Whether you’ve temporarily gone dairy-free, are planning to try out veganism, or have just signed up for Veganuary, something captured your interest and got you looking for vegan ghee. Well, that’s one good step towards a plant-based diet! (While Vegan Ghee is delicious, other vegan dairy products are also great in terms of both taste and health. You can check some of them out in our list - Dairy Alternatives – Vegan Dukan.)
If ghee features in most of your traditional dishes, or is a daily staple in your house, you’re bound to be left high and dry if you’ve completely gone plant-based or are just test driving veganism. Whatever be the case, we are here to show you that going vegan doesn’t mean having to drastically alter your food habits or completely revamp your kitchen. You might open up to a few newer cuisines and tastes, or even completely move to a plant-based diet. Who knows!
In this blog, we’ll first talk about why we consume ghee in the first place, then about why you should switch to vegan ghee, and thirdly about the types of vegan ghee available in the market.
Taste: We all know what a buttery aroma and nutty flavour ghee adds to all types of dishes, whether the cuisine is South Indian or North Indian. South Indians use it almost every day to give some zing to bland white rice, whereas it is used as a topping in Indian bread when combined with North Indian curries. Ghee is heavily used in Punjabi and Gujarati cuisine especially to add heaviness to vegetarian dishes. It is added as an enhancer in many main course dishes and used as a key ingredient to make most desserts and sweets. Although oil is also used in some places, it is not commonly perceived to replace the buttery texture that ghee adds to these sweets. This is the reason we see plenty of sweet shops proudly flaunting their “made in pure ghee” announcements right at the entrance. We sure do flaunt our love for ghee!
Health: In Indian cuisine, ghee is generally considered a type of good fat (which it is), which is primarily consumed during frigid winter months in order to build some resistance against the cold. As Indians, we always ask whether the food is cooked in ghee or oil whenever we go dining out, or while eating at a friend's place. The reason for this is so that we can be assured that we are ingesting food that is combined with the good fats in ghee. It is associated with improving fertility, acting as a body coolant, and loosening stiff joints. It is predominantly considered as a traditional Indian replacement for refined oil, as refined oil has its own share of health issues such as raising triglycerides, lowering LDL, raising cholesterol levels, and so on.
- Convenience: The most convenient use of ghee is using it as a backup or replacement when oil runs out. It is always available most of the time in any kitchen cupboard and is usually long-lasting. While ghee might not be used in blatant quantities in everyday cooking, it is mostly reserved for get-togethers and occasions. That is when it mostly comes in handy. It's the versatility that makes it an all-rounder in the kitchen. Traditionally, in Indian households, It is even used as a home remedy to soothe and cure many maladies and sicknesses, especially the ones that are seasonal.
Now let’s talk about vegan ghee
Now that we’ve spoken in length about what ghee actually is and why it is so preferred, let delve into what vegan ghee is, and how it can complement your life.
There are a lot of types of vegan ghee, with more being added every other day due to the current spurt in innovation and vegan entrepreneurship.
Vegan by default: Hydrogenated vegetable oil
This type of ghee is neither the brainchild of vegan innovation and entrepreneurship nor a traditional recipe for ghee. It is an undesired product born out of an urgent need to cut costs (and corners) in restaurants and eateries across the country. Since authentic, traditional ghee is costlier, hoteliers try to use cheap hydrogenated vegetable oil and pass it off as ghee. Since it has a similar texture and consistency to ghee, it is almost impossible to distinguish between the two. It most often goes by the trade name “Vanaspati”. The drawback of knowingly or unknowingly consuming this cheap concoction regularly is increasing sickness and ill health. You are most likely to encounter this “ghee” at cheap restaurants and roadside eateries, but not very much in upscale hotels or health food restaurants.
While Vanaspati is completely vegan by default, we’d suggest eating food made out of it only as a last resort, if no other vegan option is available to you at that point of time. You should try your level best to keep away from this type of ghee, as it is high in saturated fats and cholesterol, which can be very detrimental to cardiovascular and heart health in the long run. To add fuel to the fire, food that is deep-fried in Vanaspati tends to release a higher amount of free radicals, which causes cell damage, and a spike in levels of oxidative stress.
Vegan by default: Dalda
This is another cheap look alike and imitation product to desi ghee, which was again designed to offer an affordable alternative to ghee, thereby, yet again, compromising on …….you guessed it, health! It is not another type of ghee but just another name under the brand Vanaspati.
Akin to Vanaspati, Dalda is also made from partially or fully hydrogenated vegetable oil, in order to increase its shelf life, and reduce long term costs to the restaurant or eatery. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States has stated in its studies, that partially hydrogenated oils are not Generally Recognised as Safe, after conducting extensive research and testing. It is used in bakery products, snack food items, and in preparing traditional Indian sweets. Just like Vanaspati ghee, it is most prominent at roadside food joints and cheaper food outlets. However, its presence in upscale restaurants cannot be completely ruled out.
Ghee made with interesterified vegetable fat
This type of ghee is made using a combination of vegetable oils which are very low in trans fats. It is also quite versatile and can be used for cooking, to top up curries and rice, to make Indian bread like rotis and parathas, and to make sweets as well.
Emkay ghee is quite healthy being low in saturated fat and having zero cholesterol. It is made by combining Sunflower oil with Sesame oil and vegetable fat, and if the reviews on our website are anything to go by, it makes for a perfect ingredient in making Khichdi, Rotis, deep-fried food, and Indian sweets. It is also rich in Vitamin A, D, and Essential Fatty Acids.
Unlike Dalda or Vanaspati, this ghee is made using a process known as interesterification. It is a process where the fats in vegetable oils are modified in such a way as to obtain an oil that is more suitable for deep frying and cooking while keeping the amount of saturated fats generated to a minimum. Therefore, it does not elicit the same concerns as that of hydrogenated vegetable oil.
However, it must be had in moderation, as part of a healthy, active and balanced lifestyle, just like any other processed food product should.
This ghee is yet another one to be made out of interesterified vegetable fat. In addition to Sunflower and Sesame seed oil, this ghee contains Coconut oil as well. It’s taste is quite like regular ghee, with a slight hint of coconut providing you with a thick, rich medium to cook in. It is rich in Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, and Monounsaturated Fatty Acids. It has zero cholesterol and trans fats, and is rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin D. It also contains Essential Fatty Acids like Omega 6 and Omega 9, while being low in saturated fat.
It works great for all kinds of additions such as in rotis and parathas, making curries and gravies, or in rice and vegan biryani.
To quickly summarize,
Advantages of Interesterified vegetable fat (vegan ghee) over other sources of ghee:
- It is low in saturated and trans-fatty acids unlike cow ghee and which is high in saturated fat.
- Interesterified veg fat contains zero cholesterol.
- Interesterified veg fat has a similar texture, melting point, and the shelf life of hydrogenated oil, minus the cardiovascular risk concerns.
- It contains omega fatty acids like Omega 6 and Omega 9, which is essential for good immunity and growth and development of the body. For a deeper dive into Omega 3 Fatty Acids, check out our blog - Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Benefits, Deficiency, and Sources – Vegan Dukan.
- It does not contain antibiotics and steroid hormones which are found in ghee made from conventionally produced milk.
- While ghee may be low in lactose content, interesterified veg fat is completely free of it, making it a good option for those who are lactose intolerant.
- It is not psychologically addictive, as it is free from ‘casomorphins’, the primary ingredient in dairy products that are known to create opiate-like addictions.