Disclaimer: Consult an expert before eating any type of bug or insect, some can be dangerous.
Did you know that North America and Europe are basically the only regions in the world where eating bugs is not common? Let that sink in for a bit! While edible bugs may not be considered your everyday dinner dish anywhere, there’s surprisingly many types of insects you can eat and there’s equally many places that’ll happily create a delicacy out of them, either through tradition and custom or as a genius modern idea.
And why not? After all, insects are actually far more protein dense than basically any other protein we’ve been feeding ourselves thus far, not to mention rich in other nutrients. There’s actually about 1700 types of bugs eaten in 113 different countries but here’s a bucket list of edible bugs that will get you started.
1. ✦ Ants
Many varieties of ants are edible; Leafcutter, Honeypot and Lemon being some of the most popular. The Chinese keep warm in the winter months with a hot ant soup.
Right off the bat we have an edible bug that’s possible to capture just about anywhere in the world! Many varieties of ants are edible; leafcutter, honeypot and lemon being some of the most popular. You can use your hands to capture the ants, but a stick might help you a long way. Ants can be eaten raw as long as you’ve made sure they’re dead first or else they might bite you; however, you might enjoy them more having first boiled them for six minutes as by boiling them you’ll neutralize their acidness.
Did you know? The Chinese keep warm in the winter months with a hot ant soup!
2. ✧ Bee Larvae
Turns out that bees aren’t great simply for the honey they produce! The indigenous people just about anywhere like to eat bees in their larvae stage, and they’ve been described to taste like almonds or peanuts. In Vietnam it is usually eaten live straight from the honeycomb.
3. ✧ Beetles
Especially in Amazon and certain parts of Africa, but also other regions with dense forests (regardless of how tropical they may or may not be), it’s common to eat beetles. You can even nosh on several types of beetles in Thailand. The Water Beetle is often served either roasted or fried, and said to taste like scallops—but probably cheaper! They’re possibly the highest in protein of all the entries on this list.
4. ✧ Caterpillars
Not all species of caterpillars are edible, but many of them thankfully are. Thus, various countries in Africa like to bring caterpillars to the dinner table as there are an abundance of caterpillars in the wild. For example, in South Africa caterpillars are considered popular to eat. If you’re intending to catch your own caterpillar in the wild, do stray away from brightly colored and hairy ones!
5. ✧ Centipedes
Commonly used as a powder in traditional Chinese medicine, centipedes are also known to be edible and, for example, are eaten by Aboriginals in Australia, in addition to which it is a street food in China where you can commonly find it on a stick. You’ll want to dine on a centipede that’s well-cooked, however, as they are venomous in their raw state and digesting venom might not be your idea of a fun food adventure.
6. ✧ Cicadas
Cicadas are popular food around different Asian countries, such as Thailand, Malaysia and Japan. You don’t have to prepare them in one singular way, but they’re said to taste especially delicious if deep-fried and swerved with a sweet mustard sauce. You can also find edible cicadas in the Eastern parts of United States, and you’ll want to eat it right after it molts to savor the best asparagus-like flavor.
7. ✧ Cockroaches
No, you will not want to roast the cockroach you managed to catch roaming around your home, but yes you totally can eat some cockroach species! You can cook them in numerous ways, from boiling to toasting. An especially delicious cockroach delicacy is said to exist on Madagascar.
Did you know? Processed cockroaches have been used to cure illnesses for centuries!
8. ✦ Crickets
Crickets are such a fantastic insect for eating. They’re possible to find all around the world, most types of crickets are edible and they’re filled to the brim with protein! It’s also possible to get your cricket intake in the form of cricket powder, which has a bit of a nutty flavoring and can be used similarly to regular flour; also, in countries like Cambodia you can find fried crickets served on sticks and in Thailand you can buy a bag of ready-to-eat pregnant crickets.
You can easily check eating crickets off your bucket list with Newport Jerky Company’s bag of Mixed Bugs that you can buy right from Amazon. It has a selection of tasty insects that includes crickets, grasshoppers, silk and sago worms. Yummy!
9. ✧ Dragonflies
Dragonflies are best to eat during the spring and summer seasons when they’re the easiest to catch due to the volume of them in the nature then. They’re far easier to catch when they’re still in the nymph age, but they are also edible once they reach adulthood. They only need to be cooked for mere seconds to be free enough of any germs you might not want to digest; you can also eat them as they are, but swallowing these creatures might be easier once you’ve pulled off their legs and wings. For getting your dragonflies prepared for you, head to Indonesia or China.
10. ✧ Earthworms
Though they’re not really bugs, they’re often labeled as an edible one for these types of lists. And, why not, since they are edible! Your best bet to find them is right after rainy weather, anywhere in the world, but if you happen to be in the mood for earthworms on a sunny day you may be able to find them in places like under flora on any given day of the week; then you’ll just cook them and voila!
11. ✧ Fly Pupa
After a fly graduates from its larva infancy and just before it becomes an adult, it is a pupa. At only 8mm long, it makes them perfect for sautéing a handful with a touch of olive oil. You may find its taste similar to blood pudding. Full of flavor and iron, with texture similar to some fish oils, fly pupa is far healthier to eat than what it may initially sound like.
12. ✦ Grasshoppers
The properties of grasshoppers is much like that of a cricket, especially in its availability and protein richness, and it’s considered a popular delicacy in Mexico (I had them when I was in the cute city of Loreto!). In the country they are traditional fried then tossed with chile and lime. They’re also easy to catch in the wild, though you will want to avoid capturing any particularly bright colored ones as they are poisonous.
One thing to take note, however, is that you ought to cook the grasshoppers properly before eating so as not to risk catching nematodes, which some of them may be carriers of; nematodes are not the kind bugs you’ll want to eat.
13. ✧ June Bug
Native Americans, for example, roast them and eat them like they were popcorn. They can be eaten in both larvae and adult stages, making your process of finding adequate ones to catch far easier. Your best bet to find one to catch is in the spring and summer time, and outside of daylight hours as they are nocturnal bugs.
Are edible insects the meal of America’s Future?
14. ✧ Locust
Much like grasshoppers and crickets, locusts are found all over the world, are easy to catch and are among the most commonly eaten of edible bugs. Additionally, locust happen to be the type of an insect that wreaks havoc to vegetation in countries that may already be struggling to keep enough of it around, possibly making locust the top choice for starting your tour of edible bugs from!
15. ✦ Mealworm
It’s even in the name here! Mealworms are the larvae of the beetle and tend to taste like what they have been raised on. In the United States, Mealworm Chocolate Chip Cookies are a favorite. But, you can boil, fry, roast or sauté them for your meal – in other words, you can prepare and eat them exactly in the fashion you’d most like to. They’re also super high on protein so you know it’ll do a ton of good for you.
16. ✧ Midge Flies
Now here’s one especially interesting insect delicacy. In some East African countries, they use midge flies – literally millions of them – to make kunga cakes. As midge flies are said to cause some trouble to humans in their shared environment, they’re another entry that you may want to move higher up on this list.
17. ✧ Pillbugs
Somewhat cutely named, pillbugs are another edible and protein-dense bug for you to eat. Also known as woodlice or roly-polies, the Pillbug is a terrestrial crustacean related to lobster, shrimp and crab. You’ll find them under rotten wood, stones and the like, so you may be able to trap them right in your own backyard if you use the right ingredients. It is said that the yummiest ones are the ones that quickly roll up into a ball when approached.
18. ✦ Ragworm
When speaking of ragworms, you may be thinking of feeding them as bait to fish, but actually you can also eat them yourself. In Vietnam, for example, and especially in Hanoi, turning them into fried patties it is a common and popular Vietnamese street food—that’s how I ate mine!
19. ✧ Scorpions
Scorpions are common street food in China, especially amongst the looking for that instagram pic. Due to their venomous nature I recommend trying out scorpions at street stands where they have a lot of experience with preparing and cooking them right, rather than going out to catch your own in the wild, at least for a start.
20. ✧ Silk Worm
Though most typically used for producing silk, the larvae stage of a silk worm also makes for an excellent, nutty-flavored and textured snack. In fact, in various Asian countries – namely Korea, China, Japan and Thailand – they offer them as side dishes in restaurants or sell them as quick snacks at street vendor stands.
21. ✧ Stink Bugs (Jumiles)
You may not think so from its name, but stink bugs are also edible and may even become treated as a delicacy by you. In fact, they are considered as such in Mexico, to such a high regard that in Taxco even an annual festival to celebrate them is held! To cook them right, first soak them in warm water for up to 10 minutes, then move them onto a dry pan and roast them substantially.
22. ✧ Tarantulas
If you’re hoping to enjoy some fried tarantula, head over to Cambodia where it’s popular street food and the crunchy legs will remind you of eating a crab, but it will taste nuttier. I’d recommend having a “professional” make it over trying to prepare it at home, but if you do choose to have some homemade tarantula, remember not to eat the fangs and to remove as much of the hair as possible before consuming. And curled legs will tell you how well cooked your spider dinner is!
23. ✧ Termites
In comparison to many others of the edible bugs on this list, termites are less likely to be carriers to any type of parasites thanks to living much of their lives buried in wood. You can find your termite meal exactly there, hidden within food, and can totally capture them even simply by hand, with only the mature adult termites being a bit harder to catch due to their ability to fly. Roast them crispy on a frying pan and eat with good conscience – termite queens are considered a delicacy in some of the world’s cultures, after all.
24. ✧ Walking Stick
Tasting somewhat leafy, Walking Sticks are eaten in Asia and New Guinea. And their legs can be used as fishing hooks. Bonus.
25. ✧ Wasps
Especially normal to consume in Thailand and Laos, but also Japan and Mexico, wasps are high in protein and super low in fat. Plus they are versatile; roast, fry, saute or eat them like Emperor Hirohito by simply boiling and serving with rice.
Because catching wasps can get dangerous – they will try to attack you if you try to catch them and catching them is no easy feat even without that factor – I recommend traveling to a country where they’re a common delicacy instead.
26. ✧ Witchetty Grubs
Enjoyed by the Aboriginals in Australia, the traditional way to eat them is to roast them before digesting. You’ll get an authentic and delicious taste to your witchetty grub by doing as they do in “Rome” and roast them over coals or fire.
27. ✧ Wood Lice
Finally, we’ve got the wood lice; except they’re actually not even a bug but belong to the crustacean taxon – think crabs and shrimp, for example – but they often get labelled as one because of the way they look. You can find them in various areas in North America, such as under logs or rocks, and are incredibly easy to collect. Once you’ve got your catch, boil them for a good bit of time to kill any potential nematode they may be carriers of – and then enjoy!
Are you inspired? Maybe one of the dozens of insect cookbooks online will help. When going out into the world to catch your very own edible bugs for dinner, remember in general to stray far from hairier bugs, as well as those colored bright, red, orange or yellow, as those are nature’s red flags of a poisonous insect.
Or if you’re not quite ready to make them at home yet, try to find some bugs to eat the next time you travel – after all, outside of the US and Europe, they’re a surprisingly commonplace delicacy to enjoy! Thus, it’s time for the rest of us to get with the program and begin consuming these little creatures rich in protein and nutrients.
Which of the bugs on the bucket list do you think will make it to your stomach first?
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