Butter is pretty much a perfect food on its own. But marry it with cannabis and magic happens. The secret lies in butter’s high saturated fat, which binds extremely well to cannabinoids, helping your body assimilate them.
But mashing cannabis into softened butter just isn’t going to cut it. There’s an art to making cannabutter. The key, says Stephanie Hua, founder and chief confectioner of Mellows (handmade marshmallows laced with THC and CBD), is something called decarboxylation. “Decarboxylation, or ‘decarbing,’ is the heating process in which THCa, the nonpsychoactive acid form of THC, is converted into the psychoactive cannabinoid, THC,” says Hua. “Without this step, your edibles cannot reach their full potential, that is, they won’t get you high.”
Ready to transform butter into a mind-altering ingredient? “Once you master this recipe, you can turn almost anything into an edible, whether it’s baked goods, confections, or savory bites,” says Hua. And think of it: Mom's apple pie could have a whole new appeal.
Here’s Hua’s step-by-step recipe, adapted for NatuRx from her book, Edibles: Small Bites for the Modern Cannabis Kitchen, cowritten by Coreen Carroll (Chronicle Books, 2018).
- ¼ oz decarboxylated cannabis flower (see explanation below)
- 12 oz cold unsalted butter
- 2 cups cold water
- Candy thermometer (optional)
- Fine-mesh strainer
- Tall 1-quart deli container or measuring cup
- ½-pint glass canning jar with a tight-fitting lid
Note: For our recipe, we use standard American butter, which typically clocks in at around 80% butterfat. European-style butter will have upwards of 82% butterfat, which may give you a higher potency than what we’ve tested.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cannabis, butter, and water. Bring to just below boiling, 200°F to 210°F without stirring. We recommend using a candy thermometer for precision.
- Adjust heat to low. Keep mixture at this temperature for 4 hours. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down sides of pan if you start to see bits of herb sticking to it. The liquid will be at a constant gentle simmer. A few bubbles will break through the fat layer, but the mixture should never come to a rolling boil. If you notice the water getting low from evaporation, add 1 cup hot tap water to prevent mixture from burning. After 4 hours, remove pan from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
- Place a fine-mesh strainer over large bowl and line strainer with cheesecloth. Carefully pour in cannabis-butter mixture. Use rubber spatula to scrape out the pot, making sure you get all the butter and herb particles. With spatula or back of a ladle, press mixture against strainer to squeeze out all the liquid you can. Gather up the cheesecloth and give it another good press against the sieve to make sure you release as much liquid as possible. Discard the leftover debris.
- Pour the butter-water liquid into a tall container—make sure the container isn’t too wide or your butter block will be too thin and difficult to remove. Use the rubber spatula to clean the bowl; make sure you get every last bit—that’s liquid gold in there! Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
- Once the mixture cools, the butter and water will separate. Remove the butter block from container and pat dry with a paper towel. You may have to cut around the edges or lightly push down on the sides to loosen it. If your block breaks while pulling it out, don’t worry. Just make sure to get all the butter pieces out. Use a small strainer to scoop up any remaining butter bits.
- On the bottom of the butter block you will see a green film. Using the back of a knife, scrape off film and toss it along with the remaining water down the drain.
- In a small pot over low heat, melt cannabutter. Once melted, immediately turn off the heat and pour butter into the glass jar and seal the lid. Label the jar with the date and contents. Refrigerate for up to one month, or freeze for up to six months.
Stephanie Hua, founder of San Francisco's Mellows, gained a cult-like following for her THC-infused, gourmet marshmallows. She brings the same taste-first mindset to Edibles: Small Bites for the Modern Cannabis Kitchen, $20, with 30 great bites. Spiced superfood truffles, anyone? chroniclebooks.com