Your Ultimate Tasting Guide to 23 Unforgettable Insect Flavors

Discover what edible insects taste like. Prepare yourself to learn all about the flavors and textures of different edible bugs.

Erica Eller
Popular
Man eating scorpions

This blog post is for you that wants to know how edible insects taste like.

You'll learn which edible bugs to begin with depending on your acceptance to new foods.

We will also give you an overview of 23 different edible insects and their flavors.

This blog post is packed with an adventurous flavor punch - let's dig in.

How do you Define Your Taste in Insects? Find out with this extensive guide to insect flavor.

For those who dare to taste edible insects, half of the fun lies in describing the experience to friends. Yet, unfamiliar foods such as bugs baffle taste-testers. This is because there is no commonly accepted frame of reference for classifying the flavor.

Comparisons and flavor combinations are your only tools to bridge the known and the unknown. This is a noticeable dilemma in the world of entomophagy (insect eating). People want to muster the courage to eat insects by convincing themselves it’s not that different from eating other foods.

While I’m no psychologist, I’d argue that people asking about the flavor of insects generally fall into three camps. These three groups have different motivations in taste-testing insects. Find out if you agree or disagree.

Safety-net Seekers:

It’s clear that some people ask with pure apprehension, seeking assurance that a bug’s flavor won’t traumatize them. These people are grappling with a complex mix of desires, which are 75 percent repulsion and 25 percent attraction.

Looking over the fence


As closeted thrill-seekers, their curiosity is winning. They want to find comforting comparisons that will appease the rational parts of their brains. For instance, if I said a cricket tasted a lot like a chicken wing, they’d go for it and pop a cricket into their mouth.

Utilitarian Providers:

Others ask with an open mind, curious how to incorporate insects into their regular diet. Their curiosity comes from a practical standpoint, since they have full-time jobs and a family to feed. They like the high protein content of insects and the environmental benefits. Now, they just want to schedule it into their weekly menu planner.

balance


The main question lingering in these people’s minds is: Do they go on the snack shelf, the spice shelf, or the pantry with all the other meal ingredients?

Astute Artisans:

Still others are the flavor connoisseurs. These are the aspiring celebrity chefs, hoping to take their creations to new heights. They believe, with good reason, that edible insects will inspire awe from their dinner-party guests.

Making food
Chef decorating a plate

They want to know in detail, the overtones, undertones and after tastes of each edible insect species. They want to know which wines they pair best with, and how each anatomical part of an insect contributes to its flavor makeup.

No one of these categories is right or wrong. Each person decides to eat insects for different reasons. But before taking the plunge, everyone wants to know what they’re getting into. For that reason, we’ve developed a definitive guide to help you take an educated risk.   

What do insects taste like?

In brief, insects taste a lot like shellfish as they are all arthropods. This means they have hard external skeletons in the form of “shells” or exoskeletons. Think of insects as miniature lobsters or crabs. They do though lack the salty-fresh smell and taste of the sea.

Instead, they have a more earthy quality like mushrooms or root vegetables. Since they forage the forest, eating bits of plant-matter, they tend to taste a little bitter.

Besides, some edible insects have a higher fat content that gives them an added richness. This translates into a nutty flavor that makes them very snackable in roasted form.

Girl eating mopane worm
Girl tasting a Mopane worm - Photo credit: Rik Schuiling

Other factors that influence the flavor include what the bug are eating. Some insects eat delicious fruits and grains before sold for human consumption.

The way we prepare bugs also effects their flavor. A freeze-dried insect has a stronger flavor than in powdered form. And since their own flavor is usually mild, they are perfect in a special spice or in drizzle dressings.

Bottom Line

Edible insect flavors vary depending on the species and what they eat. This is why it helps to research the particular bug you plan to try before setting your flavor expectations.

What are the best tasting insects?

People who are not afraid to munch on larger insects often enjoy scorpions, giant water bugs and sago grubs.

Scorpions

The large meaty body of a scorpion both looks and tastes like seafood. Don’t fret because scorpion venom becomes non-poisonous when you cook the insect. People have likened it to a soft-shell crab and fishy beef jerky flavor.

Fried scorpions on a stick
Scorpions on a stick

Giant Water Bug

Next up, the giant water bug has an flavor that’s difficult to pin down. People have tried by describing it as a salted-banana or briney-melon flavor. You can eat them raw, steamed or fried.  

Giant water bugs
Giant water bug - Photo credit: shankar s.

Sago Grub / Palm Weevil Larvae

Common in Southeast Asia, sago grubs have received rave reviews. Thanks to their high fat content, they have a melt-in-your-mouth flavor reminiscent to bacon. Traditionally, you find them raw or roasted.  

weevil larvae
Sago Grub / Palm Weevil Larvae - Photo credit: T.K. Naliaka

If you still not convinced taste-testing any of the above mentioned edible insects. I have some of the more popular insects available on the market for you: mealworms, crickets and ants.

What do mealworms taste like?

Mealworms have an unobtrusive umami flavor that leaves a light, nutty aftertaste. They pair well with more or less anything. Try them in our Taste of Mexico, Taste of Italy, or Umami flavors.

Mealworms
Mealworms

They are often used as a nutrition booster and will give you the same amount of protein as beef, but without the environmental side-effects. You can serve them up using pretty much any cooking technique whether you choose to roast, fry or sauteé them. For this reason you can toss them into salads, onto tacos or pop them in your mouth as a snack.  

What do crickets taste like?

Crickets have a crunchy texture and an umami flavor like parmesan. Besides their flavor, crickets is an excellent nutritional additive to almost any recipe. They full of protein and they offer a satisfying crunch. Otherwise they taste a lot like popcorn or almonds. You can supplement your protein intake by using cricket flour in baked goods like cookies, pancakes or biscuits.

A cricket
Cricket

What do ants taste like?

This question depends on which type of ants you’re eating. The three most popular kinds of ants are:

  • Lemon ants they have a spicy & citrusy flavor,
  • leafcutter ants that taste like a mix between bacon-pistachio,
  • and honeypot ants that has a taste of sweet floral nectar.
Honey pot ants
Honeypot ants - Photo credit: Greg Hume (Greg5030)

The edible insects described so far are only the tip of the iceberg. Nonetheless, they are great starting point for delving into the vast world of entomophagy.

To give you a fuller picture of the broad flavor spectrum, we’ve developed an extensive guide to common edible insects around the globe.  

Your A-Z Guide to Insect Flavor

Agave (Maguey) worm: pork rinds.

Roasted Maguey Worms
Roasted Maguey Worms - Photo credit Belis@rio

A fun fact about the agave worm is that different species of worms live on different species of agave. They are the larvae of the agave moth and Mexicans love to drop them into mezcal or tequila to show the high quality of the liquor.

Ant - honeypot: floral nectar

honeypot ant
Honeypot ant - Photo Credit: https://www.strangeanimals.info/p/press.html

Ant - leafcutter: bacon-pistachio

leafcutter ant
Leafcutter ant - Photo credit: Pjt56

Ant - lemon: spicy citrus

To eat ants in the wild, you can insert a thin stick into their ant have and a train of ants will crawl up to inspect the source of the commotion. You can collect them at the top of the stick.

ant

Bee: earthy bacon

A bee
Bee - Photo credit: Richard Bartz, Munich Makro Freak

You can eat bees in larvae or full-grown bee form. Sauteé the larvae in a pan of butter or roast the adult bees. In China, people use bees to create bee-flour to soothe a sore throat.

Black soldier fly larvae: blood pudding

BSFL

Iron-riched and packed with healthy fatty acids, black soldier fly larvae are one of the more popular insects on the market.

Buffalo worm: mild, nutty

Buffalo worm
Buffalo worm

Buffalo worms are smaller than mealworms,  but they have a very similar flavor and appearance. You can eat them whole or as an ingredient in flour form.  

Centipede: artichoke

Centipeede
Centipedes on a stick - Photo credit: Denise Chan

Served on skewers in China, but they’ve received rather mixed reviews in the U.S.

Cicada - nymph: lobster or asparagus

Cicada
Circada nymph - Photo credit: Ryosuke Yagi

Cicada - adult: peanuts or almonds

Cicada

Living underground for up to 17 years, cicadas feed off of tree roots until they crawl up to the earth’s surface to find a mate. They are popular treats around the world and they’re one of the few insects that have traditionally been embraced as a food source in North America. They taste great when fried or roasted with salt.

Cockroach: greasy chicken

Cockroaches
Coackroach - Photo credit: lizwest

While we assume that cockroaches are dirty garbage feeders, they can be reared in ultra-clean environments. In China, they are thought to provide significant health benefits.  

Cricket: popcorny almonds

Crickets
Roasted crickets - Photo credit: Takeaway

Dare I say these creatures are cute? Toss our freeze-dried crickets into your stir-fry or casserole and you’ll barely notice a difference.

Giant water bug: salted banana or briny melon

Giant water bugs
Giant water bug - Photo credit: shankar s.

Large and ugly, giant water bugs are popular in Thailand. When steamed, their meat has the consistency of fish.

Grasshopper (chapuline): mushroom-chicken-peanut

Grasshopper
Grasshopper

Nearly as common as any meat in Mexico, chapulines are cooked in assorted sauces and seasonings as diverse as chile-lime and mole.

Mealworm: mild, nutty

Mealworm
Mealworms

Mealworms are already massprodued as animal feed, so taking them the next step for human consumption is a no-brainer.

Sago grub (palm weevil): syrupy bacon

Weevil larvae
Sago grub - Photo credit: T.K. Naliaka

Pairs well with beer.

Scorpion: soft-shell crab or fishy beef jerky

Scorpions
Scorpion on a stick

Not for the faint of heart. But who knows, you might love them!

Silkworm: mashed potato

Silkworm dish
Silkworm dish - Photo credit: pinguino k

Once they’ve produced their silk, silkworms have no better alternative than to become a food source. Since they’ve lived as domesticated species for centuries, they can no longer survive in the wild.

Stink bug (jumile): strong, bitter, cinnamon

Stink bug
Stink bug - Photo credit: Judy Gallagher

Another popular treat south of the U.S. border. Jumile have numbing properties, like menthol, and they are considered an aphrodisiac.

Tarantula: sunflower seeds, buckwheat and crab

Tarantulas
Fried tarantulas - Photo credit: istolethetv

These giant leggy creatures are a common food in Cambodia, where people believe they improve virility.

Termite: carrots

Termites
Flying termites - Photo credit: TimCowley

A common source of food in parts of Africa, you can eat termites in the wild as a survival food source.  

Wasp (hornet): musky butter

Hornet
Wasp (hornet) - Photo credit: PiccoloNamek

Like bees, you can eat wasps both as adults and larvae. Try boiling the and eating them with rice, just as Emperor Hirohito apparently did in Japan.

Waxworm (Wax moth larva): pine nuts and mushrooms

Waxworm
Waxworm (wax moth larva)

Destroyers of honeycombs, these hungry wax eaters are perfectly edible and easy to prepare. Like most other insects, you can sauteè or roast them.

What kind of insect-eater are you?

Now that we’ve explored the motivation for eating edible insects along with a variety of edible insects, what do you think?

Do you relate more to the safety-net seekers, the utilitarian providers or the astute artisans?

Moreover, are there any edible insects that you’d define differently?

After all classifications of personality and flavor are both subjective endeavors. Let us know in the comments what you think.  


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