• Home
  • Guides
  • Is Ghee Dairy-Free and Vegan? What Is It, Substitutes, and More

Is Ghee Dairy-Free and Vegan? What Is It, Substitutes, and More

This article discusses ghee, often referred to as clarified butter, and whether it's dairy-free and vegan or not.
Jyothi Shenoy, MD, MBA

Written by Jyothi Shenoy, MD, MBA. Updated on December 19, 2022.

Ghee, often referred to as clarified butter, is neither dairy-free nor vegan-friendly.

A vegan diet involves eating foods that are obtained purely from plant-based sources.

A vegan diet excludes foods that are derived from animal sources. And since ghee is made from milk, it is considered neither vegan nor dairy free.

When they know ghee is not vegan, most vegans worry about what they can use as its replacement, as ghee is commonly used in cooking for various purposes, such as baking cookies and topping on bread.

Luckily, you can use several substitutes for ghee in your cooking. Here is detailed information about ghee and the vegan substitutes for this dairy-based product.

Can Vegans Have Ghee?

No, as stated above, a vegan diet includes only plant-based foods. Ghee is prepared from the milk of cows, buffaloes, or goats. The milk passes through several processes before ghee is produced.

Hence, being a dairy food derived from animal sources, vegans can not have ghee. However, there are several plant-based options that vegans can use to substitute ghee.

What Is Ghee?

It is important to know what ghee exactly means and how it is prepared to understand why vegans cannot consume it.

Ghee is prepared from butter, which, in turn, is usually made from dairy milk.

Ghee is more commonly produced in India, the US, and the UK. The majority of farms in India that produce milk for the preparation of ghee are called the tables.

Milk farmers across the world often tether the calves using short and tight ropes.

The calves have also been seen to strangle themselves when they try to reach their mothers for milk.

Milk farmers sometimes also attach the mother cow to the unsterilized electronic milking device, which can cause the cattle to develop serious infections like mastitis.

This is more common in the U.S., where farmers attach female cows to the milking machines to make the process more automated to reduce reliance on human labor.

Even male calves are usually raised and killed for beef or slaughtered for veal, while female calves are forced to follow their mothers through the cycle of forced impregnation for birthing and milking.

The cycles continue until the animal is no longer profitable, after which they are sent to slaughter.

In most dairy farms across the world, the cattle are injected with drugs to make the mothers produce a larger quantity of milk.

As a result, female cows, buffaloes, and goats tend to produce nearly four times the amount of milk that was produced by cows a few decades back.

This substantial rise in milk production due to these harmful drugs is also associated with a wide range of health issues, including a reduced lifespan in cattle.

Also, once the cattle cannot get pregnant or no longer yields enough milk to be profitable, she is shipped to a slaughterhouse.

Unfortunately, all cows, buffaloes, and goats in the dairy industry face a similar fate.

It has been observed that even the companies that put “organic”, “humane”, or “grass-fed” labels on butter or other milk products follow a similar process.

As a result, the cows, which normally live for up to 25 years, live only for 4 or 5 years, when they are used in the dairy industry.

Other than harming cattle and using them for profit, the milk industry is also associated with widespread environmental devastation. Dairy products, including butter, have ranked third on the list of foods that are causing environmental damage.

The ghee preparation causes even more damage as it involves further steps to convert butter into the final product. It also uses more resources, thus, causing even more damage.

These are some reasons why people who have adopted a vegan lifestyle should refrain from consuming animal-based products such as ghee.

How is Ghee Made?

As we already know, dairy milk is most commonly stolen from cows, buffaloes, and goats. The milk from these animals undergoes several processes before it is converted into animal-derived butter.

The process basically involves centrifuging the cream floating on the milk after it is heated and allowed to cool down.

In most households, the cream collected from the heated and cooled-down milk is stored in a container. It is preserved in a freezer or a refrigerator until a sufficient quantity of the cream is obtained for the preparation of ghee.

The cream is later added with double the quantity of water and centrifuged to get butter, which gets collected on top of the watery liquid separated from the milk’s solid part.

The process of centrifugation causes the cream and water mixture to rotate at a very high speed. The solid particles in the milk, including the milk protein, are separated from the liquid part of the milk.

The solid part, which gets collected on the top of the container, is then collected and drained carefully to remove any liquid left.

This solid part is used as a butter or processed further to prepare ghee.

To prepare ghee, the butter is melted to separate the liquid fat and the milk solids present in it. The liquid fat that gets collected is called ghee.

The same process is followed even for the preparation of commercial ghee on a large scale.

To obtain ghee, the processes are performed using large automated machines under controlled conditions, including the pressure, temperature, and force of centrifugation.

Hence, ghee, whether prepared at home or manufactured in a commercial set-up, is a dairy product obtained from animal sources.

While ghee, thus prepared, contains less amount of lactose than butter, it is still the product of animal exploitation, which is why it is not suitable for those who have adopted a vegan diet.

Some people argue that the end product of the ghee preparation only contains proteins.

It is devoid of any animal fat as it tends to get separated during the process of centrifugation, followed by the melting of butter.

However, this aspect overlooks the fact that the basic ingredient used for the preparation of ghee is still milk.

Regardless of the processes and the scale adopted for the preparation of ghee, it still remains a dairy product.

Also, even though all that is left from the milk in ghee is fat, it is still the fat from the butter that, in turn, is made from milk.

This is why; ghee can not be considered a vegan food.

Is Ghee Safe for Patients with Dairy Intolerance?

People with lactose intolerance or dairy intolerance often wonder whether it would be safe to consume ghee.

However, the answer to these concerns depends on the kind of sensitivity a person is suffering from.

Some people with lactose or dairy intolerance are able to tolerate ghee alright only in small quantities.

They are believed to develop tolerance to ghee when they bring it back into their diet after their gut has healed.

However, this kind of response is observed only in patients who have had very mild signs of dairy or lactose intolerance.

Most people also assume that the intake of ghee is safe for those who suffer from lactose intolerance.

Ghee is often believed to be lactose-free because the lactose in the milk tends to get burned off after the butter is melted down, leaving behind only the solid proteins and milk fat.

Also, the milk fat is usually strained off the top to get what we call ghee. Hence, ghee is often believed to be safe to consume by those who have lactose intolerance.

Indeed, ghee does not produce any immediate signs of lactose intolerance in most patients.

However, when consumed on a regular basis, it might continue to cause damage to the gut lining, putting them at risk of chronic conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and leaky gut.

Hence, those who suffer from the severe symptoms of dairy and lactose intolerance are advised to avoid the intake of ghee due to the possible long-term impact it may produce on their gut lining.

Dairy-Free Ghee Substitutes

Ghee is neither a vegan nor a dairy-free product. It is also different from butter because butter is mainly comprised of milk solids, butterfat, and water, while ghee contains only butterfat.

Nutritionally, ghee contains more fat and calories compared to butter in each serving.

Each gram of ghee contains nine calories and 1 gram of fat as against seven calories and 0.8 grams of fat in the same quantity of butter.

However, what makes ghee superior to butter is it has zero carbs and zero sugar making it a more suitable option for patients with diabetes.

Most vegans are worried that they might miss out on the benefits associated with the intake of ghee.

They also believe that avoiding ghee in cooking might also mean skipping baked cookies or bread with ghee as a key ingredient to enhance the dish’s taste, flavor, and texture.

Luckily, it is very easy for people following a plant-based diet to get all the benefits of ghee simply by choosing vegan alternatives for this food.

Here are some of the best alternatives for ghee, which can be used in cooking to prepare delicious and tempting dishes without the risks of falling out of your vegan lifestyle.

You also might be interested in reading our guide on cooking without oil.

Avocado Oil

The best replacement for ghee is avocado oil, mainly because it has a higher smoke point, which makes it a suitable alternative for high-heat cooking.

Avocado oil also offers a grassy, nutty, and mild flavor. It is the best vegan substitute for ghee, especially for baking desserts and pasta.

Avocado oil also works well for those following a low-carb diet, as it contains very less number of calories and carbs while offering a higher amount of proteins.

Coconut Oil

Like ghee, coconut oil is solid at room temperature. It can provide a similar nutty flavor that you can get by adding ghee to the dishes. It can also add creamy flavors to dips and smoothies.

Coconut oil, although low in smoking point, can be easily used for baking desserts and cooking daily meals.

You may also use it as a replacement for ghee while making curries and side dishes with dry vegetables.

Plus, it contains medium-chain triglycerides that have been proven to promote faster weight loss, especially in people following a low-carb keto diet.

Olive Oil

Unlike solid ghee, olive oil is light liquid oil, popularly used for making pizza, bread, pasta, and fresh salads.

It might not bring in the same nutty texture as ghee.

However, it is buttery, has a fresh aroma, and provides numerous health benefits.

Some of the benefits associated with the intake of olive oil include reduced cholesterol levels, better heart health, and lower cancer risk.

Sunflower Oil

Sunflower oil, just like ghee, has a high smoking point. Hence, it is best suited for deep frying. You can also use it as a ghee substitute to stir-fry vegetables and add mild flavors to baked cookies.


Ghee can not be considered a vegan food by any standard. It is not a dairy product as, well.

If you are following a vegan diet, you can try vegan alternatives for ghee instead so that you can continue to enjoy the crispy texture this food brings to your dishes.

How we ensure this article is accurate?
  1. It's written and or reviewed by an expert.
  2. We cite relevant studies and trusted sources.
  3. It's regularly updated.

Read more about our process and team.