Ghee is a type of clarified butter from India. Traditionally made from sour milk, you can also make ghee by heating unsalted butter until the water evaporates, then browning the milk solids before discarding them, leaving pure butterfat behind. The browning process distinguishes ghee from regular clarified butter, even if you make it with sweet cream butter instead of traditional sour milk.
Ghee doesn’t go bad for a couple of years if you store it in a fairly stable temperature. Yes, there’s a date on the label, but it only informs you how long the manufacturer guarantees the best flavor. Ghee might, and most often does, retain quality for months after that date.
That doesn’t mean ghee lasts forever, though.
There are a couple of instances when your ghee might not be suitable for cooking with it anymore. Those are:
- Ghee is rancid. Like oils, ghee goes rancid after you store it for too long or in bad conditions. Rancidity occurs when ghee oxidizes, or gets exposed to moisture, heat, light, or air for too long. Rancid ghee has a distinct odor (instead of the usual milky-sweet one), tastes sour, and is often stark white in color.
- It smells off. It might be that it’s rancid, or there’s something else going on here. If it doesn’t pass the sniff test, don’t use it.I f your ghee doesn’t have its natural milky-sweet scent and mildly nutty flavor, it’s safest to simply throw it away.
- There’s mold on the surface or any other discoloration. That usually happens if the jar isn’t sealed properly. Throw out that ghee. Discoloration can happen if you haven’t properly sealed the container holding your ghee, leading to moisture and contamination by bacteria. Always check for mold or discoloration before using ghee.
- The quality is not good enough anymore. If your ghee is a couple of years old, the smell and taste may change. At that point, you might decide to discard it for quality purposes.
In case you’re interested, ghee doesn’t go bad easily because it doesn’t contain any milk solids (like butter, or pretty much any other dairy product does), and has very little moisture in it.
Ghee doesn’t require refrigeration, and many manufacturers recommend storing it in the pantry. But if you want yours to retain quality for as long as possible, put that jar into the fridge. It’ll last for a couple of months longer this way.
Regular butter contains butterfat, milk solids, and water. The milk solids are the reason why butter has a low smoke point. When making ghee, the milk solids are strained out, leaving a clear golden liquid with a high smoke point that you can cook with. Since ghee is almost 100 percent milk fat, and it’s a stable fat, you can store it in the pantry like how you store coconut oil.
Many brands recommend keeping their ghee in the fridge, especially after opening the jar. Stored this way, open ghee should keep quality for about a year instead of about 3 to 6 months if you leave it unrefrigerated.
Unopened ghee lasts about two years, no matter if you refrigerate it or not. After opening, ghee keeps unrefrigerated for about 3 to 6 months, and approximately a year if stored in the fridge.
Unless the container says otherwise, store ghee in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight, heat, and moisture, like a pantry at room temperature. Proper ghee storage is the key to preventing spoilage. Follow these simple guidelines to enjoy your ghee for a long time:
Choose an airtight container. A well-sealed, proper container will protect your ghee from spoilage due to contaminants. If it comes in a glass container, close the jar tightly after use. Always use a clean, dry utensil to spoon it out or pour it directly from the jar.
Refrigerate to extend the shelf life. Refrigerated ghee can last for up to a year, even if opened. Much like coconut oil, refrigeration will change the state of your ghee from a liquid to a solid, but it should be soft enough to scoop out for sautéing or spreading on toast. If your ghee is too hard to scoop out of the jar, let it come to room temperature in a dark, cool place.
Use the freezer for long-term storage. In theory, freezing will extend the shelf life of your ghee indefinitely, although there will be a slow degradation of quality over time. You can freeze ghee in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag. Write the date on the container to keep track of its lifespan. Avoid refreezing, as it can cause freezer burn. Place the ghee in the refrigerator overnight when you’re ready to defrost it.