U.S. News

05.14.13

Cicadas, Grasshoppers, Locusts, Ants Among the Tastiest Insects

Pine nuts, bacon, soft-shell crab—these are the flavors of caterpillars, beetles, and tarantulas, if you can believe it. On the heels of a U.N. report urging more insect consumption, Nina Strochlic rounds up the yummiest.

A new study from the United Nations is encouraging people to take a break from red meat, poultry, and fish and instead fill their plates with an alternative protein source: insects.

Supplementing a diet with bugs is not only nutritious but reduces pollution, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization writes. “Insects are everywhere and they reproduce quickly, and they have high growth and feed conversion rates and a low environmental footprint,” the report notes. Besides, they’re high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Indeed, more than 2 billion people around the world already eat insects, but most Western countries have been slow to adopt the practice. The main problem? “Consumer disgust,” writes the agency.

But not everywhere: in the Netherlands, three insect-raising companies have built production lines for locusts and mealworms meant for human consumption, and Dutch restaurants have obliged, adding the crunchy bugs to their dishes. Adventurous diners across the globe have slowly seen insects creeping into the menu. In some Mexican restaurants, you can opt for dried grasshoppers in your tacos. If you’re dining out for Thai, fried worms or bamboo caterpillars might make an appearance under appetizers. They’re not just for the dare losers or thrill seekers. There are more than 1,500 edible insects, and here we present some of the best tasting (unconfirmed by The Daily Beast).

Caterpillars

Caterpillars are considered delicacies southern African countries, where they sell for high prices. Said to be the best-tasting insect, the “wax worm,” or wax moth caterpillar, feeds on beehives’ wax and honey. Sweet as that sounds, one blogger who proclaimed them her favorite described the taste as “enoki-pine nut.”

Grasshoppers and Crickets

The Old Testament mentions eating crickets and grasshoppers—so If they were good enough for biblical times, they’re good enough for us, right? The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook recommends stripping off the antennae, limbs, and wings before baking them in the oven until crisp. Then sprinkle the crispy bugs on salads or mix in with Chex Mix. When on location in Cambodia for a photoshoot, Angelina Jolie told E! News that her children eat crickets “like Doritos.”

Locusts

This spring, Israel found itself in the midst of a locust invasion. The solution? Eating the pests. Turns out locust is the only kosher insect—there are no stipulations around their slaughter and the Torah says four types can be eaten. One Israeli chef recommends boiling them, cleaning them, rolling them in flour and spices, and then deep-frying them. “There is a big interest. People will pay a fortune. They say, ‘Let us know when you are doing them,’” Moshe Basson told the BBC.

Cicadas

Good news for the East Coast: the millions of cicadas about to descend on our fine region are basically a swarm of free meals. After they’ve emerged into adults, they’re tender and juicy. And, according to experts, their high protein and vitamin levels make the insects quite healthy.

Beetles

The sago palm weevil, a type of beetle, is eaten, roasted or raw, as a larvae in Southeast Asia. Their taste is apparently similar to bacon. The rhino beetle—fried, stewed, grilled, or roasted—is high in calcium and protein.

Tarantulas

Shudder as you may at those eight legs, this one makes a bit more sense. With their meatier body, tarantulas are said to taste like to soft-shell crab or shrimp.

Ants

In some South American countries, theatergoers purchase roasted ants at the concession stands instead of popcorn. In Laos and Thailand, the chrysalis of weaver ants are served on sticky rice with shallots, lettuce, chilies, lime, and spices as a prized delicacy. In the Amazon rainforest, lemon ants are said to have a tangy flavor.