Insects are a staple diet for daring food adventurers across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Defying the culinary conventions of the Western palate, over 2 billion people relish insects as a nutritious and sustainable source of protein.
Eating insects is one delicious way to shrink your carbon footprint and fight climate change. Insects reproduce at breakneck speed and require scarce food resources to fuel their growth, producing far less environmental impact than industrial meat production.
Beyond being bon appetit, insects offer major benefits. They demand fewer resources to raise than cattle or pigs, needing less land, water, and food to reach maturity. All the while, they generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the climate consequences of your meal.
Insects, when foraged or farmed responsibly, make a perfect protein-packed snack for eco-conscious eaters seeking an alternative to factory farming.
Once merely a poor man’s food, insects now grace the plates of gourmands. In 2013, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization blessed insects as a “healthy and nutritious” nutrition option, paving the way for their emergence as the next superfood.
With a little open-minded culinary adventure, you can saute, grill, or bake your way through a diverse array of insects. From crispy locusts to spicy beetle larvae tacos, innovative insect recipes can transform your taste buds and your footprint.
Food for thought: Insects share a family tree with shellfish, so insect eating could trigger an allergic reaction in those with a shrimp or lobster allergy. When in doubt, avoid insect dishes if you’re managing a shellfish allergy.
Bon appetit! The future of food is bugs.
High in protein, fiber, minerals and vitamins, ants make a nourishing topping for any salad or meal. Packed with essential nutrients, ants offer a hearty, healthy alternative to meat protein.
Many edible ant species have a tangy, citrusy flavor that compares to lemon or lime. Their taste is described as bright, zesty and tangy. Black ants in particular are praised for their mildly peppery kick. When sauteed or grilled, the bright acidity of ants balances nicely with fatty foods like avocado.
Ant eggs, known as “escamoles” or Mexican caviar, boast a creamy, nutty flavor and buttery consistency. Considered a delicacy in Mexico and parts of the American Southwest, escamoles have an intense umami flavor and silky soft texture. They are often compared to sea urchin roe or sturgeon caviar.
Beyond flavor, ants provide essential minerals like calcium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium as well as B vitamins, protein and healthy fats. Mealworms and soldier fly larvae may provide more protein and fat, but ants remain a nutritious option, especially for mineral needs.
There are over 12,000 known ant species worldwide, most of which are edible. However, a few species produce formic acid or other toxins, so proper identification is important. When prepared by experts, ants can be a safe and sustainable food source.
Ants are used in cuisines from Thailand to Mexico to the American Southwest. They are tossed into salads, used as a spicy condiment or topping, cooked into stews, or roasted as a snack. With their citrusy flavor and creamy caviar eggs, ants open up unique culinary experiences and opportunities for nutritional wellness.
For the adventurous eater, ants provide flavor, nutrition, and even economic opportunity. They demonstrate how embracing insects can transform lives, communities and environments. Bon appetit and enjoy these crunchy critters!
Considered a delicacy in Africa, Australia, New Guinea, and Japan, cicadas are often compared to the taste of shrimp or asparagus. They boast an delicate, subtly sweet and nutty flavor. Their clear, gelatinous wings melt in your mouth.
Cicadas emerge from the ground every few years, when their brood develops enough to sprout wings. During these plague years, cicadas become a major food source, providing protein to communities when other food is scarce. Locals describe the taste of cicadas as similar to shrimp or asparagus, with a delicate nutty and sweet flavor.
Cicada nymphs, called “pua” in Hawaii, have been an important food source for native Hawaiians for centuries. They are considered a delicacy, rich in protein, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. When prepared fresh, the nymphs have a mild shrimp-like taste and buttery soft texture. Their gelatinous wings provide a chewy, crunchy contrast to the tender body.
In Thailand, cicadas are dressed in chili, lime, and roasted peanuts as a savory snack or condiment. Their subtle earthy and spicy flavor pairs well with the tangy, nutty accompaniments. Cicadas also make a popular ingredient in stir fries, curries and insect-infused rice wines across Asia.
Cicada harvesting has a long and important cultural history in many regions. Locals pride themselves on being able to identify the best cicada species for eating and the ideal time to harvest for maximum flavor, texture and nutrients. However, some cicada species contain toxins, so proper identification is key to avoiding illness.
With their sweet, nutty flavor, tender yet chewy texture and cultural significance, cicadas stand out as a delicacy to explore. For the daring eater, cicadas can open up a world of fascinating flavors, histories and culinary adventures. When prepared by an expert, cicadas provide a memorable taste of place.
High in protein, low in fat, and a good source of vitamin B12, iron, and zinc, crickets are the perfect introduction to edible insects for newcomers.
When unseasoned, crickets have a mildly earthy, nutty flavor. Easy to toss with your favorite spices, crickets can match any cuisine or craving. Common seasonings for crickets include:
• Garlic and onion powders: Toss to taste for a savory, umami-rich snack. The spices bring out the meaty flavor of crickets.
• Chili powder and lime juice: For a spicy, tangy cricket taco filling or topping. The heat and acidity balance the rich protein of crickets.
• Coconut milk and curry spices: Simmer into a creamy coconut curry, serving over rice. The tropical flavors complement the earthy crickets.
• Bacon bits: Toss cooked crickets in bacon, maple syrup and chopped scallions for a sweet and savory sticky snack.
• Grated cheese, parsley and lemon zest: Toss cooked crickets in the mix for lemon herb crispy snacks. The brightness pairs with the nutty crickets.
Beyond flavor, crickets provide essential protein and nutrients. A half cup of cooked crickets contains 18 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and essential vitamins B12, folate, phosphorus, riboflavin, niacin and iron. Crickets require little space, food, water and crops to raise, producing far less environmental impact than traditional livestock.
With their nutritional benefits, sustainable production and versatile flavor, crickets make an compelling case for inclusion in the human diet. As the food system faces challenges, crickets represent an Eco-friendly meat alternative with potential to transform lives and feed communities.
Bon appetit! Crickets are here to stay.
Giant Water Bugs
Commonly eaten in Southeast Asia, water bugs carry a licorice-like crab flavor and buttery texture. These large insects can be prepared in several ways:
• Deep fried: Water bugs make a crispy, addictive snack when deep fried until golden brown. Their sweet, briny flavor pairs perfectly with spicy chili dipping sauce.
• Lightly boiled: Briefly boiling water bugs brings out their delicate sweetness and tender meaty texture. They have a mild crab-like flavor and buttery soft body. Serve them with a tangy mango dipping sauce.
• Added to dipping sauces: Chopped grilled water bugs add meaty chew and briny umami flavor to spicy chili garlic sauce, tangy tamarind sauce or sweet peanut sauce. Toss to coat or serve on the side for dipping.
• Added to curries: Simmered in coconut milk red curry or green curry, water bugs provide a sweet pops of meaty protein. Their tenderness holds up well to the rich, spicy gravies. Serve over rice.
• Added to salads: Chopped grilled or boiled water bugs make a hearty addition to Thai papaya salad, green papaya salad or mango salad. Their brininess complements the fresh herbs, peanuts and lime juice.
After removing the wings, legs and shells, water bugs have a mild sweet flavor and buttery tender meat similar to crab or lobster. They are considered a delicacy in Thailand, Cambodia, Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries where they are an important source of protein, especially in rural communities.
Water bugs provide protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals like B vitamins, choline, calcium and iron. They require little space, food, water and crops to raise and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than industrial animal agriculture. With their sustainable production and crave-worthy flavor, water bugs stand as a compelling case for inclusion in a transformed food system.
Packing a large protein punch for their small size, grasshoppers can add savory umami flavor and chewy texture to any dish or be seasoned into a delicious snack.
• Add to salads: Grilled or blanched grasshoppers make a perfect crunchy protein-packed topping for green salads, pasta salads or Thai papaya salad. Their nutty, meaty flavor stands up well to fresh herbs, lime juice and spicy chili peppers.
• Stir fry with vegetables: Stir frying grasshoppers with bell peppers, cabbage, broccoli and tofu adds protein, texture and a savory savvy kick to the dish. Toss to coat and cook until the grasshoppers are warmed through but still crunchy.
• Make chili-lime grasshopper tacos: Season grasshoppers with chili powder, cumin, garlic, lime juice and chopped cilantro. Fill crunchy corn or lettuce cups with the spicy grasshoppers, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and cheese.
• Add to porridge or congee: For a nutritious breakfast or brunch, stir cooked grasshoppers into coconut rice porridge, red bean porridge or chicken congee. Their chewy texture provides protein and body to the hearty porridges.
• Make grasshopper pesto pasta: Toss cooked pasta, basil pesto, pine nuts, garlic and blanched grasshoppers. The mild nutty flavor of the grasshoppers pairs perfectly with the fresh basil and pine nut pesto.
• Season as a snack: For a crispy protein-rich snack, toss grasshoppers in oil, chili powder, cumin, garlic and lime juice. Spread on a baking sheet and broil until golden brown, about 5-10 minutes, shaking halfway through.
Grasshoppers are high in protein, containing about 20% of their body weight in protein. They also provide healthy fats, fiber, iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and phosphorus. Environmentally sustainable to produce, grasshoppers require little space, food, water and crops compared to industrial livestock. With their nutritional benefits and versatile flavor, grasshoppers can transform diets and food systems.
Locusts have been traditionally consumed in over 65 countries across Africa, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. With their shrimpy, nutty flavor, locusts make a savory treat in desserts, snacks and main dishes.
• Make locust curry over rice: Simmer locusts in a creamy coconut milk curry sauce with spices like cumin, coriander and chili. Toss with cooked rice for a hearty, protein-packed meal. The rich curry helps mask the shrimpy flavor of the locusts.
• Make locust lollipops: For a sweet and salty treat, skewer honey-coated locusts on sticks for homemade lollipops. The sweet honey balances the nutty shrimp flavor of the locusts.
• Make locust nut protein balls: Mix ground locust meat, peanut butter, honey and seeds or nuts. Roll into balls for chewy nutritious balls. They have an insect peanutty marshmallow vibe.
• Season locusts as crispy snack: Toss locusts with chili powder, cumin, garlic and oil. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer and broil until crispy, about 5-10 minutes, shaking halfway through. Season with lime wedges, peanut sauce, salsa or chopped cilantro.
• Add to pasta: For extra protein, add blanched locusts to cooked pasta, veggie pasta sauce or pesto pasta. Their nutty shrimp flavor pairs best with bold sauces and spices. Toss to coat the pasta evenly with the locusts.
• Make locust marshmallow pops: For sweet and salty insect nougat, beat honey and egg whites and fold in melted chocolate and blanched locusts. Spoon onto sticks for DIY marshmallow pops.
Only the locust species Schistocerca gregaria is considered kosher. Fresh or cooked locusts can be consumed, but drying helps enhance their flavor and nutrition. Locusts provide protein (about 20%), healthy fats, fiber, iron, phosphorus and B vitamins. They can be sustainably reared with a small environmental footprint compared to industrial livestock.
With their versatility, nutrition and nutty shrimpy flavor, locusts demonstrate how insects can transform diets, communities and the planet.
Mealworms, the larval stage of darkling beetles, stand out as a nutritious and sustainable protein source. With a buttery soft texture and mild nutty flavor, mealworms can be prepared in sweet or savory dishes. Mealworms are highly nutritious, containing about 20% protein along with healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, iron and phosphorus. They require little feed, space or resources to raise compared to industrial livestock, producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions and less pollution. With their rich nutrition, versatility and sustainability, mealworms demonstrate how insects can revolutionize diets, nutrition and food systems.
Reminiscent of almonds or toasted bread, superworms are another great introduction to edible insects. Composed of roughly 40% protein, 32% crude fat, and 44% essential amino acids, superworms make a hardy snack for those looking to maximize protein and fat.
• Make crispy roasted superworms: Toss whole superworms with oil, chili powder, cumin and salt. Spread on a baking sheet and roast at 400 F, stirring once, until golden brown and crisp, about 20-25 minutes. Season with lime juice, chopped cilantro or pomegranate seeds. The roasting enhances the nutty flavor of the superworms.
• Make sticky honey roasted superworms: Toss whole superworms in honey and coconut flakes and spread on a baking sheet. Bake as directed above, shaking the pan once during roasting to prevent sticking. The sweet honey coating balances the richness of the superworms.
• Add to granola: Use chopped roasted superworms as a crunchy topping for peanut butter granola, coconut granola or vanilla granola. Their nutty chew provides protein, healthy fat and texture.
• Add protein to trail mix: Mix chopped roasted superworms into homemade nut and seed trail mix or dried fruit mixes. Their nutty taste and chewy texture provides protein, healthy fat and texture.
• Season as a crunchy garnish: Use chopped roasted superworms as a crunchy garnish for soups, stews, chili or curries. They add protein, nutty flavor, texture and visual appeal to warm meals.
• Add to protein or granola bars: Use chopped or ground roasted superworms as an ingredient in homemade protein bars, granola bars or breakfast bars. Their nutty chew provides protein, healthy fat and texture.
Superworms provide roughly 40% protein, essential amino acids, healthy fats and fiber. Highly sustainable and eco-friendly to produce, superworms require few resources and produce little pollution compared to industrial meat, nuts, seeds or peanut butter. Whether as a nutritious snack, garnish or bar addition, superworms demonstrate how insects can transform diets, nutrition and the food system.
Popular as comfort food in entomophagy-friendly areas of the world, termites are a great source of protein and fat. Also rich in magnesium, cooked termites taste like vegetables with a slightly nutty flavor.
- Add to salads: Use grilled or blanched termites as a protein-rich topping for green papaya salad, mango salad or Thai salad. Their nutty and mildly sweet flavor pairs well with fresh herbs, peanuts and lime juice.
- Make termite chili: Simmer ground or chopped termites in a spicy chili with beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic and chili spices. Season with cumin, oregano, chopped cilantro and cheese, avocado, etc. The rich chili helps coat the termites in intense savory flavor.
Termites provide around 20% protein along with healthy fats, fiber, magnesium and other minerals. They are highly sustainable to produce, requiring little feed, space or resources and producing fewer emissions and pollution than industrial meat. With their nutrition, versatility and flavor, termites demonstrate how insects can transform diets, nutrition and food systems.
Don’t let their pointy tails and claws scare you away. Although not classified as insects, scorpions fall under the category of entomophagy. These fellas are rich in protein, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. When cooked, scorpions can be compared to the taste of popcorn, shrimp, and crab. If preparing at home, remember to remove the stinger and venom gland before cooking.
• Make scorpion chili: Simmer chopped scorpions in a spicy chili made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, chili powder and hot sauce. Season with cumin, oregano, cheese, avocado, etc. The rich chili helps ensure the flavor coats the scorpion meat.
• Add to pasta: Toss cooked pasta with stir fried scorpions, cabbage, bell peppers and a savory chili garlic sauce. The scorpions provide chewy protein and flavor to the dish.
• Make scorpion tacos or burritos: Fill corn tortillas with rice, beans, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, cheese and grilled scorpions. The spicy salsas and creamy fillings balance the popcorn-like flavor of the scorpions.
• Add to salads: Use grilled scorpions as a protein-rich topping for green papaya salad, mango salad or Thai salad. Their mildly sweet and shrimp-like flavor pairs well with fresh herbs, peanuts and lime juice.
• Make scorpion soup: Add chopped scorpions, leafy greens, coconut milk, chili peppers, garlic and ginger to a broth of fish stock or peanut stock. Simmer until the greens are tender and the scorpions are warmed through. Season with tamarind juice, lime juice or chili oil. Serve over rice. The rich broth helps mask the flavor of the scorpions.
• Make scorpion curry: Curry scorpions in a spicy red curry paste with coconut milk and Thai spices like coriander and cumin. Simmer and serve over rice. The spicy and rich curry coats the scorpions in intense flavor.
Scorpions are rich in protein (around 20%), iron, omega-3 fatty acids and other minerals. They require little feed, space or resources to raise and produce fewer emissions and pollution than industrial meat. With their nutrition, chewy texture and popcorn-like flavor, scorpions demonstrate how insects can transform diets, nutrition and the food system.