Ghee and olive oil are traditional cooking oils that originated in different parts of the world. They are both versatile and are widely considered to be healthy for different reasons. In this SPICEography Showdown, we look at how they compare.
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How does ghee differ from olive oil?
The fact that they have different sources accounts for their different flavor profiles. Ghee has a richness similar to that of butter but with a nutty background flavor. The nuttiness comes from the fact that it has been heated to remove moisture and precipitate its milk proteins.
Olive oil’s flavor depends on who refined it is, but no variety has ghee’s richness or nutty flavor. Extra virgin olive oil that comes from the first cold pressing of the olive fruit will have a herbaceous and slightly peppery quality.
Ghee and olive oil also have different nutritional profiles, so they affect health differently. Ghee can supply vitamins A and D along with E and K. Also, it is a source of omega 3 and 9 fatty acids as well as conjugated linoleic acid.
The drawbacks include the fact that it contains a significant amount of saturated fat. Ghee can be healthy when consumed in moderation but can contribute to your risk of heart disease and associated health problems if you eat too much of it. Olive oil contains vitamins E and K but no A or D. You can get omega 6 fatty acids from it along with small amounts of certain minerals like calcium and iron. Compounds like lutein and zeaxanthin are present as well. Olive oil is generally heart-healthy.
Ghee can have a range of colors depending on how much it has been caramelized. Generally, it will be a shade of yellow that lies somewhere between the bright yellow of butter and the deep amber of honey.
Olive oil’s color depends on how much it has been processed. Extra virgin olive oil has the least processing, and it will usually be a deep green. The more highly refined olive oils can be varying shades of green up to a golden color similar to that of corn oil.
Ghee has a high smoke point. You can use it to cook at temperatures as high as 480 degrees Fahrenheit. Olive oil’s smoke points range from 374 degrees Fahrenheit on the low end for extra virgin olive oil to over 450 degrees for refined olive oil.
Can you use ghee as a substitute for olive oil and vice versa?
Ghee can work as a substitute for refined olive oil since both have high smoke points. The flavors of both are mild enough that swapping them out won’t pose issues in most recipes.
Ghee won’t make an ideal substitute for extra virgin olive oil, which has a more distinctive flavor. Refined olive will work as a substitute for ghee but not extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil has a strong flavor that is very different from that of ghee. It also has a low smoke point.
When should you use ghee, and when should you use olive oil?
Use extra virgin olive oil for salad dressings and as a finishing oil. Use ghee for high-temperature cooking and especially for Indian dishes.