As ghee is butter-based, you’d be forgiven for assuming that it goes bad quickly. But what does the clarification process mean for shelf life? How long does ghee actually last?
I’m going to give you storage information and shelf life for commercially made ghee, though it’s a really easy thing to make at home. Homemade ghee actually lasts almost as long as store bought, too, so if it turns out you’re clarified butter crazy you might want to think about making your own.
As ghee is expensive, if you’ve bought it from a store or online you probably want to keep it good as long as possible.
Before we find out if ghee goes bad, let’s have a quick look at what it is and where it comes from.
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What is Ghee?
Ghee is clarified butter and it’s the main fat used in most south-east Asian cooking. It’s particularly popular in curries and meat dishes.
Clarified butter is butter that has had the milk solids removed, making it clear. Traditionally, water buffalo milk was used but now ghee is usually made with cows milk. Ghee has a stronger, nuttier flavor than most butter. It also has a really high burning point, which makes it great for frying.
Despite being eaten mostly in Asia, the best commercial ghee tends to come from Holland, Scandinavia and Australia.
Ghee is transported worldwide and it comes in cans and jars. It’s often sold in pretty large quantities, so you will probably be wondering how to store the ghee you don’t immediately use as well as whether it easily goes bad.
Does Ghee go Bad?
The essential question. “Does ghee go bad?”. Well, it’s butter so of course it goes bad eventually. As you know, butter only lasts one or two months in the fridge.
Usually, though, the milk solids in butter are the first part to go rancid. Without these solids, clear, golden ghee can last several months. It’s been an important ingredient for centuries in southeast Asia and the middle east partially because it stays good so long.
If you want to get the best out of your ghee, you’ll have to store it correctly and use it while it’s at its best.
How to Store Ghee
Keep ghee in an airtight vessel, preferably something nonporous so that nothing is leached from you ghee and no smells or tastes are exchanged.
Like many fats, ghee is best kept out of direct sunlight. You should keep your unopened jar or can of ghee in a cool, dry, dark place. It does well in a pantry or closet.
Opened ghee doesn’t have to be refrigerated, but it should be kept somewhere cool and dry too. Refrigerators are just about the coolest, darkest places in the kitchen and a tightly sealed jar should stay pretty darn dry. That means ghee will last longest in the fridge!
Both homemade and store-bought ghee can be stored in similar ways as long as you’ve brought your homemade ghee to a really clear point.
To make sure your ghee lasts as long as it possibly can, make sure you use clean dry utensils every single time you scoop some from the jar. If there’s any other food or detritus on the utensils it could contaminate your ghee and introduce mold or pathogens. If the utensils are wet then the water could spoil the ghee itself. It’s the purity of ghee (it’s pretty much just fat) that allows it to keep so well for so long.
How Long Does Ghee Last?
Honestly, it seems amazing how long ghee lasts if you think of it as butter. As already discussed, though, you don’t have to treat clarified butter like ghee the same as you would butter!
An unopened jar or can of ghee lasts up to 2 years in the pantry. There’s really no need to keep it in the fridge at this point.
Both store-bought and properly made homemade ghee both last around 4 months in the pantry and up to a full year in the fridge. The large quantities it comes in are starting to make sense now, right?
If store-bought ghee has a best-by date then this is definitely the date to use it by if you’re keeping it in the pantry. In the fridge it can last up to 2 months past this date.
Can You Freeze Ghee?
Because ghee is sometimes hard to find and has to be ordered online, and because it’s a staple for lots of restaurants and catering businesses, it’s often easiest and cheapest to buy ghee in bulk.
If you buy a whole load and don’t think you’ll use it within a year or so, you can freeze ghee.
In fact, it’s really easy to freeze ghee. You should decant your ghee before you freeze it, especially if it came in a can. Just scoop it out put it in something else airtight.
Ghee goes hard in the freezer, plus you really shouldn’t let it defrost and then refreeze it. The best way to freeze ghee for ease of use is in single portions. As you usually use ghee for cooking they should be largeish portions. Maybe keep it in sealed freezer bags, or else large ice cube trays will work. If you want to make sure the ghee doesn’t suffer from freezer burn then double wrap it. If you have multiple batches of ghee in the fridge, be sure to label them with the date they went in.
To defrost ghee, keep it overnight in the fridge. Don’t let it defrost too quickly as that can ruin the flavor.
How to Tell if Ghee Has Gone Bad
Because the milk solids are removed from ghee it lasts much longer than most butter. But despite its longer shelf life, ghee does of course eventually go bad. This usually means it goes rancid, and that’s pretty hard to miss.
You might have experienced oils going rancid before. Ghee is no different. When it goes bad, ghee will have a sharp, sour scent and flavor that is noticeably different to the rich sweetness of fresh ghee.
Before it goes rancid, ghee will simply get gradually less well-flavored and maybe change some in texture. It’s still fine to use at this point, but not once it’s clearly rancid.
You can smell and taste your ghee to check if its gone bad, this won’t harm you and should clearly show you if it’s still good or not.
It’s pretty unusual, but it is possible that your ghee could grow mold. This would usually be because some other substance got into the container. If this happens, throw the ghee away as soon as possible.
How to Use Ghee
You can use ghee in place of most oils. It’s a really direct swap for coconut oil, but it has a deeper, nuttier and more umami flavor than most oils and especially coconut. The burning point of ghee is much higher than that of butter and some oils. This means that if you want a buttery richness but are worried about the fat catching, ghee is a great butter alternative.
Recently, ghee has become more popular in the US and Europe because it’s suitable for lactise intolerant people. It’s also paleo and whole-30 friendly.
Ghee is also gaining notoriety as a popcorn topping! Try it next time you pop some kernels at home. Plus, in countries where ghee is a part of people’s every day diet it’s used as a simple spread. You can stick it on toast, crackers, or good-quality bread.
In fact, in India and southeast Asia ghee is used in a huge variety of ways. It’s even part of various medicines, and mixed with hot milk for a night time treat.
Whether you just grabbed your first package of ghee or you’ve been making it at home for years, it’s essential that you look after it properly as well as getting the best out of ghee as an ingredient.