular butter. 

Though there may be traces of ghee dairy in your ghee, almost all ghee butter ingredients are gone, which is excellent news for anyone with lactose intolerance. 

Is ghee vegan?

While it’s obvious that we produce ghee from dairy sources, some argue that anyone can eat ghee following a purely plant-based diet. 

Is ghee dairy-free?

Technically, yes, ghee no longer contains any milk ingredients, as the milk solids and proteins are gone. 

While ghee is great for the lactose intolerant, we still don’t think this makes it vegan, as the definition of veganism includes products like ghee in a very clear way - veganism involves avoiding any products made by the exploitation of animals. 

Dairy farmers exploit cows to use their milk to make butter, and butter makes ghee. There is no way to remove animals from the production of ghee, so vegans should avoid this food if they want to adhere to vegan standards.

For vegans that aren’t strictly adherent or more of a “flexitarian,” you can source ghee sourced from ingredients that follow ethical farming practices to reduce dairy cows’ exploitation during the milk production process. 

Vegan ghee alternatives

The awesome news for vegans that aren’t interested in consuming ghee but love to make a good curry is there are plenty of ghee alternative products available that you can use in all your favorite recipes. 

The best ghee replacement oil is avocado oil, as it has a high smoke point and is just as suitable for high-heat cooking as ghee. A few other fantastic options are rapeseed oil, safflower oil, mustard oil, coconut oil, and sesame oil. 

You may use a non-dairy butter in place of ghee, too - we love Earth Balance, Faba Butter, or Miyokos to provide a bit of richness that won’t be identical to ghee, but pretty close!

You can also try making vegan ghee at home using our simple instructions below.

Vegan ghee recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 Guava leaves
  • 5-6 Fresh curry leaves
  • ½ c. coconut oil
  • 1 pinch turmeric
  • Fine sea salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Heat your coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Turn off the heat when the oil reaches its smoking point.
  2. Gently crush the guava and curry leaves between your palms, then toss them into the coconut oil. Add the pinch of turmeric powder.
  3. Stir well, then let the leaves steep in the oil for about 1 hr, until the flavors fully infuse. 
  4. Pour the ghee from the pot and into a sealable glass container for storage. 

Final notes: can vegans eat ghee?

Ghee is not considered vegan by almost any standard, so if you’re looking to stick to your vegan diet, we suggest using one of our vegan alternatives instead.

If you enjoyed learning about whether ghee is vegan, you might like another of our related articles; check out “Do vegans drink milk?” next!

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