Ghee—a style of clarified butter popular in Indian cooking due to its high smoke point and nutty, creamy flavor—is an important ingredient to have on hand if you plan on making dal or dosas. It’s the perfect fat to brush onto flatbreads, deep-fry kolar pitha, or use as the base of a spice-spiked tarka. You can even use a spoonful to coal-smoke anything from whole chickens to batches of stew in a Dutch oven right on your countertop (seriously, read how here). I always keep a cup or two of rich, golden ghee on hand for stirring into rice and lentil dishes and drizzling over saag, but I don’t always want to go through the process of making it from scratch. Buying whatever brand they have at my local market, however, doesn’t always cut it from a quality perspective. So what brands are worth the money and will yield the best results when used in a home kitchen?
According to Chandra Ram, author of IACP award–nominated The Complete Indian Instant Pot Cookbook and the editor of Plate, the most important thing to consider when buying ghee rather than making it is freshness. This is true for Indian ingredients in general, she says: “There’s nothing worse than realizing you’ve bought stale nuts or spices, and old ghee is definitely in that category. The milk solids are removed from ghee when it’s made so it won’t go bad quickly, but it can go rancid.” Always check the date on your ghee’s label to see how long it’s been sitting on a shelf or in a warehouse, and if you’re shopping in person, says Ram, “Go somewhere that is busy, so there is a lot of product turnover!”
In terms of what brands to look for specifically, Chintan Padya, chef at the renowned Adda Indian Canteen in Long Island City, says, “Make sure to find one that’s golden yellow.” Food writer Nandita Godbole agrees: “I would advise picking a jar that shows off a pale golden yellow—like the color of homemade buttercream frosting—and one that does not appear to be a homogeneous paste. Purchase ghee in a smaller jar if it’s not part of your daily cooking.”
In large part, says Godbole, selecting a store-bought ghee is a matter of personal preference, so you may need to sample a few to find your favorite. Scroll down for favorites from Ram and Padya, plus a few that I and the Epi team have tried in our home kitchens.
This is Ram’s favorite ghee brand, a staple at Indian groceries (though also available online). Says Ram, “It’s not as toasted as the ghee I make myself, but it has a clean, buttery smell and flavor, and is a really good substitute for when I don’t have time to make my own.”
Swad Ghee, 16 oz.
Pure Indian Foods
Husband and wife team Sandeep and Nalini Agarwal brought their great-great-grandfather’s ghee business (started in 1889!) to the United States in 2008, and have since expanded their reach to include oils, spices, other grocery items. Nalini makes all of the ghee (super mild and creamy in flavor) by hand—you can find it in many speciality foods stores across the country and online.
Pure Indian Foods Organic Ghee, 15 oz.
Tin Star Foods
Hima Pal left a career in aerospace to found Tin Star Foods, a company dedicated to the kinds of nutrient-dense fats and cooking oils that helped Pal take control of her Crohn’s disease. Tin Star’s ghee is made in small batches and triple filtered, yielding the deepest yellow product on this list.
Tin Star Foods Ghee, 29 oz.
The jar of this brand of ghee reads “EAT GOOD FAT” in big letters and “The very best fat one can eat!” off to the side, which, okay, aggressive. But Ancient Organics’ ghee is the most distinctive in flavor of any on this list, which might earn it a bold slogan or two. Very rich yellow, it is toasted and caramelized in flavor thanks to the company’s process of cooking the butter over an open flame, making it a favorite of Claire Saffitz.
Ancient Organics Ghee, 16 oz.
“I think it makes sense for home cooks to buy ghee from the store if it is not used on a regular basis,” says Padya. His go-to brand is Amul, a ghee that’s imported from India. It is a common sight in Indian grocery stores, but is also available to buy online.
Amul Ghee, 1 Liter
4th & Heart
4th & Heart’s ghee is the palest in color on this list with a creamy, dairy-forward flavor. In addition to its plain “original recipe,” the company offers four versatile flavors: turmeric, garlic, vanilla bean, and Himalayan pink salt.
4th & Heart Original Ghee, 16 oz.
For a rich, buttery ghee from a major U.S. dairy company, look no further than Organic Valley. Available in 7.5-ounce jars in addition to the 13-ounce containers, it’s a good option if you’re new to ghee and want to be sure you’ll use it up in the three-month span that it’ll keep in a cool, dry place in your kitchen.
Organic Valley Ghee, 13 oz.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious