Does Ghee Go Bad? Do You Need To Refrigerate It?

There’s an out-of-date ghee jar sitting in storage, and you’re not sure if you can still use it or not. Does ghee go bad?

Or maybe you have an open jar and you’re not certain how long is ghee good for, or whether you have to refrigerate it or not.

Sounds familiar? If so, this article is for you.

In it, we’re going to cover:

  • storing ghee: is leaving ghee in a cabinet in the kitchen good enough, or is refrigeration a must?
  • the shelf life of ghee: how long you have until its quality is too bad to use it
  • ghee spoilage: does it really go bad?

Interested? Read on.

Melted ghee
Image used under Creative Commons from Larry Jacobsen

Does Ghee Go Bad? How to Tell if Ghee Is Bad?

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. Rancid ghee has a distinct odor (instead of the usual milky-sweet one), tastes sour, and is often stark white in color ([AG]).
  • 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.
  • There’s mold on the surface or any other discoloration. That usually happens if the jar isn’t sealed properly. Throw out that ghee.
  • The quality is not good enough anymore. If your ghee is a couple of years old, the smell and taste may change ([AG]). At that point, you might decide to discard it for quality purposes.
Tip

There’s no need to throw out old ghee right away. You can use it as an eye makeup remover, hair oil, or skin moisturizer. ([AG])

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 ([SG]).

How to Store Ghee? Does Ghee Need To Be Refrigerated?

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.

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?

Info

Ghee is a type of clarified butter that’s popular in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, and among lactose intolerant. It has a toasted umami flavor that compliments many dishes.

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.

Making ghee at home
(credit: Larry Jacobsen)

Since ghee is almost 100 percent 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 place that’s away from direct sunlight ([AG]) and make sure the lid is on tight.

Info

If you store ghee in the pantry, it acts similar to coconut oil: it’s solid in cold weather and liquid in warmer weather ([AG]).

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 have an excess of ghee that you don’t need anytime soon (think: in a couple of years). 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.
  2. If you only use ghee 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 you like.
  4. Throw everything 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. Defrost the fat overnight in the fridge.

Tip

Freezing ghee only makes sense if you need to store it for like 3+ years. For shorter storage periods, letting it sit in the fridge is just fine.

Straining homemade ghee
Image used under Creative Commons from Larry Jacobsen

How Long Does Ghee Last

Ghee keeps quality at least until the best-by date on the label, which is usually a year to two years of jarring. If you take good care of it, it retains quality for months after that date. Once you open the jar for the first time, use its contents within 6 months for the best quality.

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 gradually degrade in quality. That means you can use it for months after the best-by date if it’s still safe to eat (check the section on ghee going bad).

As I already mentioned, the fridge is a better long-term storage option than the pantry. When you store ghee in the freezer, it will stay safe indefinitely, though it might lose quality very slowly over time.

When it comes to open ghee, different manufacturers have different suggestions.

Some say their ghee is best within 3 months of opening ([SG]), others ask you to go with the date on the label, no matter when you opened it. For me, using ghee within 6 months of opening (if you refrigerate it), is a pretty safe bet.

 PantryFridge
Ghee, unopened“Best by”“Best by” + 3 – 6 months
Ghee, opened3+ months6+ 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

FAQs on Ghee

Does Ghee Expire?

Not really. The date on the label is there only as a reference point on how long the fat should retain best quality. Ghee, if stored properly, keeps for months after that date.

Sources