Clarified butter is one of the key ingredients of French cuisine. In the US, it might be best known as a condiment for shellfish that you drizzle on or use as a dip. It is also used as a frying oil since it has a much higher smoke point than whole butter. Clarified butter is a specialty ingredient for most home cooks. If you don’t have it on hand and need it right now, here are some of the best clarified butter substitutes.
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Your best bet: Make your own clarified butter
The term clarified butter refers to butterfat, which is the yellow part of melted butter. When you melt butter, you will notice that it separates into a milky liquid that sits at the bottom and yellow oil at the top. That yellow oil is what you want.
If you are making large amounts of clarified butter, you can usually just pour off the oil and store it. You can use this butterfat in any of your recipes that call for clarified butter. As long as you separated it carefully and didn’t get any of the milky liquid into it, it will have the same long shelf life and high smoke point as commercial clarified butter. The separation process might be more difficult if you are trying to get clarified butter from smaller amounts of whole butter.
You can store clarified butter for more than a year in your refrigerator or up to three months at room temperature. You can fry with it at temperatures up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (232.22 °C).
Making your own clarified butter does have a drawback in the fact that it takes time.
A decent second choice: Ghee
Because it is a special kind of clarified butter, ghee is a decent clarified butter substitute. Ghee has clarified butter’s ability to last for a long time without refrigeration. You can find ghee in the international foods sections of many well-stocked grocery stores and in stores that specialize in Indian ingredients.
If you have tried to research ghee online, you will see it referred to as clarified butter in many places. The misconception is that the two are the same. The truth is that ghee is a different product with some of the same properties. Downsides of ghee include its caramelized flavor, which is somewhat distinct from the clean and simple flavor of pure clarified butter.
In a pinch: Melted butter
You can simply melt butter and use it to replace clarified butter in many instances. While it will still contain much of its moisture, it will also contain the butterfat that makes up clarified butter.
Melted butter has the benefit of being easier to source if you already have sticks of butter in your refrigerator. It takes less time to make from scratch than clarified butter, making it the perfect emergency solution for when you are in a hurry.
The moisture in melted butter means that it won’t have clarified butter’s long shelf life or high smoke point. The water content can give seafood a soggy texture if you use melted butter as a condiment.
Like clarified butter, brown butter is a staple condiment in French cooking. Also called beurre noisette, brown butter is butter that has been toasted in the same way as ghee, but its browned milk solids have not been removed. They remain in the butterfat giving it a strong caramelized flavor along with a golden brown color that you won’t get from ghee.