Though insect-eating practices may not be super common in the U.S., we’re in the minority. Most cultures in the world consume insects or other bugs in some form or another, and they can serve as nutritious—and delicious—sources of protein. In fact, if you think about it, eating insects isn’t that different from enjoying a lobster dinner or digging into some shrimp cocktail; these animals are all arthropods. Plus, bugs and other insects have been cited as a sustainable protein source.
Whether you’re looking for ideas for your next meal or just want to learn about how people around the world consume insects, this list might get you thinking about the bug-centric snacks you want to indulge in.
Ants are eaten across the world; from Mexico to India, chefs and home cooks prepare a variety of ant species in delicious ways. Alex Atala, a Brazilian chef who was featured on Chef’s Table, is known for his use of Saúva ants, which have a flavor that’s similar to lemongrass. Weaver ants, leaf-cutter ants and black ants can also be found in international cuisines. While eating adult ants is a common practice, so is the consumption of ant larvae.
Scorpions can be found at street food markets in China, where they’re often sold as a crunchy snack on a skewer. The flavor is important, but they also reportedly have medicinal effects according to traditional Chinese medicine; they’re believed to treat tremors.
Diners consume giant centipedes in countries like Thailand, China and Vietnam, and they’re generally cooked and placed on skewers. However, just like many of us avoid raw meat like chicken, it’s not a good idea to eat raw centipedes. According to the New York Times, they can contain parasites that are harmful to human health.
Several countries in Latin America and around the world indulge in crickets, and once you try them for yourself, you’ll understand why: They’re crunchy and have a smoky nuttiness to them that makes them delicious on their own or in cooked dishes. If you’re interested in trying crickets but are hesitant to eat them in their whole food form, you may want to look into cricket-infused protein products.
In parts of Southeast Asia, eating mealworms is a common practice. This incredibly versatile bug can be prepared in so many different ways, making it an excellent protein source with several different uses in the kitchen. It’s relatively simple to find dried mealworms in the U.S. these days, but you can also cook them fresh by baking or pan-frying them, according to WebMD.
Some people in Korea and China, amongst other countries, include silkworms in their diets, where they can be fried or boiled. They’re often eaten in their pupal form and seasoned to highlight their unique, juicy texture. Interestingly enough, according to the Guardian, silkworms have gone through so much selective breeding that they can no longer survive in the wild; rather, they’re utilized by humans for silk and as a food source.
7. June Bugs
The Conversation has referred to june bugs as “the croutons of the sky” thanks to their intensely crunchy texture (although their pupae tend to be juicier). In the Philippines, they’re prepared in a dish called adobong salagubang, which is often eaten with rice.
In some parts of Mexico and other countries in Central America, grasshoppers, referred to as chapulines, are a common crunchy snack. They’re often fried and seasoned with a mixture of lime, garlic, chili and salt. However, you don’t have to consume them on their own; they’re also delicious on pizza or in tacos.
According to CNN, tarantulas are a delicacy in Cambodia, where they’re often cooked in garlic. Apparently, they taste similar to crab. However, they can be quite pricey, so they tend to be reserved for special occasions.
Trying to get your hands on some wasp larvae? Make your way to Japan. Per the BBC, wasp consumption used to be common across the country, but now, it’s mostly a popular food with older generations in certain regions.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.