A Step-by-Step Guide to Making Cannabutter
The sweet and savory goods most people think of when they hear the term “cannabis edibles” are growing in popularity. Aside from an alternative to smoking cannabis, edibles allow for a different form of ingestion and effects.
Fortunately, you can make your own baked goods and edibles at home, suited exactly to your tastes. Better yet, you can use your favorite strain of cannabis, which was selected and cultivated to potentially provide the pain-relieving or stress-relieving benefits you seek. Before you get to cooking, you’ll need to find a way to infuse cannabis into your favorite recipe—and for that, you’ll need a cannabis cooking oil or cannabis-infused butter.
Why Do I Need Cannabutter?
To understand the importance of an excellent cannabutter recipe, it’s crucial to learn why you need to create cannabutter in the first place. The primary active ingredients responsible for giving cannabis its potentially excellent stress-relief, relaxation, and pain-relief benefits are known as cannabinoids. Cannabinoids, including THC, CBD and more, and terpenes, or the essential oils naturally produced by plants including cannabis that provide therapeutic benefits, are fat-soluble compounds. This means they can only dissolve in liquids based in fats, commonly butter or oil.
As a result, to create baked goods or other homemade edibles infused with cannabis, you must first infuse the cannabinoids and terpenes into an oil. While you can use practically any edible oil to create your cannabis-infused cooking fat, butter is an excellent choice because it is a spreadable solid at room temperature, easily accessible, simple to work with—and it adds that great butter taste to your recipe.
If you’re not a butter fan or are looking for alternative health benefits, there are recipes to infuse coconut oil, olive oil, and more. You’ll find that the basic principles are the same, the key is to ensure it’s a fat-based carrier to best infuse. Once you learn how to make cannabutter for edibles, you can experiment with making flavored spreads and oils to accompany all your favorite recipes.
A Beginner’s Guide to Making Cannabutter
While seemingly an arduous process, making cannabutter, like anything, becomes easier with practice.
While you’ve likely been cooking, baking, or both since you were old enough to lick the spoon, cannabis-infused edibles are a little more involved than grandma’s chocolate chip cookie recipe—if only because the process to make cannabutter introduces a few extra steps. But if you follow our step-by-step instructions, you’ll be adding your newly infused cannabutter to your favorite recipes in no time.
To help make getting started a little easier, we’ve broken the process down into three distinct stages, each with its own set of ingredients and easy-to-follow steps. Determine whether the optional steps are important to you, gather what you need, and you’re on your way.
Final tip: While we specify unsalted butter for this recipe, there’s no scientific reason to choose it over salted butter except that you can add salt to your tastes later as your recipe requires. If you’re accustomed to using salted butter, go ahead and use that to start your cannabutter-making experience.
Optional Stage One: Clarifying the Butter
How to Do It:
- Melt your butter in a saucepan or slow cooker on low heat, observing carefully.
- When the butter is nearly melted and has begun to bubble a bit, remove it from heat.
- Let your butter cool for about 15 minutes until it has separated into three distinct layers, according to density.
- Remove the topmost layer of milk foam using a small spatula.
- Pour the second layer, the clarified butter, into another container, taking care not to tip the bottom layer of butter and milk solids into the container. Alternatively, pour the mixture through a milk bag to remove the solids, wait for it to settle again, and finish by pouring off the butter.
Optional Stage Two: Decarboxylation
Decarboxylation is a key step in the edible-making process because it converts the compound THCA to psychoactive THC.
Why It’s Important:
Raw cannabis flower on its own is not psychoactive—it does not produce the traditional “high” feelings in the absence of a chemical reaction. In raw flower, THC and CBD are in what’s referred to as their acidic forms, or THCA and CBDA. When you smoke or vape cannabis, the heat activates THCA and CBDA by forcing its carboxyl group (COOH, or carbon-oxygen-oxygen-hydrogen) into water vapor. What’s left is THC and CBD, both capable of producing benefits without the carboxyl group. In the cannabis space, we say that the flower and its cannabinoids are decarboxylated.
If you want your cannabutter to have the traditional psychoactive effects you get while smoking or vaping flower, you’ll need to perform this step. Otherwise, if you want the pain-relieving, mood-boosting, and anti-inflammatory benefits of your medicinal cannabis potentially without the high, skip this step and leave your cannabis carboxyl-intact.
Supplies You’ll Need:
- ½ oz of your favorite cannabis strain
- Coarse grinder or a pair of scissors
- Small, oven-safe baking dish or sheet pan, no more than an inch or two deep
How to Do It:
- Preheat the oven to 225°F
- Grind, crumble, or chop your cannabis until it is the ideal consistency for rolling into a joint. Too fine a grind will result in bits that escape the strainer, cheesecloth, or bag, something that should be avoided if possible to create a tasty medicating option.
- Spread the cannabis evenly across the baking dish or pan, and cover with foil.
- Bake on the center rack for:
- 20 minutes if you’re using older cannabis or lower-quality cannabis
- 40 minutes for high-quality cannabis
- 60 minutes + for recently harvested or non-cured cannabis
- Stir gently and redistribute every 10 minutes.
- Watch carefully—when the cannabis turns from green to brown, the decarboxylation process is complete. Be careful not to burn it and risk vaporizing the cannabinoids.
- Remove from oven and let cool, covered, for 20 minutes.
Making Cannabutter With Flower
Adding flower to the butter is a magical step in the process of infusion. Pro tip: the more coarsely ground the flower, the easier it will be to strain.
Why It’s Important:
Here’s where, after all those optional preparatory steps, you will finally make your cannabutter. Some methods skip the step of adding water at this stage, but adding water helps you strictly regulate the temperature of your cannabutter so you avoid overheating and scorching. In addition, the water helps absorb some of the chlorophyll and other byproducts of the process without removing the cannabinoids (remember, cannabinoids are not water-soluble). You can use either a slow cooker or a saucepan and stove for this step, but the slow cooker will contain the scent of the cannabutter a bit.
Supplies You’ll Need:
- Your ½ oz of decarboxylated or carboxyl-intact cannabis
- 8 oz (2 sticks) clarified or regular butter
- 1½ c water
- Medium saucepan or slow cooker
- Large spoon, preferably wooden
- Candy thermometer
- Straining device—either a reusable milk straining bag, cheesecloth, or a fine-mesh strainer
How to Do It:
- Set your burner or slow cooker to the lowest heat.
- Add water and butter.
- When butter is fully melted, stir in cannabis.
- Cover with a lid and let simmer for 4 hours, stirring every half hour.
- Check with a thermometer to ensure the temperature doesn’t exceed 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cook for another four hours, stirring every two hours.
- Strain through a milk bag, cheesecloth, or fine metal strainer into a storage container, and cool for at least an hour in the refrigerator. The butter should solidify.
- Once the cannabutter has solidified and cooled, remove the butter from the water and blot with paper towels if needed.
- Discard water and store butter in the refrigerator or freeze for up to six months.
Making Cannabutter With Distillate or RSO
If you’d rather not fuss with decarboxylating your cannabis or want to avoid the smell and taste of cannabis, distillate or RSO oil is an excellent option. Already activated, odorless, and tasteless, cannabis distillate or RSO can help you save a few steps and produce the same relief you’d expect from your favorite flower - in a shorter amount of time.
Melt the butter as directed above, including clarifying if desired, and add your desired amount of syringe. Note: Distillate and RSO oils vary in potency but are generally much more potent than flower—the desired dosage can vary between ½ to 1 g of distillate per 8 oz of butter depending on preference and cannabis experience level.
Similar to creating cannabutter using cannabis flower, you can also make cannabutter with cannabis rosin. Rosin is a cannabis concentrate made by stripping the trichomes – those sticky, resinous glands rich in THC and terpenes – from raw cannabis flower and then pressing them with heat to extract a thick rosin containing the most vital compounds. While you can make your own rosin, it is readily available from quality dispensaries like MÜV.
Like the other forms of cannabis, rosin must be prepared first before using it to create your cannabutter, even if you purchase prepackaged rosin. In fact, you may wonder if the decarboxylation process is really necessary – which leads to an important question: do you have to decarboxylate rosin?
Why It’s Important
Rosin should be decarboxylated for the same reason as cannabis flower: when eaten, THCA can't exert the psychoactive effects of THC because it isn't metabolized well by the human body. (Though THCA can have some therapeutic benefits, so if you aren't looking for a psychoactive experience, you may want to skip the decarb process.) For that reason, if you want to make cannabutter out of rosin, you’ll likely want to decarb it first. Otherwise, any edibles you make with it will not have their full effects.
There's a common misconception that cannabis rosin doesn't need to be decarboxylated because the rosin pressing process already applies sufficient heat to the flower to convert the THCA into THC. Unfortunately, this isn't true. That's because while a heat pressing process uses a high enough temperature to express the oils from the trichomes, it doesn't heat the flower nearly long enough for the cannabinoids to be altered in any significant way. In fact, heat pressing only applies heat to the flower for a matter of a couple of minutes, while decarboxylation is a slow process.
In addition, some rosins are cold-pressed – which is admittedly a bit of a misnomer since heat is still involved. Instead of temperatures nearing 200°, cold-pressed rosins are pressed below 190°. These rosins also must be decarboxylated before including in a cannabutter recipe. Otherwise, you’re simply using a less potent and effective product, and that’s probably not what you want.
Supplies You’ll Need
Because it’s a special concentrate, the process for decarboxylating rosin is a little different than that of regular cannabis flower. More specifically, decarboxylating cannabis rosin isn’t as simple as just spreading it on a surface and heating it for a period of time. It’s important to decarb rosin in Mason jars to prevent losing product or making a mess.
Ideally, you'll use a 4 oz Mason jar. Larger jars mean you'll lose a bit more rosin to the container itself. Similarly, most experts recommend decarbing at least a gram of rosin at a time, further preventing product loss. Still, keep the jar below the ¾ mark to prevent your rosin from bubbling up and making the lid sticky.
You'll also need to decide between a few available decarbing methods. You can decarb rosin with regular kitchen appliances, including a crock pot or a pot of boiling water on the stove. However, using an oven is by far the easiest and most efficient method, making it well-suited for beginners as well as pros who want to make multiple batches of decarbed rosin.
- At least 28 g (1 oz) of cannabis rosin
- 4 oz Mason jars
- Baking sheet
- Your oven
How to Do It
- Preheat the oven to a temperature between 220°F and 250°F. This is the ideal temperature range for decarboxylation, with higher temperatures needing less time and lower temperatures preserving more terpenes.
- Rest your jars of rosin on a baking tray inside the oven and close the lids.
- Place the tray into the oven for around 30 minutes, stirring every ten minutes.
- Wait until the rosin stops bubbling and the liquid is a clear amber color, a bit darker than olive oil. This means that the decarboxylation process is complete, and you can take it out of the oven.
- Let the rosin cool down and store it in jars until you're ready to create your cannabutter.
You can also use rosin chips, which is what's left behind after the rosin is pressed. Decarboxylating rosin chips uses a similar method, but the chips will need to be crumbled up and put into a crockpot or glass jar and covered with oil during the cooking process.
Making Cannabutter with Rosin
Now that you have your decarboxylated rosin, you're ready to move on to the most fun step: learning how to make cannabutter and using your rosin to make delicious, healthy, and potent edibles! There are a variety of cannabis recipes that can incorporate rosin-based cannabutter, but before you jump in, there are things to consider. Rosin, being a special concentrate and not a traditional cannabis flower, should not be treated exactly how you’d treat dried or raw cannabis flower.
You won't need to strain your rosin cannabutter as you would with a typical cannabis infusion. This is because the straining process is designed to get rid of residual plant material. However, when it comes to rosin, this separation process has already happened. The only exception is with rosin chips, which still need to be strained. Meanwhile, if you're not using full-melt hash, then going through the straining process anyway can help purify the rosin before you use it. Ultimately, whether or not you put the rosin through a straining process is up to you and your preferences, but it's not always necessary.
To create cannabutter using rosin, all you'll need is about a gram of decarboxylated rosin and 12 oz (1 1/2 sticks) of butter. Slowly melt the butter in a saucepan at a low temperature. Then, stir in your rosin until incorporated. Be especially careful to keep temperatures low, or you risk degrading the THC and ruining the beneficial effects of your rosin. Store your cannabutter in a covered container in the refrigerator, or freeze it for up to six months.
Alternatively, you might try infusing coconut or olive oil instead of butter. The process for this is remarkably similar – just heat the oil gently in a saucepan and stir in the decarbed rosin. When all is incorporated, pour or strain into a jar for storage.
Using Your Cannabutter
If you’ve followed the steps above, you now have about 8 ounces of premium cannabutter to use in your favorite recipes. Try substituting a couple of tablespoons of cannabutter for regular butter in cookies, brownies, and other baked goods—just remember not to heat above 325 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid vaporizing the cannabinoids. Or use in place of butter or oil in your favorite garlic breads, soups, and stews, or simply on a piece of buttered toast.
If you're using rosin-based cannabutter, keep in mind that rosin is a concentrate and highly potent. This means that if you're using it for edibles, you need to be a bit more careful about dosing, especially in comparison to traditional cannabis flower. A gram of rosin is 1,000 mg of much more potent cannabis than flower. For example, you won't need to use your entire batch of rosin cannabutter to create a batch of brownies that should contain 5mg to 10 mg per serving. You might start with just a tablespoon of rosin cannabutter in your favorite recipe or a tablespoon of oil added into the oil you'd normally use to mix up your favorite box of brownies.
If you’re uncertain about the taste of flower, switch to distillates or consider using strong flavors like coffee, dark chocolate, garlic, and more. Your palate and your creativity are the only limits!
*This post was updated on June 1, 2023, to include how to make cannabutter with concentrates.
Content Manager for MÜV Florida and Contributor for Zen Leaf Dispensaries. A cannabis connoisseur with a passion for explaining the miraculous possibility of the plant, Swan began her journey with cannabis as a recreational user and quickly realized its positive impact on her depression and severe anxiety. She joined the cannabis industry as Receptionist and MedTender and witnessed first-hand the immense potential of the plant for a wide variety of ailments, deepening her passion for alternative medicine. Swan is dedicated to self-education on the plant and sharing its potential with all. She holds a Journalism degree from the University of Iowa.