Terpenes are a well-known component of cannabis, but people are usually surprised to find out they’re responsible for the smell of lemons, basil, mangos, and many other scents in the vegetable and fruit world!
Today we’ll look at how to use terpenes, including using terpenes in cocktails and recipes. We’ll leave recipes for another time — today’s all about understanding these organic compounds and learning how to handle them as an ingredient.
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What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes are present in nature to both repel predators and attract pollinators. For us in the human world, they have another set of benefits: they make our food delicious and have beneficial effects on us.
For example, a terpene called limonene is found in citrus and can help metabolism and heartburn, while linalool, which is found in lavender, relieves stress and calms anxiety.
In the cannabis plant, in particular, terpenes are 100% responsible for creating their distinctive aromas. Among the hundreds of strains out there, different terpene profiles with more than 100 types of terpenes create smells that vary from floral to fruity, skunky to diesel-y. That’s why Lemon Haze smells and tastes like lemons. It’s why Sour Diesel smells like it could power a Dodge Ram.
What’s even more interesting about terpenes is how they work with cannabinoids to produce cool effects on our minds and bodies. There is a well-documented phenomenon called the entourage effect, in which terpenes team up with cannabinoids like CBD and THC to achieve better results than those compounds would on their own.
Using Terpenes in Recipes
When it comes to food, cocktails, and drinks, using terpenes in recipes is a bold new frontier that’s lighting up the culinary world. Terpenes are not only healthy, but they can also take meals and flavors to whole new levels.
The challenge? Knowing how to use the right amount of terpenes to pair with certain flavor profiles. Here are the recommended steps:
Step 1: Choose Your Terpenes
Start where all great chefs start: by guessing which flavor terpenes would work well with certain dishes. Because terpenes come in so many varieties, from diesel to lemon to cotton candy to blueberries, you have a lot of room to experiment.
If you are seasoning a cut of meat, you might want to choose a terpene like caryophyllene, which is partly responsible for the aromas of clove oil and rosemary. Explore the different types to understand what’s available to you.
Step 2: Start Small
Today’s terpenes come in a highly concentrated form, so be extremely conservative when adding them to food or cocktails. The best place to start is with 0.5% content and working upwards from there until you find the perfect amount for your tastes. Increasing the amount of terpenes will also increase the dosage.
Step 3: Watch Boiling Points
Terpenes can easily boil off or be destroyed (and leave your drink or recipe flavorless) if you don’t carefully monitor the temperature you’re cooking at. It’s helpful to know the boiling points of different common terpenes, so here is a list to keep handy as you start to cook with them:
Step 4: Mix Terpenes with Oil or Butter
Like other compounds in the cannabis plant, terpenes are fat-soluble. That means they mix well with other lipid-rich substances like butter and oil. To easily integrate them into your cooking, stir your terpenes with melted butter or your favorite cooking oil.
When choosing the right butter or oil, it’s more about the quality than the type — you can go with cool choices like goat butter or lamb tallow, but avoid cheap products to keep the flavors top-notch.
Step 5: Keep Tabs on How it Turned Out
As you finish and enjoy your meal or cocktail, take note of exactly how many terpenes you put in and how they tasted. If you suspect you went overboard or underboard, you’ll have that handy for the next time you whip them out!
In truth, it’s not hard to get a handle on using terpenes in recipes. Once you figure out the secrets, you’ll probably want to start using them regularly. Check back in with us for incredible terpene recipes for both food and drinks!