How Do You Start Eating Bugs?
Step-by-step to get you started when you don't know where to start with edible insects
Aug. 5, 2018
Dec. 9, 2018
May contain affiliate links.
Recently I was interviewed for the Food Heroes Podcast, and the kind and gracious host, Katie, asked me a question so simple I can't believe I didn't have an answer prepared:
How do I start eating insects?
More specifically, how might a person like Katie from the Food Heroes Podcast, a person who is interested in sustainability, and a cleaner protein source, start eating insects?
So I thought about it a little more and I came up with a a few steps to make eating insects more approachable.
Step 0: Find a bug-eating event near you
This is Step 0 because it might not be possible for everyone, depending on where you live. Personally, I approached entomophagy gradually, first after reading David George Gordon's Eat a Bug Cookbook, and then from traveling to Thailand, the unofficial entomophagy capital of the world. But even if you can't travel, there are a lot of restaurants, food carts, and special events put on by great people who are making some really great bug food. You may live within reasonable driving distance to one, or maybe you'll be traveling in the same areas as one sometime soon. You can find some of these restaurants and events in the Resources section of this site.
Examples of entomophagy events in the United States are:
I was lucky enough to be passing through New York City at the same time as a Brooklyn Bugs event, and I jumped at the chance to go to one of their several course bug dinners—in fact, I made my brother treat me to it as a birthday present. Not only did we both get to taste delicious food I never would have been able to prepare myself, but Joseph Yoon somehow found out that it was my birthday and gave me a special treat. It was easily the best birthday I've had in years.
Okay, okay, so I can't promise you all of the entomophagy events will be as magical as my birthday bug dinner was, but it's always true that when you're doing something brand new, it's always easier when you can have an experienced mentor like these to guide the way.
Step 1: Order Ready-to-Eat Insects Online
sprinkle some crickets, grasshoppers, or mealworms, on your soup, salad, or tacos
The next easiest thing you can do to start eating insects is order something you don't need to cook, and just add it as a topping to your favorite foods. Dehydrated crickets and mealworms are lightly crunchy, with a mild flavor, and can easily replace croutons as a textural addition to a soup or salad.
Prepared, ready-to-eat edible insects can be purchased from various online sources, which you can also find in the Resources section of this site. Some examples of online shops that sell edible insects are:
Step 2: Order Live Insects From a Reputable Supplier
remember you're eating what they ate
Insects are a lot like any other food: the fresher the better. Imagine the difference between salmon out of a can or a bag, and freshly caught and grilled. The thing that makes insects a little different is that when you eat them you're essentially eating whatever they most recently ate. This has a lot of flavor potential, which I write about in the Bugs for Beginners cookbook, when I describe how to herb-feed mealworms to enhance their flavor. But it also makes it extra important that you eat insects that haven't been eating garbage. You need to trust where your bugs come from.
Personally, when I contacted all the insect suppliers I could find when I was writing Bugs for Beginners, almost everyone I contacted balked when I said I was going to eat the bugs myself. That is, everyone except for Rainbow Mealworms, who not only told me that they supply insects for all kinds of events, but even supplied me with the FDA label they have for their mealworms.
Step 3: Start Raising Your Own Insects at Home
Mealworms are easy to raise and taste like smokey chex mix when roasted
I'll admit I was a little nervous when I started raising mealworms at home. I was not super excited about sticking my hand in a box of mealworms. But after I took the plunge I was pleasantly surprised by the soft sound of mealworms wiggling through their oatmeal.
If you're a bit squeamish like I was, a beautiful and classy way to add mealworms to your kitchen routines is to get a Hive by Livin Farms. They have created a device that raises and sorts mealworms for you, saving you from having to touch the live mealworms themselves very much, and it does it all right in your kitchen. You can even use it for some light composting:
If you can't afford a Livin Farms Hive, there are lots of tutorials online on how you can make your own mealworm tray from ordinary home and office supplies you can buy for under $30. For example, see Buglible's Aly Moore explain How to Farm Your Own Mealworms, or video tutorials.
And that's it!
By the time you make it to the end of this list, you'll be an entomophagy expert! You'll be ready to start reading news from Entomo Central, and listening to the Ento Nation podcast with the rest of us! And of course, make sure you listen to the interview when it gets released on the Food Heroes Podcast, or listen to other podcast interviews, while you wait.
Much of this information is included in Bugs for Beginners, a cookbook which teaches Westerners how to prepare and safely eat insects. Text may include affiliate links
I'm Mic. I love reading about, writing about, thinking about, photographing, and especially eating, food. Especially bug food. Enough talk, let's eat!