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Dairy-free ghee substitution

What dairy-free substitutes are there for ghee? I've heard of vanaspati ghee, but I've also heard that the commercial brands are full of saturated and trans fats (so the real stuff is more healthful). Does it make a noticeable difference if vegetable oil is used for frying instead of ghee?

Thank you in advance for all responses.

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  1. Ghee is dairy free. The process to make it skims off all dairy solids, so what remains is pure fat. Any milk solids are gone.

    1 Reply
    1. re: beany

      It may be lactose free, but the butter fat is still of dairy origin. Of course the relevance of this depends on why the OP wanted dairy-free in the first place.

    2. I once found a vegetable ghee (dont ask me the process there) called Dalda. It comes in a yellow and green tin as I recall.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Rainchilde

        That is one brand of vanaspati ghee and it's all pretty bad - conceptually you can think of it as somewhere between shortening and margarine.

        Definitely use some sort of neutral oil. It won't taste the same, but it's not at all "inauthentic" in the sense that health conscious Indians have been switching to it as a primary cooking fat for quite some time, using ghee as a flavoring/seasoning rather than the primary fat. (And only comparatively rich Indians can afford large amounts of usli/butter ghee in the first place even if they don't care about dying young from cardiovascular diseases. ;) .)

      2. Could you try making it from Earthbalance margarine? It is vegan and trans-fat free.

        2 Replies
        1. re: bear

          I don't think you can clarify margarine, simply because there are no solids to eliminate. Unless, of course, I completely misunderstood your answer and you just meant "cook with margarine" instead of "make margarine ghee"...

          1. re: piccola

            zNope, you didn't understand. I don't know much about margarine, so I just threw that out there. Now I know!

        2. I'm no Indian cooking expert, but I can't imagine why anyone would consider using margarine or any kind of fake ghee when you could just use a high quality vegetable oil -- possibly peanut or grape seed. I know there's proponents of coconut oil but I'm not familiar with using it. If you don't fry at high temperatures, olive oil would be good too. It's not going to have exactly the same taste as something made with a butter product -- because butter is butter and there's no getting around it -- but with the right spices it should still be very good.

          1. Just looked at my can of Dalda vegetable ghee--it's made from soybean and palm oil--32% saturated fat.

            1. I use clarified butter for sautéeing a great many things. It's the same thing as ghee except that the milk isn't curdled first before making the butter from which the milk solids are removed.
              The purpose of removing the milk solids from either clarified butter or ghee is that they burn at a much lower temperature than the milk fat. The remaining fat however is still a dairy product and it does have the flavor of butter which is why I use it. I understand that lactose-intolerant people don't seem to have problems with it but vegans certainly would.

              You would notice a difference in flavor if you used other fats for cooking. You could use a neutral vegetable oil which would give no flavor or choose one that would add something to your dish, such as olive oil or another oil with a flavor that would complement it. (As a good Southerner, I use bacon drippings frequently. When I start worrying about health concerns, I just use less.)

              1. Thank you so much for all of your replies.

                I erred when I asked about dairy-free ghee. "Not-of-animal-origin ghee-substitute" would have been quite unwieldy in the title, yet I should have been more aware of the ghee-making process.

                I asked about ghee substitute because I am trying to avoid using cow-derived products in my food. I'll use vegetable oil for frying, yet I'm still stuck for replacing ghee as a seasoning. Oh well, I'll have to get the fats elsewhere (not that avoiding saturated fat is bad)!

                Again, I really appreciate that you're all sharing your knowledge in order that I might not be stuck.


                11 Replies
                1. re: pizzahunks

                  I hear coconut oil has great flavour and can hold up to high heat (unlike other nut oils). I remember reading about vegan cooks who used it instead of ghee.

                  1. re: pizzahunks

                    If you are looking for a way to get the butter flavor that ghee has, perhaps you could use butter-flavored Crisco. I have no idea if it has anything in it that would be objectionable to vegans, but if you are only avoiding beef products, that might work. I think they make a version with no trans-fats. It doesn't have the slightly sour taste of ghee but it's closer than other vegetable fats.
                    I wonder what they put in it to make it taste buttery?

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      makingsense, crisco uses butter flavorings. product is highly hydrogenated. would NOT use for the stated purpose in OP. peanut oil is good if you don't have ghee for doing Indian -- rice, especially -- and a high smoke point (unlike olive oil).

                      1. re: alkapal

                        Crisco is now trans-fat-free (hydrogenation) and has 50% less saturated fat than the butter (ghee) that the OP was using in the first place. http://www.crisco.com/about/shortenin...

                        I personally dislike artificial flavors but if the OP is looking for butter flavor and doesn't want to use all-natural products like butter, he's going to have to compromise somewhere. I would hope he's not frying everything he cooks.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          makingsense, why aren't "partially-hydrogenated fats" considered "trans-fats"? what am i missing?

                          1. re: alkapal

                            thinking more about this...
                            crisco's own site has product label showing hydrogenation.
                            a press release from January! says no trans fat "PER SERVING"
                            is that phrase misleading? that is, can the trans-fat "per serving" be de minimis (and therefore "0")? how can that be the case when the product is first and foremost -- according to the label on the current website -- hydrogenated soybean oil?
                            this is mysterious.

                            ps, do they address any reduction in shelf stability (supposedly the reason for hydrogenation) with their "reformulation"?

                            1. re: alkapal

                              You are probably correct. More Red Queen language: i.e. if there's not enough of something in a serving, it counts as zero. Of course, most of us consume more than that single serving.
                              This is why I don't use any of this stuff. "Hydrogenated soybean oil" just sounds like something I don't want to eat.
                              My basic credo is that if I choose to eliminate something from my diet, it's gone. Yearning for the taste is a gateway to fake foods such as this. For me, it's been easier to learn to rejoice in the choices that I have made and to enjoy them rather than chasing the things that I miss.
                              Keeps me from falling down the Rabbit Hole that your posting describes so well. Thanks.

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                i thought it was odd how every time they mention no trans fat, they slavishly add "per serving"!

                                my mom always makes biscuits with (regular) crisco.

                                darn, now i have to figure out a variation. butter?

                                makingsense, you inspired me to read lewis carroll once again. so apt for these times! blessings to you!

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  Alton Brown used a half and half mix of butter and shortening (obviously Crisco) on Good Eats for biscuits, side by side with his grandmother who was using all shortening. I think there's something to how the fats melt at different temperatures, affecting the rise, etc., but he liked the butter for flavor. I suppose small amounts of this stuff won't kill us any faster than eating biscuits, gravy, ham, eggs, bacon and all that good stuff, will as long as most of our diet is healthy.

                                  Alice in Wonderland, like many "children's stories," was a political satire. Well worth reading again because the whole idea of Falling Down the Rabbit Hole is an apt metaphor for what happens to us when we start using processed foods and trying to understand the arcane regulations that determine what goes on labels or is on grocers' shelves. I use it often in presentations on critical thinking in another field.

                                2. re: MakingSense

                                  making sense, new insight into the "trans-fat free PER SERVING " concept:

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    Thing is, after all the years of promoting non-butter fats as safer, it's only recently with the discovery of trans-fat that it's clear that frying in butter is healthier than most oils in fact, apart from olive oil or grape seed... Butter doesn't turn into trans-fats. Most other fats and oils do, if heated.

                    2. Ghee (according to information on the side of the jar) is supposedly cholesterol-free. Is this true?