Getting Westerners to eat bugs can be tricky. It comes with a lot of cultural baggage, but for some reason crickets have a reputation for hopping past those biases. They’re often dubbed “the gateway bug.” Whoever made this all too convenient pun has a point. Crickets are cute. They make eating bugs seem kind of fun and maybe even a little edgy. Don’t worry, your parents don’t have to know about it.
Size may play a role in their acceptable appearance. Crickets aren’t too big. They’re about the size of a regular salty snack like a cashew or smaller. For people who don’t want to see their shape, they can easily be ground up into powder.
One thing leads to another and pretty soon, we’re talking baking classes and cricket cuisine. That’s what I want to talk about today: cricket flour. I’m going to explain step-by-step how to turn your live chirping gateway bug into a baking ingredient.
What’s cricket flour made of and how you can make it yourself?
As its name suggests, cricket flour is intended for use in baking and cooking. Yet, without the glutenous composition of wheat or other grains, ground up crickets result in a powder that lacks the binding property typically associated with flour.
You can purchase pre-made mixtures of cricket flour and other flours to use in baking, or you can purchase cricket powder and blend it yourself.
To keep this a DIY project post, however, I want to take you through each of the steps you’ll need to transform live crickets into a dry dust to sprinkle into your recipes.
Before we get started, it’s important to mention that DIY cricket flour is not very different from mass-produced cricket flour. The latter is just produced at a much higher scale with industrial equipment. Some factories have designed robots to feed the crickets. Otherwise, the process is more or less the same.
Depending on how involved you want to get in the cricket flour-making process, you can start at almost every stage, since you can purchase crickets live, dead and whole, as cricket powder, or as blended cricket flour. The level of effort you want to put in is up to you.
The basic steps for turning live crickets into cricket flour are as follows:
- Freeze to put crickets into an inactive, coma-like state
- Blanch as an extra sanitary precaution
- Dry-roast to remove moisture
- Grind to desired consistency
- Combine with other flour to achieve desired baking or cooking properties
Now let’s talk about each of these steps in a bit more detail.
Start with live crickets
Let’s say you want to go through each step to make your own highly customized DIY cricket flour. The first step is to start with live crickets. If you’ve ever owned a lizard, you may have already experienced purchasing live crickets to feed them.
They are sold by various suppliers around the world and if you’re concerned about cleanliness, simply choose a brand known for its clean handling practices. Katherine Sacks from Epicurious recommends using crickets from Fluker Farms. They sell the acheta domestica species of crickets and you can order them young at 1 week old, to feed them a healthier diet over the course of their lifespan.
After you order crickets, you’ll receive them in a box. You can order them in boxes of 100 to 5,000. You should plan to set up another container where you can feed and grow them. You can choose a simple sealed box with mesh-covered air holes or you can try something more elaborate with a network of hiding spaces created by egg cartons to mimic their natural environment. Since you will be freezing them, you may want to use a series of smaller containers that will fit into your freezer.
Keep in mind that the crickets you receive from a store have often not been fed a healthy diet. They live off of wet cardboard and other crickets in many cases.
You can rear them to fatten up by feeding them a healthy diet before processing them into cricket flour.
Try feeding some of your table scraps and other food waste to crickets. However be cautious with that since some spices and foods might kill your crickets.
Their food of choice is plant matter, but they can also eat grains, animal matter and fungi including natural leaf, bark and wood matter.
Remember that you are what you eat, so if you would like to customize your cricket flour as early on as the cricket feeding stage, you can tailor their diet to suit your own cricket flour preferences.
As living creatures, crickets bring with them a set of idiosyncratic habits. Remember that keeping live crickets can be noisy when they rub their wings together to mate. You won’t be spending lots of bonding time with them, though, because once they are 6-8 weeks old, they are ready to freeze.
Freeze your crickets
As you may already know, crickets are hyperactive crawling and hopping creatures. When you freeze your crickets, however, as the temperature drops they will fall into a state of hibernation.
At this point, they are not dead, but their life is on pause. This period of total dormancy is called diapause and their metabolism slows so that they can survive cold temperatures. Think cryogenics.
However, crickets typically endure this state when they are eggs, not when they are adults, so they will likely die once their temperature reaches freezing.
Blanch in boiling water
This step may ease your mind if you envision your crickets waking up in the oven, leaping and starting a fire. Perhaps I have an overactive imagination.
It will also relieve the worries of anyone concerned about cleanliness. However, blanching the crickets for 5 minutes may improve the flavor.
Dry roast the crickets in the oven
Take out a cooking sheet and lay down wax paper. Fill the sheet with crickets. There’s no need to space them evenly, but try not to layer them too thickly, so they will easily dry out.
Austin Miller from Craft Crickets recommends roasting your crickets for 3 to 4 hours at a temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees celsius). The goal is simply to dry them out.
Alternately, you can also freeze dry crickets or dry them in a food dehydrator. You may also wish to sprinkle salt or spice during the dry roast stage.
After the crickets have been dry roasted, they are ready to be eaten. You can sprinkle them on pizza, throw them in a salad, or crunch on them as a snack. To turn them into cricket powder, though, you’ll need to continue to the last step.
Grind the crickets to the desired consistency
To grind crickets, you don’t need special equipment. They should be lighter than nuts and more fragile, so a simple food processor capable of chopping nuts will suffice. A coffee grinder like the one on the image below, also works well.
It’s up to you if you prefer to have a designated insect grinder that won’t be used for other foods.
When you place the crickets into your food processor or grinder, keep in mind that they will halve in size. Half a cup of whole crickets will result in roughly a quarter cup of cricket powder. Run the machine for roughly 10 to 30 seconds.
After 10 seconds, the mix will likely still have legs and other larger parts of exoskeleton. This consistency works well if you choose to sprinkle cricket powder into dishes like falafel, frittatas or potato pancakes.
For baking, I’d recommend a finer grain closer to the consistency of coffee.
Now that you have cricket powder, you’re ready to improve the protein content of other dishes.
If you want to bake cricket cookies, cakes or biscuits, you’ll need to limit your proportion of cricket flour to grain-based flour to a ratio between 1 to 10 parts and 1 to 3 parts at the maximum.
Health benefits of cricket flour
On the one hand, eating crickets tends to be the most palatable form of entomophagy (insect eating) for Westerners.
On the other hand, they provide excellent health benefits.
It helps to understand cricket anatomy to conceptualize the nutritional benefits they offer. They are cold-blooded arthropods, very similar to lobsters. A cricket’s exoskeleton is made of protein and fiber (chitin).
It houses their blood, called hemolymph, and their organs, which offer us protein and fat.
It’s a relatively simple “design.”
Crickets are good for the gut as they offer dietary fiber, they’re gluten free and high in protein.
Vegetarians and paleo dieters may be drawn to crickets for their protein. However, they also offer numerous vitamins and minerals like B12 and iron that are worth adding to your diet.
The only thing to keep in mind is that people who are allergic to lobster may also have an allergic reaction to crickets.
According to Dr. Axe, 12 grams of cricket powder (before blending it with all purpose flour) contains the following nutritional benefits:
0.8 grams carbohydrates
7 grams of protein
2 grams of fat
4% DV iron
2% DV calcium
17% DV vitamin B12
23% DV vitamin B2
Since you’ve ground up lots of protein-based anatomy to make cricket powder, its composition is 2/3 protein. That’s two to three times more protein than you’ll consume from a sampling of beef.
In addition, the quality of the protein is high as it offers you all essential amino acids.
Cricket powder also contains omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthy fats helping the cell functions in our bodies.
When it comes to using cricket flour, the sky’s the limit. It has a inconspicuous flavor that won’t affect the outcome of your recipe much. You can think of it more as a health additive, the way juice bars add flaxseed to smoothies. Here are a few ideas to get the culinary wheels in your mind turning.
Crispbread with Freeze dried Crickets by Crickster
Cricket flour biscuits by Popular Mechanic
Chocolate chip cricket cookies by My Recipes
Cinnamon-banana bread by Food and Wine
Hummus with cricket flour by Entomo Farms
Cricket flour pancakes and waffles by Eat Beautiful
If you’ve read through this post, thinking about what fun it might be to engage in your own DIY cricket project, kudos to you. If not, there are many ways to test out the waters without all of the fuss. You can skip the DIY part and purchase a bag to experiment with in different recipes.
Benefits beyond Baking
I don’t want you to leave thinking this was all a grand hoax to make you do something nasty that you wouldn’t otherwise do.
Beyond the innovative potential of turning these critters into a commodity lies a real looming threat.
The existing means of food production are not sustainable. Large international organizations like FAO and the World Resources Institute are currently racking their problem solving hiveminds to find ways to reduce the environmental footprint of food production.
Guess what? Insects are already becoming part of the solution.
Crickets are 12 times more efficient than cattle and they present huge savings in water and energy use.
The future of food lies in finding more creative ways to reap the benefits of our small, but suspiciously nutritious forest friends, especially crickets!
I am super curious to know how you are going to use crickets?
Let me know in the comment section below.