Foods or drinks are considered dairy if they are made from milk. Dairy products are not only made from cow’s milk but can also be made from other animals like goats, sheep, buffaloes, and others. In order to determine if ghee is dairy-free, we have to determine whether it contains milk.
What is Ghee?
The starting product of ghee is butter. The butter is melted down to create a liquid. It is then cooked over medium heat until the milk fat solids separate and water is evaporated. The milk fat solids are drained leaving a golden clarified butter liquid or ghee. When cooled at room temperature the ghee will turn from a liquid into a solid paste-like substance. While people do refrigerate it, it can be left in a cool, dark cupboard since it is shelf-stable due to a lack of water content.
Ghee is not extremely popular in the United States but it has started to be used more and more in kitchens around America. Its high smoke point of 482°F makes it particularly useful for frying at high temps without producing an undesirable burnt taste. In fact, its smoke point is higher than vegetable and canola oil. It is commonly used in India and other Southern Asian countries for cooking. However, it has also been known to be used as a remedy for medical purposes.
Does Ghee Have Dairy?
Butter, the starting ingredient of ghee, is made from milk. Since butter is a dairy product, ghee is not dairy-free. You should not consume ghee if you are committed to being dairy-free. However, if lactose intolerance is your concern, ghee may still be suitable for consumption. When ghee is heated to create clarified butter, much of the lactose is removed when the milk fat is skimmed or stained away.
Ghee contains very low lactose content making it suitable to consume for many people with lactose intolerance or sensitivity. A study by P.A. Portnoi and A. MacDonald of a sampling of ghee found the lactose to be < 0.05 to 2.9 mg/100 g. For comparison, the lactose content in butter was found to be 685 and 688 mg/100 g. You would typically have to be extremely sensitive to lactose to experience side effects from ghee since it contains only minimal lactose.