Pairing Cannabis With Food: A Guide

Fine wine is full of terpenes – plant chemicals that give food its flavor – and we readily pair foods with it. In fact, it’s a pretty important job to be able to recommend wines and wine-pairings, so it’s only natural that cannabis – known for its potent, incredibly aromatic terpenes – would get the same food-pairing love that grapes do.

We’re not talking about cannabis edibles here; rather, we’re concerned with the flavors of cannabis extracts and how they pair best with different food and drinks. Once you’ve experienced this type of consumption, you’ll be hooked for life. Let’s dive into the aromatic, complex, and delicious world of cannabis food pairings.

Understanding terpenes

The plant compounds that give cannabis its incredible flavor and that AMAZING smell are called terpenes, and they naturally occur in pretty much every food we eat. Terpenes are responsible for the deliciousness of spices like black pepper and turmeric, and the clean, fresh scent of a pine forest in fall. 

For instance, the terpene myrcene has a tropical sort of flavor, while pinene tastes like (as we’re sure you can guess), pine needles. There are so many more that occur in cannabis as well as other foods and plants and they all provide a unique smell and taste.

Despite all of the delicious flavors locked within terpenes, many cannabis items have them removed during production, but full-spectrum cannabis products keep the terpenes intact. Let’s take a look at how full-spectrum cannabis goes best with food and drinks.

Where to start with cannabis food pairings

The best thing to do is to think like a chef. If you were cooking a fatty fish like salmon, you’d naturally lean towards using citrus to brighten the soft flavors of the meal, while also cutting the fattiness of the protein. There are plenty of limonene and caryophyllene compounds in various strains of cannabis – Jack Herer for limonene and 9-pound hammer for caryophyllene, for instance – that will pair amazingly well with this dinner. Once you realize that pairing cannabis with food and drinks is no different than seasoning your meal with herbs and spices, the whole process gets a lot easier.

The most common terpenes for food and cannabis are:

  • Limonene – lemony and citrusy
  • Myrcene – tropical and fruity
  • Pinene – like gin and pine needles
  • Caryophyllene – black pepper and spice
  • Terpinolene – woody and earthy
  • Humulene –  bitter and floral – this is the dominant flavor in hops

Consider these flavor profiles when you’re cooking and you can find the perfect bud to match whatever dinner, dessert, or drinks might be.

Easy pairings to try

If you’re not a chef, then there are some extremely simple food pairings you can try that don’t require hours in the kitchen or an advanced cooking degree. These will give you the idea of how food and cannabis pairings work without all of the hassle of making a four-star meal.

Cookies and Sour Diesel strains

Diesels are known for their bitter, earthy pungent flavor, which is due to a combination of humulene and terpinolene. Like pairing coffee with dessert, these Sour Diesel will cut the sweetness and give you a perfect balance on your palate. Plus, everyone loves cookies – and depending on the characteristics of the cannabis you’re using, you might really love cookies.

Pineapple baked ham and myrcene-dominant strains (Agent Orange or Purple Urkel)

The saltiness of ham mixes well with the sweetness of pineapple, and both play well with the fruity nature of myrcene terpenes. You could achieve a similar pairing with any salty and sweet food that included a tropical fruit like pineapple or mango, like ceviche.

Steak and caryophyllene (ACDC, Green Lantern, and 9-Pound Hammer)

Black pepper compliments beef really well, and caryophyllene-dominant strains of cannabis pair well with black pepper. Try doing a black pepper crust on some ribeye and pairing it with some Green Lantern cannabis. You might want to warn your dinner guests, however, as some people are very sensitive to black pepper and this dinner might be overload.

St. Germaine and pinene (OG Kush)

Mixing an elderflower liqueur, high-quality gin, and pinene-dominant cannabis is a match made in heaven. Try a gimlet, which swaps the vermouth of a martini for lime juice. You can also add in some limonene strains to punch up the incredible flavor of the lime and elderflower.

Other considerations

While time of day and temperature all play into the flavor of smokeable products, it’s worth noting that if you want the full experience of these types of pairings, you want to give your palate a break before you indulge. Constant smoking dulls the taste buds and scent receptors in the nose, but if you give yourself a break – even for only 12 hours – you’ll experience these flavors more potently. 

Finely crafted HTFSE carts and concentrates that are curated for your best experience are some of the best ways to experience cannabis and food pairings. DabsLabs has some of the finest cannabis extracts available, free of additives and cutting agents, and you can find the best place to buy them here. You owe it to yourself to try intentionally pairing food, drinks, and cannabis, and experiencing the totality of what terpenes have to offer.