When it comes to making cannabis-infused foods, people are starting to get hip to the nuances that can transform a haphazardly made dish that’s overwhelmed with the taste of weed into a delicious entree or dessert that utilizes cannabis as an influential ingredient, and can bring new levels of flavor to a meal. Understanding terpenes — the aromatic compounds or essential oils found in cannabis — is the key to successfully pairing strains with ingredients that don’t try to mute or mask the taste of weed but instead help to showcase it in a way that enhances the dish.
Interested in diving into this world? We’ll start you off – get started with this quick cheat sheet of some of the most commonly-occurring terpenes.
This energizing, uplifting terpene has a distinct citrus smell and flavor profile. It’s naturally found in fruits like oranges and lemons — particularly in the rind. It can help with reducing depression and anxiety, promote weight loss, and has been shown to help inhibit the growth of cancerous cells.
Find it in: Super Lemon Haze, OG Kush, Durban Poison, Jack Herer
Pairs well with: Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, grapefruit and tangerines
Try it in: Crispy Artichoke Cakes With Herb Aioli that feature both lemon juice and lemon rind in the recipe or use it to help brighten up and enhance the flavor of this ricotta-pineapple mini canna-crepe soufflé.
Known for its relaxing and calming properties, myrcene is often found in Indica-dominant strains. It has an earthy, musky scent and a mildly sweet flavor profile that varies slightly depending on the strain. Thanks to its sedative properties, it can provide some relief for people suffering from sleep disorders like insomnia and also help with pain management.
Find it in: Mango Kush, Granddaddy Purple, Trainwreck, Grape Ape
Pairs well with: Mangoes, thyme, bay leaves, basil, lemongrass, verbena, eucalyptus, ylang-ylang and hops
Try it in: Dishes that play up the sweet and savory notes with like these maple glazed carrots braised with thyme or this mixed greens, mango, and pineapple with cannabis-curry vinaigrette.
Like the name might suggest, Pinene has a fresh, invigorating smell similar to pine needles. It can boost focus and short-term memory function, increase alertness and help improve airflow to lungs. It has a bright, delicately bitter taste that works well with herbs and in savory dishes.
Find it in: Purple Kush, AK-47, Dutch Treat, Bay Dream
Pairs well with: Pine needles, basil, parsley, rosemary, sage and dill
Try it in: Herbaceous dishes like a high-flying French onion soup with rosemary and sage, spicy sensi potatoes and herbed couscous or cannachurri steak kebabs.
The smell of this terpene is so powerful that just a whiff can help reduce anxiety and stress, which is why it’s found in a variety of aromatherapy products. The fragrance, which is lightly floral with a few hints of spice, is similar to the flavor profile. It’s anti-inflammatory with analgesic properties that can aid in pain management associated with arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Find it in: Lavender, Romulan, Sour Kush, Purple Urkle
Pairs well with: Lavender, a variety of mint, coriander
Try it in: Foods that will emphasize its minty flavor profile, like a zesty lemon mint pot pesto or peppermint pot patties.
This terpene can help cut back on stress, anxiety, and depression, slow the growth of bacteria and fungus, reduce inflammation, and may even help reduce alcohol cravings. It has an earthy, woodsy smell with a spicy, pungent taste that works best in savory dishes.
Find it in: Fire OG, Chemdawg, Sour Diesel, Bubba Kush, Super Silver Haze
Pairs well with: Black pepper, oregano, basil, hops, cloves, cinnamon
Try it in: Cedella Marley’s Jamaican Jerk Chicken or a peppery 420 Philly cheesesteak pizza
Most strains have a combination of terpenes that provide a bouquet of flavor profiles, a range of sensations and a variety of therapeutic applications. Dispensaries often have lab results that will tell you the terpene analysis and help lead you in the right direction when it comes to choosing how you want to feel and how you want your food to taste.