It’s that most wonderful time of year again, when the family gathers around the table for roasted turkey, all the sides, and plenty of seconds to go around. Though the traditions of Thanksgiving have long been set in stone, preparing the meal is always open to interpretation.
While you might not be able to convince the family that tofurky is the way to go this year, there are some creative swaps that can make the meal healthier without them even knowing. One of the best ways to do so is swapping out butter for ghee to cook the bird, top the bread, and melt atop all the other fixings. While the name might sound funny, ghee is actually still butter—just richer and better in a number of ways.
What is ghee?
“I can’t believe it’s not butter!” might be the reaction some have to ghee—but in this case it’s actually the same thing. Ghee is a type of clarified butter, which means that the milk solids and water from butterfat have been separated. By low simmering butter over a period of time, the water will evaporate and the solids will rise to the surface where they can be skimmed off.
This process of clarifying butter was originally done to help keep it from spoiling, since it has less lactose and casein, primarily why it became a common practice in countries like India where weather is often warmer. For thousands of years, ghee has been a staple in Indian cuisine, though in recent years it’s also gained mainstream acceptance, embraced by chefs and home cooks looking for a more nutritionally rich, healthy type of fat to use in cooking.
Why ghee can be a better choice
Not only is ghee more flavorful (with a rich and nutty taste that can have herbs and spices added to it), but there are a few more reasons why it can be a better choice than butter.
More shelf stable
By removing many of the milk solids from the mix, ghee is able to keep much better than butter. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated and won’t spoil as fast. When kept in an airtight container, it can easily last for two to three months.
Higher smoke point
Depending on the type of ghee used, the smoke point can be as high as 482 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the highest temperature it can be heated at before breaking down into toxic fumes. Because ghee has a higher smoke point than butter, it’s better for frying and sautéing.
Good for those with allergies
Since the milk solids are removed in ghee, those that have a lactose intolerance or other milk allergy can usually enjoy it without any problems. That comes as good news to many who want to bring butter back into their lives.
More healthy fats
Now that we know more about the structures of fats and how they can be beneficial to the body, nutritionists say it’s important to have a good dose of them every day—as long as you are choosing the good kinds. Similar to coconut oil, ghee has more beneficial medium chain triglycerides than traditional butter, and also contains a fatty acid called butyrate, which has been seen to decrease inflammation and make it easier to digest foods, while also encouraging metabolism since the energy from most medium chain fatty acids helps to burn different types of fats that have been stored up.
Better glycemic response
Butyrate is also connected to improved insulin sensitivity, which means that it can positively impact the health of diabetics. More research is currently looking into just how effective this compound is for diabetes, but early results are promising.
Greater vitamin concentration
Ghee is known to be very high in vitamins—a single serving provides an impressive 61 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin A as well as significant amounts of fat-soluble vitamins E and K, which are known to help with vision, skin health, and blood health, respectively.
Less is needed
The process of creating ghee actually ends up intensifying its taste with more complex flavors. This means you can use less to get the same effect, which cuts back on cholesterol intake and can help combat issues like obesity and heart disease.
5 ways to swap in ghee for regular butter this Thanksgiving
Since many Thanksgiving dishes call for butter, now is the perfect time to start experimenting with this smoky, nutty, and complex-tasting fat. There are just two things to remember before getting started: Ghee isn’t a good substitute when making a dish that uses butter as a binding agent, and it’s not a good swap in cold recipes. But for almost anything else, go ahead and open a jar and be on your merry way. Here's a video showing how you can make your Turkey with ghee, as well as some other ideas below.
For baking all those pumpkin pies and breads, it’s incredibly simple to make the switch to ghee (try using this vanilla flavored option, too). After all, this is just a refined, clarified version of what you’ve already been using. When making the swap, use a basic 1:1 ratio. For example, if the recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of butter, use 3 tablespoons of ghee instead. For dough recipes, add an extra tablespoon of flour to help counteract the extra moisture ghee will create.
From mac and cheese to mashed potatoes, plenty of Thanksgiving dishes call for butter to add savory taste and texture. As with baking, make the switch using the same 1:1 ratio as a guideline.
Sautéing green beans, onions, and all the other stuffing ingredients is one of the hallmarks of many Thanksgiving dinners. Though, instead of sautéing with regular butter, use a dollop of ghee—the higher smoke point makes it easy to do so without worrying about burning.
That same high smoke point also makes ghee great for shallow frying. Just add the right amount to the pan and heat, then fry—try Brussels sprouts to make them extra crispy, shallots for a savory topper, or even the turkey drumsticks for a unique take on fried chicken.
Spread some ghee on fresh bread or crescent rolls right out of the oven, or leave a little at the table for guests to use on top of the mashed potatoes and vegetables. Ghee not only adds something extra but also spreads easier than butter, too.
Healthy side dishes for your Thanksgiving feast
As the holiday approaches this week, gather up some new, healthier recipes to create a stunning dinner that the entire family will love. Remember that anywhere butter is called for, it’s easy to replace it with ghee.
No need to pop the can (and hope you don’t “shoot your eye out”). It’s easy to make homemade buttermilk biscuits from scratch. Grab some white wheat sprouted flour, baking soda, buttermilk, cold butter, and eggs, and you’ll have the perfect dough. After baking, top with ghee for the ultimate mouthwatering side.
Instead of making the same old casserole, combine a beautiful array of fall colors in this healthier side that combines crisp green beans, snap peas, and creamy purple potatoes. Top with warm ghee for some more flavor.
Not everyone is a fan of puckery cranberries, so for the pickier eaters at the table, create this fruit-based dish. Blending the rich taste of carrots with the tartness of grapes, and finishing it out with a sprinkle of creamy feta, this recipe is easy to make but tastes like it was created in a five-star kitchen. Coat the carrots in ghee to cook.
It’s not Thanksgiving without a bowl of mashed potatoes, but now you don’t have to feel guilty about having seconds (or thirds) with this health-conscious recipe. It calls for olive oil in place of heavy cream, while also adding in minced garlic and chopped chives for extra flavor. Top with some ghee to keep it safe for all the lactose-free eaters.
You can also skip out on mashed potatoes altogether and replace it with a lighter, brighter potato salad. Seasoned with plenty of herbs, it’s big on flavor and low in calories, especially when you use ghee instead of butter.
And don’t forget about dessert!
Of course nothing would be complete with the perfect pie for dessert. Here are two takes on traditional Thanksgiving sweets where you can use ghee to make the best buttery crust.
It’s not really Thanksgiving without finishing the meal with delicious pumpkin pie. Here’s a kit with everything you need (including organic canned pumpkin), plus an easy step-by-step guide to making the perfect pastry.
Then again, not everyone likes pumpkin pie, so having another classic on the table is always a good idea. Follow this recipe to create a delicious warm filling with the perfect lattice crust.