Cannabis and Food


Bhang – A traditional Indian recipe for cannabis-paste

Favourite drink of the gods, gifted to mankind by Lord Shiva to alleviate pain and illness, and bring delight, courage and improved libido – yep, Bhang. The traditional cannabis paste, used throughout India as a base for drinks and edibles since around 1,000 B.C., is still as popular, wide-spread and tasty as ever.

Bhang shop in India

Bhang is a ground up paste of cannabis leaves, commonly available via government licenced Bhang shops up and down the Indian countryside, in the form of milky chai-like drinks or added to edibles. Indians from holy men to bricklayers use Bhang to alleviate fatigue, illness, and reach higher plains of enlightenment. Most commonly found passed around among Hindu worshippers during the annual celebrations of Holi (the festival of colors) and Maha Shivaratri (the Great Night of Shiva), it’s a pleasant and often strong intoxicant that is available to all (even where other forms of cannabis may be prohibited).

How is bhang paste being made in India
Bhang made the traditional way | Photo by Stephen Percival

Bhang itself is the name for the green paste, made from cannabis leaves when ground in a pestle and mortar. This is made into sweet and spicy drinks, like Special Bhang Thandai, nutty Bhang Sardai and yoghurt based Bhang Lassi. It is also added to ghee (clarified butter) and sugar to make halva; or sweet, round confections known as ´goli´ (pills in Hindi). It can even be used in chutney.

Bhang Paste Ready To Go Bhang Mixed With Milk Goli Made With Bhang
Bhang paste ready to go | Bhang mixed with milk | Goli made with bhang

What is the effect of Bhang Paste

Similar in many ways to other cannabis based edibles, worshippers at Holi suggest Bhang produces euphoria and thus lifts them closer to divinity. The energetic qualities of cannabis keeps them dancing and, depending on how it´s dosed, Bhang sometimes causes paranoia for uninitiated tourists. It is usually better known for relieving anxiety though, not inducing it.

Recipe for Bhang Paste

A traditional recipe for Bhang would look a little like this:

  • 2 cups of water.
  • 3 cups of whole fat milk (to give the THC and other cannabinoids something nice and fatty to bind to).
  • Up to 15 grams of ground cannabis leaves. (If you’re new to any sort of edible, the best rule of thumb for dosing is ‘start low, build slow!’)

This forms the base of your Bhang Thandai or Bhang Sardai.

First add the plant material to the boiling water and steep it, like you do tea, for about 7-8 minutes. Doing this activates the cannabinoids on the leaves.

Drain the plant material out with a cheesecloth, squeezing all the water out and keep the water for later.

Grind some of the plant material in a pestle and mortar with a little warm milk. Squeeze out the milk and repeat, till you have about half a cup of milk. In this way the activated cannabinoids in the paste will bind with the fat in the milk.

Add, depending on your preference, almonds and/or pistachios (often found in Sardai) and herbs and spices such as mint leaves, cardamon or rose petals. Grind these together in the mortar with a little warm milk, to make a fine, smooth paste.

Mix the cannabis infused water and milk to the nutty/herby milk paste. You can add additional spices like ginger, garam masala, fennel and star anise too. Sweeten with sugar, honey and/or add rosewater.

Mix some more, it should be smooth and creamy. Decorate with any remaining pistachios or rose petals, serve cool and enjoy!

Like a cannabis leaf smoothie, Bhang can be a great way to use fresh trim if you have it left over from a home-grow. When you get good at it, dig into the many recipes for Thandai, Lassi and the like. Some use Saffron, or melon seeds, grenadine or coconut milk – there are endless varieties to experiment with.

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Sylvester likes writing about culture, history and tech, digs cosmology, futurism and ukulele - and prefers to accompany all of these with a good bowl of Chocolope Kush
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