Pairing Terpenes for Cooking

Liz Filmer
18 Mar 2022

Terpenes are aromatic oils secreted by the flower's sticky resin glands. Similarly to cannabinoids, terpenes attach to receptors in the brain and affect the mind and body. Terpenes are present in many plants and fruits, such as peppermint, coriander, lavender, mango, and pine. They give plants their signature smell and are what essential oils are derived from. 

Cannabis terpenes are most noticeable in smell and flavour and explain why different scents can have different strains. In the same way as essential oils, terpenes are thought to be therapeutic for various physical and mental health conditions. 

Cooking with Cannabis has become increasingly popular in recent years as many people choose to eat weed in their food instead of smoking it. It is possible to try and pair the flavours in your food with complementary terpenes, which can enhance your dish.

When trying this, remember to trust your instinct. You will know to a certain degree what foods a particular terpene is best suited to based on its overall scent. Here are some of the most dominant terpenes and an idea of what foods they would go well with.

Pinene has an aroma of sharp, sweet pine. It is also found in Conifers, Orange peel, Basil, Pine, Sage Rosemary, and Dill. Ideas could include pesto, Italian dishes such as lasagne, flatbreads, or a herb rub or marinade for meat or vegetables.

Linalool has a Floral, Citrus, Spicy aroma and is found in Lavender, Citrus fruits, Coriander, Birch, and Rosewood. For cooking, you could try using it savoury in the lemon sauce for fish, lemon pepper chicken, or if you like a bit of spice in your food, try Linalool in a tomato sauce-based curry. If you love zingy desserts with a kick, try a lemon tart, a mousse, or fruity dessert pie/pastry. 

Caryophyllene has a spicy, peppery, woody aroma and is found in Pepper, Cloves, Hops, Basil, and Oregano. It is best served in savoury dishes due to its peppery, spicy smell, so think of giving ordinary dishes like pumpkin pie a bit of a kick or serve in chipotle sauce, burritos, chilli, or in salsa perhaps.

Myrcene is earthy and has Mushroom, Clove, Herbal, and Citrus notes. Myrcene is found in Mango, Thyme, Lemongrass, and bay leaf. Good food pairings for Myrcene include lots of vegetarian dishes like mushroom risotto, omelettes, vegetable quiche, curries, and even soups.

Limonene has a heavily citrus scent and is found in citrus rind, Juniper and Peppermint. With such a strong citrus profile, it is hard to pair this terpene with anything but predominantly citrus-based recipes such as lemon drizzle cake, honey, lemon tea, and lemon sorbet. However, you can incorporate it into savoury dishes if you are clever, such as a sauce for oysters or scallops.

Humulene has a woody, earthy aroma and is also found in Hops and Coriander. It has a taste similar to the organic hops of a cask ale beer and helps toward the spice in coriander. It has a spicy flavour when boiled for long periods, so with this in mind, it would be suitable for use in rich gravy or sauce for meat. In slow-cooked meals such as Casseroles and in meat pies or any recipe that also uses beer as a recipe. Humulene is what gives sage, ginger, and ginseng their zingy bite, so used alongside any of these ingredients, it should work well. 

Liz Filmer