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Clarified Butter – Ghee {What Is It Wednesday Twenty-Seven Answer}

Quite a few of you guessed exactly what last week’s What Is It Wednesday was, but Dineen got it the closest because she not only guessed it correct, but guessed why I would not eat it.

It looks like ghee. Did you refuse to eat it because it was rancid?

Last weeks item was Ghee, also known as clarified butter, and when I opened the jar it smelled awful, at least I thought it smelled bad. I am not sure what kind of smell ghee is supposed to have, but I was thinking it would smell kind of like butter, since it is basically a form of butter, but this had a rancid nasty smell.

I still have the jar and am very tempted to throw it out, but have not since I was not totally sure what it was supposed to smell like. In general I am a when it doubt throw it out kind of person, so I am thinking this jar will end up in the trash.

For those of you that have had ghee or clarified butter, what does it smell like? Should I toss my jar of ghee? 

Lynn's Kitchen Adventures


  1. I don’t have an answer, but I’m dying to know. I don’t think ghee is difficult to make yourself, so maybe it’s like all packaged things, homemade is better?

  2. Isn’t clarified butter what you dip artichocks in? I have to look this up.
    Interested to know more about the ghee

  3. Ghee is butter that has been melted and the solids removed. I’ve seen Ghee in a jar as well as I have made my own. It is usually clear yellowish color with little cloudy stuff left. It smells and tastes like butter.
    If it smelled funny it’s probably rancid and you can just toss it.

  4. If you bought it, it should have an expiration/sell by/best by date. Maybe it’s past the “best by” date? As for how to use it – A LOT of genuine Asian recipes call for ghee (not the Americanized versions you usually see). I’m looking forward to hearing how this turns out.

    • Yes, I did buy it and the sell by date is not until May, so that is why I thought the smell was so strange. It should not be bad, but it must be.

  5. I have had Ghee in the fridge for months and it still doesn’t smell bad, so if your’s does I would get rid of it. I have a magnet on my fridge with a picture of a fox sniffing a skunk and it says “If it smells bad don’t eat it”! 🙂

  6. Toss it! It should smell anything else but rancid and awful!

  7. I stopped by yesterday to see if you had posted this yet. I should have answered more when I posted my guess last week about what the ghee I had had tasted like. The one jar I’ve had experience with smelled like butter, but tasted slightly nutty from the culturing I assume. It was definitely NOT rancid. Because it was so much pricey-er than regular butter, I didn’t use it very often and lasted on my counter for several months without going bad. The clarification process of removing the solids is *supposed* to lengthen the shelf-life of the butter oil.
    I’m with your nose though. “When in doubt, throw it out” is the best.

    • I loved your answer from last week, because it was so right. 🙂 And since so many of you agree the jar is going in the trash. I will have to try it again and hope for a better jar.

  8. I have not bought ghee, but your comment reminds me of a quirk I have . I often smell something in dairy that no one else seems to. It happens most often with cheese that has been shredded for a few days (or pre-shredded that is open for a few days). It smells too bad for me to eat it but is different from the eventual spoiled smell. Yup, I am odd. Lol

  9. Your question intrigued me, so I found this on the Ancient Organics website; informative, I thought:

    Two Things Will Ruin Ghee. They Are 1) Moisture And 2) Sunlight. Moisture Will Cause A Mold To Grow That Will Cause The Ghee To Sour. A Good And Easy Way You Can Tell If The Ghee Has Gone Sour Is To Smell It. If It Does Not Smell Sweet, It Has Spoiled. This Is Not A Toxic Mold Or Toxic Process, But, It Is Not Considered A Good Ghee For Eating. Sunlight Will Cause Ghee To Oxidize And Lose Its Nourishing And Ojas-Producing Qualities.Ojas Is The Most Subtle Or Refined Level Of Substance, In Life And In The Body One Can Think Of It As The ‘Sap’ Of Life..

    We Reccomend That You Keep Your Ghee In A Dark, Cool, Temperature Stable Place. If You Cannot Do That, Keep Your Ghee In A Refrigerator. If You Take Your Ghee In And Out Of A Refrigerator, Condensation May Form On The Inside Of The Lid And Sides Of The Jar. If You Use The Ghee In A Week Or So, This Should Be No Problem. Once Again, You Can Gauge The ‘Condition’ Of Your Ghee By Smelling It. It Should Smell Sweet. Much Of The Ghee On The Market Today Is Never Sweet, So You May Not Know What Ghee Is Supposed To Smell Like. This Is What Happens When A Tradition Becomes Lost, People No Longer Know What A Thing Or Qualtiy Is Supposed To Be. They Have Lost The Memory. We Want To Restore That Tradition By Giving Form To The Memory.

    When You Use Your Ghee, Take From The Jar, Only The Amount That You Are Going To Use There And Then. Do Not Keep An Open Jar Of Ghee Next To The Stove When You Are Cooking As The Moisture And Steam That Settle There Will Spoil The Ghee. Also, Do Not Use A Damp Or Wet Spoon To Dip Into Your Ghee. If Some Moisture Or A Piece Of Food Fall Into Your Bottle, Do Not Despair, Just Refrigerate Your Ghee From Then On. Refrigerated Ghee Will Last For Years, Even If The Jar Has Been Opened. The Ghe Will Be Hard But You Can Scoop Out A Portion And Melt It Before You Use It. Remember, You Can Always Test Your Ghee By Smelling It. Good Ghee Will Always Smell Sweet.

    • Ghee should keep for a long time without going rancid, so if you can take it back I would! Sounds like it might not have been stored properly.

  10. I make my own ghee and it smells like butter with a hint of nuttiness to it. Sounds like it was not properly sealed/stored.

  11. Priya Ramesh says

    Hi Lynn,

    I was searching for spinach enchiladas recipie and came across your website. Browsing through it I liked your Homemade enchilada sauce receipe, basic red sauce recipe along with your enchilada recipie. I am yet to try these. Once I do, I’ll post in your website my experience.

    Now to your clarified butter problem, I am originally from south of India where Ghee is something we use everyday. Some buy it from store and some make it from butter. I have always been making it from butter (Buy the unsalted butter from Costco). Ghee does not supposed to smell rancid. If it is then it has gone bad or it is really really old stock. Ghee smells like butter. The best Ghee should be sandy in texture (not very smooth) and should be light to medium yellow in color. Hope this helps. And I hope that you have disposed your jar off.


    • Thank you so much for the Ghee info. I think I got some bad stuff and it is in the trash now. I have not given up on it though and may try to make my own next time.

  12. Ghee is supposed to smell bad. If you are not used to it though (not indian or middle eastern) you wil probably not like the taste at all. rest assured it is supposed to smell like that

  13. I tried twice with a 3.5 lb. jar of ghee from Costco. They both got tossed into the garbage because they smelled and tasted like wet cardboard. The smell and taste made me think they were both rancid. So I found this thread quite interesting. These two jars from Costco are my only experience buying ghee.

    • Hi … The same with me. I purchased from Costco and smell and taste were Horrible… I figure ghee must simply agree with my taste bud… After reading this thread I’m considering making my own.

      • this is interesting because the only jar I’ve purchased is from Costco as well and it has a funky smell, but I’m not sure what to compare it to! It is past the expiration date so I’ll probably just toss it. Too bad because it was pricey and there’s a ton left!

  14. Hi,

    You can just heat the ghee till start hot and see some smoke .

    You don’t need to throw it it happens sometimes.


  15. How interesting: I bought a jar of ghee from Costco as well. I used it once but could not stand the smell. I still have it in my fridge, a year or 2 later, but can’t get myself to open the jar again. It smelled similar to a jar of coconut oil I once bought – same chemical-like smell. Threw that out. Bye ghee, you’re going too.

  16. Nothing against Costco – I love the store and they have great products at great prices.

  17. I hate the smell of ghee while my family mostly loves it. It smells totally rancid to me- even freshly made! My aunties all say it smells like butter. Um….. no.

    It’s a matter of “taste” for your nose. Unfortunately we all have different degrees of what is pleasurable or not to our nose so there will never be a standard with odd smells. Some people think it’s fine, some rancid.

    Ghee will keep more 3-6 months, sometimes more depending on condition, on the counter and a year or longer in the fridge. For me, it smells just as bad on day one as day 365.


  18. My clarified butter was purchased from the farmers market. Made by an Indian.
    I was told ghee lasts 100 years, I was told it only goes bad if contaminated by a dirty utinsel.
    My jar of ghee is enormous, I left it in a pantry enclosed…. refrigeration is not necessary…. but I refrigerated mine about six months after I opened it.
    I use it daily…. I’ll ask the lady at the farmers market more questions next week and post her answers

  19. Donna Swift says

    If you ask me, it smells like musk oil. I was a die-hard sports addict throughout grammar, junior and high school and i used musk oil to soften and keep my leather gym shoes.

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