WRITTEN BY CAROLINE CASSOL AND DR. SWATHI VARANASI
Cooking with cannabis could be a great, innovative way to incorporate CBD into your lifestyle. Beyond edibles (foods that contain cannabis in them), cannabis cooked into food is not intended to be used only for intoxication and recreational use. In fact, in terms of cannabis for medicinal use it is a convenient way to administer cannabis without smoking it. This is an alternative dosage form for cannabis which adds to its versatility for patient use. This is not just limited to food, cannabis can even be infused into beverages as well which provides another option for administration.
Are there culinary cannabis training programs?
Now chefs can earn a specialty certificate to cook with cannabis through specific culinary courses. Just like any program, candidates are required to take a test based on what they learned in order to obtain the certification (3). The curriculum covers working with both THC and non-THC ingredients, as well as the basics of terpenes. They are also tested on the anatomy of the plants and the endocannabinoid system (1). While the cannabinoids activate the body’s endocannabinoid system, the terpenes affect the taste and aroma of the food (3). Chefs learn the scientific properties of these compounds and how they can be incorporated into a dish. The curriculum also includes solving math problems to calculate the dosages of the cannabinoids to properly understand their potency. The training is more so focused on how chefs should handle these ingredients and how they should extract and dose them (5). Once certified, the chef can go through cannabis culinary training to apply this knowledge to cooking cannabis into a dish.
This certificate demonstrates the rising interest in cannabis across the nation and provides another specialized career related to cannabis. Numerous cookbooks have been published that are focused on utilizing cannabis as a main ingredient.
Is it easy to cook with cannabis?
In short: No.
It is thought that one of the most difficult parts of cooking with it is mastering how to handle cannabis as an ingredient (1). It is quite literally a science lab in the kitchen! One must understand preparation processes such as decarboxylation. For simplicity, there are products to purchase for cooking that already have cannabis infused within them such as cannabutters, and special sugars to incorporate cannabis into a dish without the science experiment (5). Another skill to note for the chef is to recognize which types of cannabis (aka what strains) one would like to use and how their properties can contribute to a dish.
How do you determine what type of cannabis to use in a dish?
When deciding which strain to use it is important to determine the potency of each cannabinoid such as the percent content of THC versus CBD. Between these two cannabinoids alone, this decision will determine if your dish will make the consumer feel intoxicated or 'high'. However, even a CBD-dominant strain may contain traces of THC which should be noted for those who may not want any measurable amount in their system. This possible trace amount is typically not enough to intoxicate people, so consumption of the dish can simply activate the endocannabinoid system and promote its benefits. But overall potency is important to consider when cooking a dish, as the chef would need to calculate the dosage of the dish–again we're back in the science lab. In order to determine the accurate dosage you would need to consider the amount of cannabis used, the relative percentages of both THC and CBD as well as the amount of oil or butter used (5). The chef should be able to decide what is considered a proper and appropriate dosage for the dish which can vary from person to person.
What are the benefits of cooking with hemp seeds?
Beyond THC and CBD, cannabis can be integrated into dishes in other ways such as through hemp seeds. Providing a high amount of plant protein per serving, hemp seeds are nearly flavorless and a wonderful option for those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet. Hemp is rich in nutrients and protein with high contents of omega fatty acids, potassium, magnesium, and dietary fiber.
In one study, using hemp flour, a pasta recipe was developed and tested for consumer use. Hemp cake, hemp flour, water and dura semolina were tested with different ratios to determine which formulation was most favorable. When each sample was developed they were tested for their individual quality and characteristics. The criteria consisted of the cooking quality and sensory characteristics such as the color, smell and texture of the pasta (4). While this may seem extensive it is fascinating to think about the thought that goes into developing food products and dishes.
It is exciting to see more applications of cannabis in our world today. Considering the certifications and recipes in the culinary world there is an increase in interest in incorporating cannabis into our everyday lives. While there is much more research and ideas out there, a lot of opportunity has arisen for cannabis to manifest in modern society, even in the kitchen.
- Advanced Solutions International I. Specialized certificate in culinary cannabis and edibles. American Culinary Federation. https://www.acfchefs.org/ACF/Education/Specialized_Certificates/CulinaryCannabis/ACF/Education/ProDev/Specialized_Certificates/Cannabis/. Accessed August 7, 2022.
- Faison AM. The Food & Wine Guide to Culinary Cannabis. Food & Wine. https://www.foodandwine.com/news/guide-culinary-cannabis. Published January 7, 2021. Accessed August 7, 2022.
- Levin A. Chefs can now earn a culinary cannabis certificate. We Are Chefs. https://wearechefs.com/chefs-can-now-earn-a-culinary-cannabis-certification/. Published September 3, 2021. Accessed August 7, 2022.
- Teterycz D, Sobota A, Przygodzka D, Łysakowska P. Hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) enriched pasta: Physicochemical properties and quality evaluation. PLoS One. 2021;16(3):e0248790. Published 2021 Mar 18. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0248790
- Ward A, Pellegrino A. Cooking with cannabis: A beginner's guide to making Marijuana Edibles. NuggMD. https://www.nuggmd.com/blog/cooking-with-cannabis-a-beginners-guide-to-making-marijuana-edibles. Published June 14, 2022. Accessed August 7, 2022.
This article was edited by Dr. Swathi and was written by Element Apothec Scientific Communications Intern, Caroline Cassol. She is a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) student at University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy in Storrs, Connecticut.