Indian and Ethiopian Ghee (Clarified Butter)

DSC_0892A to Z Challenge (Letter G): Ghee

I love to create ingredients, the dishes that are rarely (or never) eaten on their own. Rather, these recipes are used within further recipes. You create butter by abusing some cream, and clarified butter via heating butter. Indian Ghee or Ethiopian Nit’ir Qibe are both kinds of clarified butter.

Special Tools: A fine mesh sieve or cheese cloth

Ethiopian Ghee (Nit’ir Qibe / Nitir Kibbeh)

Ethiopian Nit’ir Qibe is an essential ingredient in order to make basically any Ethiopian dish, be it wat or gomen. It’s a spiced clarified butter…and it is amazing. Warm, liquid nit’ir qibe is basically neon yellow, and a soft yellow when solid. It smells like heaven when cooking, and I haughtily snub those who think bacon fat is even a worthwhile comparison to the deliciousness that is nit’ir qibe.

In a small sauce pan add:

  • 3-4 sticks butter
  • 1 inch ginger sliced
  • 1/2 onion roughly cut
  • 4 garlic cloves, halved
  • 4 black cardamon pods
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp methi
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric

Heat on a medium-low heat until milk solid separate and all the ingredients have been well-cooked, about 45 minutes.

Use a fine mesh sieve or cheese cloth and drain the warm ghee into a container.

Use as a frying oil in Ethiopian or other savory dishes.


Indian Ghee

Unlike clarified butter, Indian ghee is heated past the point of the water evaporating and the fat and milk solids completely separating… it should continue to simmer until it caramelizes. Warm liquid ghee will have a nice amber brown color, and cooled it should be a nice golden color. I associate Indian ghee with desserts (and is the only reason I make it) even though it has nearly endless savory applications.

1 butter stick (1/2 cup butter) yields approximately 1/4 cup ghee.

In a small sauce pan add:

  • 1 (or more) sticks butter

Heat until the milk solids separate, and the ghee is a nice golden color 30+ minutes depending on the amount of butter used. But DO NOT burn it.

Use a fine mesh sieve or cheese cloth and drain the warm ghee into a container. (You could also use a spoon to remove this, but it is not as effective).

Variation Add 1-2 green cardamon pods while cooking.

Use on top of naan, as a frying oil, or a butter alternate in recipes and desserts.

DSC_0884It’s also a lactose free alternate to butter, due to the cooking process


6 thoughts on “Indian and Ethiopian Ghee (Clarified Butter)

  1. I had no idea that clarifying butter rendered in lactose free. That’s fascinating. Your recipe for Nit’ir Qibe sounds delicious. I’ve clarified butter for various Indian dishes before, but I’m going to have to try this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep! It has negligible amounts of lactose remaining, and is considered lactose free! Make sure to cook it all the way so all the milk solid separate out. It’s definitely a bonus! 🙂 If you love plain ghee, you’ll love the Ethiopian version. I make big batches at a time, enough that even Paula Dean would break a sweat.


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