How to Make Clarified Butter

Clarified butter is used when you’ll be frying something either for an extended period or over high heat. For those times when you want the flavor of butter, rather than oil, you’ll want to use clarified butter can stand being cooked longer, and to a higher temperature, than regular butter. Clarifying butter removes the milk solids, which are what causes butter to burn if cooked for a long time.

French butter

melting butter

melting butter beurre doux

Many Indian cooks use ghee, which is similar, except it’s usually been cooked longer to decrease the moisture and deepen the flavor, and is sometimes seasoned with tumeric, fenugreek, or another spice. But in its plain form, it’s interchangeable in recipes that call for clarified butter and can be found in markets that specialize in Indian cooking or online.

butter foam melted butter

Be sure to use unsalted butter. And use a good quality one—you’ll notice the difference once it’s reduced down.

spooning butter scraping off solids

You can clarify any quantity of butter than you wish. If you want to make a specific quantity for a recipe, figure that you’ll lose about 25% of the volume of butter. So for example, if you start with 4 ounces (115gr) of butter, you’ll end up with approximately 3 ounces (85gr) of clarified butter.

straining butter butter & strainer

A little jar of clarified butter in the refrigerator is nice to have on hand for scrambling eggs, frying meats, fish, and vegetables in a skillet, or stirring into a pot of just-cooked rice. It’s sometimes called into play in the pastry kitchen as well.

Clarified Butter

  • Unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1. Heat the unsalted butter in a heavy-duty saucepan over very low heat, until it’s melted. Let simmer gently until the foam rises to the top of the melted butter. The butter may splatter a bit, so be careful.

2. Once the butter stops spluttering, and no more foam seems to be rising to the surface, remove from heat and skim off the foam with a spoon. (It can be saved and added to soups, bread doughs, polenta, pilaf, or a bowl of warm oatmeal.) Don’t worry about getting every last bit; you can remove the rest when straining it.

3. Line a mesh strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth or gauze, and set the strainer over a heatproof container.

4. Carefully pour the warm butter through the cheesecloth-lined strainer into the container, leaving behind any solids from the bottom of the pan.

Storage: Clarified butter will keep for 3 to 6 months in the refrigerator. Some say you can leave it at room temperature if the conditions are optimal, but I keep mine under refrigeration. It can also be frozen for a similar length of time.

Note: If you continue to cook the butter in step #2, it’ll turn a nutty-brown color and take on a pleasant aroma, which the French call beurre noisette, because of the nut-like smell and taste. You can use it right away as is, with or without the foam, and it’s wonderful drizzled over steamed vegetables.

browned butter browned butter

Related Links and Recipes

Ghee (Wikipedia)

Clarified Butter (Wikipedia)

How to Brown Butter (Simply Recipes)

Flavored Ghee (Delectable Visuals)

Salted Butter Caramels

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream

How to Make Candied Ginger

How to Temper Chocolate

Caramelized White Chocolate

How to Make the Perfect Caramel

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62 comments

  • March 28, 2010 12:02pm

    Is it terrible that when I was a little kid, I used to eat spoonfuls of the fresh ghee my grandmother used to make? To this day, I think the nuttinessand hint of browned butter in ghee and clarified butter beats regular butter all hollow. I also never strain out the clarified butter because I love the taste of the burnt solids at the bottom of the pot — I could eat those all day long.

    I hope this post means that your next dessert recipe is going to use clarified butter . . . .

  • March 28, 2010 12:12pm

    I just recently discovered ghee…and oh gosh, it is the best thing ever. I can’t believe I went so long without it!

  • March 28, 2010 12:15pm

    I like to use clarified butter for sauteeing, especially when I want a nice pan sauce to accompany whatever meat, fish or chicken I am preparing. If I am cooking dishes with layers of flavors fro long periods, than regular unsalted butter is fine. Clarified butter has a more refined taste.

  • March 28, 2010 12:28pm

    It’s so sad that the use of “black butter” sauce – au beurre noir is almost abandoned in the restaurants and regular kitchens. They say that it has been found to be toxic to cook the butter till it is black-brown. Well, to be honest I think it is indeed, but I would also willingly consume une aile de raie au beurre noir (skate with black butter sauce), no matter the danger ♥. (as I do with BBQ meat !)

    In the long list of pastries with nutty-brown butter, I love les financiers but I do not know their English name. This buttery/nutty flavor really gives something to the dough, especially when baked.

  • FortWorthGuy
    March 28, 2010 12:43pm

    I want to echo what another commenter said and ask…is clarified butter a substitute for regular butter in things like baking etc?

  • March 28, 2010 12:45pm

    It’s completely fine if you don’t have the time to answer this, but I’m just wondering if clarified butter is safe for the lactose-intolerant, if it’s had the milk solids removed? This could look good for me, if the answer is yes… :)

  • March 28, 2010 1:01pm

    I use clarified butter for it’s ease in keeping things from sticking to my pan. David, you are correct that ghee is cooked longer and as a result often gets a darker and more nutty flavor. Almost every culture has some form of clarified butter and how it’s used. One of the more useful things that butter can offer!

  • March 28, 2010 1:05pm

    David, if I may answer… Yes clarified butter IS safe for lactose-intolerant people. Just be sure that the milk solids are completely removed such as David indicates, a cheesecloth-lined strainer.

  • Susan
    March 28, 2010 1:35pm

    This is good to know. I tried clarified butter once before I knew how fast it can brown and ended up with browned butter, and threw it out! I didn’t know any better then, so I don’t hold it against me! Then, once I made browned butter deliberately, I went back into my recipe collection and remade everything I loved that was vanilla flavored from shortbread, to poundcake, to pancakes and loved them all even more! The biggest improvement was to chocolate chip cookies. I had to whip most of the browned butter with regular butter to get it back to a softend butter consistancy, but it only used a few tbsps more regular to get it there. What a difference it made to the flavor! I prefer them with fewer chocolate chips now so I can taste more of the delectable cookie.

  • March 28, 2010 1:35pm

    FortWorthGuy: Because it’s had quite of bit of the moisture removed, I would only use it in applications like American-style puddings, frying fruit or in place of regular butter in an upside-down cake topping. For batters and doughs, the results will vary from what’s originally intended so I wouldn’t recommend it. But if you have certain recipes you want to try it in, I’d be interested in hearing about the results.

    Hannah: I’m unsure if clarified butter is easy to digest for the lactose intolerant than regular butter, but would imagine that cultured butter (made from fermented cream) might be one option, since cultures often break down lactose and presumably make it more digestible. It’s often labeled in the states “European-style” butter. Glenn offered a suggestion in his comment above, as well.

    Krysalia: It’s unfortunate that so many things, like beurre noisette, are being lost in the restaurant culture. Luckily it’s still possible, and easy to make, at home! Unless there’s a law that I’m unaware of : )

    (PS: I hope you noticed that I finally got the ‘remember personal info’ fixed..enfin!..)

    Akila: Browned butter is indeed, wonderful!

  • March 28, 2010 2:41pm

    Does ghee go solid in room temperature? I buy mine from the Indian grocery store and it’s always in whipped solid form.

  • March 28, 2010 3:48pm

    I used my favourite cultured butter (Carlsbourg) to make a burnt butter sauce one time, but would never do it again. It spat like a snake, then completely burnt – in a bad way – within a second or two.

    Is it wrong to use cultured butter this way? I’ve never had the problem with regular unsalted.

  • March 28, 2010 3:58pm

    Just wanted to thank you for this information. Very helpful for someone who is still learning the basics of cooking! thank you.

  • March 28, 2010 4:23pm

    This is a perfect spread for bread or coating for popcorn…or your fingers!

  • Elodie
    March 28, 2010 4:25pm

    Do you know where to find ghee in paris? I’m MUCH too lazy to make my own, honestly, even with how easy it is (when I’ve already made rice, a curry, and bread batter, I’m done) but when I make naan it’d be nice to have :)

  • March 28, 2010 4:43pm

    Thank you SOOOO much for this information! I’ve always wanted to do this-but found the task a little daunting. I think maybe I could do it now.:)

  • March 28, 2010 5:25pm

    Thanks for the great step by step, David. I look forward to adding this to my repertoire and all of the delicious things that will come from it.

  • March 28, 2010 6:04pm

    Thank you for this. I have made clarified and brown butter before, but I’m never quite sure I’m doing it right. The pictures really help!

  • Bernadette
    March 28, 2010 6:07pm

    David that is one beautiful block of butter ♥

  • March 28, 2010 7:17pm

    I have strong memories of my mum’s ghee making procedure when I was little. She had this white glazed ceramic pot. It stayed in the fridge and in that she saved several days of skimmed cream off the top of the milk that the milkman delivered every morning. When the pot was full, she churned the lot to separate out the butter, which she then left heating on the hob to make her own ghee. The house smelled of it for hours but nothing, nothing tasted better than than nutty golden liquid, on practically anything!
    Ghee is truly amazing stuff. Indian sweets especially owe their rich flavour to it and a smidge of it on the simplest dal elevates it to the food of the gods. Yum!

  • March 28, 2010 7:52pm

    I always have ghee in my kitchen, I use a dab of it when popping spice mixtures for lentil or rice dishes. Adds a great flavor boost.
    I’ve used browned butter in cake recipes but only if they specifically called for it. Do you know if there is a rule of thumb to substitute browned butter for regular? Say, in buttercream frosting? In New York there’s a bakery that makes a great frosting for what they call their “burnt butter” cupcake, and I was wondering how to replicate that at home.

  • March 28, 2010 8:41pm

    Thanks for clarifying.

  • Sharon
    March 28, 2010 9:23pm

    Love, love, love clarified butter. We would make it in 5lb batches at school and I thought that was a lot until I got my first kitchen job and we would go through 20lbs in no time at all! Thank you for the post, it reminds me to make some for my own kitchen:)

  • Stephanie
    March 28, 2010 9:40pm

    If you’re making something where it’s not vital every last tiny bit of milk solid, I’ve found you can just let it return to room temperature and then scoop the milk solids off the top. I always had a terrible time with spoons and strainers and have found this technique works “good enough”.

    Also, all of my family’s Greek recipes that use phylo call for clarified butter. I hadn’t understood the reasoning, but I had noticed when I didn’t clarify the butter my spanikopeta it turned out soggy. Thanks, for the insight.

  • Christy
    March 28, 2010 9:40pm

    I have to second whoever said beurre noisette on popcorn. Unbelievable. All the kids in the neighborhood think I make the best popcorn because I let the butter brown. They don’t know what it is, but they’re always asking for it.

  • jen
    March 28, 2010 9:45pm

    Does this process remove all of the milk proteins too? I’m allergic to dairy (which is to say the problem is the dairy proteins, not the sugar as with those who are lactose intolerant) and this has always been my hesitation with ghee. You sure make it look easy!

  • March 28, 2010 10:28pm

    Here in Australia (and probably elsewhere, too) we use butter at the buerre noisette stage to make tasty little biscuits (cookies) called Burnt Butter Biscuits! My aunt was a whizz at those!

  • Thea
    March 28, 2010 11:46pm

    First fab shot of half-clothed butter? Shivers! shivers of ecstasy and anticipation.

  • March 29, 2010 12:40am

    The milk solids that are left behind in the cheese cloth … don’t toss them. Instead, spread on toast or bread for a tasty little treat. This is especially good if you have made beurre noisette. The browned bits have a toasty flavor and make for a nice spread at tea time. There is never enough of this treat, so it is best enjoyed alone as an indulgence.

  • Annie Mariya
    March 29, 2010 2:15am

    Clarified butter works well with mashed lentils and warm rice. This is a balanced yet a light nutritious meal because it has carbohydrates (rice), proteins (in lentils), and useful fat (butter or ghee).

    Clarified butter also works well with recipes that use cardamom.

  • Cyndy
    March 29, 2010 3:00am

    I take a little butter and melt in the microwave in a small cup, then spoon off the solids. Heat that in a frying pan on med-high and throw in the best, largest sea scallops you can find, seasoned with salt & pepper. Don’t move them at all! Turn after 2-3 minutes and repeat. You will have scrumptious seared, restaurant-quality scallops, especially if you bought them off the boat in South Carolina.

  • Jobeth
    March 29, 2010 4:19am

    And it lasts just forever!

  • ron shapley
    March 29, 2010 7:17am

    Hi Dave…

    You rock……….Simple little posts like this add such pleasure to my morning.. Thanks…

  • March 29, 2010 8:38am

    Elodie: You can find it at any of the Indian and Sri Lankan stores up behind the gare du Nord at La Chapelle. There’s a particularly good one called VT store, at 11 rue de Cail.

  • MrsBug
    March 29, 2010 9:19am

    My husband’s boss’s wife (got that? :) ), being Gujarati, gave me an Indian cooking lesson once. I treasure it! She taught me how to make ghee and I’ve never had to buy it. So easy. I don’t refrigerate ours, but am careful to use a sterilized jar and always use a clean spoon or knife to get it out of the jar. We eat Indian food quite a bit since my husband is vegetarian so it doesn’t last long around our house.

  • Scott McKay
    March 29, 2010 9:42am

    In the town of Pérouges, they make a dessert — ‘Galette de Pérouges’. This is basically a sweet brioche “pizza” topped with butter and sugar. But in the Hostellerie du Vieux-Pérouges, instead of smearing the top with butter, they instead used the “lees” from making clarified butter; the galette is then served with crème fraiche. The result is far greater than the sum of its parts.

    So save that stuff that you skimmed off, and make a galette. The NY Times recipe you can get via Google is excellent.

  • March 29, 2010 10:04am

    Interesting! I never knew butter was so versatile. I will have to file this post away for future reference.

  • March 29, 2010 10:36am

    I just had to let you know that I’ve finished reading your Sweet Life in Paris and so wish I had done so before having visited Paris. I don’t know why it took me so long to purchase it, but I had to stop myself from completely reading it in one sitting. Thank you for such a delightfully funny and insightful read.

  • March 29, 2010 10:50am

    Very useful post – I make a lot of curries but can never find ghee in the supermarket. Looks like it’s very easy to make your own.

  • NickMontreal
    March 29, 2010 11:54am

    This stuff is so great. I love it. I find that as well as tolerating higher temperatures and longer cooking times it also browns things beautifully. Very evenly. I recently used it to fry thinly sliced ficelle for an hors d’oeuvre I was making. Worked like a charm.

  • March 29, 2010 12:48pm

    Thank God, I posted my article about Clarified Butter last week! Otherwise, everyone would tell I “copied” you, heheheheh :)

  • March 29, 2010 12:58pm

    Mmmm…ghee.

  • March 29, 2010 1:21pm

    You were reading my mind! I just got back from a trip to India, and everyone there told me making my own ghee was super easy. Hadn’t attempted it yet because I was envisioning a blackened, smoking pan. (I don’t know where I get these visuals.) Your pictures do make it seem easy. I’ve got some good butter in the fridge — going to try it tomorrow!

  • Rosanna
    March 29, 2010 1:57pm

    I love cooking with ghee! I’m lucky to live in Los Angeles, near the Little India so I have ready access to many wonderful Indian ingredients.

  • March 29, 2010 2:15pm

    Great post on a widely misunderstood product!

  • davidsl
    March 29, 2010 2:23pm

    how serendipitous, i just bought some ghee and used it in a little baking experiment of mine. i am allergic to cow milk, its products and bi-products. finding a substitute for butter in baking has been a challenge. nothing provides quite the texture that butter does.

    so i substituted ghee for butter in a straight across substitution 4oz for 4oz in a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. the texture is similar, but the flavor is very buttery, like concentrated butter. not that i’m complaining, mind you. but i may do a combination of ghee and shortening next time.

    ghee is ridiculously expensive, [$6 for 7.5oz for the cheapest i could find] so i was casting around for a how to make your own, and viola!

    and, while clarified butter and ghee is “technically” okay for the lactose intollerant and those with milk allergies, the reality is that some milk solids will remain and if you may have symptoms depending on your sensitivity.

  • March 29, 2010 2:48pm

    Would it be wrong if I thanked you… for the clarification??

    Bad puns aside, making clarified butter is a skill to be learned! Not only is it cheaper than buying ghee, but I love the fact that it gives me the ultimate in quality control.

  • Iva
    March 29, 2010 3:24pm

    Cook’s Illustrated had a recipe for a chocolate chip cookie made with browned butter. It imparted a nutty flavor to the batter (very tasty).

  • March 29, 2010 5:41pm

    David – If and when I ever make it back to France, I am going to have to bring an extra suitcase to fill with contraband raw cheeses and lots of that amazing-looking French butter. It’s so pretty, I can only imagine that it tastes incredible.

    @davidsl – have you tried goat milk butter? It is delicious and works very well in baked goods, or almost any recipe where butter is called for. :)

  • Lauren
    March 29, 2010 6:45pm

    I just want to eat the beautiful french butter all on it’s own. Okay, maybe not on it’s own, but smeared heavily atop a crusty baguette. (Stomach growls)

  • davidsl
    March 29, 2010 7:39pm

    @Dawn (Kitchen Travels), my local markets, even the more gourmet/organic/woo woo ones, don’t feature goat milk butter. i do rock the goat cheese, though, so i’ll keep my eyes opened for goat butter. does it have the same kind of sharp quality that many goat cheeses have?

  • BarbF
    March 31, 2010 1:48am

    Leave it to the French to have pretty cubes of butter ….

  • March 31, 2010 5:16am

    Wow, I am glad to find this recipe here. We Indians live in ghee and the last settlements calls for a number of simple relishes. At the end of cooking the butter to this stage save 3/4 teaspoonfuls and add a bunch of fresh drumstick leaves and fry them If you can’t find drumstick leaves add spinach with little sea salt. Fry until th leaves crisp up. And eat them after cooling them a bit. It was one of most amazing food I have tasted. Also the leftover solids when still hot will be mixed with a handful or two of ragi flour and sugar. Without getting them to the stove or on very low flame fry them the flour in the solids a little and take it off the stove, add sugar and eat it! Many Indian moms drag their kids for the leftover-ghee relishes from their play time!

  • April 2, 2010 4:46pm

    I use the left overs on some fresh warm stove top popcorn. YUM!

  • Caroline
    April 3, 2010 3:56pm

    Does clarifying butter reduce its cholesterol content?

  • April 5, 2010 10:25pm

    This is really a helpful tutorial. I grew up having clarified butter as constant thing at our place and we used it for so many different dishes. I learned how to make it at a very early age. Love the flavor way better than regular butter, and without the deposits, it is so much healthier. It goes so well with most veggies and potatoes.

    It was fun to read your blog and be instantly transported back to my roots! Thanks.

  • Nina
    April 7, 2010 4:43pm

    I have been clarifying butter since my last class @Le Cordon Bleu Paris last summerbut it never turn out like it did in Paris. It was clear like olive oil and lasted for the length of the class in its liquid form. When I’ve made it here in Houston, Tx,
    It is the color and density of lemonade and solidifies very fast. I again tried your recipe, David, but still got the same result, lemonade. I used Land o’Lakes unsalted, President and KerryGold brands, all turned out the same. What’s different about french butter? I would love to hear your opinion.

  • April 7, 2010 7:44pm

    Nina: French butter has a slightly higher fat content, but this butter did become solid at room temperature. Since you generally melt clarified butter (as it’s meant for cooking) I’m not sure if this makes a difference. Perhaps it was the ambient temperature?

    Btw: President butter isn’t all that great. In the states, if you’re going to spend the money, try a brand like Vermont Butter and Cheese, although I like Land ‘O Lakes, too.

  • April 22, 2010 5:25pm

    Have you ever made homemade butter? It’s so easy! Here’s how: http://windowontheprairie.com/2010/04/07/got-cream-make-butter/
    Happy Cooking with Butter! Suzanne

  • neha
    June 29, 2010 4:12pm

    Back home in India, my mum would make her own ghee. When it was done, she would skim all the burnt solids and mix it with sugar for me to relish!

  • kathy
    October 3, 2010 3:12pm

    David: Do baked goods, like cookies, keep longer when clarified butter is substituted for butter? When I keep cookies in a jar on the bench top they smell rancid within a few days. I was hoping that removing the milk solids may prevent this from happening. Also, would I need to reduce the amount of butter in the recipe?

    Sorry, I don’t know the answers to those, as I’ve not baked with clarified butter. -dl

  • Jackson
    December 2, 2010 8:16pm

    David – I just made this, for a batch of madelines I plan to make in a couple of hours. I personally found that when I clarified it, I ended up with only half as much butters as I originally used. That said, I had more than enough, and thank you for the method.