Ghee whiz!

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Holiday cooking and baking has many joys, but lots of challenges as well. First off, there is just so much of it: You've barely cleaned the kitchen from one culinary adventure before everything is back out on the counter for the next project. Any smart shortcut or hack that eases your mess, your time, your steps, is worth its weight in gold. 

Which is why I'm here to share my one ingredient swap that has made my holiday cooking and baking so much easier. And it will do the same for you, too.

I replace regular butter with ghee

What is ghee?

Welcome to your new magic ingredient! Ghee is clarified butter that is shelf-stable and has been cooked long enough to have a slightly nutty flavor. It is used in a lot of Indian cooking because it has a high smoke point and therefore you can do things like blooming spices in it over high heat or pan-frying things without a danger of it burning.

Ghee
Credit: Getty / Евгения Матвеец

Why you should replace butter with ghee for holiday cooking

It is that very feature that makes ghee my best friend for holiday cooking. Because I want all that buttery flavor in my festive dishes, but butter is fussy and can turn on you, which is not ideal when a lot of your cooking is multi-tasked or distracted by company.

Here's how ghee can make cooking so much easier. I can caramelize onions or brown vegetables without worrying that if I walk away for 30 seconds, the butter will burn. I can grease baking dishes and pans with it easily, since it is always soft, and not worry that the bottoms of my precious gingerbread men will blacken. Having houseguests over the holidays means big morning meals. Ghee is ideal for everything from frying eggs to griddling pancakes or French toast: You get all the flavor, none of those burnt black bits.  

You can also use ghee as a butter substitute when you have people to feed who are lactose intolerant or following a dairy-free, paleo or Whole30 diet plan, because the milk solids are removed. 

I told you, it's a miracle ingredient! 

How to use ghee to replace butter in holiday baking

When baking with ghee, since the water content is also removed, use about 25% less ghee than your recipe calls for, and if your batter seems drier than usual, just add some water until the consistency seems like what you are used to. Ghee bakes will often crisp more than regular butter, since the missing water is a tenderizer, so while it works well in any recipe that calls for melted butter, like brownies or financiers, be careful when you have recipes calling for creamed butter. Any recipe that calls for shortening, you can substitute ghee in a 1:1 ratio with terrific results, especially pie crusts.

Most grocery stores carry ghee (look for it in the baking aisle, as it doesn't require refrigeration), so when you're making your holiday grocery shopping list, add some ghee to the program! You'll look like a genius and decrease your stress at the same time.

Want to make your own ghee? Here's the recipe.