By now, virtually everyone has heard of edibles, those cannabis products (such as oils and concentrates) mixed into baked goods, candy, or other food items.
The idea of combining cannabis with food isn’t anything new. After all, hippies have been baking “special” brownies and brewing “herbal” tea for ages. But as laws have relaxed regarding the purchase, possession and use of cannabis in both the United States and around the world, we’ve seen a resurgence in the popularity of all things cannabis: edibles included.
And when it comes to edibles, nothing makes adding cannabis to your favorite food items than does a good “cannabutter”. In fact, most recipes calling for the addition of cannabis to your dish calls first for you to whip up a batch of cannabutter.
Once prepared, cannabutter can be easily baked into or added to the cooking process just like normal dairy-based butter. No special equipment is necessary, and the process is pretty straight-forward. But making cannabutter is not for the inattentive.
A poorly created cannabutter could leave you with a too high dose of THC and all those other good cannabinoids—or nothing at all.
This handy guide will walk you through the ins and outs of cannabutter, from what it is, to how to properly prepare it at home (recipes included).
What Is Cannabutter?
Cannabutter is a form of “butter” that has been mixed with cannabis, heated (infused), and then strained. Cannaoil is basically the same thing, but uses oil rather than butter. Both are edible fats that can be used in cooking to infuse your meal or baked treat with the wonderful benefits of cannabis.
It is important to note that neither cannabutter nor cannaoil is the same as hemp oil or CBD oil, both of which are extracted from the cannabis plant itself.
Why Add Cannabis to your Dishes?
Chewing up straight herb would probably do almost nothing for you, except taste nasty and bitter. The process of making cannabutter infuses the cannabinoids into an enjoyable medium that can be easily absorbed by your digestive tract. But why not just smoke the stuff?
Smoking and vaping are both options, but there are a number of reasons why it might make sense to transform your cannabis into an edible version instead.
One reason is discretion. No one has to know that the brownie you’re eating has a “feel good” extra ingredient, a big plus for medical users who need to be able to take a dose in public.
For other individuals with asthma or other breathing complications, smoking or vaping just isn’t a possibility. Others are simply concerned about the potential negative consequences of inhaling smoke.
Edibles offer an alternative. Finally, because the body processes cannabinoids absorbed through the intestinal tract differently, the high is much longer-lasting and usually calmer.
Despite these positives, there are a few important caveats to bear in mind before diving in headfirst into that plate of special cookies.
Cautions and Concerns
While cannabis is relatively safe, it is not totally harmless, and using it in a way that will result in an enjoyable experience and not a paranoid (too high) state is sometimes a little bit trickier with edibles as getting just the right dose and timing can be difficult.
When smoked, cannabis starts to take effect almost immediately, so the user can adjust the dose simply by smoking until they feel how they want to. Edibles, by contrast, can take up to an hour to kick in, leaving plenty of time for a user to eat way too much, especially if they don’t expect the delay or don’t realize the food contains cannabis at all. The natural human impulse to eat more of what tastes good doesn’t help.
Second, the infusing process changes the cannabinoid profile, sometimes dramatically, and the fact that absorption occurs through the intestines, not through the lungs, changes the way the body processes the cannabinoids. As a result, cannabutter produces a very different effect than the same cannabis strain would have smoked. Most users like the difference, but some react badly, especially at higher doses.
Also, don’t leave edibles lying around near children, pets, or unsuspecting adults. “What’s in these brownies?” is one of those jokes that isn’t funny in real life.
Variations on Cannabinoid Content
Mostly, cannabutter is all about THC, but it’s possible to make cannabutter from high-CBD strains instead. Just remember that dosing could be very different for CBD cannabutter or CBD cannaoil than for CBD oil.
For any cannabis strain, the type of fat used will change the results. Butter is one of the best, meaning it absorbs more of the cannabinoid. Coconut oil is also very good. Other oils may offer their own benefit, such as preferred taste, but will absorb less cannabinoids.
Making Cannabutter – a step by step guide
Now that we’ve got all the “need to know” information out of the way, its on to actually making the product. Again, the recipe is simple, and it’s fine to try variations and see what happens. After all, half the fun is in the creative process.
That said, following the basics of this recipe and process will help ensure your cannabutter is of high quality.
Cannabis does not naturally contain THC or CBD. Instead, it contains chemical precursors called THCA and CBDA, which must be treated with heat—decarboxylated, or “decarbed”—to have the familiar effects on our bodies. Smoked cannabis is decarbed automatically, but with cooking, it’s best done as a separate step for easier quality control.
Crumble or coarsely grind the cannabis (not too fine, or chlorophyll will get into your butter and turn it green and grassy-tasting) and spread it on wax paper on a cookie sheet. Heat at 240 degrees, F., for about 45 minutes, or until lightly browned. Be sure to mix the herb every few minutes to ensure even heating.
A higher temperature for less time can work, but risks degrading the product.
This basic recipe calls for four sticks of butter per every one ounce of debarbed herb. Don’t bother using extra cannabis, as there is a limit to how much the butter can absorb and the extra will just be wasted.
Boil enough water to float the butter—the water protects the butter from burning. Once the butter is melted, turn the temperature down to a low simmer and add the cannabis. Allow the cannabis and butter to simmer gently for around three hours, or until the surface of the mixture looks glossy, rather than watery.
Then strain the liquid through two layers of cheesecloth into a separate bowl—do not squeeze the mass, or you’ll squish some of the plant matter through and ruin the taste. Let gravity do its thing.
Set the strained liquid aside to cool, then refrigerate so the butter gets nice and hard. Then you can free the butter from the bowl with a knife and lift it free of the water. Pat the butter dry and cut as needed, then store (in a well-marked container) just as you would any other butter.
Easy peasy right?
Next Up: Getting the Right Dose
Getting a good experience from edibles is all about getting the dose right. One reason dosing is complicated has to do with the infusion process. The other reason depends on how you cook with your newly made cannabutter.
How Much Cannabinoid Is in the Butter?
Cannabutter (in general) will never deliver as much cannabinoid as the same amount of herb would have smoked. The infusion process is inefficient, and, as noted, cannabinoids vary in how well they absorb into fat—cannabutter usually has proportionately less CBD than the cannabis used to make it did, for example. Also, batches vary.
If you know the percentage of THC your strain of cannabis had, you can estimate how much your butter has by crunching some numbers, but it’s a rough estimate; your cannabutter could have anywhere from 30% to 60% of the THC the decarbed herb did. For safety, assume the higher amount, then calculate how much butter you need to eat to get the THC you want. You can adjust your estimate up or down by eating a small, measured amount and waiting an hour to see how you feel.
Estimating CBD content is even harder, but usually less of a priority for most users.
How Much Cannabinoid Is in the Brownie?
Inexperienced cannabis chefs and bakers alike often end up with varying and unpredictable results, with differences in cannabinoid content varying even from one brownie to the next from the SAME batch.
It happens. That’s because cannabinoids tend to settle in the butter, or even in the batter. Just remember to stir the butter thoroughly before scooping.
Remember to always measure carefully, and divide the finished product into unambiguous dose-sized portions. Don’t expect somebody to eat only 1/16 of a cookie, that’s impossible. Make smaller cookies—or mix your cannabutter with plain butter if you want to offer a larger serving at the same dose.
Last but not Least, Enjoy…But Enjoy Responsibly!
Edibles are a popular way to consume cannabis, for both medical and recreational purposes. The only major caveat is that eating is not the same as smoking, and as such certain precautions should be taken.
With that caveat in mind, making cannabutter can be a fun first step to creating delicious and potent baked goods, dressings, spreads, or pan-fried foods right at home.
Get Free Access
Yes, sign me up for marketing emails from Hemper. You can change your mind anytime by unsubscribing.