I’ve personally tried and tested a range of different ghee substitutes to find the best one.
Whatever your reason for avoiding ghee is and whatever dish you’re cooking.
Here’s the quick answer.
The best substitute for ghee is making your own ghee or clarified butter (it’s easy!). For plant-based options, try light sesame oil or refined coconut oil. Shortening is good for baking. If you want something more flavorful, go with duck fat or schmaltz (rendered chicken fat).
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made roast potatoes to put loads of ghee substitutes to the test.
Ghee is a type of clarified butter cooked until the milk solids at the bottom are toasted, giving it a delightful nutty twist. It’s a staple in Indian cuisine, but its delicious flavor and ability to withstand heat up to 465F means it’s becoming more widespread.
I was looking for a substitute that could perform as well as ghee in high-heat cooking.
Here’s what I tested and the verdicts:
|Substitutes||How to Substitute||Verdict|
|Homemade Ghee||1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Clarified Butter||1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Light Sesame Oil||1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Refined Coconut Oil||1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Butter||1:1 ratio (only in low heat applications)||7/10|
|Peanut Oil||1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Duck Fat||1:1 ratio, mixing with another fat if needed||9/10|
Common uses for ghee and the best substitutes
Here are some common use cases for ghee and the best substitutes for those situations:
- For roasting and grilling – try homemade ghee, clarified butter, or refined coconut oil.
- For baking – try homemade ghee, clarified butter, or tallow.
- For tempering spices – try homemade ghee, clarified butter, or light sesame oil.
- As a spread – try homemade ghee, clarified butter, or duck fat.
If you don’t mind cooking, you can quickly whip up some ghee with a regular stick of butter!
I’ve always followed this guide from Indian Healthy Recipes, which has very helpful visuals.
But if you want a quick overview, the process involves melting butter and skimming off the milk solids that form on the surface. Then you need to wait for the remaining milk solids at the bottom to toast gently.
This infuses the butter fat with a delicious nutty flavor.
Pro-tip: use high-quality butter for best results.
How to substitute: Replace ghee in a 1:1 ratio with light homemade ghee.
Clarified butter is often confused with ghee, and it’s easy to see why. Both are derived from butter and have almost similar appearances.
However, the key difference lies in the cooking time.
With clarified butter, you don’t need to wait for the milk solids to toast, so it lacks that distinct nutty flavor associated with ghee.
But because clarified butter is still pure butterfat, it offers many of the same benefits as ghee like a high smoking point and an extended shelf-life.
Some grocery stores sell ready-to-use clarified butter, but you can make it yourself if you prefer
How to substitute: Replace ghee in a 1:1 ratio with clarified butter.
Light sesame oil
Light sesame oil is an excellent dairy-free substitute for ghee.
It has a similar nutty flavor, although it’s milder than ghee.
And it can easily withstand heat up to 410°F, meaning you can use it for high-heat applications.
You can buy a bottle of light sesame oil in most grocery stores (check the international aisle).
Just remember not to confuse it with toasted sesame oil. This culinary oil has a darker color and more prominent nutty flavor but isn’t suitable for cooking!
How to substitute: Replace ghee in a 1:1 ratio with light sesame oil.
Refined coconut oil
Another dairy-free alternative for ghee you can try is refined coconut oil.
Despite being sourced from coconuts, this cooking oil has a pretty neutral flavor that makes it super versatile.
It doesn’t taste like ghee, but it shares a crucial characteristic with our beloved golden ingredient: a high smoke point.
This makes it perfect for high-heat cooking and tempering spices, just like ghee.
And the best part? You can even transform it into “vegan ghee.”
Cookilicious shares an easy recipe involving infusing the oil with spices and guava leaves to give it subtle nutty flavor.
How to substitute: Replace ghee in a 1:1 ratio with refined coconut oil.
You can use butter in the place of ghee for baking and dishes where there’s not too much heat involved.
My roast potatoes turned out crispy.
But butter wouldn’t be a good replacement for frying or cracking spices. For high heat, you need the stability of ghee.
You can try mixing butter and oil together, but you’ll still need to be careful not to burn the butter.
Butter is rich like ghee, but lacks a lot of the flavor. For best results brown the butter before using it, or better yet – make clarified butter!
How to substitute: Replace ghee in a 1:1 ratio with butter, mixing it with oil for cooking.
If you don’t have a nut allergy, peanut oil is a good substitute for ghee.
Most brands have a neutral flavor, but there are a few hidden gems with a mild nuttiness that will remind you of ghee.
And like ghee, you can heat peanut oil up to 450F without worrying about burning or creating off-flavors, making it suitable for high-heat applications like deep-frying.
How to substitute: Replace ghee in a 1:1 ratio with peanut oil.
If you’re looking for a ghee substitute that’s going to bring flavor, duck fat is the way to go.
It has a slightly lower smoke point, but it makes up for it with its rich, savory flavor that is incredibly moreish.
If you’ve ever had duck-fat roast potatoes, you’ll know what I’m talking about! You can’t stop eating them.
The only downside? It can be expensive, so you may want to save this one for special occasions or mix it with a less expensive option as well (like the one below).
Psst… you can also use goose fat which is very popular around the holiday season.
How to substitute: Replace ghee in a 1:1 ratio with duck fat.
Schmaltz (chicken fat)
Another animal fat option is rendered chicken fat, which is popularly known as schmaltz.
It’s just as rich as duck fat, and it has a stronger, slightly more aromatic flavor.
It’s also really easy to make yourself at home.
All you need is some fatty chicken skin. Cook it on a low heat until the fat starts to melt out. Then turn the heat up slightly, and continue to cook the chicken scraps until they’re golden and crispy.
Strain the fat and keep your schmaltz in the fridge for 6 months.
How to substitute: Replace ghee in a 1:1 ratio with schmaltz.
Tallow doesn’t taste very strong, but it’ll add a meaty essence to your dish making it perfect for protein and veggie dishes.
Plus, with a smoke point close to ghee it’s a practical choice for all kinds of cooking and baking.
Tallow is readily available in specialty stores and butcher shops, and you might even find some in your local grocery store.
Sadly, making your own tallow is a lengthy process (it’s nowhere near as fast as rendering chicken fat).
How to substitute: Replace ghee in a 1:1 ratio with tallow.
Other substitutes to consider
The options above are my top picks if you need to substitute ghee, but here are other alternatives you can use if you already have them on hand:
- Other neutral cooking oils – pretty much any cooking oil can replace ghee if you don’t mind missing out on the flavor (which normally isn’t the main flavor of the dish).
- Avocado oil – this is another great vegan alternative for ghee. It has a higher smoking point than ghee (500 F) but is pretty expensive.
- Canola oil – this is an affordable and easily accessible option that you can use for cooking and baking. It won’t add any flavor though.
- Rice bran oil – this is considered a sustainable plant-based option because it comes from the rice hulls, which are often just discarded. It has a neutral flavor and can be heated up to 450 F, which is very close to ghee.
- Refined sunflower oil – this is a favorite for deep-frying because it won’t burn on high heat and won’t add an overpowering flavor to your dish.
- Olive oil – this is a pantry staple that’ll save you a trip to the store. Go with a mildly-flavored variety for cooking so it won’t overwhelm your dishes.
- Shortening – another dairy-free alternative to ghee that’s especially great for baking. It’s more economical than ghee and shelf-stable, but doesn’t have much flavor.
- Bacon grease – bacon grease is FULL of meaty, savory, and salty flavors. It’s much stronger than ghee, so I wouldn’t use it as a 1:1 replacement, but you can mix it with a more neutral oil to mellow it out.
Margarine – substitute to avoid
Margarine may look like a stick of butter you can turn into ghee, but I don’t recommend using it as a substitute.
It has an artificial butter flavor you can instantly pick up on that tastes very different to ghee. I think a neutral flavored oil is a much better option.Also, some have stabilizers that burn easily, making it tricky to use them for high heat applications.
How to Make Ghee + 7 other substitutes
- 8 oz cultured grass fed cow butter
- In a deep pot over medium flame, add butter.
- Once the butter is melted, lower the flame and simmer until the froth evaporates.
- Continue cooking on low heat until the butter becomes golden. At this time, the milk solids have settled at the the bottom and begin to toast.
- Turn off the stove and leave to finish cooking on its own. Strain the ghee and store it in a lidded jar.