Ghee or clarified butter (also known as drawn butter) is a casein free alternative to regular butter. Both ghee and clarified butter have the milk proteins casein and whey removed and what remains is butter fat.
Casein is a protein that many people do not tolerate, especially people who cannot tolerate gluten. That is because gluten and casein have a similar molecular structure.
If you would like to learn more, Dr. Vikki Petersen has an interesting article on gluten and casein intolerances at Gluten Free Fox.
For over a year now I have been dairy free (in addition to gluten free) because of the effect that gluten and casein can have on Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, which I have. Technically, I only need to be casein free and I have begun branching out a little to include some dairy that is free of casein. Primarily, ghee and clarified butter.
From what I have read, it seems that ghee and clarified butter are basically the same thing except that ghee is heated longer which results in less water (due to evaporation), a darker color, and a toffee like flavor.
While ghee and clarified butter can be bought at health food stores, you can also make them at home. I prefer to use clarified butter because I don’t always want the toffee flavor.
I have not used clarified butter in baking, at least not much. I mostly use it in cooking when I really want a little butter flavor with something. Clarified butter is a good high heat fat to use. Without the proteins it has a high smoke point.
When you melt butter without stirring it, you will notice that foam rises to the top. That is whey. Under the whey is the butter fat, and casein sinks to the bottom. The whey is usually skimmed off the top with a spoon. What you don’t get by skimming is strained off.
The goal is to leave the casein in the bottom of the pot and only pour the butter fat through the strainer. The strainer and cheesecloth are there to catch the little bit extra whey and casein. However, I have found a residue in the bottom of my strained butter (even with four layers of cheesecloth) so I strain it several times just to be sure all the casein is removed.
Don’t try using a coffee filter to strain it. I tried that once and the fat would not go through it.
Ghee or Clarified Butter
- 1 pound unsalted butter
- cheese cloth
- bowls or large measuring glasses
- sauce pan
- Cut the butter into chunks and place them in the sauce pan. I find that one pound is a good amount to work with, but you can use any amount you want.
- Heat on low until the butter is melted and bubbly. Do not stir!
- Whey will float to the top and be foamy. Use a large spoon to skim the whey off the top. You don’t have to worry about getting all of it, just get most of it.
- Casein will sink to the bottom of the pot. Butter does not contain a lot of casein, but there is some.
- Once the butter is melted, has bubbled and spluttered a little, and foam is no longer rising, you are ready to strain it if making clarified butter.
- If making ghee, continue heating it until the butter turns a golden brownish color and smells like toffee.
- Place multiple layers of cheesecloth into a wire strainer (not a colander) and set the strainer over a bowl. I like to use a 4 cup glass measuring cup.
- Carefully pour the butter into the strainer, holding back any solid stuff you see at the bottom.
- I strain a total of three times to be sure the casein is removed. Some people only strain it once. The more you strain, the less volume you will end up with.
- If straining more than one, use a second bowl or measuring cup to strain again. Using a measuring cup allows you easily pour from one to another. You may notice some light colored solid residue at the bottom of the first bowl/cup. Hold that back and discard it.
- When done straining, pour the butter into small containers and refrigerate for use.