Does Ghee Go Bad?

If you’re like me and buy a big container of ghee on sale, sooner or later you will find yourself asking the question: does ghee go bad?

I don’t use that much ghee, so getting to the point where I had to do some additional research was inevitable. I wanted to know if I can use the fat past the date on the label, and how to store it to make it last as long as possible.

This article is the result of my research. If you would like to learn about storing ghee, its shelf life, and signs of spoilage, read on.

Melted ghee
Image used under Creative Commons from Larry Jacobsen

How to Store Ghee?

There’s a lot of conflicting information on the Internet about storing ghee. Many sources suggest that you can store it in the pantry and it will be just fine. Others say it needs to be refrigerated to stay safe. Of course, freezing is an option too. What gives?

Ghee is a type of clarified butter that’s popular in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking. 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 that you can cook with.

Making ghee at home
(credit: Larry Jacobsen)

Apart from having a high smoke point, ghee has a toasted umami flavor that compliments many dishes. Since ghee is almost 100 perfect milk fat, and it’s a stable fat, you should be able to store it in the pantry like coconut oil or other oils. That’s the theory at least.

What’s sure is that you should place ghee in a dark, cool place that’s away from direct sunlight.

For me, the best place to store ghee is to put it where the manufacturer recommends. If you found the container or jar in the refrigerated section, the fridge is a natural choice. If it was on a shelf, feel free to choose the pantry. If you want to keep ghee fresh for a long time, the refrigerator is a far better option than the pantry.

If you are making ghee from scratch, pour it into heatproof glass jars. Once it cools down a bit, you can seal the jars tightly, add a label with name and date if needed, and transfer the jars into the fridge.

The last option for storing ghee is freezing it.

Can You Freeze Ghee?

Freezing works great if you’re not needing excess ghee anytime soon. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Choose a container to freeze the fat in. If your ghee is in a glass container that’s not marked as safe for freezing, you need to transfer it first. Choose a plastic airtight container or freezer bags. If you plan to store ghee in the freezer for many months, consider double-wrapping the fat to prevent freezer burn.
  2. If you only use clarified butter from time to time, separate your whole supply into several portions. Each portion should be enough ghee for the next month or so.
  3. Name and label the container or bags if needed.
  4. Throw the container or bags into the freezer.

That’s it. As you can see, freezing ghee doesn’t require any extra steps, and you can do it in no time. Thaw the fat overnight in the fridge.

Straining homemade ghee
Image used under Creative Commons from Larry Jacobsen

How Long Does Ghee Last

Each container of ghee comes with a best-by or use-by date. That date informs you of how long the fat will remain at peak quality. Ghee won’t magically go bad a day or a week after that date. That means you can use it past the date on the label.

Generally speaking, the fat will degrade in quality slowly over time. That means you can use it for months after the best-by date. If you keep it in the fridge, it will remain fresh for much longer than if you keep it in the pantry, though. When kept in the freezer, it will stay safe indefinitely, though it might lose quality very slowly over time.

In short, for best results, use the contents of the container within a few months of the date on the package, and that usually means within about a year from the production date.

Ghee (Unopened or opened)“Best by”“Best by” + 3 – 6 months

Please note that the dates above are for best quality. Ghee will last months longer if stored properly.

Fresh ghee
Image used under Creative Commons from fishermansdaughter

How to Tell if Ghee Has Gone Bad

Since the milk solids are removed, ghee does not spoil as quickly as regular butter. Although ghee has a long shelf life, it will go rancid at some point. However, the process is different from regular butter due to the lack of milk solids. When butter is about to go bad, it goes through hydrolysis, the butyrate in it starts producing a foul odor. Since ghee doesn’t have butyrate, there’s no hydrolysis.

Similarly to oils, ghee goes rancid after you store it for too long. Rancid ghee has a distinct odor and sour flavor. So, if you notice that the smell is not milky-sweet anymore, or the taste became sour, you’ve got rancid ghee on hands.

Now the important part: rancid ghee isn’t bad or spoiled in a way it will make you sick after eating it. On the contrary, it’s perfectly safe for consumption. Most people decide to throw out rancid ghee because the dishes prepared with it don’t taste or smell as good as they should. But if your dish cooked on rancid ghee tastes okay, feel free to continue using it.

While it’s very unlikely, if you ever open a container of ghee and notice that something is seriously wrong with the fat, throw it away. That “something” might be a terrible smell, some signs of mold or discolorations on the surface, or bad taste. In short, if you’re not sure if the fat is okay, get rid of it. Better safe than sorry.