Ghee is a nutty, aromatic butter great for sauteing or frying and popular in Indian, Southeast Asian, and Middle Eastern cuisines. But if you need a replacement for ghee, the good news is there’s no shortage of ways to imitate its unique flavor profile.
Manufacturers make ghee by cooking butter, then straining it to remove water. They might also skim the solidified butter from the mixture. Ghee is also commonly used in traditional medicine and religious practices.
Read on to find out more about how you can replicate ghee’s flavor and why you might need to in some recipes.
List of Ghee Substitutes
1. Olive Oil
Olive oil is a common pantry item in most homes, so it will work well as a ghee alternative if you’re short on ghee. Olive oil is a liquid, while ghee is traditionally a solid, so it won’t work as closely in recipes that require solid fats or creams.
Olive oil will help to replicate ghee’s nutty flavor profile, so it makes a good substitute in recipes that can work without solid fat.
Olive oil replaces ghee on a three-quarter volume scale. This ratio means that when a recipe calls for one cup of ghee, you can use ¾ cup of olive oil.
2. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is another flavorful ingredient that, like ghee, will add a new flavor dimension to your recipes.
There are two varieties of coconut oil: refined and unrefined. Unrefined will have a more noticeable coconut flavor than the purified product, so this replacement depends on preference.
Coconut oil is structurally similar to butter and ghee, so it replaces ghee in a one-for-one ratio. For instance, if a recipe calls for one-half cup of ghee, use one-half cup of coconut oil instead.
3. Canola Oil
Canola oil is an easy substitute for ghee. Canola oil has almost no flavor, so if you’re looking for a more flavorful alternative to replace ghee, you could use additional spices or a butter mixture with canola oil instead.
Canola oil also helps to replace ghee in recipes with longer cooking times because of its similar smoke point to ghee. You can cook foods for the same length of time as you would ghee without worrying about them burning or browning too much.
You can replace ghee with canola oil in a three-to-four ratio, meaning that if you need one cup of ghee, you can use ¾ cup of canola oil in its place. You can also do a one-for-one conversion, but this method will require that you reduce one of the recipe’s liquids.
4. Sesame Oil
Sesame oil is another cooking ingredient with a strong flavor profile, much like ghee. Like ghee, it also makes a good substitute for frying food. There are also a few different types of sesame oil, including toasted, cold-pressed, and light.
Toasted sesame oil will make the best replacement for ghee because the toasting process makes the flavors in seeds more intense. This type of sesame oil best replicates the nutty flavor of ghee.
Sesame oil substitutes at a three-to-four ratio for ghee, just like most oils. If you need a ½ cup of ghee, you could use about ⅓ cup of sesame oil, for example.
5. Soybean Oil
Raw, untreated soybean oil has a green bean flavor, but the treated and manufactured product has a much more mild, bland taste. Like canola oil, it will make a usable substitute for ghee, but you might be interested in using additional flavors to make up for its lack of seasoning.
Also, like other oils, it can replace ghee with a three-to-four ratio. You can use ¾ of a tablespoon of soybean oil to replace one tablespoon of ghee. It can also replace ghee one-to-one if you reduce another liquid ingredient in your recipe.
6. Sunflower Oil
Sunflower oil makes an excellent ghee alternative. Like ghee, it has a very high smoke point at 450°F and has a nutty flavor. These characteristics make it one of the best substitutes for ghee, especially in sauteing and frying foods.
Sunflower oil can also replace ghee in either a three-to-four or one-to-one ratio, with the latter replacement just requiring you to reduce another liquid in the recipe where you’re replacing ghee. This replacement depends on your personal cooking preference.
7. Vegetable Oil
Vegetable oil might not help if you’re looking for a healthier substitute for ghee, but you likely have it on hand in your pantry. So if you need to replace ghee because you’re running low, vegetable oil will work just fine.
You can substitute vegetable oil on a one-for-one ratio with one cup of vegetable oil in place of the same amount of ghee. Be mindful of replacing ghee with vegetable oil in recipes that call for creaming or solid fats to make them.
Butter is the most natural ghee substitute. It’s the basis for ghee, so it makes an easy switch if you need a ghee alternative in a pinch. You can also mix olive oil and butter to bring the same nutty flavor and texture as ghee. This mixture also helps to prevent burning your food.
Butter can also replace ghee one a one-for-one ratio. For example, if your recipe calls for a tablespoon of ghee, use one tablespoon of butter instead. While this ratio works, ghee is moister than butter, so you may need to change any dry ingredient amounts to make up for it.
When to Use a Ghee Alternative
Another time to use a replacement for ghee is dairy allergies. While most people think of ghee as a safe substitute for butter if you have a dairy sensitivity, it isn’t always. That’s because of how most manufacturers make it.
In most commercial ghee products, there may still be milk solids. Ghee has less lactose than traditional butter, but it is not entirely free of it. If you are lactose intolerant or have a dairy allergy, you should use a ghee substitute.
Vegans will also want ghee alternatives because manufacturers make ghee with cow’s milk. Ghee helps bring a unique flavor to recipes that use it, but vegans can still enjoy similar flavors by exploring a ghee replacement.
Additionally, as ghee grew more popular in the past couple of years, it was touted by the fitness community as a healthier substitute for butter. It’s similar to butter in composition and has a higher saturated fat content, meaning you might look for a healthier alternative.
Ghee can also be a little expensive. If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to ghee, there are plenty of less expensive ingredients that you can substitute easily. A jar of ghee will typically cost about $8, while an equivalent amount of butter is half that price.