Maybe the idea of CBD-infused foods freak you out. But having anxiety about cooking with CBD is not only ironic, it’s unnecessary, because this primer has everything you need to know. From the best foods to start with to the rules to follow to ensure you’re not just washing your money down the drain, consider this the complete ABCs to cooking with CBD. Soon you’ll be able to switch up your CBD habit to be as delicious as it is functional. (Any scientists out there want to study the effectiveness of CBD brownies as a PMS remedy? Get at me.)
Basically, unless all you plan on infusing is a smoothie or a vinaigrette, Evans recommends saving your CBD tinctures in favor for a pre-infused oil.
The golden rules of cooking with CBD
Evans says that consuming CBD in food will take your body longer to digest than a dropper full of tincture under your tongue—so be patient. “When you’re infusing it in food, there’s what’s called the ‘first pass effect,’ which means that anything digestible has to pass through your gut and liver first before reaching your bloodstream,” she says. “So [CBD in food] not going to be as potent or as quick-acting.”
Evans says that cooking heat can potentially make CBD less effective. “If exposed to overheating, the effects will burn off,” she says, adding that she recommends staying below 320˚F.
However, because CBD in baked goods is still a relatively new territory, other experts aren’t sure about the impact of heat. “It’s hard to say and is still unknown what happens to the potency of CBD oil when it’s heated at a certain temperatures while cooking or baking,” says Liz Sprinkle, the founder of CBD brand Love Always, Liz.
Keep in mind that cannabinoids bind well with fat, so CBD needs to be infused into a fat or oil-based ingredient like butter, ghee, or coconut oil in order to increase bio-availability and receive the full benefits of the compound.
CBD exists in endless creams, balms, and beauty products, but the most popular way to using the product is by consuming the oil itself. Food and drink products galore—from sparkling water to gummy bears to luxury oil droppers called tinctures—exist on the market today, and rest assured that tomorrow will bring at least a dozen more.
CBD oil is unquestionably the most buzz-worthy ingredient right now. It comes with a laundry list of promising purported health benefits—from reduced anxiety to help with nausea, inflammation, and insomnia—that have everyone wondering whether it’s time to jump on the CBD bandwagon.
When cooking with CBD, be careful when it comes to applying heat as excessive temperatures can cause it to evaporate and lose potency. This is one reason why many people love using CBD oil as a finishing touch on meals—try drizzling the oil over avocado toast, pizza, eggs, or mixing it into pesto.
You'll often find CBD-infused sweets and baked goods because it’s generally easier to cover up the inherent bitterness of lower-quality CBD with sugar or chocolate. However, a high-quality CBD oil is perfect for use in savory dishes. CBD oil works great in salad dressing; you can also add it to soups and pasta sauces.
Just when you thought eating couldn’t get any more relaxing.
But first, what is CBD oil? It’s one of the many naturally-occurring chemical compounds present in the flowers and leaves of cannabis plants, found in both marijuana and industrial hemp. Unlike THC (the psychoactive element of cannabis), CBD cannot get you high, no matter how much you take.
Don’t cook CBD oil over direct heat — don’t even saute with it, and definitely don’t deep fry with it, Kennedy says. Lu agrees, and also recommends not heating it above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. “It’s not a very good cooking oil," he says. "It gets really bitter.” Overheating the oil could also cause the CBD to lose its potential efficacy. Lu likes blending it into vinaigrettes or using it as a finishing oil.
He also suggests checking a product’s lab results to ensure that it contains what the company claims it contains, and that it doesn’t contain heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides, or residual solvents from the extraction process, which may also be harmful. Many companies publish lab results on their website, and some product labels display quick response, or QR codes that direct you to them.
Treat CBD as you would any ingredient, and investigate how it was sourced. In general, CBD extracts fall into three categories: full-spectrum oil, broad-spectrum oil, or isolate powder, Kennedy explains. Full-spectrum oil contains high levels of CBD and less than 0.3% THC, the compound that gets you high. (CBD and THC are cannabinoids, compounds that act on the body’s endocannabinoid system, hypothesized to help regulate pain, mood and other biological functions.) CBD oil also contains other cannabinoids, terpenes (compounds that give cannabis its smell), and phytonutrients. Broad-spectrum oil contains high levels of CBD, no THC, and lower levels of other cannabinoids and terpenes than full-spectrum oil, while CBD isolate consists almost entirely of CBD.
Start low, and go slow
Although flavor varies from one brand to the next, generally speaking, CBD oil tastes like “a very earthy, aggressive olive oil,” Lu says. “There’s a very distinct smell and flavor to it, almost like cut grass infused in olive oil.” It may not be a flavor you’re used to, but that doesn’t mean you need to mask it. Lu’s philosophy? “If you’re going to use something, let it shine." You can add a pinch of salt and a spritz of lemon before drizzling it over a dish, but you don’t need to.
If you’re worried about CBD oil overpowering an entire dish with its robust flavor, create balance by spreading it out over multiple parts of a dish, Lu suggests. Not only does he incorporate it into, say, aioli, but he also dresses salads with it and uses it as a finishing oil. There’s a wide array of CBD-infused olive oils on the market, which may have lower concentrations of CBD than CBD oil, but are easier to use in cooking. Plant People and Vireo both sell CBD-infused extra virgin olive oils that can be more user-friendly than straight CBD oil when you’re using it in food or drinks.
We’ve officially reached peak CBD obsession. Short for cannabidiol, CBD is a non-inebriating compound in cannabis believed to soothe anxiety and pain, as well as facilitate sleep, among other benefits. CBD oil has emerged in a myriad of food products—not only your classic gummies and chocolate bars, but even salad dressing, pizza, and tacos. Whether it works, especially in the small doses that go into food, is still up for debate. Still, you can hit up countless dispensaries and eateries for CBD-infused bites, and you can also whip up your own. As with any ingredient, though, there are a few cardinal rules for cooking with CBD.
Henry Lu, executive chef of Loosie’s Kitchen in Brooklyn, and Gabe Kennedy, cofounder of cannabis wellness brand Plant People and the Season 3 winner of ABC’s primetime cooking competition, The Taste, dished advice on how to cook with CBD oil to ensure your CBD-spiked dishes are not only delicious and responsibly sourced, but also retain the compound’s potential efficacy.