Pairing Cannabis Terpenes with Food

Cannabis Terpenes and Food Parings

Written By: John Blackwell for
Chef John Blackwell BFST from Lecole Culinaire

Terpenes are flavor compounds found in cannabis as well as other plants, fruits and vegetables. They are not only responsible for the aromas of cannabis; they can also work synergistically with cannabinoids (such as THC and CBD) to produce a variety of effects. This interaction between terpenes and cannabinoids is known as the entourage effect. 

Along with how they’re used, there’s misinformation about terpenes’ effects, too. For example, linalool won’t always have a relaxing effect just because it’s found in lavender — that depends on other chemicals it’s mixed with.

The terpene by itself research will show one thing, a terpene (mixed) in an essential oil or a cocktail, or terpenes that come from an essential oil of a plant, will do another. When you look at an isolated terpene or an entourage or multiple terpenes combined with THC or other cannabinoids, now you have completely different effects. To my knowledge there really arent any super unique terpenes to cannabis.

There are two main reasons why cannabis enthusiasts might want to explore terpene food pairings: First, the taste. As an experienced chef i can  tell you, some flavors go great together – while others do not. For example, if you’re making a dessert with sweet citrus (limonene) flavors then you probably don’t want to use a strain high in caryophyllene (black pepper), or you’ll end up with a strange and potentially unpleasant flavor combination.

Secondly, the terpenes you use will influence the effects felt after consumption. As mentioned above, cannabis and terpenes work together to produce a range of effects. So, if there’s a specific effect you’re seeking from edibles, it would be wise to consider terpene food pairings.

Common terpenes found in cannabis and different strains;

Limonene Food Pairings

Limonene is commonly found in sativa-dominant cannabis strains as well as citrus fruit. Its flavour profile is easy to remember – just think of limes! Limonene produces the distinct sweet citrus aroma revered by many cannabis consumers. Described as sharp yet pleasantly fragrant, limonene pairs well with dishes that have a crisp or sweet flavour. Examples include strawberry shortcake, key lime pie, or caesar salad.

Strains high in limonene: Ultra Sour, Citrique

Myrcene Food Pairings

Myrcene, found in thyme and mangoes, is responsible for the musky, earthy and herbal aromas of certain cannabis strains. Because of its herbal notes, myrcene goes well with savoury recipes. Try it with salmon, quiche or a grilled ham and cheese sandwich.

Strains high in myrcene: MK Ultra, Sensi Star, DM2

Caryophyllene Food Pairings

Caryophyllene is found in hops, cloves and black pepper. It has a spicy, woody aroma that experienced consumers will recognize as one of the most prevalent scents of cannabis. It complements egg dishes nicely and can add a peppery kick to steak, jerk chicken or chili con carne.

Strains high in caryophyllene: Sensi Star, Wappa

Pinene Food Pairings

Another component of cannabis that can be used for terpene food pairing is pinene. This terpene is also found in pine trees and emits a strong piney aroma. Use strains with high levels of pinene in dishes that you would typically garnish with fragrant herbs like rosemary and thyme. Some examples include roasted cauliflower with pine nuts or mashed potatoes.

Strains high in pinene: Wappa, Shishkaberry

Linalool Food Pairings

Linalool has a semi-sweet, floral aroma and can be found in lavender and geraniums. Like lavender, it pairs well with desserts or any dish containing vanilla. Cannabis strains high in linalool can be used to complement the flavour profiles of vanilla ice cream, dark chocolate or crème brûlée.

Strains high in linalool: Shishkaberry

A word to the cautionary:

No matter how an isolated cannabis terpene is used — in food, in cannabis products, to scent your home — it is recommended not to use too much as they are in concentrate. In fact, they’re so strong  I use only a drop or two at the most in any dish.  

I’ve heard of dabbers, dabbing cannabis  terpenes. Which could be potentially dangerous.  Just because they’re found in cannabis does not make them innately safe to use in concentrate. Even with essential oils they always tell you: always dilute this.

Written By: John Blackwell for
Chef John Blackwell BFST from Lecole Culinaire

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