The Art of Pairing Cannabis with Food (and Beverages)
Byline: Cody Funderburk
Given the gradual normalization of cannabis in mainstream culture, many appreciators and connoisseurs have taken to the art and science of pairing any of the seemingly endless varieties of cannabis strains with a complimentary selection of foods and beverages. As many more states and provinces approach the legalization of cannabis cafes, restaurants, and lounges, planning how to creatively blend the personalities of unique strains with the flavors of various dishes is an intriguing endeavor.
The first trick to understanding how to strategically pair food and cannabis is to understand terpenes. Terpenes, or terpenoids, are organic compounds that occur naturally in the cannabis plant, giving cannabis its notoriously pungent and diverse aromas. Some cannabis strains carry the scent of fresh fruit, while other cannabis strains smell more like flowers, pine, wood, or even mint! There’s some evidence to suggest that the array of terpenes found in cannabis subtly influence the personality, or characteristics, of the high. Citrusy strains with “lemon” or “grapefruit” in the name are generally brighter in characteristic, and lend to a more euphoric high, while strains high in myrcene, also found naturally in mangos, lends to a more relaxed experience. Therefore, selecting strains that are naturally abundant with terpenes can help maximize the sensory experience of cannabis scent and flavor (hint: more cannabis producers and processors are starting to label terpenes on the packaging- ask your budtender for the most aromatic strain selections).
To help navigate the complex flavors of cannabis, I’ve compiled a list of the most popular tasty cannabis strains with corresponding inspirations for cuisine pairings.
Girl Scout Cookies: Girl Scout Cookies is a hybrid cross of OG Kush, a heavy earthy indica, with durban poison, a sweet and grassy sativa. The main flavor of Girl Scout Cookies is sweet, with earthiness and hints of floral notes. This strain will pair nicely with almost anything sweet, especially cookies, pies, or other confections. It also compliments most breakfast foods and cereal. This strain is a good choice for baking into foods,
Sour Diesel: “Sour D” is a strong and pungent sativa, the classic bud of sour diesel will wreak with a strong skunky cannabis scent, with woody undertones. Sour Diesel will pair well with a pungent cheese, or something more sour, like a balsamic dish, or hot and sour soup to accentuate the sharp flavors of this strain. Additionally, garlic can be an interesting friend for the unique flavors of sour diesel. Dishes like garlic potatoes or garlic bread can highlight and compliment the pungent aromas of sour diesel. As a pro-tip, you may want to offer breath mints with this one!
OG Kush: Heavy, meaty, OG Kush can contribute to a plate of spaghetti in a similar way to marinated mushrooms. It has an earthiness and body can gives definition to lighter dishes, while matching the heaviness and boldness of heartier selections. Kush-heavy indica strains also pair well with soups, especially thicker soups or chilli.
Jack Herer: Jack Herer is a piney, woody sativa with scents reminiscent of a forest of fir trees. This rather specific strain doesn’t pair easily, but the freshness of this strain would compliment a dish of veggies, like salad or a spring roll. The natural flavors of this strain also pair well with anything herbal, like a tomato basil soup or savory marinated protein.
Tangie: Tangie has a strong citrusy flavor and scent, usually emerging as a fusion of orange, lemon, or grapefruit. Tagie can pair wonderfully with a dish that is typically accentuated by oranges, like pad thai or a similar noodle dish. Tangie may also pair well with breakfast foods that typically accompany orange juice.
Cheese: I chose this strain because the notorious resemblance of this strain to the flavor and smell of cheese makes it an interesting prospective feature for a dinner party. While the first inclination may be to pair cheese (the strain) with cheese (the food), and while they may pair wonderfully, another option might be something you would typically eat with cheese, like a basket of breadsticks, or better yet, an orderve of olives, capers, pita, and hummus, or perhaps even a pizza. The primary flavors of this strain definitely compliment savory and salty plates like artichoke or olives.
Lavender: Lavender is a favorite strain selection for those looking for a lighter, softer, and more relaxed buzz. The floral flavors this strain pair well with sweet flavors like chocolate, cake, or lemonade. Lavender also pairs well with many fruits, especially grapes and blackberries. Herbal tea may be a good accompaniment as well.
While these are just some ideas to get you thinking, there are millions of possible combinations that expand on the unique qualities of the expanding variety of cannabis subspecies. Furthermore, the method you choose to integrate cannabis into your meal can also drastically influence the recreational and somatic experience. For instance, cooking cannabis into food can alter the flavors of both the original strain and the original dish, creating interesting fusions. Preparing a vaporizer of your preferred flower to accompany a meal will give you a distinct impression of the individual flavors of both the flower and the meal. In the future, devouring an artistically curated assortment of snacks and strains might be as easy as ordering a beer with brunch today.